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January 2, 2020

Highlights: A Superb Baroque: Art in Genoa, 1600–1750

Washington, DC—The visual arts in Genoa at the beginning of the 17th century exhibited extraordinary diversity and richness. The city's enormous wealth enabled its artists and their patrons to create an exuberant expression of the baroque style through works of material and visual splendor. A Superb Baroque: Art in Genoa, 1600–1750 is the first comprehensive exhibition of the period in nearly 30 years and the first of this scale in the United States. Organized in partnership with the Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, it will feature some 130 paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, drawings, and prints from 56 lenders, including 13 private collections and five churches in Genoa and Liguria. Accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog, this landmark exhibition will be on view from September 26, 2021 through January 9, 2022, in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art.

One of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and a formidable maritime power, Genoa became a functioning republic in the early 16th century and steadily transformed itself into the banking center of Europe. Its leading families accumulated extraordinary wealth and in their competition for social prestige and political position invested it in visual culture: civil construction, ecclesiastical projects, and, above all, their own residences, which were then filled with the fresco decoration and collections for which the city is still famed. Aided by its unique strategic position in relation to numerous Italian centers and the dominions of the king of Spain (Milan, Naples, Sicily, and Flanders), Genoa developed far-reaching commercial and financial networks, and a tradition of exchange of all kinds. Its culture took on an incomparably varied and complex expression.

"Genoese artists and their patrons created an art that was a singularly rich and beautiful expression of baroque style," said Kaywin Feldman, director, National Gallery of Art. "We are grateful to our partner organization, the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome, lending institutions, Genoa's city museums, and private collections, as well as to the churches in Genoa and Liguria who generously lent their priceless treasures for this remarkable exhibition."

Exhibition Organization

The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington and the Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, with special cooperation from the City and Museums of Genoa.

The exhibition is made possible by the Robert Lehman Foundation.

Additional funding is provided by The Exhibition Circle of the National Gallery of Art.

Exhibition Curators

The exhibition is curated by Jonathan Bober, Andrew W. Mellon Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings National Gallery of Art; Piero Boccardo, superintendent of collections for the City of Genoa; and Franco Boggero, director of historic and artistic heritage at the Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio, Genoa.

Exhibition Tour

National Gallery of Art, Washington, September 26, 2021–January 9, 2022
Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, March 4–June 19, 2022

About the Exhibition

Organized by themes within the broad stylistic development of the period, A Superb Baroque: Art in Genoa, 1600–1750will featuresome 60 paintings: masterpieces by non-Genoese artists drawn to the city's vital environment, including Peter Paul Rubens, Giulio Cesare Procaccini, Orazio Gentileschi, Anthony van Dyck; outstanding works by the school's few artists who are well known because of their activity outside the city—Bernardo Strozzi, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, and Alessandro Magnasco; and superb examples by native Genoese painters who worked primarily in the city and remain largely unknown—Gioacchino Assereto, Valerio Castello, Domenico Piola, Gregorio De Ferrari, and Bartolomeo Guidobono.

Sculpture attained the level and exuberance of painting in the second half of the 17th century. Represented in the exhibition will be several full-size statues by masters such as Pierre Puget, Filippo Parodi, and Anton Maria Maragliano, as well as terracotta sketches and exquisite bronze repetitions of monumental groups. In the decorative arts, collaborations between Genoese designers and Flemish craftsmen—in particular, Mattheus Melijn and Giovanni Aelbosca Belga—yielded ceremonial silver ensembles from the beginning of the period that are among the most spectacular in Europe. The outstanding quality of this silverwork epitomizes Genoese craftsmanship and its basis in the close interactions between patrons, painters, and silversmiths.

Equally important are the period's works on paper—some 60 will be on view, many by the same artists responsible for the paintings and objects. The largest group of 18 works comes from Genoa's city museums, while 15 works are from the Gallery's own collection, most just recently acquired. The drawings exemplify the elaborate technique, pictorial character, and production of autonomous function that distinguish Genoese draftsmanship during the period. Though relatively few Genoese artists explored the technique of etching, Castiglione and his follower Bartolomeo Biscaino surpassed any other native Italian printmaker in imagination and fluency.

Monumental fresco decoration emerged as the essential Genoese art form in the second half of the 16th century. Over the next century and a half, the leading painters collaborated with specialists in fictive architecture and stucco sculptors to create incomparably rich ensembles. The projects of Castello, Piola, and De Ferrari mark the apex of this tradition as well as one of the great chapters in European interior decoration. The exhibition conveys the significance and enthralling beauty of these ensembles through a selection ofbozzetti (preliminary compositional studies in oil) and modelli (more advanced, usually final, models for presentation to the client)—several of very large scale—and through many preparatory drawings.

Exhibition Catalog

The exhibition in Washington will be accompanied by a lavishly illustrated, 384-page catalog made possible by the Robert Lehman Foundation, the Wolfgang Ratjen Foundation, Liechtenstein, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Produced and published by the National Gallery of Art in association with Princeton University Press, the book consists of four essays by the leading experts and exhibition curators—Bober, Boccardo, and Boggero—as well as Peter M. Lukehart, associate dean of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, and Andrea Zanini, associate professor of economic history at the University of Genoa. Also featured are ten section introductions that provide a synthetic history of the period's art, followed by in-depth entries for individual works. This catalog is the first comprehensive study of the Genoese baroque in English and the most current in any language.

The exhibition catalog and other merchandise will be available for purchase in a special installation near the exhibition exit, the West Building Shops, and the East Building Shops;; (800) 697-9350 (phone); (202) 789-3047 (fax); or [email protected].

