Echo and Narcissus: art inspired by Roman myth on display at Palazzo Barberini
With a world-class exhibition focused on self-portraiture, eroticism and temporality, Rome’s Gallery of Ancient Art celebrates the opening of its newly restored rooms at Palazzo Barberini. Entitled “Echo and Narcissus”, the display brings together 37 works of ancient and contemporary art on loan from some of the city’s most prominent museums (MAXXI – National Museum of XXI Century Arts and Barberini Corsini – National Galleries of Ancient Art). The title refers to the myth recounted in Book III of Ovid’s Metamorphoses: the nymph Echo is consumed by her love for Narcissus who rejects her. Punished by the Gods, Narcissus will die drowned in an attempt to capture his own reflection with which he had fallen hopelessly in love.
From the intimate to the exotic, from the temporal to the spiritual, from the conceptual to the grotesque, the exhibition explores the figure of the artist, condemned to pursue an image, a reflection, an illusion, a metaphor that is clearly seen in the theme of portraiture and selfportraiture expressed in innumerable ways. The works are spread across centuries of art history with 21 paintings by Marco Benefial, Gianlorenzo Bernini, Bronzino, Caravaggio, Rosalba Carriera, Pietro da Cortona, Piero di Cosimo, Luca Giordano, Hans Holbein, Benedetto Luti, Raffaello, Guido Reni and Pierre Subleyras displayed side by side with 17 contemporary masterpieces by Stefano Arienti, Monica Bonvicini, Maria Lai, Shirin Neshat, Luigi Ontani, Giulio Paolini, Yan Pei-Ming, Markus Schiwald, Richard Serra, Yinka Shonibare MBE and Kiki Smith.
A second section of the exhibition develops at Rome’s MAXXI Museum where “La Velata”, a 18th-century sculpture by Antonio Corradini, is shown alongside Vanessa Beecroft’s “VB74”. On the occasion of the event, 11 rooms located in the South wing of Palazzo Barberini will provide over 750 square metres of exhibition space overlooking the building’s monumental courtyard. Along with the ceremonial rooms such as the Throne Hall or the Cardinal’s Audience Rooms, a number of lesser-known locations will be made accessible to the public: the Oval Hall (conceived by Bernini in the form of an ellipse), the Cappellina (a small chapel from the early 17th century) and the Landscapes Hall, decorated by Filippo Cretoni in the mid-19th century.