Titolo: Mario Angeloni. Profilo biografico, documenti, testimonianze
Autore: Renato Traquandi
Anno di pubblicazione: 2016
152 p., f.to cm. 17 x 24, brossura illustrata
Prezzo: € 12.00
In occasione delle celebrazioni dei 120 dalla nascita e 80 dalla morte di Mario Angeloni, ricorrenza che si è tenuta nel 2016, si è costituito a Perugia un comitato per commemorarne l’anniversario. Il comitato, nato su iniziativa della Società di Mutuo Soccorsotra gli Artisti e gli Operai di Perugia, ha visto l’adesione di numerose istituzioni e associazioni. Oltre alla commemorazione del 24 giugno tenutasi alla Sala dei Notari e al convegno all’Università per Stranieri del 2 dicembre scorso, è stata pubblicata per i tipi della Volumnia questa importante testimonianza curata da Renato Traquandi.
Il volume, corredato da testimonianze e documenti, si divide in tre parti: La storia e l’ambiente. Perugia città natale di Mario; L’espatrio e la vita politica in Europa; La guerra civile spagnola. Atto di nascita della resistenza europea. Inoltre include i discorsi tenuti da Mauro Volpi (professore di Diritto pubblico comparato all’Università di Perugia) e da Urbano Barelli (avvocato e vicesindaco di Perugia) in occasione della cerimonia del 24 giugno, una prefazione della di Maria Cristina Laurenti (docente di Storia del pensiero politico contemporaneo all’Università La Sapienza di Roma) e si conclude con la postfazione del politico Valdo Spini.
Il libro ha il pregio di riscoprire e valorizzare la persona di Mario Angeloni, figura di spicco, sicuramente molto nota ma poco conosciuta, soprattutto dalle nuove generazioni.
«Un uomo – ha ricordato Volpi – che ha onorato la sua città non solo con la forza delle sue idee, democratiche, repubblicane, antifasciste e internazionaliste, ma anche con l’esempio concreto giunto fino al sacrificio della propria vita».
Nato e vissuto a Perugia, avvocato e fervente repubblicano, ha partecipato come volontario alla Prima Guerra Mondiale. Si è opposto strenuamente al regime fascista, subendo persecuzioni, aggressioni, l’incarcerazione e infine l’esilio, prima in Francia e poi in Spagna, dove nel 1936 si arruola come volontario a sostegno della Repubblica Spagnola. Ed è in un ospedale di Sarinera in Aragona che il 28 agosto del 1936 muore dopo essere stato colpito durante la battaglia del Monte Pelato.
In 1863 and 1865, Domenico Golini found the world-famous frescoed tombs that were named after him, in Orvieto’s territory, more precisely at Poggio del Roccolo di Settecamini, between Orvieto and Porano. It is a pair of monuments of exceptional artistic and documentary value that form a unicum in the territory they belong to (another painted tomb, which belonged to hescanas family, was discovered in the same area). For obvious reasons of safety and preservation, wall paintings were detached in 1950 and moved to the Orvieto National Archeological Museum where are now displayed in a space that has been designed to replicate the original tombs.
Tomba Golini I. Banchetto infero alla presenza di Ade e Persefone; restituzione grafica (da P. Bruschetti, Gli Etruschi a Orvieto. Collezioni e territorio, Città di Castello 2006, p. 69).
The Golini I tomb
The Golini I tomb, also called “dei Leinie” consists of a single, large quadrangular room with a tuff partition partition dividing it in two which, starting from the bottom wall, arrives at almost half of the sepulchral room. The fresco depicts a scene from a banquet in the underworld celebrating the dead man’s passage to the hereafter, where is welcomed by his ancestors with a feast. Very interesting is how architecture and painting merge using structural parts to separate materially and conceptually the illustrated scenes; the tuff partition, in fact, not only divides the area, but also separates the servile part from the main one; so the picture represents an essential ideological division and the two different stages of the feast: the scene from preparations and the scene from the real banquet.
