Between lights and shadows
Flos introduces ‘Dentro Caravaggio’ exhibition, promoted and produced by the Comune di Milano-Cultura, Palazzo Reale and MondoMostre Skira, and lit up by the Milanese architect Barbara Balestreri. Barbara told us about the chosen path for the realization of this highly acclaimed project.
Lighting project Barbara Balestreri
Photography Santi Caleca
Text Alice De Santis
In the heart of Milan stands the Royal Palace, where numerous and important art exhibitions are currently set within its ancient rooms. Behind these exhibitions lies a work of study, planning and collaboration that aims at offering the visitor a unique and intense experience. This is what happened with the ‘Dentro Caravaggio’ exhibition, promoted and produced by the Comune di Milano-Cultura, Palazzo Reale and MondoMostre Skira, and lit up by the Milanese architect Barbara Balestreri in collaboration with Flos. Barbara told us about the chosen path for the realization of this highly acclaimed project.
Her respectful lighting architecture approach, characterized by harmonic contrast, proved to be congenial to illuminate the artwork of the great Renaissance master Michelangelo Merisi, more famously known as Caravaggio. “Notwithstanding the nature of artwork, even when the artist is no longer in this world, it is required to set foot in respectfully, not to overwhelm it and to maintain its characteristics and value. I studied in depth Caravaggio’s thought and painting, his unique way of constructing light and the peculiar chiaroscuro technique. In the early paintings he utilized a sort of diffused natural light, then he slowly started using also artificial lights, which he modified through mirrors and lenses which were parts of his working tools -like the mirror featured in the painting of Martha and Mary Magdalene, for example. He used to constrain the natural light inside the ambiences. And I assimilated his teaching in all and for all.”
The placement of the canvases in the middle of the rooms provokes in the visitor the sensation of getting inside the artwork and being wrapped by it. The light beam seems to come out from the painting itself, from within the scene, creating a strong feeling sense of rapture and amazement. “I faced Caravaggio’s artworks from a point of view that is both technical as well as emotional and engaging. All this has been conceived in accordance with the curator of the exhibition, Rossella Vodret, and with the chief of installation, architect Cerri. It was a huge team work of study, comparison and suggestions. The most exciting thing was to really discover Caravaggio and to absorb his brilliant and spontaneous way of handling the lights.
When we asked Barbara Balestreri which her favourite artwork was, she said: “The Flagellation of Christ, with no doubt. For the illumination of this artwork a zenithal light was followed, the same one chosen by Caravaggio in the painting. Thanks to that, the column aimed at supporting the body of Christ was discovered. It is incredible how hidden and otherwise invisible details of the paintings can emerge upon shedding a light. In each of these artworks there is an element of surprise and amazement that makes this work even more exciting and intense.”
“As in each project, we faced a number of complexities that, thanks to the support of Flos and their lighting products, have been widely solved. Flos has always proved to be an outstanding ally by constantly being available to customize their products to meet numerous needs, first among which is the need to protect from decay such ancient and precious canvases. In the specific case of Caravaggio’s exhibition, special filters have been created and applied to the light sources. Furthermore, there was the willingness to manage the light beams in a particular way. Flos, with no hesitation, designed custom accessories such as filters, lenses, filter holders and special telescopes, and performed an assembly of optics aimed at best controlling the illumination over the painting, thus avoiding direct glares or reflections on the artwork.”