Dolci: sweet name, icy brush

Carlo Dolci a patient technique

Carlo Dolci, said Carlino, a beloved and acclaimed artist by the critics of his time, considered the greatest Florentine painter of the seventeenth century, contended by European nobility (although he almost never left the Tuscan territory), is now back in the spotlight thanks to the monographic exhibition running until November 15 at the Galleria Palatina of Palazzo Pitti in Florence. The exhibition brings together works from numerous European museums: the British Museum in London, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Staatliche Museen in Berlin, the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm, the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, the Alte Pinakothek of Monaco Bavaria, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, theAshmolean Museum in Oxford, the Burghley House in Stamford, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Brest, the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum in Madrid and the British Royal Collection, reflecting the international scope of his works.

Interior of the exhibition ” Io, Carlo Dolci “, Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence

The exhibition brings together nearly 100 paintings, of which seventy of Dolci, and the remainings by his contemporaries, to facilitate comparisons and show connections, in a sort of compendium of his descriptive style, rigorous and meticulously attentive to detail, smooth, icy but sensual, which has been called “hyperrealist” before its time. His almost obsessive rendering of details is exemplary: from the soft and almost palpable fabrics of the robes, to the splendid jewels, which, quoting the biographer Filippo Baldinucci, were “imitated in such a gorgeous (and realistic) fashion, that, as much as one touched and retouched the canvas to make sure they were painted, the eye was left in doubt.
This exhibition has been a precious opportunity to kick off a major campaign of restoration and overhaul of 33 works of the Master, also important for the study of the unique painting technique used, which involved innovative wits to reach the coveted mimesis. Moreover, radiographic analyses have allowed to add completely unexpected insights to the knowledge also of well-known paintings of Dolci’s catalogue, such as in the case of the diagnostic tests on the “Madonna with Child” of the Palatine Gallery (performed by Art-Test, not yet published), which revealed substantial changes to the composition.

“Madonna with the Child”, Carlo Dolci, Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence