18th Century Roman Festival Exhibit at Watkinson

  Caption: (l-r) Kristin Triff, Vincent J. Buonanno, and John Pinto
  (l-r) Kristin Triff, Vincent J. Buonanno, and John Pinto

When Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI and his 18th-century contemporaries wanted to flex their muscles or engage in a bit of saber-rattling, a host of master craftsmen and artisans were commissioned to build giant and breathtakingly beautiful, ephemeral architectural constructions known as macchine (MACH-ee-nay). Astonishingly, the macchine, some over 100 feet tall, were then blown to bits—to the great delight of boisterous Roman crowds—in spectacular fireworks displays.

Until February 28, members of the campus community, as well as the general public, can get a rare glimpse and a comprehensive view of one of Baroque Rome’s most famous festivals by visiting the Watkinson Library, Trinity’s special collections library located in the Raether Library and Information Technology Center. The exhibit, entitled “Staging Diplomacy in Eighteenth-Century Rome: The Festival of the Chinea,” is being curated by Assistant Professor of Fine Arts Kristin Triff, who coordinated the exhibit in conjunction with a seminar she is teaching this semester. The prints on display are part of the private collection of Vincent J. Buonanno, one of the world’s foremost collectors of Rome-related prints and visual culture.

Triff’s seminar, entitled “Art and Authority in the Age of Spectacle: The Baroque Festival,” explores the complex relationships among art, architecture, politics, and theater in 17th-century Europe. “Although Europe’s civil, religious, and economic upheavals provoked increasingly elaborate and inflexible ideologies among its absolutist rulers,” she explains, “the art and architecture of this period are among the most innovative and varied in Western history. By combining politics and art, baroque festivals explored—and frequently altered—the seemingly opposed conventions of each.”

The exhibit was launched January 24 with a well-attended lecture and reception sponsored by The Friends of Art, the Watkinson Library, and the Cesare Barbieri Endowment. The featured speaker, Princeton University’s Howard Crosby Butler Professor of History and Architecture John Pinto, was Triff’s doctoral dissertation adviser.

Much like today’s movie trailers, prints like those in the Buonanno collection were distributed in advance as propaganda to whet the appetite of guests who were lucky enough to be invited to the Chinea (Keen-Ay-ah), and the detailed depictions of the macchine were eagerly scrutinized by an extensive audience in Rome and throughout Europe. Collectively, the renderings document not only the highly political background of artistic patronage during this period, but also the exceptionally inventive nature of the macchine themselves, which were designed, built, and commemorated in prints by Rome’s most talented architects, artists, and engravers.

For further information, please go to www.trincoll.edu/depts/library/watkinson/chinea.htm.

Additional prints can be viewed at www.trincoll.edu/pub/images/chinea.htm.

The Watkinson Library is open Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Saturday, 12:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.


 

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