Picasso in Rome

Picasso’s Stage Curtain for Parade

After the brutal weather in Toronto, I was quite glad to return to Rome where it feels like spring.

One of my favourite things in January is seeing this Mimosa tree in full bloom on my way to the market. I know I’ve posted a picture of it previously but those of you confined to colder climes might feel cheered by the sight.

There are always lots of art exhibitions in Rome. One of them, based on Picasso’s time in Rome, has been on display for a couple of months and since it was due to close last weekend, I rushed off to see it a couple of days after I arrived.

Picasso came to Rome in 1917 with Jean Cocteau who persuaded him to design the set costumes and stage curtain of the ballet Parade performed by the Ballet Russes under the direction of Sergei Diaghilev. Picasso was 36 at the time and was well into his cubist phase but was eager to try something else. This is his version of the costume of a Chinese conjuror in Parade. Funky!
The stage curtain that he painted is his largest work. You can’t get a concept of the size of the curtain from the picture above as there was no space to stand back and get a better perspective but it was gigantic measuring 16.5 x 10.5 metres (52′ x 34′). So large in fact that it couldn’t be displayed in the Scuderie del Quirinale where the exhibition was held but had to be installed in the grand hall of the Palazzo Barberini under the tall arched ceilings filled with frescoes by Pietro Cortona depicting the Triumph of Divine Providence. An unusual and wonderful juxtaposition. The curtain shows the performers sitting having a meal backstage before the curtain rises and represents various people in the cast.

Divine Providence it was indeed for Picasso as it was in Rome that he met his first wife Olga Khochlova, who was a dancer in the ballet. Eric Satie wrote the music for Parade and Cocteau, Satie, Stravinsky, Picasso and Diaghilev formed a little group collaborating on other projects in a move to create a synthesis between painting, music and literature. Perhaps also as a buffer against the war since Rome was relatively peaceful with most of the action occurring on the Austro-Hungarian border. The group of artists and composers wrote several letters and notes to each other, several of which were on display. I was taken by Picasso’s notepaper some of which he had painted with a border. I was also struck by Satie’s beautiful handwriting and I loved his signature. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take any good photos as these exhibits were under protective lighting and of course no flash was allowed. Picasso was strongly influenced by his short stay in Rome and experimented with different styles, producing a large number of non-cubist works, some even surrealistic.

The Scuderie del Quirinale used to be the horse stables of the Quirinale Palace where the President of Italy now resides. On the way to the bathroom, I came across this wonderful view of the Palazzo and its attached Piazza. One sometimes gets the best view from an unexpected vantage point.

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2 Responses to Picasso in Rome

  1. Niamh Kelly says:

    Absolutely love the photo of the Pallazo

  2. The artist David Hockney did the sets for Parade at the Met which I saw at various times. Like Picasso, the work brought out his playful colourful side.

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