AROUND KLIMT. Giuditta, heroism and seduction

The exhibition


Corto Circuito. A dialogue between the centuries

AROUND KLIMT. Giuditta, heroism and seduction

14 December 2016 – 5 March 2017
Mestre, Centro Culturale Candiani


The Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia has inaugurated the first in a series of fascinating events dedicated to modern and contemporary art at the Centro Culturale Candiani of Mestre which, under the title of ‘Corto Circuito. A dialogue between the centuries’, will from time to time present exhibitions that will add to the rich heritage of the City of Venice.

The project has been strongly backed by the Mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, with the intention of offering citizens a high-quality cultural programme able to call into play the extraordinary heritage preserved in the Civic Museums belonging to the entire territory of Venice, the lagoon and the mainland.

Through the important exhibition initiatives that will be succeeding each other in the coming months, the close link that unites the metropolitan territory will once again be highlighted.

The cycle of exhibitions, designed specifically for the Centro Culturale Candiani by Gabriella Belli, Director of the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, opens to the public on 14 December, 2016 with the exhibition entitled ‘Around Klimt. Giuditta, heroism and seduction’, which will run until 5 March, 2017.

The exhibition, whose layout has been designed by Pier Luigi Pizzi, architect and set designer of international renown, is centred on one of the most fascinating myths of the Biblical tradition: the story of ‘Judith’.

The centrepiece of the exhibition, which features more than eighty works from the collections of the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia (Ca’ Pesaro – Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna, Museo Correr, Ca’ Rezzonico – Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Museo Fortuny, Museo di Palazzo Mocenigo), from other museums like the Mart, Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto and from various national and international private collections, is Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece, Giuditta II (Salomè), lent for the occasion by Ca’ Pesaro.

Around this powerful twentieth-century icon, made by the great Viennese artist in 1909, presented at the Venice Biennale in 1910 and acquired the same year by the Municipality of Venice for Ca’ Pesaro – a work that literally ‘bewitches’ for its sensual charge and evocative Byzantine touches – the exhibition will offer a series of ancient and contemporary suggestions, presenting the figure of Judith in a biblical context and her fortune in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and also how she was interpreted in nineteenth-century Symbolism and in the climate of the Viennese Secession, and so up to the interpretation of the myth that the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, gave in 1917 in The taboo of virginity.”

“Giuditta”, writes Gabriella Belli in the catalogue, “has passed down through the centuries to the time of Klimt, gradually stripping herself of her chastity, her virtue and that fortitude that had sustained her in the trial of her extreme act of heroism through literature, poetry and art, in a reversal of the myth that would be portrayed by Klimt in 1909 in his magnificent painting. What the Viennese master shows us is no longer a historical heroine, not a saviour, not a chaste woman, but one instead who has discovered her sexuality, who rejects her position as social outcast, and who has descended into the dark of the unconscious, discovering her deepest instincts, including those connected with the desire to give death.”

The picture proved explosive and unsettling for the public and for the critics of the time: Klimt used the myth in a contemporary key, mixing elements from the oldest figurative tradition with a new drama, meant to represent the impulses of the unconscious. Giuditta II ended up by representing all that male society feared most between the end of the nineteenth and start of the twentieth century.

But it also marked the beginning of an overwhelming success, predicted at the time with great foresight by Nino Barbantini director of the Galleria Internazionale d’Arte Moderna di Ca’ Pesaro, who was able to grasp the absolute modernity and the future enchantment of the work: “It is better to declare immediately”, he wrote in 1910, “that the art of Klimt is unpleasant to the eyes of our time because he looks beyond and prepares tomorrow’s time.

The art of Gustav Klimt,” added Gino Damerini,“is not appreciated today, but will have a sure revenge in future. […] Klimt’s art is bewitching.”

The exhibition presents precious bibles and sixteenth-century bronze plaques; refined objets d’art of French and Venetian craftsmanship depicting the Jewish heroine; Dutch and Italian engravings and etchings of the seventeenth and eighteenth century; paintings from various periods including two beautiful works by Amigoni and an intense Felice Carena, as well as the sophisticated theatricality and contemporary irony of the work of Rocco Normanno, Giuseppe Zanoni and Sarah Lucas. Through these, the exhibition engages with powerful themes such as the relationship between man and woman, between Eros and Thanatos, and  also examines female stereotypes and the difficult path towards emancipation, taking a cue also from other mythological figures and female icons: Leda and the Swan, Vanitas, Salome, Danae, the Sphinxes.

The great Felicien Rops, Edvard Munch, Félix Édouard Valotton, Jules Van Biesbroeck, Gaetano Previati, Mariano Fortuny, Egon Schiele, Vittorio Zecchin and Luigi Bonazza will accompany us through this universe suffused with beauty and dreams, passion and mystery, outrages and vendettas, courage and seduction.

Finally, the transition from femme fatale to twentieth-century demon  will also be evident in the film section, as expressed in the video entitled Giuditta: metamorfosi sullo schermo, produced by a team of researchers from the Università degli Studi di Padova, coordinated by prof. Gian Piero Brunetta, using extracts showing the most famous silver-screen women of the first two decades of the last century.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fine catalogue published by the Linea d’Acqua (Venice, 2016), includingtexts by Gabriella Belli, Flavio Caroli, Gian Piero Brunetta, Elisabetta Barisoni, Elena Marchetti and Matteo Piccolo.

Among the collateral events scheduled, it is worth highlighting three study sessions between January and March – one a month, at 6 p.m.– on particular aspects of the exhibition, with Gabriella Belli (19 January), Vittorio Pajusco (16 February) and Flavio Caroli (3 March).