Roman caricatures on display Tailors, hat makers, musicians, puppeteers, star alongside popes and cardinals in the exhibition L’ Arte del sorriso.

Roman caricatures on display

Tailors, hat makers, musicians, puppeteers, star alongside popes and cardinals in the exhibition L’ Arte del sorriso. La caricatura a Roma dal Seicento al 1849, hosted by the Museo di Roma until 2 October 2016. The show displays over 120 caricatures from its own collection as well as from cultural institutes across Italy.

Long considered a minor genre, caricature is nonetheless present in the oeuvre of artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Annibale Carracci, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. During the 18th century, caricature acquired an increasingly intellectual status. The Roman exhibition focuses on the artists from that era: Pier Leone Ghezzi (1674-1755), also known as the “Knight of caricatures”, Carlo Marchionni (1702-1786), and Giuseppe Barbieri (1746-1809). Their drawings present a witty chronicle of their age, thanks also to the handwritten notes in the margins. The exhibition provides then a colorful and unusual insight into the modern Roman society.

At the turn of the century, the fortune of the caricature in Rome declined. It was gradually replaced by satirical cartoons, used as illustrations in political pamphlets and newspapers. Examples can be found in the satirical journal “Il Don Pirlone”, which had a huge success, mainly to the satirical lithographs that were readily comprehensible even to those that could not read their captions. As the political atmosphere getting more tense and more, the journal was shut down, after less than a year from its foundation in 1848.


17th century Roman artist, Caricature of three figures with birds on their heads, 1670-1680, pen and brown ink, Rome, Museo di Roma, Gabinetto Comunale delle Stampe, inv. MR 16894

Carlo Marchionni, Peppe the ugly, black pencil and grey watercolor, Rome, Museo di Roma, Gabinetto delle Stampe, inv. MR 1508-100

Giuseppe Barberi, Hunchubacked musician, 1795, pen and ink, Rome, Museo di Roma, Gabinetto delle Stampe, inv. MR 16651

Giuseppe Barberi, Marianna Altieri and the prince Carlo Emilio Altieri, 1793, pen and watercolor, Rome, Museo di Roma, Gabinetto delle Stampe, inv. MR 3267-87

Anonymous, The abbot Carlo Fea and two men in front of the bust of ‘Madama Lucrezia’, 1820-1835, watercolor, Rome, Museo di Roma, Gabinetto delle Stampe, inv. MR 2792

19th century Roman artist, Antiquarians fighting for the Colosseums excavations, 1813, watercolor etching, Rome, Museo di Roma, Gabinetto delle Stampe, inv. GS 426


Posted by Martina Bollini

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