The Papers of Madness. Fortunato Duranti, visionary and romantic

curated by Alessandro Giovanardi and Franco Pozzi

City Museum via Tonini 1, April 28th – July 15th 2018

An eccentric genius of an artist, seduced by Raphael’s solemn shadings and by Poussin, Pietro Testa, and Salvator Rosa’s experimentations, Fortunato Duranti (Montefortino 1787-1863) was born in the Marche, and received his education in Rome during the period between Neoclassicism and Romanticism. He belongs to the first due to the education of the time and his artistic and cultural circle, and to the second due to his visionary instinct and his deeply rooted need to experiment, dictated by a tragically prolific fate. A cultured man, a collectionist, a talented sketcher, a painter of rare and delicate art, and an art merchant, Duranti measured up to the most relevant masters of Neoclassicism and Purism, particularly of Felice Giani and Tommaso Minardi (but also of Palagi, Pinelli, Presutti, Camuccini etc…).

«Is the right tone to read Duranti’s art that of pathology? Or perhaps that of the marchand-amateur, the collector or art seller? Or should we keep in mind Duranti, the connoisseur? Or, in the end, is his artistic personality the only» – Federico Zeri

Unjustly arrested as a spy during one of his business trips to Vienna in 1815, right during the tense time period between the Napoleonic era and the Restoration, Duranti’s inner balance was forever thrown off, a situation which worsened due to his artistic and economic failures. From 1840 onward he retired to his native Montefortino, where he lived his last twenty-three years, producing an extremely vast number of drawings, regarding various subjects, styles, and strokes, accompanied by an outpouring of fragmented and writing that was impossible to decipher. The years of his madness were, however, the most fertile for his crazed gaze, which from 1820 onward transformed his adherence to the historic themes of Raphael’s Neoclassicism into a disturbing prophecy of Sironian metaphysics. At the same time, the constant reference to mythological, biblycal, and religious subjects create an elective affinity with Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741-1825) and his lucid Oniricism, as well as the personal and restless symbolism of Willaim Blake (1757-1827). In reality, Duranti’s work, just as Füssli’s parallel work, owes a lot to the anticlassical tendencies of the Tuscan, Emilian, and Venetian

« A heroic Neoclassical shakeup » – Roberto Longhi

The solitude in his studio tower in Montefortino, his torrential and broken writing, apparently without any meaning directed towards the reader, his powerful graphical visions of incredible invention and continuous mulling, also evokes the parallel events of the writer (poet, dramathurge, philosopher) Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843). A common thread, among other things, is their fascination for Salvator Rosa, a master referenced multiple times in Duranti’s drawings, in significant variations on the theme of The Temptations of Saint Anthony, whose name Hölderlin uses to sign his papers of madness.

«The scenes become an incandescent matter of new expression; it’s so new as to completely jump a century to strangely approach some of today’s artists, the metaphysicists, and specifically De Chirico» – Alberto Francini

The exhibition unites some pieces from private collections with a precious and extremely important loan from the “Romolo Spezioli” Civic Library of Fermo (90 pages of extraordinary make), and intends to follow the path of critique begun, among others, by Roberto Longhi and Federico Zeri, and meticulously followed by Stefano Papetti, who brings to light with an “Archangelesque” gaze the premonitory and unknowing modernity of a master of «dishevelled Neoclassicism». In terms of quality and power, Duranti’s work can be placed besides that of Piranesi, Blake, Füssli, and Goya among the prophets of the crisis of Western rationality.