Art and Identity: Western Old Masters in 1860s Saint Petersburg

    • IMG_0780
    • Presentation speakers
      • Franz Fabio, University of Warwick, UK


    This paper outlines some reflections upon the variety of the concept of ‘identity’ within the 1860s artistic milieu of Saint Petersburg. New light on the cosmopolitan system of art of the city will be cast by the analysis of the Baltic journey (1865) of the renown Old Masters expert Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle. Research has been lacking so far in providing a global analysis of the consequences regarding identity of the presence in Petersburg in middle of the XIX Century of some majestic Italian, Flemish and Spanish artworks of the Renaissance and Baroque, together with Protestant or Catholic figures of artists, dealers, collectors, connoisseurs and curators. The comparison of the origin, the stay in city and the fortuna of some of the most relevant elements of the Saint Petersburg system of art questions or details some aspects of their social, religious, political, lingual and sexual identity that until now have been insufficiently considered or taken for granted. This research concentrates on linking archival and bibliographical information regarding specific case studies, e.g. the formation, the presence in Petersburg and the dispersal of the capital gallery of the Dukes of Leuchtenberg, the French-Bavarian-Russian heirs of Eugène de Beauharnais, Viceroy of Italy during the Napoleonic Era. A revision of the critical issues regarding the identity of some dealers (NK, Trotti, Wertheimer), collectors (Bykov, Thyssen, Wittelsbach, Johnson) and curators (Waagen, Bode, Heinemann) that came in contact with this collection would lead to some interesting and unexpected discoveries. The results of this paper may finally help not only art historians and religious historians but also scholars of visual culture and of Western and Russian history to find new perspectives and fill some blanks in their investigation, providing them the chance to improve cross-culture and multidisciplinary dialogue.