Escher. Labyrinths of the mind at Palazzo Bonapart...

Escher. Labyrinths of the mind at Palazzo Bonaparte (Roma)

Perspective incongruences, optical paradoxes, iterations of the same figure towards the infinitely small, birds which are negative of fishes, interspecific metamorphoses, illusions and distortions of reality provide a kaleidoscopic display in the elegant exhibition rooms of Palazzo Bonaparte: these are the captious and ingenious graphic trademarks of the Dutch master Maurits Cornelis Escher, on show in Rome until 5 May 2024, in celebration of the centenary of his visit to the Italian capital (1923). The exhibition, organized by Arthemisia, offers an in-depth and variegated retrospective of the artist’s work, divided into eight sections that, starting from the beginnings influenced by the Art Nouveau style, investigate the ways in which space can be filled: from tessellations, indebted to the fascination of the Moorish decorations of the Alahambra in Granada, to the use of fractals in expansion or contraction (Limit of the Circle III, 1959), symmetries, rotations, translations, up to various approaches and techniques of modifying the structure of the space itself in a non-Euclidean key.

Maurits Cornelis Escher, “Horseman”, 1946, woodcut, 239 x 449 mm, M.C. Escher Foundation, Netherlands

Lesser-known gems also stand out in the sections, among which we find the woodcuts and lithographs of Italian views, most notably those of St. Peter’s Square and the interior of the Basilica (which Escher obtained the permission to portray from life), as well as the naturalistic-grotesque scene depicting the Mummified Priests in Gangi, Sicily (1932). Unseen as much as the exquisite works of The Days of Creation, in which the stylization and contemporary richness of biological details (Creation of the Fish and Birds) or the coexistence of the pompous and rhythmic sinuosity of the waves with the sharp radiality of the rain (Separation of the Waters) offer an excellent opportunity to explore the artist’s work in greater depth than the better-known masterpieces, which are in any case widely present in the exhibition.

Maurits Cornelis Escher, “Stars”, 1948, woodcut, 320 x 260 mm, M.C. Escher Foundation, Netherlands

First of all, Metamorphosis II (1939-40), evolution of a chessboard in polygons, which in turn come to life in stylized, progressively realistic lizards, then simplified into beehive hexagons, developed in a schematic and fluid congeries of faunistic then architectural transmutations (Escher’s city roofs), until returning to the incipit of the chessboard. Cyclicity that can be found in the continuum of the Möbius Ribbon, a deceptive two-sided solid, in reality a single surface twisted back on itself, on which ants endlessly walk, portrayed by specially constructed models, or the blue characters on a red background and vice versa ride in the Knight (1946).

Maurits Cornelis Escher, “Hand with Reflecting Sphere”, 1935, litography, 318 x 213 mm, Rock J. Walker Collection/ Walker Fine Art, USA

And, again, the famous Hand with Reflecting Sphere (1935), a mirrored anthropocentric emblem – indebted to the convex reflections of the Arnolfini Portrait, or the hand of Parmigianino’s Self-portrait – as well as Peel (1955) and Bond of Union (1956), synecdochs of faces based on the perceptive principle of the Law of Continuity, protagonists of some of the playful/interactive points included in the exhibition itinerary, aimed, through the use of video cameras, at making the public the protagonist of some of the works on show.

Maurits Cornelis Escher, “Circle limit III”, 1959, woodcut, diameter 415 mm, M.C. Escher Foundation, Netherlands

The plurality of viewpoints in Relativity (1953) is undoubtedly of political significance. Like the harpies on the multi-directional portico (now towards the moonscape and now, at the same time, towards the Space) of Altro mondo (1947) or the (rap)presentational short-circuit of Hands Drawing (1948), it stimulates different visions, making the spectator identify with the men walking upright, but also prompting him to put himself in the shoes of the little men walking on other planes and leading his gaze to glide over a wall that, in its extension, becomes a floor, in the same way that a door can be a chasm on the ground plane. An oscillation that is, in the foremost, a great mental exercise, as it is typical in the fruition of Escher’s works, an empirical stimulation to the use of lateral thinking and to the evaluation of other perspectives: almost a critical camouflage with the (un)object from time to time considered, reminding us of the prince of mimesis, the chameleons protagonists of Stars (1948), clinging to a twelve-pointed star that stands out in a monochrome alchemic-geometric-metaphysical cosm.

Maurits Cornelis Escher, “Relativity”, 1953, litography, 277 x 292 mm, M.C. Escher Foundation, Netherlands

In addition to a reconstruction of the artist’s Dutch studio in Baarn, the exhibition also displays hippy posters, psychedelic vinyl covers, clothes and accessories in the last section, Eschermania, dedicated to the pop epigonisms of the multifaceted Escherian genius.


31/10/2023 al 5/05/2024
Palazzo Bonaparte
Spazio Generali Valore Cultura
Piazza Venezia 5, Roma


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