Pasquale Gagliardi
Secretary General of the Cini Foundation

The major Piranesi exhibition that the Cini Foundation organized and has hosted since August on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, bears the hallmark of the Foundation’s cultural strategies and “style”. We like to sum up that style with a motto borrowed from Mahler and used to “sign” our communications with the outside world: "Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire." This strategy is to eschew any form of fetishist approach to the legacy of the past but rather to place the cultural heritage at the service of the present by renewing and enhancing it. It implies an interest in experimentation and an awareness of the contribution that new technologies can offer in bringing back to life and revealing the “sense” (i.e. both the “meaning” and the “sensuous experience”) of the cultural heritage – monuments, art collections and archives – held at the Cini.

This approach can be found especially in two of our initiatives in recent years. All have sparked off lively debates and have been acclaimed by art historians and leading intellectuals. The first was the creation of a 1:1 facsimile of Paolo Veronese’s Wedding at Cana. Specifically made to adorn the rear wall of Palladio’s refectory in the monastery of San Giorgio, Veronese’s large painting was removed by Napoleon's commissars in the late eighteenth century and is now in the Louvre. Indistinguishable from the original thanks to the use of highly sophisticated technologies, the facsimile made it possible to “return” the work to the refectory and restore the meaning of Palladio's architecture. It brought colour and light back to a space that had been stripped of an essential component. The second operation was the conversion of the former fifteenth-century dormitory in the Monastery of San Giorgio into a large modern library centre. In this case, too, a magnificent space – previously abandoned and hardly used – was given a new lease of life. The former dormitory is once more a place of meditation and thought, enlivened by colourful books but especially by the presence of scholars who – to quote of one them – find that it is “the ideal ground for our own thoughts to grow in”.

A third operation bearing the Cini hallmark is the production of a series of objects (vases, tripods, candelabra, chairs, chimneypieces, pots) specially made for the Piranesi exhibition. Originally designed by Piranesi around 250 years ago but never actually realised, these objects have now been created for the first time in the forms and materials envisaged by the artist. On the basis of Piranesi’s drawings, Factum-Arte, Madrid, directed by Adam Lowe, constructed the objects using processes involving highly sophisticated technology and considerable craft skills. The production of these objects was possible thanks to technical means and resources inconceivable in the age in which they were designed. Indeed the results may be seen as being much more faithful to Piranesi's intentions than if they had been made by craftsmen in his own day. This operation is the practical proof that the ideas of the past can travel through time to blend and interweave with those of the present, driven by today's desires and expectations. Through new technologies, Piranesi’s ideas have finally “materialised” in pleasurable new works of art. At the same time, the process has provided remarkable insight into Piranesi's mind, practice and works in a way that could not have been possible in the past. The present leaflet is dedicated to illustrating these objects, now that they have finally been given a real physical form.


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