Update: March 30, 2021
This update includes updated exhibition dates.

Update: January 9, 2020
This update includes an additional exhibition sponsor and related program.

Update: March 11, 2020
This update includes information pertaining to the postponement of the exhibition and its related programming.

Update: July 24, 2020
This update includes updated exhibition dates.

Update: December 15, 2020
This update includes updated dates for the exhibition tour.

Kay Rosen, Photo by Larry Lapidus

Kay Rosen, Photo by Larry Lapidus

Kay Rosen
Kay Rosen's (American, b. 1943) text-based work, SORRY (2020–2021), will cover the 90-foot-long and 10-foot-tall façade of the East Building's Main Entrance, cleverly acknowledging its temporary closure while also suggesting larger issues of institutional voice, care, and responsibility. Trained in linguistics, Rosen investigates the visual possibilities of language through a range of mediums, including paintings, drawings, murals, and videos. Her work explores how scale, material, composition, typography, and design can affect the meaning and structure of words, with poetic and graphic results.

Solo exhibitions of Rosen's work have included a 25-year survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, as well as presentations at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; The Art Institute of Chicago; The Drawing Center, New York; Aspen Art Museum; Art, Design & Architecture Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara; Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zealand; and Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; Indianapolis Museum of Art; Collection Lambert in Avignon, France; and Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Rosen, who taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for 24 years, lives in Gary, Indiana, and New York City. She was the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in 2017 and three National Endowment for the Arts Visual Arts Grants, among other awards.


The artist Sarah Cain standing in front of her work, "We will walk right up to the sun" (2019), on site at The San Francisco International Airport, Photo by Jeff McLane

Sarah Cain
We will walk right up to the sun, 2019
permanent work on site at The San Francisco International Airport commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission
Image courtesy of the artist
Photo by Jeff McLane

Sarah Cain
Sarah Cain's (American, b. 1979) energetic abstract paintings jump the bounds of the canvas to integrate a variety of surfaces and materials while drawing on a wide range of sources. Cain took the title of her installation, My favorite season is the fall of the patriarchy, from a coffee mug. The work centers on Cain's 45-foot-long abstract painting installed on a temporary wall on the ground floor of the Atrium and extends onto nearby protective coverings encasing permanent collection sculptures. With a range of stylistic applications—atmospheric spray-painted grounds, hard-edged figures, and torn, cut, sewn, and beaded canvas—Cain's riotously-colored works dynamically play between painting and sculpture.

Cain's work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Aspen Art Museum; and Contemporary Art Museum, Raleigh. Exhibitions of her work are being presented in 2021 at The Momentary at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, and at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College. Her work can be found in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin; North Carolina Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; and Pérez Art Museum Miami. A 2020 recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painter & Sculptors Grant, Cain lives and works in Los Angeles.


Avish Khebrehzadeh, Photo by Lorenzo Palmieri

Avish Khebrehzadeh
Courtesy M77 Gallery, Milan
Photo by Lorenzo Palmieri

Avish Khebrehzadeh
An installation by the DC-based artist Avish Khebrehzadeh (Iranian American, b. 1969) on the Concourse Level of the East Building will include a large-scale drawing made in situ, Tree of Life in Blue, as well as Seven Silent Songs, a video animation featuring humans and animals alternating in procession to create a poetic cycle. Khebrehzadeh's animations of horses, rhinos, jellyfish, and people moving through fluid natural scenes are made of thousands of drawings on sheets of paper. The serene work engages with questions of migration, climate change, and human nature.

Khebrehzadeh's work has been featured in solo exhibitions worldwide, including Rome's Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo (MAXXI), in group shows, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and in the biennials of Istanbul, Santa Fe, Liverpool, and Venice, where in 2003 she received the Golden Lion Award for best young artist working in Italy. Her work is in held in the public collections of the Albertina Museum, Vienna; Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporaneo, Turin; Museum of Old and New Art, Tasmania; Museo d'Arte Contemporanea di Roma; and MAXXI. The artist's work is often inspired by her own experience of migration, from her native Iran to Italy, Madagascar, the United Kingdom, and finally the United States.


East Building Renovations and Reopening
The East and West Buildings of the National Gallery of Art are home to thousands of masterpieces, as well as significant works of architecture in their own right. To preserve these historic buildings and improve their accessibility, energy efficiency, and infrastructure, the museum is committed to its Master Facilities Plan, an ongoing, phased approach to long-term repair, restoration, and renovation.

Major renovations to the north side of the East Building were completed in 2016. Since 2019, additional work has been underway to improve accessibility throughout the building, to overhaul select building systems, to renovate the galleries on the west side, and to replace the Atrium skylight, which is original to the building and over 40 years old. The skylight replacement work is currently underway; an elaborate system of sliding platforms has been installed to move glass panels, and a suspended platform installed beneath the skylight allows construction workers to facilitate the glass replacement and reinstall various electrical systems safely while also protecting visitors and works of art. The Atrium skylight replacement project will be complete by early 2022. Accessibility improvements to the main entrance, elevator lobby, and restrooms on the Ground Floor and Mezzanine are also underway and will be complete by fall 2021. Additional improvements include new flooring, lighting, and laylights for Tower 3 and the west galleries on the Upper Level. For more information on East Building renovations, visit

This phase of renovation work was designed around the priority of remaining open to the public throughout construction. The East Building has been closed since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the East Building reopens later this year, most of the galleries, the Atrium, and other public locations will be available for visitors to enjoy.

General Information
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