Deposits of Capodimonte: Stories to be Told

Museo Capodimonte, Naples, Italy

€6.00 – €12.00

12/12/18 – 30/9/19

 Naples, Italy

9.5 / 10

Capodimonte Building

The Museo Capodimonte in Naples, Italy, is a beautiful 18th century art gallery overlooking the bay of Naples.

The museum houses a world-renowned art collection, with hundreds of works on display at any one time. But hidden away deep inside the museum’s five storerooms (or deposits) are thousands of artworks, some of which have not seen the light of day for over 100 years.

This inspired the gallery’s most recent exhibition: Depositi di Capodimonte: Storie Ancora da Scrivere (Deposits of Capodimonte: Stories to be Told), which was curated during my internship at the museum, from September to December 2018.

I worked closely alongside the Head Curator and saw the development of the exhibition from an initial idea to a finished product. I recently returned to Naples to see the exhibition in full-swing, and I was so impressed that I am going to share my thoughts on this unique and insightful spectacle!

Depositi slider Naples

What is a deposit?

Often perceived as dusty, mythical spaces, hidden from the public and forgotten by the museum, deposits are a secret underworld of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, armoury, and furniture.

The Capodimonte only has enough room to display a certain number of objects, but the collection is enormous; so unfortunately, many artworks are refined to storage until they are exhibited, loaned, or in need of restoration.

The exhibition is a fantastic concept, and allows visitors to see beautiful works of art that would otherwise have remained hidden. It is intriguing, exciting, and enigmatic. 

Ranging from weapons and ornaments pillaged by Captain Cook and gifted to the Bourbon family, to rare Carracci’s, to beautiful 19th century Italian landscape paintings, the exhibition is varied and exciting and really has something for everyone.

A Grand Entrance

The entrance to the exhibition is truly striking. A selection of marble and plaster sculptures from the deposits are arranged in a sculpture garden style. They are displayed at varying, dynamic heights, and include unusual objects, from a marble turkey riding a pig, to busts, and more classical and religious themes.

The dark green wall colour and harsh, spot-lighting creates a stunning chiaroscuro effect against the white and bronze sculptures. The entrance to the exhibition gives the viewer an tantalising taste of the unearthed treasures that lay in wait.

The largest, and perhaps most imposing sculpture is a bronze bust of Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoia. It radiates power, and epitomises the mid-19th century sculptural style of Raffaele Belliazzi.

Oriental Collection

The first room houses an Asian and oriental theme. This style became popular amongst art collectors in the early 18th century for the exotic subjects and ornate use of colour, inspired by foreign travel.

Vittorio Matteo Corcos’ The Prayer, is a dark, rich portrait of a man praying, and the use of dark blue, turquoise, and lapis lazuli pigments embody the theme of the room.

The aubergine wall colour, which continues throughout the exhibition, compliments the lavishness of the paintings without detracting from them. There is also a vintage display case, found in the GDS Deposit (Gabinetto dei Disegni e delle Stampe, or Cabinet of Drawings and Prints) which houses swords, daggers, rifles and armoury of the Orientalist period.

19th Century Collection

The next room I want to talk about houses a selection of landscape paintings and portraiture from the 19th century collection. This room was my favourite to work on, and I believe it has resulted in the most visually aesthetic room of the exhibition.

The range of colourful, impressionistic styles, seascapes, pastel scenes, Dutch winter landscapes, and unusual modern portraiture is a real breath of fresh air for the museum.

The wall layout is reminiscent of a Parisian Salon of the 18th century, but this slightly chaotic and dated organisation is reflective of how the works are stored inside a deposit. This was a key consideration for the exhibition: making the layout engaging and practical, whilst giving the viewer a genuine insight into the layout of a deposit. In this room it is hugely successful. The walls are catagorised loosely by interiors, landscapes, and portraiture. A few of my favourite stand-out works are Giuseppe Casciaro’s Naples from Posillipo, Pietro Scopetta’s Winter Landscape, and Willem Schellinks’ Ice Skaters.  

Religious Painting Collection

The Capodimonte Collection is strongly influenced by religious painting. It is the main theme in the gallery’s displayed collection, and of course, many of these paintings were chosen to be in the exhibition.

For me, the most notable were two large paintings by Annibale Carracci, which were displayed floor to ceiling, either-side of a doorway. The huge yellow canvases show the Virgin and Child, and Christ with Angels, but it is the voluptuous and soft handling of paint which makes the pair of tempera paintings so striking.

Decorative & Applied Arts

The last room I want to discuss is the display of decorative arts. When presented with hundreds of tea services, tablewares, statuettes, and vases, it is quite a task to think of an engaging and clear way to display them.

Again, it was essential that the way the objects are stored in deposits was reflected in the exhibition, and the team came up with this: glass fronted scaffold shelves (not dissimilar to those inside the deposits) with cups and plates piled high, sprinkled with statuettes, interspersed with telamon candle-holders and mini busts. The display is an effective, compelling, and unusual way to show decorative art objects. It really puts them at centre stage of the exhibition and reminds the visitors that deposits are treasure troves of much more than just paintings.

Seeing my name on the credit board

Interning at the Museo Capodimonte

As an intern, it was such a wonderful experience to see the exhibition come together. My role crossed a range of areas, from assisting in the layout and digitalisation of wall plans, to translating all of the captions for the 19th century paintings from Italian into English.

It was an honour to work on the exhibition, and I am proud and impressed with how it turned out. Organising an entire exhibition from scratch in three months was a gargantuan task, but we pulled it off!

If you get a chance, I highly recommend visiting the exhibition – it’s the perfect excuse for a weekend trip to Naples, where you can enjoy the panoramic views of the Capodimonte park, eat the world’s best pizza, ice cream, and espresso, and explore the hidden gems of the Capodimonte deposits until 15th May 2019.

Thanks for reading!

The Art Wanderer

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