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During the 17th century, Rome is one of the leading artistic towns, an inspiring city with its antiquity vestiges and powerful patrons for artists.
But Rome has another side, darker and clandestine, a shady world evoked in this exhibition displaying some 70 paintings depicting an unexplored aspect of the astonishing production of 17th century Roman artists ranging from Manfredi to Nicolas Régnier.
Presented before at the Villa Medici and today in Paris, the exhibition introduces the vision of Rome as a town where vice, poverty and all kind of excess flourished. This vision was portrayed by Italian artists as well as coming from all Europe who lived there at that time.
What they all have in common is an artistic production in which they preferred to depict a naturalistic vision of ordinary life in Rome, rather than a hymn of praise to idealised beauty.
They frequented the more sleazy areas and taverns of the city late at night, finding an inexhaustible source of inspiration in this crude world of poverty and violence, drinking and gambling. It was a bohemian life, which the artists also occasionally depicted in paintings works of great sublimity drawn from the lower depths.
The exhibition evokes all the duality of Rome of that period – both the violence of the underworld and the splendour of the papal palaces.