Tomba Golini I. Servo con pestelli (da P. Bruschetti, Gli Etruschi a Orvieto. Collezioni e territorio, Città di Castello 2006)
The frescoes in the space on the left depict scenes from preparations for the banquet, showing servants and chefs who are preparing dishes and accompanied by an Etruscan flute player; very realistic is the picture of butchered carcasses hanging from hooks nailed to tables, as well as the scene of a slave who butchers meats. Another illustration depicts the other preliminary stages of the meal, as it shows the scene of the slave who is grinding foods, maybe spices, with pestles in a big three-feet bowl; there are also people who are lighting a fire or those who are preparing a long trapeza with tableware.
The frescoes in the space on the right depict the dead man who, on a chariot pulled by horses, with a winged genius (lasa), reaches the hereafter before Hades and Persephone; the underworld couple, seated on a litter, presides over the banquet attended by the ancestors and members of the Leine’s family, whom the tomb belongs to, whereas naked slaves prepare a magnificent tableware in an area lit up by high candelabras. Almost all characters represented in both the areas, as well as animals, are accompanied by inscriptions, a kind of captions aiming to recall the genealogy of the family members, the positions they occupied, but also the different roles played by slaves.
The Golini II tomb
The Golini II tomb or “delle due Bighe” (the tomb of the two chariots) consists of a single rectangular sepulchral chamber where stand out the illustrated scenes, unfortunately very damaged and sometimes illegible. The subject is very similar to that of the above-mentioned burial, the arrival of a pair of dead in the Hades where is taking place a banquet cheered by lituus and trumpet players.
Tomba Golini I. Inserviente che prepara pietanze (da P. Bruschetti, Gli Etruschi a Orvieto. Collezioni e territorio, Città di Castello 2006)
The main characters are depicted on the sides of the entrance door; the man on the left arrives on a chariot drawn by two horses, behind him the wall is painted with a procession of six characters going towards two klinai, where there are two couples of banqueters who are identified by inscriptions as members of cnezus family. To the right of the door there is another chariot led by a charioteer, whereas the wall shows three klinai similar to the previous ones; the characters depicted are identified by inscriptions as members of the Vercnas family. The frescoes that adorned the bottom wall are now badly deteriorated, except for few fragments concerning figures of warriors.
A Pictorial School
Both the monuments date back to the second half of the IV Century B.C. and show a consistency of conception that points out the existence of a studio or a local pictorial school which, most likely, stopped working after the destruction of the city in 264 B.C.
In conclusion, it is worth stressing that the above-mentioned tombs not only are a valuable and rare historical and artistic evidence of the Etruscan Volsinii painting in the late classical and Hellenistic age, but also they have an important documentary value due to the photographs of the daily aspects and of the customs that characterized the aristocracy life of the time. They also represent one of the latest signs of the figurative theme of the symposium in the Hereafter where the living and the dead feast together; then the subject of grave painting will be replaced with a new concept of tomb which becomes a three-dimensional representation of the Underworld where all the family members buried there take part in an eternal banquet.
-F. Boitani, M. Cataldi, M. Pasquinucci, Le città etrusche, Milano 1973.
-M. Cristofani, Etruschi. Cultura e società, Novara 1978.
-M. Cristofani, Dizionario della civiltà etrusca, Firenze 1985.
-P. Bruschetti, Gli Etruschi a Orvieto. Collezioni e territorio, Città di Castello 2006.
-Camporeale, Gli Etruschi. Storia e civiltà, Torino 2000.
-A. E. Feruglio, Porano. Gli Etruschi, Perugia 1995.
-M. Torelli, Storia degli Etruschi, Bari 1981.
-Torelli 1985 M. Torelli, L’arte degli Etruschi, Bari 1985.
-M. Torelli, “Limina Averni”. Realtà e rappresentazione nella pittura tarquiniese arcaica, in M. Torelli, Il rango, il rito e l’immagine. Alle origini della rappresentazione storica romana, Milano 1997, 122-151.
-M. Torelli (ed.), Gli Etruschi, Milano 2000.
«Who works with his hands is a laborer. Who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. The one who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist»
My name is Anna and I am a designer. My great passion for home, furnishing and everything is done by hand, allowed me to fulfil my great dream: nowadays I had the good luck to do the job I like.
