Traces of Raffaello: Marco Delogu Faces the Camera

The re-building of University of Toronto Schools gapes at me like an open wound as I walk up Huron St.  Today was my second visit to the show that’s at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura Gallery, at 496 Huron Street, just north of Bloor Street West & the University of Toronto.

Of course I had to take a picture as I was again going to confront the artistry of the photographers in “Facing the Camera: 50 Years of Italian Portraits”, an exhibit curated by photographer Marco Delogu.


UTS is under construction, including some adorable graffiti on that exposed wall. Is it art?

Subtext for me is the whole transformation of photography, from something we once did carefully & perhaps even laboriously with

-film, focal lengths, shutter speeds and depth of field,

-flashes and lens.


But that’s a lifetime ago. Phones and computers have changed communication, and the camera is collateral damage, almost an afterthought. We have these amazing tools and mostly we’re taking pictures of our dogs, our cats and ourselves.

Coming into this show is to be back in the realm of art, a place I’ve enjoyed recently with trips to the Metropolitan Museum to see Kent Monkman and lots more besides.

In his curatorial statement Delogu tells us…

“In occasione del 500 ° anniversario dalla morte di Raffaello, i suoi splendidi ritratti, che sono stati visti da innumerevoli ammiratori e che hanno influenzato il lavoro di numerosi artisti, sono il punto di riferimento per una riflessione continua sia sul ritratto che sull’identità italiana.”

Or in other words

“Upon the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death, his beautiful portraits, that have been seen by countless admirers and influenced the work of numerous artists, are the reference point for a continuous reflection upon both portraiture & Italian identity.”

Raffaello Fornarina

La Fornarina— Raffaello

The photograph that grabbed me the most is one by Delogu, that I’ll feature when I share this on Twitter:

  • because I think it’s powerful
  • because it seems to echo Raphael.

I don’t doubt that Delogu’s visual sensibility was shaped by Raffaello’s influence.

I’ve got that comparison thing in my head, possibly simplistic, since I wrote about Monkman & the iconic art that we could see as subtext such as the Hiawatha statue or Washington crossing the Delaware.

Maybe I’m being reductive, simplistic.

Let me show you one of the Raphael pictures that comes to mind, namely La Fornarina.  There are of course many paintings one could choose, this one came up because it seems to be relevant to what we see in the show here in Toronto, 500 years later.

A photographic portrait named “Eleonara” has been promoting this show, one of two that  jump out at me, for seeming to demonstrate Raphael’s influence, or at least catching my eye.

Although it may be all in my head.  It’s not the Renaissance anymore, that’s for sure.


“Eleonara” (2001) Guido Guidi

And here’s another one, this time a photo from Delogu himself.

001 002

“Senada” (2000), Marco Delogu

As I confront the pictures that Delogu assembled, I wonder, particularly after last night’s concert and its reflections on inter-cultural encounters, just what is it to be Italian? Clearly this show holds up a very different mirror to the Italian viewer than a Hungarian-Canadian like myself.

And of course when I look at the details of “Senada”, Delogu’s picture shown above, I see that it’s not an Italian subject at all, but a series capturing a Roma family.  So of course I’m suddenly backing off from making sweeping cultural assumptions as they’re simply not relevant.   A better path might be to focus on the faces & how their composition by the photographer might yet show traces of Raffaello.

Yes, this show is mostly faces, most looking directly into the camera. They require no interpreter. Almost exactly half (21 or 40) are black and white, while the other half have varying degrees of colour, including some that have colour added after the camera’s work was done. I’m tempted to use the word “post-production” which of course is mis-applied to this medium but it feels apt at least by analogy. These pictures are formal, suggesting a process between the photographer and the subject that’s a lot like what happens when a cinematic camera engages with actors or documentary subjects. The colours I’m speaking of appear to have been added after printing.

I am really glad I came back. I love being alone in a gallery with the art or the pictures, unrestrained by bodies & undistracted by conversation or noise or temptation (wine and cheese…).

I think I’ll return again to contemplate Raffaello as seen from half a millennium away, at least through these images.

“Facing the Camera: 50 Years of Italian Portraits” continues at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura Gallery until March 27th.

This entry was posted in Art, Architecture & Design, Personal ruminations & essays and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s