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Geometries of Silence: Three Approaches to Neoclassical Art [Hardcover]

Anna Ottani Cavina

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Book Description

Dec 29 2004 Italian Academy Lectures

Based on little-known or hitherto unpublished material and enhanced by a wealth of rarely seen illustrations, this book offers access to the aesthetics of neoclassical Europe from a new perspective: landscape painting and interior decoration. The source documents, together with the nexus of relationships they helped to establish, reveal a world shaken by a series of epochal changes. This study of paintings, drawings, and documents touches on such themes as the rediscovery of the ancient world, aristocratic homes in the neoclassical period, and the birth of the rationalist landscape. While the most important artists are French, the chosen vantage point is Rome, because of the impact of antiquity on aesthetic perceptions toward the end of the century. The book insightfully analyzes the last years of the eighteenth century through the visual representation of that world, a world that has been handed down to us through the response of contemporary artists to momentous changes.

This book portrays drawing as an instrument of knowledge: an absolute experience, not merely an intermediate phase in the production of a painting. Anna Ottani Cavina leads us to modernity, which through the rarefaction of the image, silence, and emptiness attained heights of emotional and intellectual intensity that drawing was able to capture with extraordinary immediacy.

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Many years ago, Emil Kauffman illuminated the topic of the architects of the Age of Reason; Anna Ottani Cavina's [title] is a new episode of the very same history, the history of modernity.

(Enrico Castelnuovo L'Indice)

The success of Anna Ottani Cavina's enterprise, allowing us henceforth to look differently at some luminous drawings and paintings, makes one yearn all the more to be able one day to look at the ambitious history paintings of the late eighteenth-century with the same penetration and sympathy.

(Philippe Bordes Burlington Magazine)


With both a delicate touch and profound erudition, these three essays rejuvenate traditional readings of Neoclassicism. By concentrating on unfamiliar examples and unexpected themes--whether the décor of a palatial bathroom, the new subjectivity of experiencing antiquity as both past and future, or the ways in which the architecture of Italy was recreated by foreign artists--Cavina opens one vista after another, with tonic results that subtly alter our vision of late eighteenth-century art.

(Robert Rosenblum, Professor of Fine Arts, New York University)

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