I was born in Assisi and I have always lived in my native village, the birthplace of St. Francis; for love of my country and for working reasons I settled here; in the last few years I have met several artisans on my way and I have establish with them many relationships to give a contemporary interpretation of all that is traditional.
Was it bound to happen? …maybe! My father is a craftsman, a carpenter and a restorer. As a child I spent a lot of summers in his workshop where I still pass my time, indeed my father is the main craftsman I work together with.
In this column I will talk you about arts and crafts, materials, design, creativeness, all those places characterized by Umbria’s outstanding features which are done good and with heart!
The Joiner's Workshop
Today my journey starts closely, from the place which affected me to become a designer: the Workshop of Fulvio Bertinelli.
The carpenter’s shop is welcoming: it is located in an industrial estate but fortunately it gives onto the country, whereas the higher windows overlook the Assisi hills and all other small villages surrounded by vegetation. This place looks contemporary but has an ancient flavour… it preserves an old knowledge about the technique and experience handed down! Whenever I enter, I am immediately affected by the evocative scent of wood, which takes me back to another dimension arousing an exciting sensory play. It happens every time! However, before losing myself in stories about essences and features of this material that I love, I wish to talk you about the work in carpentry.
All work done by my father is handcrafted; in the joiner’s shop there are some modern machines which are very indispensable to work, even if many steps necessary to manufacture a piece of furniture are still carried out by hand, with manual machines, as we did hundreds of years ago.
Plane, file, rasp, chisel: they are small tools offering a great charm to the handcrafted furniture. It keeps knowledge, techniques, and the good produced will show evidence of handwork made in a precise, meticulous and careful way. From the accurate and skilled work of the carpenter, wooden boards turn into high-quality and well-finished masterpieces. Oil, shellac, beeswax: they are just some possible natural finishes, but since wood is a natural and living material, these finishes are the most recommended to the customer who wishes a first-rate and “green” object, one hundred per cent.
A Balm for the Senses
The carpenter’s job is surely a complex one; it consists of stages of study and research, feasibility study, employment of the technique, choice of wood and finishes… But I think this job offers you the great privilege of being in contact with a living, warm, scented, coloured material that is also agreeable to the touch. So, the sensory play is again stimulated when I observe and touch all the essences that are in the shop; mostly local woods, that are typical of our territory: the valuable, solid, smooth and rich brown walnut; the white and “rough” oak, often treated with the technique of brushing; the soft and white poplar of modest value, Albanello of old craftsmen; the bright pink cherry, chestnut with its clear nuances, the mystical, bended and knotted olive…
Wood is fascinating, we feel better when we touch it and smell it. I have performed an experiment, recently: I kept wood chips of different essences in hermetic sailing jars (so the smell of the freshly wood is not lost!) and I got many people to smell them. The evocative power of these scents is surprising… nobody left without a memory called back to mind!
Tell me: aren’t you curious to go in the carpenter’s shop to see, touch and smell?
Under the city, within the underground walls of the Rocca Paolina (a fortress in the city of Perugia), which was not yet open to the public at that time, two of the most important artists of our time met and left two fundamental works in their artistic path: the six thematic blackboards«summa of the crypto-conceptual art» of the German Joseph Beuys and the Grande Nero, the monumental work made by Alberto Burri, the greatest contemporary artist in Umbria.
Describing these works and that meeting today, although the aforesaid artists differ from each other as well as in their views on art and aesthetics, just now that the earth is shaking and being in a state of uncertainty of events, we think that they are actually bound by a basic theme: the inevitable and essential relationship of man with the forces of nature.
The German Shaman
Joseph Beuys reached Naples for the opening of the exhibition where he met Andy Warhol at the Gallery Lucio Amelio on April 1st, 1980, so Italo Tomassoni took advantage of the Italian stay and organized the event in Perugia. The meetings between these great artists contributed to the new autonomy of the European artistic culture compared to the hegemony of the American pattern, which had been a custodian of the culture values since the years after the Second World War.
On the evening of April 3rd, in the Sala Cannoniera della Rocca, Beuys made his drawings, schemes and symbols straight off with a white chalk on six big blackboards. A “social sculpture” breaking any scheme with the traditional art. Being covered with glass cases, they are exhibited at the municipal Museum of Palazzo della Penna sequentially following the path shown by the artist in his performance.
