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Berto di Giovanni

by Giulia Venturini

Berto di Giovanni is a very important Umbrian painter because he helps us understand how the art of Perugino and Raphael greatly influenced even the smallest Umbrian personalities.

Berto di Giovanni is mentioned for the first time in a notarial deed dated 3rd January 1488. His name appears in the freshman painters for Porta Sole, although some documents mention him as Alberto or Ruberto. He is mentioned Chamberlain of Art and in 1502 he receives various payments together with Eusebio da San Giorgio and Nicolò da Cesena for the fresco, now disappeared, of a room intended for the bishop in the canonical of the cathedral.

 


St. John the Evangelist writes the Apocalypse. Perugia, Nazioanle Gallery of Umbria

In Perugino’s workshop

Berto di Giovanni worked in Perugino’s workshop together with other notable personalities: Eusebio da San Giorgio, Sinibaldo Ibi, Ludovico d’Angelo and Lattanzio di Giovanni. The store was a small reality in which social contrasts, their own time and their own experience were shared. This community led to the development of a Koiné, a style in which it becomes really difficult to try to isolate individual shaded areas in precise contours, suffocated by the need to adhere to a common and winning style.[1]
The most important work is the Madonna and Child with Saints James the Greater and Francis; first in San Francesco del Monte and now in the National Gallery of Umbria. The Virgin, seated in a vast landscape, holds the Child in her lap, holding a wreath of flowers in her hands, the Saints kneeling beside her, while two angels in flight place a crown on her head. The Child derives from the overturned cardboard used for the Madonna of the Kress collection, now in the National Gallery of Washington, with appropriate modifications to the little face and the right arm to make him hold, very visibly, the crown of flowers. The landscape, which opens behind the protagonists, makes the table even more fascinating. The figurative language of the composition seems to be articulated on several registers: on the one hand the calmness of a typically composition by Perugino, on the other a more modern evolution of the characters.[2]
Dated 1507 is the Sacred Conversation, now in London at Buckinghain Palace, in which they are depicted the Nativity of the Assumption and the Marriage of the Virgin. The altarpiece shows a prevalent Peruginesque influence with some memories of Pala Ansidei by Raphael.The painter also participated in an excellent work, now preserved in the Vatican Art Gallery: the Coronation of the Virgin, made by Raphael, then completed by Giulio Romano and Francesco Penni. Berto di Giovanni took part in the construction of the predella, now in the National Gallery of Umbria.[3]

 

 

Banner in the cathedral of Perugia

 

In the four scenes the strong color contrasts show the clear influence of Giulio Romano. In fact in the last period, Berto di Giovanni was attracted by the great painter. Walking through the halls of the National Gallery of Umbria you can admire other masterpieces of the painter: St. John the Evangelist in Patmos with the Eternal and the Stories of the saint, which was executed for the Cistercians of St. Giuliana in Perugia. In the table we can see the clumsy representation of the evangelist taken from the figure of Pythagoras in the School of Athens. The last certain work preserved in the cathedral of Perugia is a standar painted in 1526 on the occasion of the plague.[4]

 


[1]Laura Teza, A painting in society: Perugino, Berto di Giovanni and the Store  of 1496, pp. 47-61, in Pietro Vannucci and the Perugian Painters of the early sixteenth century. Mondays of the Gallery. Proceedings of the Conferences 23 February- 10 May  2004, curated by Paola Mercurelli Salari, Superintendency for Architectural Heritage, Landscape, Umbria’s Historic Artistic and Ethno-anthropological Heritage, Perugia, Ponte San Giovanni.
[2] F. Santi, National Gallery of Umbria. Paintings, sculptures and objects of the XV-XVI centuries, Rome, 1985, p. 140, considers it Giannicola, while F. Todini, The Umbrian painting from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, Milan, 1989, I, p. 278 e P. Mercurelli Salari, Painter from Perugia area 9. Madonna with Child, two angels, the Saints Giacomo Maggiore and Francesco, in Perugino and the landscape, catalog of the exhibition (Città della Pieve, 28 February-18 July 2004), Milan 2004 , p .60 close to Berto di Giovanni.
[3] Dictionary of Painters and Engravers Biographical and Critical, by Michael Bryan, p. 119, New Edition Revised and Enlarged, Edit by Robert Edmund Graves B.A., of the British Museum. Volume I A-K, London 1886.
[4] Encyclopedia Treccani, Biographical Dictionary of Italians, Volume IX, 1967.

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