In a few weeks we will all be together. American Friends of Capodimonte (AFC) president, Vincent Buonanno, and I have planned this trip for you to discover the complex and fascinating world that was once the capital city of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies - a large territory that covered the whole Mezzogiorno, including: Capri, Ischia, Procida, and the larger island of Sicily.
The city of Naples is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It was founded by the Greeks (470 B.C.) and later inhabited (and sometimes seized!) by the Romans, Normans, Swedish, Angevines, Aragonians, Austrians, Spanish, and French rulers. For centuries, just like Peru, Naples was a vice kingdom of the vast Spanish Empire. These cultures left visible traces on the city and on the Neapolitan people. In light of its rich history, the historic center of Naples was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Beyond its historical importance, however, Naples is a millenarian exposition of crucial contemporary issues including national borders, the migration of populations and culture, and the conservation of nature and patrimony.
The enchanting world that will unfold before you on your journey strikes an uncanny parallel with the “discovery” of Tuscany by American and English travelers at the beginning of the twentieth century. Naples truly enjoys an embarrassment of riches - past and present - with its innumerable treasures in painting, sculpture, architecture, literature and music. Yet, the creative bounty of Naples has largely evaded mainstream scholarship and connoisseurship. Naples is the new Tuscany waiting to be discovered.
And yes, Naples proudly boasts the name of Caravaggio. Yet, there are hundreds of lesser-known artists from the era of Giotto to Solimena who have contributed to the composition of a city that is itself a bel composto – or total work of art. Every street corner is a discovery. Every courtyard and church is a museum. And the Museo di Capodimonte serenely overlooks this marvelous city, anchoring the artistic soul of Naples within its unparalleled collections.
The American Friends of Capodimonte is an organization that facilitates, for example, the conservation and restoration of artworks. But the scope of the AFC’s mission ventures far beyond these objectives. The AFC is the first organization to place an American curator in an Italian museum. This achievement is unprecedented in the history of Italian museums. The Museo di Capodimonte, with the AFC, truly affords the opportunity to discover an entire civilization.
Vincent and I believe that you will immediately measure the significance of your support when you meet Dr. James Anno who, thanks to your generous contribution, is the Capodimonte’s first American Curatorial Fellow. James is a major addition to the Capodimonte curatorial team. James joined us on September 1st, and will benefit from the unique experience of working at the most import Italian museum amidst its reorganization and transformation. He brings an extremely valuable expertise to the Capodimonte’s team and will introduce Anglo-Saxon scholarship and thinking to the museum, including the English language – which are professional skills that would not otherwise be available in southern Italy. James will help build cultural exchange with American institutions, and the organization of exhibitions. He is also at the service of his fellow Americans and AFC members. Whenever you come to visit the Capodimonte during his two-year tenure, he will make you feel at home.
We hope that during your trip you will not only discover beautiful sites, museums, and churches but that you will return home with a better understanding of what we are doing at the Capodimonte, including the historical and cultural challenges we face. It is our wish that by virtue of your journey, the Capodimonte will become real in your imagination and affection.
Sylvain & Vincent