Paolo Domenico Finoglio. La Jérusalem délivrée

Paolo Domenico Finoglio. Jerusalem Delivered

Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts from 23 April to 29 August 2010

1. Finoglio exhibition in the atrium
of the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille
Photo : Frédéric Iovino

At the same time that Toulouse is highlighting Verrio (see article), the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille is currently offering another unfamiliar 18th century Italian painter. This coincidence deserves our attention as museum initiatives which help us discover a neglected heritage, rather than recycling over-exposed themes, should always be encouraged.

The subject in each of these exhibitions is, however, treated in a very different manner. This one is not just a brief retrospective on the Neapolitan painter Paolo Domenico Finoglio. Lille has chosen a spectacular approach by assembling a monumental cycle by the artist, held at the Conversano palace in the Puglia region (another point in common with Verrio), presented by the film director and plastic artist, Alain Fleischer (ill. 1).
Visitors will thus discover a remarkable pictorial ensemble of extraordinary artistic ambition. The catalogue explains the cycle’s eventful history : after having been sold the first time by the château’s former owners, the ten canvases were to be put up for auction in May 1978. Luckily, Claudio Strinati, a young curator at the time with the Sopraintendenza dei beni culturali, alerted the city of Conversano which decided to buy them and return them to their original home, which by then had been transformed into a museum.

2. Paolo Domenico Finoglio (1590-1645)
Tancred Baptising Clorinda, 1642-1645
Oil on canvas - 260 x 300 cm
Conversano, Pinacoteca Paolo Domenico Finoglio
Photo : Pinacoteca Paolo Domenico Finoglio

3. Paolo Domenico Finoglio (1590-1645)
Rinaldo Leaving the Enchanted Island, 1642-1645
Oil on canvas - 257 x 312 cm
Conversano, Pinacoteca Paolo Domenico Finoglio
Photo : Pinacoteca Paolo Domenico Finoglio

4. Paolo Domenico Finoglio (1590-1645)
Erminia Discovers the Wounded Tancredi, 1642-1645
Oil on canvas - 260 x 300 cm
Conversano, Pinacoteca Paolo Domenico Finoglio
Photo : Pinacoteca Paolo Domenico Finoglio

The force of Finoglio’s compositions is remarkably striking (ill. 2 to 4). Obviously affected by the influence of Caravaggio, he blends several sources of inspiration in his paintings, notably those of Battistello Caracciolo who was his master, and Ribera. Museum goers will be sure to admire this series, especially its most beautiful examples (Tancred Baptising Clorinda, Rinaldo Abandons the Enchanted Island…) which reveal a great originality.
Alain Fleischer’s staging in the grand atrium presents the paintings in a long diagonal line, each one head to foot with the others next to it. Why not, although we do not exactly understand the reason for doing so nor the advantages of this over a more traditional spatial hang (which would allow them to be seen together in the same place, but impossible here in this manner). We leave connoisseurs of contemporary art the task of reading the explanation by the artist and by Régis Cotentin in the catalogue [1]. To be fair, we do admit that Alain Fleischer did not fall into the temptation of making his work, rather than the art, the focus of the show. This is a very understated presentation.

The exhibition does present however, one regrettable detail. The curators could have taken this unique opportunity of bringing the cycle here, which includes mostly episodes rarely seen from Jerusalem Delivered, to place it in the context of Finoglio’s career and accompany the series at least with a few paintings and drawings by a painter who is generally unknown to the French public. It would also have been very interesting to delve further into the iconography, showing works by other artists inspired by Tasso’s epic poem. Despite the booklet at the entrance, visitors might not all understand the subject unless provided with the corresponding keys.
But this should not spoil the enjoyment of an exhibition which allows specialists and amateurs alike to discover an ensemble they have probably never heard mentioned before now. Encouraging discoveries, raising questions are also essential roles for any museum.

Collective work, Paolo Domenico Finoglio, La Jérusalem délivrée, Somogy and the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, 2010, 80 p., 19 €, ISBN : 9782757203842

Visitor information : Palais des Beaux-Arts, Place de la République, 59000 Lille. Tel : 33(0)3 20 06 78 00. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 to 18 and Mondays from 14 to 18. Rates : 5.50 € (full price), 3.80 € (reduced rate).

Didier Rykner, mercredi 23 juin 2010


[1] In charge of contemporary art programming at the museum.

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