The six thematic blackboards by Beuys
According to Beuys, art is transformation, vital energy transmission within the continuum of the shapeless matter. As a teacher at the Academy of Düsseldorf, through didactics, he tried to bring out the creative faculties as a means of language refounding. Repeatedly defined as a “shaman” for the type of rites of his actions, he reveals the hidden force, the secret energy of the matter. One of Fluxus founders – Beuys – with his happenings goes in search of abstraction, the intellectual property right which the language is based on, he affects the spectator appealing to his senses and combines every type of materials and objects.
Blackboard n. 1, Beuys
In the catalogue edited by Tomassoni, carried out for 2003 new exhibition, there is the description of each blackboard. For our purposes, the most typical one – and maybe the heart of Beuys’s thought – is Blackboard n.1, where he deals with the relationship with nature.
Tomassoni wrote: «art should be expanded in a socio-anthropological sense and economics and politics should be evaluated with the spirit metre. Beuys considers art as the most suitable means for solidarity that protects life instead of destroying it».
Two human figures on the sun: it is the City of the Sun by the Italian philosopher Campanella, where regulations and institutions are not the result of customs inherited from tradition, but the expression of the natural human reason. Beuys himself wrote: «If I want to give a new anthropological position to the man, I must also give a new position to all that concerns him, link him downwards with animals, plants and nature, as well as upwards, with angels or spirits […]. In my actions I have always exemplified art=man».
The Artist of Nature
Going beyond the ideological avant-gard concept that art means life, Beuys has become the artist of nature even thanks to several performances including the most famous, in 1982, at Kassel in Germany, on the occasion of Documenta VII: 7000 oaks, where 7000 oaks were planted over four years close to a basalt stele in an increasing rock-and-plant relationship. However, in my opinion, Beyus was able to better represent the deeper and tragic meaning of the relationship between matter and energy, the forces of nature and human creativity in 1981, on the occasion of the project Terrae Motus at the Galleria Amelio for the 1980 Irpinia earthquake: An earthquake in the Palace, which I saw in the reconstruction done at MADRE Museum of Naples in 2015. Beuys showed his human frailty while preparing a room with the work toolstaken from the areas hit by the earthquake
Glass vases under the legs of the table and fragments scattered all around, an egg balanced on a deformed table: these pictures passed on a video projected on a wall. Beuys drew under a table the seismic waves on an electrocardiogram paper, comparing the shake beat with the heartbeat.
Lucio Amelio wrote: «There was energy in the art to such an extent that it was in opposition to that one risen by the Earth.»
«Every man has the most valuable palace in the world into his head, in his consciousness, in his will» said Beuys, identifying in the human creative force the possibility of a new and real redemption.
Burri and the Continuous Metamorphosis of Man
While Beuys showed his blackboards, Burri chose the most hidden corner of the Rock vaults to place a black grand sculpture over 5 metres high, the Grande Ferro or Grande Nero. A mysterious and silent kinetic work trying to express the human condition, which is constantly developing after the wounds and changes inflicted by nature and history. This deep relationship with nature is expressed in a different way in Burri than Beuys: the bags and experiments with new materials are a research aimed to sublimate used and worn-out objects; it shows all the poetic charge as remains of human life.
The Big Crack of Gibellina, Burri
Since the Seventies, his white or black “cracks” made with mixtures of kaolin and polyvinyl acetate look like a dried land and he has used them in his most important works, such as The Great Crack of Gibellina, a land artwork born in response to the destruction and disaster of the earthquake, but completed only in 2015. With architect Zanmatti, who had already acted as an intermediary in the meeting of Perugia, in 1984 he went to Gibellina, near Trapani, where the mayor considered art as a chance of redemption after many years since the earthquake destroyed the town in 1968.
Square kilometres of concrete form a huge crack above the old town. The visitor goes through the cracks, no more houses but white shapeless blocks, a surreal landscape after life’s end. After his inspection, Burri wrote: «I was close to tears and immediately I had a clear idea: well, I know that here I could do anything. I would do this way: we compact the rubbles that are a problem for everybody, we reinforce them well, and with the concrete we make a huge white crack in memory of this event».
