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LAUDATO SI’

“Laudato si’, mi’ Signore, per sor’aqua,

la quale è multo utile et humile et pretiosa et casta…”

The water mentioned by Francis in The Canticle of the Creatures, also known as The Song of Friar Sun and Sister Luna, the first poem in Italian composed in 1226, can only be blue.

Blue is an evocative colour, just like painting and music. It bounces and resonates between eyes and heart as a colour and a feeling of depth. It is no coincidence that Kandinsky, who was a painter and also a cellist, wrote: “from a musical point of view, azure looks like a flute, blue resembles a cello, or the wonderful sound of the double bass when it becomes very dark; in its darker and more solemn dimension, it has the deep sound of an organ…”.

Blue becomes the colour of purification, with a biblical reference; an immersion in inner life to re-emerge enriched and aware. The chromatic line of the whole Canticle cannot but be blue, a supreme example of a praise to God, to life and nature perceived in its beauty and complexity. In it, Francis descends into himself and then pronounces, in a liberating scream, in a deep breath, towards the sky:

“Altissimu, onnipotente, bon Signore,

tue so’ le laude, la gloria e l’honore et onne benedictione.

Ad te solo, Altissimo, se konfano, et nullu homo ène dignu te mentovare…”

To express the immensity of Francis’ feelings, blue returns with Giotto, a master in the use of one of the most famous and precious colours in the history of art.

Obtained from the shredding of lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone extracted in various places in the East, preserved the trace of its long travels to reach Europe in the well-fitting name “Ultramarine”. From the sea – from the water – to the sky, a short way, and the Tuscan artist dispenses lavishly his deep blue lapis lazuli skies in the monumental Basilica Superiore in Assisi and in the Chapel of the Scrovegni in Padua, although in some cases he used the cheap azurite, obtaining a very similar shade. Yet, Giotto’s blue is timeless, capable of reaching contemporary art with its load of suggestions. Yves Klein, creator of the famous International Klein Blue (IKB) in 1956 – “the most perfect expression of blue” to unify heaven and earth by dissolving the horizon with an Ultramarine free of alterations – sent a postcard depicting a scene of the Giottesque cycle in the Assisi Basilica, to his gallerist Iris Clert, delighted for having found a match to “his” blue in those frescoed skies.

 

Assisi

 

It can only be the blue – matched with the Yellow of “… messor lo frate sole, lo qual è iorno, et allumini noi per lui…” on which one could find as many correspondences – the colour of the Franciscan Path. The path that connects the “places” of life and of the preaching of the Saint of perfect joy and allows reaching Assisi from Tuscany and Lazio, then continue to Rome through the Valle Santa Reatina. Over 570 km, including some variants and always between 400 and 600 meters in altitude, sometimes rising to 1,100 meters. The guide is the signposting, placed to make travelling easy in both directions. Easy to locate, interpret and follow, but not entirely homogeneous. If in Umbria and in the Lazio section it combines the blue-yellow colour – differing only for number of signs, more in Umbria – in the Tuscan section it uses the red-white of the CAI (the Italian Alpine Club). The only password, repeated on several sources: “always follow the same type of signage”. Via Lauretana intersects the Francis Route, that reaches Assisi from the Holy House of Loreto, and the Patron of Europe Route, St. Benedict, from Norcia to the Abbey of Montecassino passing through Cascia, and the Franciscan Protomartyr Route, marked by Benedictine abbeys and Franciscan places in the province of Terni.

A ROUTE OF THE SOUL

However, the Franciscan Way is much more than a journey. It’s a Pilgrimage.

“We choose a Pilgrimage Route because we want to change, everyone looks for something different, for themselves, a different relationship with others, faith …” said the Auxiliary Bishop of Perugia-Città della Pieve, Monsignor Paolo Giulietti (President of the Consortium “Umbria & Francescos’ Ways”, dedicated to the spiritual routes – editor’s note) recently, motivating the sense of an experience of this kind.

Yes, because the Franciscan Way can allow to descend into the immense Blue of one’s soul, to drown in personal depths and find the right thrust to re-emerge. It can allow finding a sense of a daily life in harmony with the world, with man and with God, without the steps of the Saint, Patron of Italy and of ecology, overlapping ours, crushing them, but, instead, coming besides them.

The same landscapes that filled the heart of Francis can embody the Pilgrim’s eye, investing it with its words and actions to use like a balm for the heart and mind. A viatic, taken along all routes that will come. Spirituality, welcoming, humility, the bitterness mixed with an unfiltered sensing of Umbria, in accordance with the flow of seasons, can only gratify those who decide to come with a pure and clear mind to Assisi, a city, a crossroads of the world, capable of transcending any distinction of Culture and Credence.

