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"Rome in your pocket: Sketchbooks and artistic learning in the XVIII Century" on view at The Prado
Italian Sketchbook I. Allegory of the Arts, José del Castillo, Black and red chalk with pen and grey-brown ink. 138 sheets of Italian laid paper. Modern parchment binding, 1762, Museo Nacional del Prado.
MADRID.- Through the 51 works on display, Rome in your Pocket offers an analysis of the study process of a group of young Spanish art students who, between 1758 and 1764, received grants from the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando to perfect their training in Rome. In addition to the six sketchbooks in the Prado’s collection by José del Castillo, Maella and a later one by Goya, the exhibition includes 21 lent by other Spanish and international institutions and 22 independent drawings. Together, this group offers a comprehensive vision of the artistic practice common to European culture at this period. Although the exhibition’s principal contents comprises sketchbooks that can only be displayed open at a single page, it also offers visitors the chance to access the entire content of the sketchbooks in the Prado’s collection on tablets available to visitors through a sponsorship agreement reached this morning with Samsung. As a result, this company has now joined the Corporate Member programme of the Museum as a Protector Sponsor with the specific title of “technological collaborator.”

Between 1758 and 1764 a group of eight young students received grants from the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando to study in Rome in order to complete their artistic training. During their time there, and in conformance with the Academia’s instructions, the students acquired sketchbooks in which they made the obligatory copies of antique works and others by the Renaissance and Baroque masters. They also attended the Accademia del Nudo on the Campidoglio where they participated in life drawing classes of the male nude. These small sketchbooks, known in Italian as taccuini, were used for making sketches and studies from life, but also for annotations of other types and as travel diaries. For these artists they were an obligatory element in their learning process, in which they recorded all the works that constituted a reference point for their future activities. The sketchbooks allow for an appreciation of the artistic interests of the period through the copying of the works of art to be seen in Rome. As such, they are a valuable source of first-hand information for understanding the artistic and personal context of the period.

Rome in your Pocket offers an in-depth analysis of the six sketchbooks that belong to the Museo del Prado, by Francisco de Goya, Mariano Salvador Maella and José del Castillo, the complete contents of which can be seen on the electronic devices that will be available to visitors thanks to sponsorship from Samsung.

Shown alongside these sketchbooks are 22 drawings and a further 23 sketchbooks lent by Spanish institutions such as the MNAC and the Biblioteca Nacional; European ones including the V&A and the British Museum; and American ones such as the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York and the Meadows Museum in Dallas. Selected for their importance, all of them were created by European artists who were in Italy at this period and who also used the taccuino as a learning and recording tool, among them Joshua Reynolds, Angelica Kauffmann, Edme Bouchardon and Carlo Spiridione Mariotti.

Overall, this exhibition aims to offer a vision of the artistic practice that was common to European culture at this period.

Curated by José Manuel Matilla, Head of the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Museo Nacional del Prado, this exhibition has involved the collaboration of other curators at the Museum and of outside specialists in 18th-century drawings and European art. The accompanying catalogue includes the works on display and analyses these sketchbooks in the context of 18th-century art training, offering the first comprehensive perspective on this subject.

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