For Beuys and Burri nature is not a destructive or an evil power, it is up to the man, through a renewed relationship with it, to create cleverer forms of life in common. Art can actually changes the world and our behaviour, make eternal the earthly things destined to transience.
Guido Montana in «L’Umanità», 3 maggio del 1980
Italo Tomassoni, a cura di, Beuys/BurriPerugia, Rocca Paolina, 3 aprile 1980, in collaborazione con Lucio Amelio, Alberto Zanmatti, Litostampa, Perugia 1980.
Stefano Zorzi, Parola di Burri, Torino, Allemandi, 1995 Joseph Beuys: difesa della natura diaryof Seychelles, testi di Lucrezia De Domizio Durini, Italo Tomassoni, Giorgio Bonomi, ed. Charta, Milano 1996
Italo Tomassoni, a cura di, Beuys a Perugia, ed. Silvana, Cinisello Balsamo 2003 Guida alla raccolta Beuys Museo Palazzo della Penna, Liomatic, Perugia 2008
Andrea Viliani, a cura di, Lucio Amelio dalla Modern Art Agency alla genesi di TerraeMotus (1965-1982): documenti, opere, una storia…, Mondadori Electa, Milano 2015
Strangozzi, stringozzi, strozzapreti, bringoli, umbricelli, bigoli, umbrichelle, lombrichelli, ciriole, anguillette, manfricoli: if you ever had the chance to take a ride in the Umbrian taverns, sitting in the rural atmosphere of those rooms and probing the delicious menu, in the section dedicated to main courses you see something with an ambiguous but evocative name.
It is not easy to reconstruct the history of a dish with an ancient birth, especially when confusion still reigns even on his name, as it is contamined by the vagueness of the spoken language and by the use of certain customary terms rather than others.
But let’s go in order: first of all, we are talking about a type of fresh pasta, rustic because its handmade processing and therefore inaccurate, coarse, whose goodness lies in the roughness of its own composition. Sources agree on the poor origins of this dish, made of the sole water and wheat flour. What makes the difference, however, is the shape it assumes: so, the same dought produces many types of pasta, whose names are often confused because of their etymological similarity.
In Spoleto, «Erti de stinarello e fini de cortello»
The stringozziof Spoleto -called strangozzi in Terni, manfricoli in Orvieto, anguillette in the area of Lake Trasimeno, umbricelli in Perugia for their resemblance to earthworms, or even brigoli, lombrichelli or ciriole – are a type of stubby and coarse spaghetti, with a circumference of 3-4 mm and of a length of 25 cm, hand-rolled on a work surface. As the saying goes, the dought must not be excessively stretched; you will pay attention to the thickness only when you cut the phyllo dough lenghtwise with a knife.
Strangozzi must be cooked in plenty water, and you have to dredge them up at the exact moment they emerge. They are seasoned with meat sauces, truffles, parmesan cheese or vegetables. Beyond doubt, the most characteristic preparation is the one holding up the name of Spoleto – “alla spoletina” – where tomatos, parsley and hot pepper enhance the taste of pasta.
It is curious that strangozzi – for their assonance with the verb “to strangle” – are often confused with strozzapreti, another preparation made out the simple mixture of water and flour.
Although the names are often used interchangeably, the shape of strozzapreti is very different from strangozzi one (and their counterparts): strozzapreti are shorter and the strips of doughare rolled up on themselves; their shape looks like shoelaces, once made of tough curled leather.
Someone had to end up choking
The legend says that the anti-clerical rebels used these strings to strangle the walking ecclesiastics, during the Pontifical State domain. An hypothesis that does not seem too remote, if we consider the constant struggle of Perugia against the interference of the Papal States: when we think about episodes like the Salt War of 1540 or the XIX century anti-clericalism resulted in massacres of Perugia, we do understand the lack of love of the population towards the prelates. The latter, indeed, in addition of collecting taxes were notoriously gluttons, always ready to scrounge meals off the poor people.
Another interpretation says that strozzapreti were so called because the housewives, forced to halve the portions to their beloved ones to serve prelates, whished them to choke with the food they were eating. A variant says that the housewives cursed the priests that wanted the eggs as a tribute, forcing them to make a “poor” dought, only composed of water and flour.
