It has been just about a year since I visited Genoa, Columbus’s Sister City, to meet with Piero Boccardo, the director of the Musei di Strada Nuova. My mission, if you have been following the news here at the CMA, was to secure as a loan the great Ecce Homo by Caravaggio, Genoa’s only work by this remarkable painter. It was my first visit to Genoa, and I was much impressed by both the city and the wealth of artistic treasures in the museums there. But more to the point, my meeting with Dr. Boccardo and his curator, Raffaella Besta, went extremely well. They both were impressed with our concept to highlight Caravaggio’s revolutionary creativity and his impact on his European contemporaries. And as Besta says, “The loan of the Caravaggio painting has become a sort of symbol of the friendship between the two cities and we want it to be a concrete sign of the cooperation between Musei di Strada Nuova for the Columbus Museum of Art on the occasion of Columbus’ Bicentennial celebration in 2012.”
This past Sunday morning was unlike many I have experienced. I came to the Museum at 10 am, where I met our exhibition crew and registrar along with the courier from Genoa. The Caravaggio had begun its voyage from Genoa to Columbus on an Alitalia freighter destined from Milan to New York and then Chicago; the final leg was a seven-hour truck ride to Columbus. After the crated painting had acclimatized for a day in our secure store rooms, we were ready to install the painting. Our crew members carefully lifted the painting out of the crate, unwrapped it from its protective covering, and the Genoese courier then checked its condition to see if anything adverse had happened during the 4,500-mile journey; all good news there! As this was happening, our crew had measured the hanging devices for the painting, and within a few moments it was installed in the place of honor in the exhibition.
For all that we know about this painting including many contemporary references, there are a few scholars who question its authorship. Having studied the painting for the past two years that this exhibition has been in process, and now finally seeing it once again in person and in strong, clear light, I cannot imagine anyone would doubt that this is by the master Caravaggio. Numerous pentimenti–changes made by the artist during the creation of the work—are easily visible, and much of the work is painted rapidly, all signs that this is an original work and no copy. Yet more compelling still, the emotional intensity and visual power of the work is further proof of the hand of Caravaggio. It is a great honor to host such an amazing work and immensely gratifying to see it finally here in Columbus, Ohio.
Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.
Dominique Vasseur, Director of Curatorial Administration and Curator of European Art