Between 1758 and 1764 a group of eight young students received grants from the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando to study in Rome in order to complete their artistic training. During their time there, and in conformance with the Academia’s instructions, the students acquired sketchbooks in which they made the obligatory copies of antique works and others by the Renaissance and Baroque masters. They also attended the Accademia del Nudo on the Campidoglio where they participated in life drawing classes of the male nude.
These small sketchbooks, known in Italian as taccuini, were used for making sketches and studies from life, but also for annotations of other types and as travel diaries. For these artists they were an obligatory element in their learning process, in which they recorded all the works that constituted a reference point for their future activities. The sketchbooks allow for an appreciation of the artistic interests of the period through the copying of the works of art to be seen in Rome. As such, they are a valuable source of first-hand information for understanding the artistic and personal context of the period
Rome and its sights
Two magnificent views of Rome by Giuseppe Vasi and Juan de Villanueva establish the urban context that surrounded the young artists during their time in Italy. Also on display are two Itineraries of Rome by Mariano Vasi, which were used as guides by many of the travellers visiting the Eternal City in the late 18th century.
The Accademia de San Fernando and the grant students in Rome
The Real Accademia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando made these study trips possible through grants. This second section includes various books and documents relating to all the phases of the procedure, from the selection of students to the instructions that governed their stay and the financial management of the programme.
The students in Rome and academic drawing
The students selected for grants by the Real Academia in Rome also developed their skills through the academic methods prevailing at this period. This section displays a group of drawings or “academies” executed by different artists such as José del Castillo, Antonio Martínez Espinosa and Mariano Salvador Maella, all depicting the same models repeated from different viewpoints. An analysis of the different types of life studies that the students sent back to Madrid reveals the method of drawing employed and the aims of the drawing sessions.
Finally, the exhibition presents an outstanding group of sketchbooks by Spanish and foreign artists, which reveal the most artistically unconstrained side of the grant students’ study process in Rome. Through observation from life they selected the elements and compositions that most interested them in the city and depicted them in their sketchbooks.