 

Franciscan Basilica

 

Let’s imagine then to leave without hesitation, armed only with a careful eye and the ability to understand, taking the Route of the peace of the woods of the Verna monastery on the Apennine ridge. It is the place where Francis, after following the Gospel to the letter, wanted to share his pain with Christ and wanted it so much that he was rewarded… with the stigmata. He drew the awareness from them, an awareness that he would no longer return, he uttered a commotified “Goodbye God’s mountain, Goodbye Mount Avernia”. From a breath-taking view, from which the threads of love often torn by the egoism of modern life can return to be woven, the route unfolds along gentle paths, perhaps less impacting from the natural point of view but full of history and culture. Here is Città di Castello and the descent towards south to reach high Pietralunga and Gubbio. One of the first, authentic trips of the Saint, after crossing the Medieval Gate, the Church of St. Francis appears evoking, among other things, the miracle of the wolf calmed down with the famous promise Brother Wolf, promise to observe the peace treaty, that you do not offend either men, animals, or creatures?” The Path then touches Valfabbrica and after one of the most beautiful sections, amazing because it approaches the imposing massif of the Sacred Convent and of the Basilica of Saint Francis, the joy of entering Assisi is tangible. With the Franciscan Basilica behind, the Path’s blue thread leads to the Eremo delle Carceri, clinging to the sides of mount Subasio to reach Spello and Foligno. Without leaving the ridge of the valley, here comes Spoleto and then, after going through the pass, it arrives at Valnerina, summed up between Ceselli and Arrone, to touch the water of the Marmore cascade. The borders of Lazio are near and from the Piediluco expanse of water, the blue dives into that liquid depth, re-emerging in the Santa Reatina Valley, at the foot of the Terminillo, and then engages the immensity of the eternal city.

And in the peaceful Blue that was the companion on the way, the pilgrimage become aware that being on the route is already the goal, because the Way of Saint Francis embraces others. The Way of Santiago, for example, under the aegis of St. Anthony of Lisbon, a Franciscan brother who appeals to he who would become Patron of Italy “My Bishop”. In July 2008, the Assisi and Santiago administrations twinned the two cities, underlining the cultural and spiritual closeness that are the foundations of the pilgrimage.

A way to keep alive “The love that moves the sun and the other stars” (Heaven XXXIII, 145) preserved, unconsciously, globally, humanly… in the intimacy of every traveller of life.

A journey through the work and poetics of artists for whom the colour of night is their own personal queste. At times a symbol of spirituality and mysticism, and at other times, of sincerity and loyalty, blue unfolds as a recurring motif throughout the Twentieth Century.

Blue periods and horses

The Twentieth Century opens with the dramatic – almost monochromatic – atmosphere of the Picasso Blue Period between 1901 and 1904. Picasso focused on blue to express the «sincerity […] that cannot be found in pain», after his friend Carlos Casagemas took his own life. Blue was associated with the idea of ​​the night and of secret love, of mystery, the essence of the Picasso blue: «the colour that appears best in the world […] the colour of colours, the bluest of blues. »[1].

The German Blaue Reiter movement originated from the passion of Kandinsky for blue and the love of Franz Marc for horses in 1911. The blue knight fights evil, facing the most dangerous tests, symbol of the struggle between good and evil, of the battle of the spirit against materialism. Kandinsky attributes the ability to show depth, the darker, the more it awakens the human desire for infinity. It associates it with the circle, in its theory in which shapes and colours take on a kind of universal symbolism. Spirituality in art[2] becomes blue.

 

Lago umbro 1942 olio su tavola cm. 52.5×62.5 Foto www.futurahma.it

Dottori and Aeropainting

In those years, the avant-garde Futurism was born in Milan and with Gerardo Dottori[3] in Perugia too, the futurist of Aeropainting[4], of the blue views of Lake Trasimeno. Above a plane Dottori flew over the lake, fascinated by the landscape: «The first time I reached the Trasimeno […] I was deeply impressed. The large mirror of water was calm, and mirrored the sky clearly with the white clouds. But I felt that to enjoy it, I had to see it from some surrounding hill around […]. I was so taken by this splendid vision that I have never forgotten it, and it is always in most of my paintings […], my beautiful Trasimeno. »[5]

Every time we admire an aeropainting by Dottori, the feeling is that of a deep blue colour that calms the senses. The description of blue by the philosopher Max Lüscher comes immediately to mind: «Blue is loyalty and corresponds to the depth of feelings […]. Blue symbolically corresponds to calm water […]. It is the full satisfaction of blessings of the highest ideals of mankind, unity, a union with Gaea, mother-earth. It is the truth, trust, love, and dedication, rendition and devotion»[6]. The paintings by Dottori, where the shades of azure of the waters and sky prevail, are often mystical, thanks to these, a «new extra-terrestrial spirituality»[7] is «reached» as written in the Manifesto.

