Monday, May 1, 2017
Pietro Rotari, 18th-Century Serialist
Who? A mini-show at the Norton Simon Museum answers that question. "Serial Flirtations: Rotari's Muses" is about the vagaries of reputation as much as it is about its now little-known subject.
Verona-born Pietro Antonio Rotari (1707-62) was an 18th-century jack-of-all-trades, capable at religious paintings and aristocratic portraits, and active at the courts of Vienna, Dresden, and St. Petersburg. Today Rotari is known for character heads and half-lengths of anonymous young women displaying a variety of emotions and costumes. They are poised between Rembrandt's tronies and Vermeer's letter-writers, on the one hand, and the Enlightenment interest in classifying emotions like so many pinned butterflies.
There is a difference between serialism and repeating oneself, though it's not always a clear one.