Picasso: Parade at Pompeii

Picasso and Naples: Parade

Museum and Royal Wood of Capodimonte, Naples
Antiquarium, Pompeii Excavations
curated by Sylvain Bellenger and Luigi Gallo
8th April – 10th July 2017 In 2017

Naples and Pompeii will celebrate the centenary of Picasso’s visit to Italy, which the artist undertook together with Jean Cocteau to work with the Ballets Russes on Parade, a ballet that would premiere on stage in Paris in the May of 1917, to an idea of the same Cocteau and to music by Erik Satie. During his visit to our country, the artist came to Naples twice, between the March and April of 1917, and to Pompeii. For the occasion, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Superintendency Pompeii, the Museum and Royal Wood of Capodimonte and the Rome Opera House, with the support of the Campania Region and the Donnaregina Regional Foundation for Contemporary Arts and the regional Scabec company, and with the production and organisation of Electa, will promote the exhibition Picasso and Naples: Parade, which will be held at Capodimonte and Pompeii, and curated by Sylvain Bellenger and Luigi Gallo.

13th March 1917 We are [Picasso, Sergej Diagilev and Massine] once again in Rome after a trip to Naples, and from there to Pompeii by car. I do believe that no city in all the world could please me more than Naples. The teeming classical antiquity, brand new, in this Arab Montmartre, in this great mess of a kermesse that never stops. Food, God and fornication, here are the drives of this novel people. Vesuvius crafts all the clouds of the world. The sea is dark blue. Hyacinths hurl themselves on the pavements Jean Cocteau, Lettres à sa mère, I, 1898-1918, Paris, Gallimard, 1989

The exhibition will allow an emphasis on the importance of the direct meeting of Picasso with antiquity at Pompeii, and above all with traditional Neapolitan culture, in an entirely new dimension of Picassoan studies through some of its greatest expressions - the Presepe, popular theatre and marionette theatre. The combination of the ancient and the modern city seduced Picasso: one for its antiquity in which history is lost in everyday life, the other for its vitality coloured by dramatic hues. With Parade, the cubist painter returns to his first source of inspiration tied to the world of the circus, also renewing interest in the classic tradition, later recalled by Cocteau in his “Call to Order”.
The works on display hail from different museums and private collections, including the Musée National d’Art Moderne, the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Musée Picasso Paris, the Museu Picasso Barcellona, la Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, la Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris, la Maison Jean Cocteau, Milly la Forêt, la Fundación Almine y Bernard RuizPicasso para el Arte (FABA), the Mart Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto, and the Rome Opera House.

The Royal Palace of Capodimonte will host the Parade curtain in her ballroom. The largest work of Picasso, of utmost importance for modern art, will be in Naples for the first time. A canvas of 17 metres wide by 10 metres high, kept at the George Pompidou Centre of Paris but, due to its size, displayed only on rare occasions - at the Brooklyn Museum (New York 1984); at Palazzo della Gran Guardia (Verona 1990); at Palazzo Grassi (Venice 1998) and at the Pompidou Centre of Metz (2012-2013). The work will be accompanied in the exhibition by a wide selection of works by the Spanish painter: in addition to a unique set of sketches from the Musée Picasso of Paris, which allows one to follow the artist’s creative direction through the design of costumes for Parade, highlighting their diverse cultural influences, the exhibition also encourages reflection on certain subjects which would recur frequently in the work of Picasso - the artist’s stylistic elements, such as still life, the figures of musicians and musical instruments, and the mask of the Harlequin.
Indeed, works like the iconic Acrobat of 1930, whose inspiration comes from the acrobats of Parade, allows one to also analyse the persistence of themes in the works of Picasso. To further investigate the relationship of Picasso with the theatre and Neapolitan tradition, Capodimonte will also host the sketches produced by the artist for the ballet Pulcinella (staged in 1920 in Paris with the music of Stravinsky and the choreography of Massine) together with certain marionettes and puppets from Neapolitan maschera from the Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte collection.
To consider the relationship between Picasso and the world of entertainment - in particular that of cinematography - certain frames will be screened from films, such as Le Mistère Picasso, directed by Henry-Georges Clouzot in 1956 and winner of the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, which shows the artist at the apex of his creativity.

The Antiquarium of Pompei will welcome the ballet costumes designed by the artist, who visited Pompeii in the March of 1917. To confirm the influence of theatrical iconography on the art of Picasso and to celebrate his passion for the maschera, the costumes will be compared alongside a collection of African masks, along with a selection of archaeological finds from the site, including a group of theatrical masks, for the most part never seen before (antefixes, embossed plates, herms and statues). The innovative comparison between the ancient references and arte nègre is underlined at Pompeii by the magnificent sketch of the ‘poster painting of Cubism’ Les demoiselles d’Avignon painted in 1907 and exhibited for the first time to great fanfare in 1916. The theme of the mask, particularly in its role in dance which references old African tradition, seeks to underline how Picasso analysed the reasoning over a device which able to deeply explore identity: wearing one, in a literal or symbolic sense, means to stop being oneself; while on the other hand, taking it off allows the revelation of a psychological truth. The image of Picasso, meditative as he lights his pipe, and Massine, leaning on a large mask which functions as the mouth of a fountain, which is present in the Antiquarium, was used to illustrate the program of Parade in Paris.
This Summer on the 27th, 28th and 29th July, the Large Theatre of Pompeii will host two ballets with the choreography of Leonide Massine: Parade with music by Erik Satie and Pulcinella with music by Stravinsky, both portrayed by prima ballerinas, soloists and the corps de ballet of the Rome Opera House. While the exhibition at Capodimonte reconstructs Picasso’s stay in Naples and the Neapolitan influences upon the creation of the ballets Parade and Pulcinella, Pompeii offers an evocation of the concept of the mask in the art of the Spanish painter, who was accustomed to the masquerade and transformism, as his depictions demonstrate, first with the Harlequin and then later the Minotaur.
The Teatro di San Carlo also commemorates the centenary of Picasso’s visit to Naples, and participates in the initiatives following in the wake of the exhibition of Parade at Capodimonte, screening on loop throughout the duration of the exhibition (7th April - 10th July) on monitors located in the Foyer of Mirrors and at Memus (Museum and Historical Archive of the Teatro di San Carlo), films of two ballets produced at the Rome Opera House in 2007 for a Picasso themed evening - Massine, which included Parade, a realistic ballet with music by Erik Satie and Pulcinella with music by Igor Stravinsky. Costumes for the ballet Pulcinella, to an original design by Picasso, will also be displayed alongside the monitors. Thus, during the opening hours of the Theatre, all visitors who attend guided tours, and all those who attend shows in the coming months will be able, in the foyer, to remember the theatrical impact of Picasso as a theatrical set and costume designer, in two masterpieces in the history of dance.
The exhibition Picasso and Naples. Parade in Naples and Pompeii is the inaugural event of the Picasso-Mediterranean initiative of the Musée national Picasso-Paris, an international cultural event which will take place from the Spring of 2017 until the Spring of 2019. More than sixty institutions from 8 counties have developed various exhibition projects on the “stubbornly Mediterranean” work of Pablo Picasso. 

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