Friday February 13, 2015
Tags for: The Cleveland Museum of Art presents The Novel and the Bizarre: Salvator Rosa’s Scenes of Witchcraft.
  • Press Release

The Cleveland Museum of Art presents The Novel and the Bizarre: Salvator Rosa’s Scenes of Witchcraft.

exterior of the CMA building

Opening February 15, focus exhibition highlights Rosa’s four Scenes of Witchcraft, from the CMA collection, prints and drawings of occult imagery.

Cleveland (February 13, 2015) – The Cleveland Museum of Art presents, The Novel and the Bizarre: Salvator Rosa’s Scenes of Witchcraft, a focus exhibition showcasing the museum’s four Scenes of Witchcraft by the Italian artist, Salvator Rosa. The exhibition explores how these paintings reflect the Florentine traditions of satire, burlesque and the macabre. These four tondi, or circular artworks, reveal Rosa’s interest in literary and philosophical traditions, antiquity, magic, satire and a desire to create images of novel subjects. The exhibition, organized by guest curator Hannah Segrave will be on view in the Julia and Larry Pollock Focus Gallery from February 15, 2015 through June 14, 2015.

“Scenes of Witchcraft have always been shown together in a series, so this is the first time visitors will get the chance to truly scrutinize these paintings individually,” said Segrave. “One of my hopes for this show is that people will spend some time really looking at each of these paintings on their own in order to discover the whimsical and gruesome details that can all too easily go unnoticed. Close looking at these paintings will lead to a deeper understanding of the diverse visual culture of witchcraft in the 17th century.”

The Novel and the Bizarre: Salvator Rosa’s Scenes of Witchcraft features 21 works of art, including six paintings by Rosa alongside several prints and drawings of occult imagery from the 15th through the 17th centuries, including Hans Baldung’s The Bewitched Groom (1544), Jacques Callot’s The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1635) and Albrecht Dürer’s The Four Witches (Four Naked Women) (1497). These works provide visual context for Rosa’s images, while underscoring his originality regarding the traditional iconography of witches and magicians found in prints circulating throughout Europe at the time.

The exhibition reveals how Rosa’s stay in Florence and these Witchcraft scenes signal a turning point in his career, and influenced the fashioning of his artistic identity. Rosa was fiercely committed to his independence and originality and obsessed with promoting his reputation as a great painter of history, philosophy and morality. The oil painting, Ruins in a Rocky Landscape (1640), and a pair of landscape drawings establish Rosa’s early reputation within the Roman landscape tradition. Prints and a satirical drawing made after Rosa returned to Rome in 1649 reveal how he adapted the themes and tone of his Witchcraft paintings to his grand ambitions for his work in Rome. The show culminates with the richly symbolic Genius of Salvator Rosa, on loan from the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College and the arresting Self-portrait on loan from the Detroit Institute of Arts, artworks that give a face to this noble, mysterious and melancholic genius.


Related Programming:

Exhibition Tour
The Inside Scoop: Behind the Bizarre
Wednesday, March 11, 6:00 p.m., Focus Gallery, FREE
Join guest curator Hannah Segrave for a behind-the-scenes look at the new exhibition The Novel and the Bizarre: Salvator Rosa's Scenes of Witchcraft. Discover the ins and outs of putting together an exhibition, from researching the museum's collections to exploring witchcraft in Rosa's 17th-century Italy. Meet at the atrium info desk.


About guest curator, Hannah Segrave:
Hannah Segrave is a Curatorial Track PhD student at the University of Delaware specializing in Baroque Art, focusing on issues of self-fashioning and the work of Italian artist Salvator Rosa. Both her dissertation and current exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art, “The Novel and the Bizarre: Salvator Rosa’s Scenes of Witchcraft,” explore Rosa’s intellectual and artistic engagement with witchcraft imagery. She graduated from Vassar College in 2008 with a Bachelor’s in Latin, and later joined the University of Delaware, earning her Master’s in 2012.


From the Bizarre to the Sublime: The Witchcraft Paintings of Salvator Rosa, FREE
Saturday, April 25, 2:00 p.m. Recital Hall
In Medicean Florence, where Salvator Rosa delighted his public with his extravagant Neapolitan persona, his scenes of witchcraft were intended to startle and intrigue; he chose unusual media to suggest the power of the artist to invent magical effects. In papal Rome he moved towards a darker satire, at times conveying dangerous hints of anticlericalism, but at others exploring those ‘secrets of nature’ which had enthralled ancient philosophers and which had many parallels with the interest of contemporary scientists in wonders and marvels. His latest works, such as Saul and the Witch of Endor, anticipate the Sublime of the 18th century. Come join art historian Helen Langdon, one of the curators of Salvator Rosa: Bandits, Wilderness, and Magic (2010) and author of Caravaggio: A Life (2000), as she explores the contrast between Rosa’s Florentine and Roman witchcraft paintings.

Contact the Museum's Media Relations Team:
(216) 707-2261