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Bernheimer-Colnaghi to exhibit at Masterpiece London

Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691-1765). Architectural Capriccio with Figures discoursing among Roman Ruins, 1730. Oil on canvas, 99.5 x 136.5 cm.

Event preview

Bernheimer-Colnaghi will show the unusual combination of Old Master paintings and contemporary photographs at the second staging of Masterpiece London, the luxury fair that was launched to great acclaim last summer and will take place in the South Grounds of The Royal Hospital Chelsea from June 30 to July 5, 2011.

The stand will be divided into two parts, the large photographic masterpiece by Candida Höfer from her Louvre series forming a bridge between the two disciplines.

Amongst the Old Master paintings will be a selection of works inspired by artistic life in Rome in the 18th century. One of the highlights is the Architectural Capriccio with Figures discoursing among Roman Ruins by Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691-1765), the leading 18th century painter of vedute in Rome.

He worked exclusively in the Eternal City, where his patrons included Pope Innocent XIII, and his capricci of the ruined monuments of ancient Rome appealed greatly to Grand Tourists.

In this example, signed and dated 1730, the artist has invented a grand, monumental setting with architectural elements inspired by the Basilica of Constantine and the Temple of Castor and Pollux while the statues of Athena and the crouching lion may be based on real sculptures from the antique.

Bernheimer-Colnaghi will also be exhibiting the only known portrait of Panini (apart from the small-scale depictions in some of his own paintings). This extremely rare portrait of the vedutista was painted by Louis-Gabriel Blanchet (1705-1772), one of the leading French painters in 18th century Rome, and presents the sitter as a relaxed and elegant gentleman-painter amidst the tools of his trade, standing before his easel and leaning on a portfolio, brush in hand.

That Panini would have been formally portrayed by a French artist should not be surprising as he was closely associated with the French community in Rome from the outset of his career and counted many important French collectors among his patrons.

The international aspect of the Roman art world in the 18th century is also shown by another fine portrait being exhibited by Bernheimer-Colnaghi. The picture depicts the Scottish architect, art dealer and antiquary James Byres (1733-1817) and was executed by the Austrian artist Anton Von Maron (1733-1808), who settled in Rome in 1755.

It was probably painted around the time of Byres’ election to the Accademia di San Luca in 1768, where he had won 3rd prize for architectural design in 1762, and features one of his drawings prominently in the foreground.

Hubert Robert (1733-1808) was one of a number of French artists who visited Italy as a young man. His River landscape with an artist sketching beneath a ruined temple, possibly the Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli, probably painted in the late 1770s, draws upon that visit.

The temple with its Corinthian columns is undoubtedly inspired by the famous Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli outside Rome, although the artist has taken considerable liberties with the surrounding landscape which is depicted as much gentler and more low-lying than the actual rugged terrain.

Jeanloup Sieff (1933-2000). La robe trop eìtroite. Vintage gelatin silver print, 34 x 34 cm. © The Estate of Jeanloup Sieff / Courtesy Bernheimer Fine Art Photography.

In Munich Bernheimer Fine Old Masters established the Bernheimer Fine Art Photography department in 2004 and, under the direction of Blanca Bernheimer, it has staged several landmark exhibitions, most recently large-scale polaroids by the American artist and film director Julian Schnabel, whose work will be shown at Masterpiece.

Blanca describes the works on view as having ‘a Masterpiece claim’, notably a varied selection of female portraits and nudes by Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton, Jeanloup Sieff, Annie Leibovitz, Horst P Horst and Lucien Clergue.

All of these artists have contributed greatly to the art of the depiction of the nude in photography. Leibovitz and Sieff are more closely associated with the world of celebrity/fashion photography and their work is a striking yet sensual representation of the female form.

By contrast, Mapplethorpe’s Maryanne shows a stark and muscular portrayal of the nude, one that is reminiscent of classical antiquity and sculpture, examples of which can be seen in the large format photograph of Musée du Louvre Paris XIII, 2005 by Candida Höfer.

Candida Höfer (b. 1944) lives and works in Cologne and belongs to the School of Düsseldorf movement known for its neutral and methodical analysis of the spaces we inhabit. She specialises in meticulously composed large-format photographs of empty interiors and social spaces that capture the ‘psychology of social architecture’.

Her images document spaces such as libraries, museums, theatres and palaces in which mankind has achieved greatness but with no humans to be seen and her technique of working only with the existing light source allows her to capture the most intricate details.

Her monumental photograph Musée du Louvre Paris XIII, 2005 is an inspired choice to link the masterpieces of the past and those of the present. Blanca Bernheimer also plans to show a small number of portrait pictures and a group of landscape photographs that reflect the subject matter of the Old Masters on view.

Admission: £20 (including fair catalogue).

Venue: South Grounds, The Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, SW3