A scene of shepherds and animals, and a woman on a horse, depicted in red-brown oil paint.

Past exhibition

5 October 2023 – 1 April 2024

Room 90

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Showcasing prints and drawings from Genoa's golden age, this display shone a light on an artistic powerhouse that rivalled Venice, Florence and Rome.

From the 16th to the 18th centuries, the port city of Genoa was one of Italy's major artistic centres. Nicknamed 'La Superba' ('the proud one') by the Medieval poet Petrarch, it was among the wealthiest cities on the Italian peninsula, with strong trade links across Europe and beyond. 

These links and the riches they brought made Genoa a desirable destination for painters and sculptors wanting to study or find lucrative work. Superb line opens with works by the first major arrival, Raphael's pupil Perino del Vaga, who transformed the artistic scene when he came in 1528, introducing a new, modern manner seen in drawings like the Venus and Aeneas, which typifies his distinctive blend of graphic confidence and courtly stylishness.

Other prominent artists soon followed Perino's lead and, over the next 150 years, the city continued to attract even bigger names like Rubens and van Dyck. This constant injection of new blood kept Genoa at the cutting edge of artistic trends, creating a nurturing environment for homegrown talents to develop in their own right. In the following centuries the city produced a steady stream of internationally renowned painters, among them Luca Cambiaso, Bernardo Strozzi and Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, who were especially feted for their innovative, often experimental graphic works, wowing collectors with dazzling displays of line. Featuring highlights from the British Museum's longstanding holdings of Genoese prints and drawings, this display celebrated the virtuosity and originality of the city's artists.