A further interpretation – that confirms the enormous appetite of the curia – is given by the poet Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli, Roman vernacular master:
Nunpòi crede che ppranzo che cciàffatto Quel’accidente de Padron Cammillo. Un pranzo, ch’è impossibbile de díllo: Ma un pranzo, un pranzo da restacce matto. Quello perantro c’ha mmessoerziggillo A ttuttoer rimanente de lo ssciatto, È stato, guarda a mmé, ttanto de piatto De strozzapreti cotti corzughillo. Ma a ppropositocqui de strozzapreti: Io nun pozzo capíppeccherraggione S’abbi da dícche strozzino li preti: Quannooggni prete è un sscioto de cristiano Da iggnottissemagara in un boccone ErzorPavoloBbionni sano sano.
(G.G. Belli, La Scampaggnata)
Thus it appears that the echo of the hungry stomachs of the prelates had spread up to Rome: their appetite was so huge to overcome even the difficulties that the particular shape of strozzapreti gave to the act of eating them. Other than choking: it takes more than a bowl of strozzapreti to extinguish the appetite of a religious!
Today, though strozzapreti are produced on an industrial scale, a processing implemented with a bronze die plate makes them rough as homemade ones, allowing the full absorption of seasoning with which they are served. Between the contour of its profile, in fact, the sauces deposite and there remain, giving the palate a pleasant sensation of texture and body, and so are all the flavor of the ancient types of pasta..
«This publication has been created from the interest I have always had for the arts in general, in particular for painting, sculpture, architecture and photography. I have always been interested in beautiful things.»
This is how Maurizio Bigio, a graduate in Business and Economics, and a Chartered Accountant for the last 37 years, speaks of his latest enterprise “in the field of the arts”. This is not a new departure for him, as he has always been involved in the arts as a musician, having had important achievements in collaborating with major singer-songwriters of the Seventies and issuing the Rock Bigio Blues LP. He recently expanded his artistic horizons devoting himself to photography, collaborating in the creation of the new MUSA (Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts P. Vannucci of Perugia) catalogue edited by Fedora Boco and the book on Ferdinand Cesaroni edited by Luciano Giacchè.
The subject of Liberty in the Umbrian region previously had only been addressed by Professor Mario Pitzurra, when in 1995 he published Architettura e ornato urbano liberty a Perugia, a text which is now out of print and, according to the author, it was limited to the regional capital city area. It was Pitzurra himself who concluded his work with the hope that «…others will follow my example, possibly extending their study to the rest of Umbria.»
And now, twenty years on, Maurizio Bigio takes up the challenge with purpose of re-awakening interest in this XX century art movement, which has been little studied in the region.
The foreword to Il Liberty in Umbria, is written by Anton Carlo Ponti with the text edited by Federica Boco, Emanuela Cecconelli, Giuliano Macchia, Maria Luisa Martella, Elena Pottini and Mino Valeri as well as Bigio himself.
The publication is divided into sixteen chapters, encompassing the region from north to south, touching on the city of Città di Castello, Perugia, Marsciano, Deruta, Foligno, Spoleto, Terni, Allerona, Avigliano, Acquasparta and Narni.
And the author’s interest is not just in architecture, he also focuses on the decorative details in wood, wrought iron, ceramics, glass and, where possible, on the internal painted decoration inside dwellings.
An interesting chapter, edited by Elena Pottini, is devoted to liberty sculptures in the Perugia Cemetery, while Fedora Boco outlines the protagonists of this period with a small biography and related bibliography. The photographs also include Liberty design lost in time such as the Perugina shop and the internal decor of the Bar Milano. This interesting volume also includes a translation of the text in English by Eric Ingaldson.
Giovanni di Pietro, called Lo Spagna, after his family’s Spanish origins, (Spain 1470 – Spoleto 1528) is one of the protagonists of Umbrian pictorial art between the XV and XVI centuries. Not as well known as other followers of the Umbrian master Pietro Vannucci (some of his more famous students: Pinturicchio and Raffaello), he is an interesting and pleasing artist and worthy of closer study.
