ROME.- Chiostro del Bramante presents today Julius Caesar - Man, Feats and Myth, on view through May 3, 2009. Finally, the leading protagonists of Roman history are in Rome! The Chiostro del Bramante inaugurates a grand season in its already well-known expository showings. For the first time ever, in the suggestive surroundings attributable to the genius of the great Urbinate architect, a show expressly dedicated to the image of the first absolute protagonist of ancient Rome has been elaborated.
On G. Julius Caesar (around 100-44 b.c.), the first dictator, the undisputed artisan of the greatness of the future Roman Empire of which, not by chance, his adopted son Octavianus, first Augustus Caesar, would become prince, historical accounts are abundant with information, from the time he appeared on the political stage of Urbe and to later, as the fearless commander of the Roman army, with which he enjoyed sensational victories and new territorial annexations greatly expanding Roman control of the Mediterranean area.
A leading figure in the troubled passing between the Roman Republic and the Empire, Caesar was never to become its emperor, but he did lay the grounds for its solid foundation. An exceptional character, a man of letters, historian, general and statesman of extraordinary far-sightedness, he started even during his lifetime, to create his own myth. In fact, he presented himself as a descendant of Venus, thus tying himself to the original myth of the city of Rome itself, dating back, according to ancient tradition, to Aeneas himself, son of Venus, who supposedly landed at the Tyrrhenian shores of Latium at the end of his long wanderings, being exiled from Troy, as marvellously narrated in the Virgilian Aeneid.
This legendary plot, laid by Caesar in a masterly manner, was supposedly resumed again and developed by his successors at the command of the Empire and tirelessly worked out up to modern times. Probably, without the tragic end of his assassination, seizing him at the time of his maximum splendor and thus preventing him from reaching old age and decline, Caesars myth would not have been attested to with so much fervor.
The exhibition intends to unfold by starting out with the character, Caesar, and his closest political and cultural surroundings, touching upon the strong moments of his climb to power: his allies-adversaries like Crassus, Pompeius, Cicero, the military campaigns that led him to glory and wealth, the Egyptian adventure including the encounter with Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, the Roman artistic and cultural atmosphere of those years; and up to his death, on the Ides of March 44 b.c., to the succession to power going into the hands of his young adopted son Octavianus and his apotheosis.
The memory and the cult of such an exceptional figure have never gotten lost, not even during the centuries of decline of the Empire and during the dark years following the barbaric invasions of Italy. It was, however, in the Middle Ages, and especially with the coming true of the Holy Roman Empire (early 9th century), that the myth of the founder of the Roman Empire started up again, hinting that the cinerary urn of the great leader could be found in the that the cinerary urn of the great leader could be found in the sphere located on top of the Vatican obelisk. For the most part, this was a revival of the myth in an ideological-political sense, aimed at reaffirming the unifying values of the new Carolingian Empire. It was expected of art to illustrate such recovery.
Starting in the 13th century, in particular, and later, in the 14th century, the recovery of the ancient Romans is affirmed even through the images of the great protagonists in the history of Rome, and Caesar is obviously among these. In the High Renaissance, the celebrated cycles of frescoes by Mantegna and Andrea del Sarto, dedicated to the Roman dictator, are encouragement and example for the new prince and his imperium. Literature and music celebrate the Fasti of Rome such as those of Caesar, and as an example, it suffices to cite Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.
The myth of Caesar and Caesarism continued over centuries and appeared to regain intensity between the end of the 18th century and 19th century: interest for the ancient Romans and their protagonists explodes again with force in the century of Illuminism and among its protagonists, and one has only to recall the inheritance which came later in the character and role of Napoleon I. Afterwards, in Italy, in the early 20th century, the Roman myth found a privileged place for a new return in Fascist ideology.
Again in the 20th century, the seventh art, and perhaps especially motion pictures, have kept Caesars myth alive up to now; so much so, that starting with the era of silent movies and up to the present, more than a hundred movies have portrayed Julius Caesar as a direct or indirect protagonist. Motion picture productions on Caesar can be subdivided concisely into three periods: the early years of the 20th century (1910s), with its theater-equipped movies; the 1950s and 60s, which popularized the feats of Caesar and the ancient Romans; lastly, the years of the great Hollywood-like productions at Cinecittà in Italy, the shortest route for the myths of Caesar and ancient Rome to be exported overseas.
Among the actors who have lent their faces to portray Caesar, etching his features and personality in cinematographic imaginations have been Marlon Brando in Julius Caesar, directed by Mankiewicz in 1953, and Rex Harrison as Caesar in Cleopatra, again by the same director in 1963.
The exhibition unifies, for the first time, archeological documents of great importance and beauty, coming from the most prestigious Italian and foreign museums, with expressly made reconstructive plastic models, to represent Rome as Caesar must have lived it. Left as an entrustment to figurative art is the use of documentary evidence of the myth, Caesar, and Caesarism from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, and onwards to Neoclassicism and beyond, up to the very early decades of the 20th century, when motion pictures, through vintage movies, scenery costumes and movie sets, related the most recent of Ceasars myths.
The exhibition is under the care of: Giovanni Gentile, Paolo Liverani, Enzo Sallustro, Giovanni Villa. Catalogue: published by Silvana Editoriale, Cinisello Balsamo.