The Italian Almanac

Christopher Columbus

Italian Art - October 17

A rare collection of silver plates and sketches has gone on show here, as part of new exhibit exploring the feats of one of Genoa's most famous sons, Christopher Columbus. 'Christopher Columbus In The 1600s' uses works of art commissioned in the 17th century to examine how he was viewed by Genoese nobility in the decades following his death.

The exhibit centres on three pieces created by two master Flemish silversmiths, Matthias Meljin and Gio Aelbosca Belga.The pieces, on show in the National Gallery at Palazzo Spinola di Pellicceria, were all commissioned by Agostino Pallavicino, who became doge of Genoa in 1637, and his son Ansaldo.

"These silverworks - which were brought to Spinola by Agostino's son when he went to live there in 1650 - show how the Genoese doge, unlike his contemporaries, had understood the importance of Columbus," said the gallery director Farida Simonetti. Although Columbus departed from Spain, she explained, he would eventually become viewed by the Genoese as a symbol of their aspirations and achievements.

The plate and vases are exhibited alongside a string of sketches by the 17th-century artist Lazzaro Tavarone, who decorated a number of ceilings in Palazzo Spinola. These sketches were Tavarone's preparatory pieces for a series of frescos in Palazzo Belimbau, another Genoese palace, which were the clear inspiration for many of the silversmiths' designs.

The two fresco cycles and the exhibit remain open to the public until December 18.