The young Giovanni was probably in Florence around 1493 when Pietro Vannucci, known as Il Perugino, was among the four more prominent masters in the city together with Botticelli, Filipino, and Ghirlandaio. Perugino at that time assumed a leading role by opening the workshop near the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova; his studio was on of the most active and was also frequented by numerous students from all over Europe who came to learn “the grace that he had in his own colouring technique” (G.Vasari, 1568). This has led us to believe that our artist may have come into contact with the Umbrian master, subsequently becoming his pupil and collaborator.
Influences and first Works
When in 1501 Perugino opened a workshop in Perugia, a rich town that wanted to renew its style and adopt a more contemporary feel, Giovanni followed him, where he probably also came into contact with Raffaello, another young follower of Perugino. Giovanni worked together with the Master on a series of frescoes for the Franciscan Convent of Monteripido, of theseonly a fresco of Saint Francis receiving the stigmata remains. It was located on the gable of the façade of the Church and attributed to Lo Spagna and which is now preserved at the National Gallery of Umbria.
Critics agree that in the pictorial style of Giovanni di Pietro there is a strong similarity to Perugino’s style of models,which was a fundamental step in the formation of the painter and in obtaining commissions, and also inhis ability to grasp the influence of Raffaello while maintaining a personal and simple language that is rich in the fine use of colour and grace. Some of his works form part of collections of some of the most important museums of the world, among which are: The National Gallery, London, The Louvre, Paris and the Vatican Museum Art Gallery, Rome.
From the first keeps to Success
At the beginning of 1500 the Perugino environment was under the control of the Bottega del Vannucci and in common with Perugino collaborators including Pinturicchio, Lo Spagna needed to move on in search of work in order to be able to create his own entourage. His artistic career finally took off in other Umbrian towns.
The beautiful and elegant town of Todi, that dominates the valley of the Tiber is significant: in 1507 a contract was agreed in Todi between the painter and the body of the Church of San Potito to create an altarpiece depicting the Coronation of the Virgin (Todi, Museo Civico) (fig.1), which was completed in 1511 when the artist went to live there and set up a business. In addition to the Montesanto altarpiece, Giovanni worked in the cathedral where he painted various chapels with frescos (between the 1513 and 1515) and he also decorated the organ (1516). Two tablets remain depicting St.Peter and St.Paul and a fragment of a fresco depicting a Trinity (fourth nave on the right, Cathedral of Santa Maria Annunziata, Todi).
Another important Umbrian centre in Lo Spagna’s career is the city of Trevi, a village at the top of Monte Serano, beautifully dominates the Spoleto valley, the seat of powerful local families. Here the artist was commissioned by Ermodoro Minerva, ambassador of Ludovico Sforza, to decorate the chapel of San Girolamo in the church of S. Martino. The lunette with the Virgin in Glory with Saints Jerome, Giovanni Battista, Francesco and Antonio da Padova dated 1512 is a fresco with clear Perugino references with its ideal and pleasant landscape, but in more decisive colours. He also created the imposing altarpiece with the Coronation of the Virgin in the same church in 1522 (now at thePinacoteca of the San Francesco Museum complex). It is rich in pure refined iridescent tones, with solidly constructed figures and subjects and items carefully rendered in an illusionary style, derived from the prototype of Filippo Lippi in the Cathedral of Spoleto (1467-69) and by the Coronation of the Virgin of the Ghirlandaio that he created at San Girolamo in Narni in 1486; both were also referenced to Raphael in 1505 for the altarpiece at Monteluce in Perugia. While at Trevi, the Master Lo Spagna, who by now was in demand and lauded by the whole of Umbria, decorated the church of the Madonna delle Lacrime between 1518 and 1520 with references to the sought-after style of Raffaello, shown in particular in the scene of the transportation of Christ (fig.2), where there is a strong association to the masterpiece by the Urbino Master carried out for the Cappella Baglioni in Perugia in 1507 which is today curated at the Borghese Gallery in Rome. This was testament to Lo Spagna’s development in rapid and continual renewal, stimulated by continuous in depth study, in keeping with the requests for special commissions by the more affluent.
