Perhaps the impact of the beautiful photographs in the manual by Giovanni Becatti on the art of the Classical
age was decisive. For a fifteen-year-old high school student, in an age far removed from TV formats and cheap
travel, the impact of the “Galata morente” [The Dying Gaul] and the attic pediments brought together two
existential tensions: the journey and the past. Thus, through those photographs, art rushed upon teenagers, urging
them to reveal their inner world, the secret compulsions towards a monumental Classicism.
Large images, translated by the camera shots according to the ancient technique of photogravure on plates.
Museum photographs from the early 20th century: a wise dose of studio lighting, intended to give depth to
sculpture, of photographic retouching of negatives, necessary to correct the orthochromatic tones of silver
bromide; and above all the skill of blocking out (with a brush, in white lead on the negative, or, more easily, with
a cut-out template glued on), in order to follow, perhaps unconsciously, the pure visibilist indications of
Heinrich Wölfflin, in “How to Photograph Sculptures” (1896-1897). “An ancient sculpture possesses a main view
[...] and its effect is annulled if its prominent contour is removed from it. [...] It would not therefore be at all
superfluous, occasionally, to agree, within a broader circle, on the way in which plastic works must be photographed,
and at the same time to educate the observer to seek the view that corresponds to the artist’s conception. It is not
correct that a plastic monument can be looked at from all sides”.1
Perhaps, then, the collection of German photogravures from the early 20th century from the Suor Orsola
Benincasa University of Naples, founded by Benedetto Croce as a teacher training college for women, was
decisive: masterpieces of Classical sculpture that in the large corridors of the ancient convent evoke suggestions
of antiquity, marking the rhythm the steps of the young women training to become primary teachers with values
both visual and ethical at the same time, as recalled by the maidens of the Erechtheion and the Heraion of Paestum.
What certainly was decisive, to recall the emotion of the known images, was the impression of the “dreaming
room” prepared by Luca Pignatelli at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, where the vase paintings
became wide screens mounted to cover walls. A contemporary presence but so inside a way of reading the ancient
as to evoke profound resonances in us museum curators: and it is no coincidence that it is an art historian who is an
expert in museum didactics, Marco de Gemmis, who is promoting the contemporary artists at the MANN.
Preparing Luca Pignatelli’s entrance at the Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica was therefore an itinerary of
existential preparation, a kind of critical path through well known works, masterpieces of ancient art also reread
through images, they too very well known. So to speak, the photographic vulgate of the great masterpieces that
becomes a work of intimate resonance for the scholar, and of intimate modification for the artist: viewing the
agglutinated iron necklaces in the enlargements exhibited in Florence in 2010 was maieutic in rendering these
states of mind aware.
Pignatelli operates on photographic, engraving, graphic works; he starts from the fundamentals of our collections,
of our museum status, for an intervention that, far from distorting, looks deeply into the very crux of the vision
of the work of art. For this reason, because of the fascination that Wölfflin’s theses exercise on him, because of the
power that the images on which he works exercise on his vision, we are convinced that we are hosting the last
pure Visibilist at our Institute. He will be with us not only for a calibrated exhibition on our rooms and on our
heritage, but also for activity in our Printworks, which will become a ritual for contemporary artists.
1 Fotografare la scultura, the Italian edition edited by B. Cestelli Guidi. Mantua 2008, pp. 11-12.