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The Curator’s Eyes


Discovering a frescoed portrait of Sebastiano Biavati (ca. 1616-1682) in San Petronio (Bologna) has prompted me to undertake a thorough archival research on the curator of Ferdinando Cospi's collections and on the heterogenous artistic world he looked after. This encompassed unique artifacts (Mesoamerican, Egyptian, Etruscan objects; contemporary paintings by Reni or Sirani; post-conquest feather painting from New Spain, etc.) and areas of interests which scholarship today consider irreconcilable. The essay addresses Biavati's "methodology" —in the literal sense, i.e. his capacity to "walk through and in between" different spaces of display— and its theoretical implications for Renaissance and Early Modern studies.

Alessandra Russo, “The Curator’s Eyes. Sebastiano Biavati, custodian of a heterogeneous artistic world”, in The Significance of Small Things. Essays in Honour of Diana Fane, edited by Luisa Elena Alcalá and Ken Moser, Madrid, Ediciones El Viso, pp. 150-158.

“He looks intently (Fig. 1). His big, pensive eyes return your gaze from whatever position you take, standing under the fresco on the left side of the Chapel of Saint Anthony in the Bolognese church of San Petronio. Two deep wrinkles near his left eye and the ones on the forehead, the warm delicacy of the right hand on the high sword, the lock of hair, and the compactness of his stature all add intensity and veracity to an unmistakable portrait”. [...]

Last Updated 7 months ago