In 1516 he was granted citizenship of Spoleto, witness to the fact that Giovanni had resided in Spoleto already for several years. On 31 August 1517 he was appointed Head of Art for painters and goldsmiths, confirming his recognition in the role of Head of the school. From 1516 onwards, his activities were based in Spoleto and the surrounding centres, based on documentary evidence as well as by a large body of work which reveals the presence of assistance and workshop activities that had assimilated his style. Among the more interesting and significant works are the Madonna Ridolfi a Madonna with Child between Saints Giacomo, Niccolò da Tolentino, Caterina and Brizio commissioned by Pietro Ridolfi (fig.3) who was governor of Spoleto from 1514 to 1516 (Spoleto, Palazzo Comunale), the Virtues painted for the Rocca, removed in 1824 and reconstructed in a monument dedicated to Leo XII (Palazzo Comunale). The arrangement and the iconography of the three allegorical figures, justice at the top, with charity and mercy on each side, suggests their destination was to have been an environment with judicial functions. In Charity, conceived in accordance with a rotating composition, and in Clemency, characterised by the perspective that confers rhetoric in gestures and postures, there are also solutions developed by Raphael in the Roman year, thus suggesting a history ahead of its time.
Along the Via Flaminia, not far from Spoleto in the church of San Giacomo Apostolo, the patron saint of pilgrims, Giovanni di Pietro is asked to decorate the apse and two chapels in 1526. The semi-dome depicts the Coronation of the Virgin (fig.4) and the wall depicts San Giacomo and the Miracle of the hanged man and the Miracle of the chickens. With an extraordinary richness of gilding, colours and grotesque ornaments and crowded with figures, it is scenically complex and it is here Lo Spagna achieved the pinnacle of his career, a rare Umbrian display in a modern style.
Spoleto – San Giacomo
Durign this time, together with his workshop, Lo Spagna worked at Valnerina: in the church of S. Michele Arcangelo in Gavelli, where there are frescoes dated 1518 and 1523; to Visso in the church of S. Augustine; at Scheggino, where, finally in 1526 he signed the contract to decorate the church gallery of S. Niccolò for which he was offered 150 guilders.
Lo Spagna may have died of plague in October 1528 confirmed by an entry in the Town Archives of Spoleto which reports that on 9th day of that month candles for the funeral ceremony were received: “die 9 octobris, havemmo per la morte dello Spagna pictore quatro torcie” (Gualdi Sabatini, 1984, p. 395). (“ day of 9 October, we received four candles for the death of the painter Lo Spagna)
Dono Doni was the best known of his followers, but not the only one to collect the baton; his flourishing workshop still today constitutes a characterizing feature of the artistic heritage of the area of Spoleto and the Nera Valley. Among the collaborators to be remembered are also Giovanni Brunotti and Isidoro di ser Moscato, Giacomo di Giovannofrio Iucciaroni (circa 1483-1524) active in Valnerina and Piermarino di Giacomo who in 1533 completed the Scheggino frescoes.
FOR MORE INFORMATIONS:
Todi – Museo civico (closed on Mondays. Open: 10.00-13.00/ 15.00-17.30), Cattedrale di Santa Maria Annunziata (open all day: 9.00-18.00). Tourist Office tel. 075 8942526
Trevi – Pinacoteca complesso museale di San Francesco (open from Friday to Sunday: 10.30-13.00/ 14.30-18.00), other spaces open on request). ProTrevi tel. 0742 781150
Spoleto – Palazzo Comunale (open from Monday to Friday: 9.00-13.00; Modays and Thursdays: 15.00-17.00). Tourist Office tel. 0743218620/1
Fausta Gualdi Sabatini, Giovanni di Pietro detto Lo Spagna, Spoleto, Accademia Spoletina, 1984.
Pietro Scarpellini, Perugino, Electa, MIlano 1984. Perugino: il divin pittore, cat. della mostra a cura di Vittoria Garibaldi e Federico Francesco Mancini, (Perugia, Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria 2004), Silvana Editoriale, Cinisello Balsamo 2004.
Giovanna Sapori, Giovanni di Pietro: un pittore spagnolo tra Perugino e Raffaello, Milano, Electa, 2004