Rediscovered Giambattista Borghesi's Cycle

By Collezione Fondazione Cariparma

The cycle of thirteen panels was originally painted on plaster, by Giambattista Borghesi between 1812 and 1814 in the house of his uncle Pietro Borghesi; when the building was demolished in 1951, the paintings were detached from the wall. In 1997, the Cariparma Foundation bought them and placed them in its headquarters.

The Borghesi sitting room Female nudeCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

"Poetic matters"

The myth offered the opportunity to portray loving scenes, for the decoration of private environments; naked bodies were rendered with immediacy. As early as the 16th century, the painter and scholar Armenini recommended for private rooms and bedrooms...

The Borghesi sitting room Male nude by Giambattista BorghesiCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

"Poetic matters, where the figures of beautiful females, young people, putti angels with festoons and grotesques decorations enter with much satisfaction of the good."

The Borghesi sitting room Cherubs' gamesCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

The tender children called 'putti', here a clear reference to the Mannerist painting of Correggio and Parmigianino, have acquired different symbologies over the centuries.

The Borghesi sitting room Cherubs' games by GIAMBATTISTA BORGHESICollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Inspired by ancient Roman art, they became popular starting from the Renaissance, spreading between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with decorative and allegorical functions in the profane and sacred sphere.

The Borghesi sitting room Leda and the SwanCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

The metamorphoses of Jupiter

The loves of Jupiter are the perfect example to exalt the power of divinity and the erotic value of the myth.

Zeus fell madly in love with the young Leda and descended from Olympus to join her. While she slept, he approached her in the form of a white swan spreading around an intoxicating scent of ambrosia...

... and caressing the young woman all over her body with her sinuous neck. As soon as the young woman woke up, Zeus revealed his identity by announcing that from their union two twins would be born: the Dioscuri.

The Borghesi sitting room The Rape of GanymedeCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Ganymede, young son of Tros, king of Troy, was considered by the ancients as a symbol of perfect beauty. The boy was so handsome that even Zeus fell in love with him and wished he had him for himself...

... so one day Zeus sent his own divine eagle to kidnap him or, in other versions of the myth, he himself took on the appearance of an eagle, to take him to Olympus, where he made him his cupbearer.

The Borghesi sitting room Perseus and Minerva by Giambattista BorghesiCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Endavours and heroes

The themes, selected for their domestic and matrimonial function, exalted love and celebrated the virtues of the clients. The heroism of Perseus, son of Zeus and Danae, has influenced art since its dawn.

Before leaving for the terrible mission of bringing Medusa's head to King Polydette, Perseus implored his father to help him fight the monster: Zeus then sent Minerva to his aid.

It was the goddess who informed him of Medusa's powers and gave him a mirror: “You will approach her by walking backwards and looking at her through it. If you met her gaze you would be lost ”.

The Borghesi sitting room The Borghesi sitting roomCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

The virtuous actions drawn from the sources of the past illustrated, as a reflection, the political and social reality of modern times, the glory and the defeats, the crises and the resurgences.

The episode is taken from the XXII book of the Iliad in which Achilles, after killing Hector, drags his lifeless body with the chariot around the walls of Troy.

"It was a great victory for us: we killed divine Hector, whom the Trojans in the city venerated as if he were a God!", so Achilles said and pondering an outrage against the enemy...

The Borghesi sitting room Achilles dragging Hector's body by Giambattista BorghesiCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

... pierced the tendons of both feet, between the heel and ankle, passed two leather straps through the holes and tied Hector to the chariot, so that the head crawled to the ground.

From the dragged body of Hector rose a cloud of dust, his hair disheveled and his head crawled in the dust (...) while Andromache "looked anxiously from the walls".

"A dark night fell over her eyes and enveloped her; she fell backwards, fainted: she seemed dead. The splendid ornaments fell away from her head: the diadem, the hair net, the braided ribbon, the veil".

The Borghesi sitting room The escape of the vestals by Giambattista BorghesiCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Tito Livio, in the fifth book on the history of Rome, recounts the episode illustrated by this panel. Against the backdrop of a Rome invaded by the Gauls, the Vestals flee with the tripod of the sacred fire of the temple.

They wore an elaborate braid hairstyle twisted over their heads, topped with a sacred bandage that spun in several coils and ended in two final bandages. The whole was covered with a white veil.

The plebeian Lucio Albino, who carried his children and his wife on a wagon, came across the fleeing Vestals. Seeing what they carried in their womb with great affliction...

... made his wife and children get off the cart to save sacred things to a safe Greek city.

Credits: Story

Text by Fondazione Cariparma and Artificio Società Cooperativa

Credits: All media
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