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Monday, September 4, 2017

Renaissance born again


It occurred in this blog to call Salvador Dalí "the last Renaissance artist," but it would have been more exact to say "the first artist of the New Renaissance," as he loved to define himself. This qualifying side of his art emerged clearly thanks to an exhibition held in Pisa, Italy, between late 2016 and early 2017, that was devoted to Dali's Dream of Classicism. The link with Greek art was provided precisely by the 15th-16th century Italian masters. The exhibition, and all the more so the catalog that includes a greater number of works, shows the deep influence that the the whole bundle of the most significant Renaissance artists had on his paintings, even on his lifestyle: Piero Della Francesca, Andrea Mantegna, Paolo Uccello, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Vannucci il Perugino, Raffaello/Raphael, Leonardo Da Vinci, Luca Signorelli, Benvenuto Cellini, Michelangelo. Some materials published here are virtually impossible to be found elsewhere, e.g. the book pictures diligently divided by Dalí into squares so as to being able to reproduce the works (or, have them reproduced) on a larger scale on canvas before modifying them for his own purposes.

The Spanish painter subjected his past colleagues to the same treatment to which they had subjected the ancient Greek themes. Particularly striking are some paintings in which details from Michelangelo's sculptures or sketches have been reworked in a different context, giving them a surprising meaning. For example, the famous Moses is struck with lightning by -- himself? -- and therefore resembles, at the same time, Zeus and the Tower of Babel, and/or the Tower in the Tarot deck. See René Thom's Catastrophe Theory, followed by Dalí in his late years. Adam's head, from the Sistine Chapel, turns into a sort of night spirit. The Palestrina Pietà now looks like a brawny, two-headed Venus being born from the sea. In the big-sized Searching for the Fourth Dimension, 1979, many "quotes" from Renaissance artists are rearranged within a typical Dalinian setting.

The catalog also includes Dali's illustrations for the Divine Comedy, of 1950-52. For some surreal reason, the captions are crazy.