Sarcophagus with Dionysian procession (160-170 AD). Capitoline Museums, Rome. Detail from lid. Nymphs make two signs related to the meaning of the horns.

June 9, 2021 at 4:00 pm at the Spanish Academy, Rome.

In the fifth session of In qualche luogo lontano: Roma (In Some Far Place: Roma), Sara Benaglia presents The magic of the gesture between the cult of Diana and the baroque artists in the Galleria Spada collection.

In qualche luogo lontano: Roma is the title of the program that takes place in Rome within Space is The Place/The Place is Space. This research project, initiated by Bulegoa z/b in 2018, aims to analyse the role of art as a critical practice that offers tools to stop, look and position oneself in the world, to generate situations and imagine ways of living and producing space. Structured through periodic meetings, it takes various forms, such as presentations, reading sessions, walks, actions on the territory and various artistic productions.


The Galleria Spada preserves works from the 16th and 17th centuries, the period covered by the collection of Cardinal Bernardino Spada (1594-1661). It is a good example of a classic pinacotecha, a picture gallery in which it is possible to find forgotten gestures referring to pagan cults, misappropriations, marginal authors and warnings against feminine vices. The wickedness and slander of the women, that so disturbed Christine de Pizan, are exhibited here in four rooms, following a kind of moral progression, in which the female figures are copies of absences, portraits mostly in the second half of the 16th century, a time when the judges of the Inquisition considered them especially permeable to demonic action, as well as capable of proposing heterodox doctrines only by male “contagion”. This will be the way by which the pagan gestures of Dionysus and Diana will be assimilated by the clerical vocabulary, their roles so inverted that the magic of the gesture is weakened, their remains now only visible in Roman marbles and in the hands of aristocrats. from the Cinquecento, whose “blood” was an insurmountable barrier for the judges.

However, among the “wall pieces” arranged in the rooms we also find paintings by Úrsula Maddalena Caccia (1596-1676), Lavinia Fontana (1552-1614) and Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653), Baroque artists trained in the workshops of their parents and inspired by the Venetian masters, who painted works in which the magic of the gesture and the presence of slaves in La Serenissima were shown with profuse and contradictory impudence.

Sara Benaglia is an artist and researcher whose practice is based on the critique of ideologies in visual disciplines, from the study of the relationship between physical exercise, and spiritual and political beliefs. Her work has been exhibited at the CCA in Kitakyushu, the Fondazione Merz in Turin and the Archaeological Museum of Aosta.

She writes essays and interviews focused around the relationship between art and politics, and the visual distortions related to them, with a feminist and decolonial approach. In particular, she is interested in the hidden relationship between humanism and the race matrix in the context of the Italian Renaissance and in the relationship between colonial suppressions and female/deformed bodies. She collaborates with the magazines ATPdiary, Doppiozero and Art e Dossier. She is the curator of the non-profit space BACO_BaseArteContemporaneaOdierna together with Mauro Zanchi, with whom she shares an interest in contemporary photography from a critical perspective. Her most recent publications include Metafotografia (Skinneboox, 2019) and Metafotografia(2) (Skinneboox, 2020).

In qualche luogo lontano: Roma is a project carried out within the framework of the MAEC-AECID Scholarships for Art, Education and Culture for the academic year 2020-2021 within the scholarship program for the Royal Academy of Spain in Rome.