The lyric and spiritual landscape of Dottori is blue: «I wanted to aerate the earthly landscape by isolating it out of time-space, feeding it of sky so that it became heaven: by this, overturning the great Umbrian Renaissance painting that religiously dragged a lot of heaven down onto earth. If I overflow a gulf or an Umbrian lake it is because I can become a whole with its green-blue-white-grey liquid, reaching all my simultaneous forms of colour, including those mirroring into the water»[8].

Hundreds of works, where he portrays stretching lakes and rivers that spiral and wrap, the aircraft wraps up the landscape creating big eyes, lake mirrors. But in the past, the water of the seas, rivers, and lakes was green; as Pastoureau writes, and it became blue only at the end of the Fifteenth century: «it took a lot of time in the imagination and in the daily life […]for the water to become blue, a cold blue. Cold like our contemporary western societies, of which blue is the emblem, the symbol and the favourite colour at the same time»[9].

 

Nakedness, dreams and patents on colour

In the post-war period, the conception of art changes, but not poetry and the intensity of blue. Henri Matisse claimed that «a certain blue enters the soul»; his Blue Nudes of the Fourties are famous, cut figures of women become a shape using a bright blue, that moves them away from the natural description. For Miró, blue is the colour of dream and spirituality: it reaches its apex with the Bleu I, Bleu II, Bleu III series of 1961, the work is an extreme reduction to the essential, where elements float in a metaphysical universe. But certainly, the most striking example of the blue passion is by Yves Klein with his blue proclamation and his patent, the IKB, the International Klein blue, a bright colour that emerges from an abysmal depth. His blue, as Pierre Restany – founder of the Nouveau Réalisme at the beginning of the Sixties – wrote: «for it, it was the revelation; it is the backing of insights that are not enclosed in formulas, the vehicle of great emotions, an image captured by the vault of the sky and the intimacy of the world, the memory of this immaterial dimension of the universe»[10].  With his IKB he covered girls, canvases, sponges, «with the intent» as Vettese wrote, «of approaching art to heaven, but above all to recover a relationship between art and spirituality mediated, precisely, by colour»[11].

 

Graziano Marini, Utopico

Eastern full moon

Is there anything more spiritual that light? Does refractive light create colours? In Umbria, the quasi-scientific, but amused, concretistic study of light and colours reaches its highest exposition with Piero Dorazio[12], the Roman artist who moved to Todi in 1974 and never left the town again. In his paintings «the fabrics or better membranes», of an almost monochrome uniform painting, as described by Ungaretti, «interwoven with different threads of colour, with rays of colour», the very often blue background, creates the effect of «fixation on a point of light resurfaced from abysses, iterated to infinity»[13]. His blues are able to capture the everchanging shades of the tides, the skies he encountered on his trips and holidays[14]. The writer and journalist Mario Fortunato recognised, at a London auction, after many years, a blue work of art he had seen at the artist’s home, his guest during the Spoleto Festival in 1984: «A small Dorazio canvas with a dominating blue that reminded of the sea at night: it was taken from me for a few pounds and I still regret not having relaunched my bid»[15]. The only student and heir of his art, Graziano Marini, in an absolute personal way, combines Dorazio’s compositional purity, the geometry of structures like postpictural abstraction, the emotional charge of the Informal. His surface is not clean, his painting is like an internal drive expressed through light-colour matter. His travels to Asia made him discover the light of the desert, recreate it: the colour absorbs all the strength and power of light. The darkness is represented by the blue of Utopico II: «I was immediately struck by the light of that unknown sky, I saw that deep darkness of the night, really dark, dark, distant, of an indefinite colour, maybe indigo blue to which a densely immovable sea blue is superimposed»[16]. Blue is born from the Eastern Nights, because, as Goethe writes, «very near to darkness arises what we designate with the word azure»[17].  This affinity between darkness and blue is described also by Kandinsky: «blue can become as deep as black. Besides the physical resemblance, there is also a moral resemblance».[18] At night, the darkness of the room, illuminated by a single blue light-sign by Carlo Dell’Amico[19], to immerge the visitor in a plenilune light, to whom it is required to open up to a vital relationship with the immanent. These works by the Umbrian artist, made from 2008 to 2016 with blue neon, recall the light of the deus, of the luminous being, of the radical dyu, of the God-sky, a colour that represents the elevation of the Spirit symbolically. Frédéric Portal writes in the Nineteenth Century, azure, along with black and white «are the colours of the initiator: that overcomes spiritual (black) death with the power of truth (azure) to obtain the complete regeneration (white) ».[20] So, Dell’Amico, through the emanations of his blue light, reveals to us what is hidden in the darkness, allowing us to understand the hidden message of the words to get closer to knowledge[21].

 


[1] P. Picasso cit. in AA.VV., Colore, ed. Idealibri, Milan, 1982, p. 215.

[2] V. Kandinskij, Lo Spirituale nell’arte,1909, published in 1912 in Munich by the editor Reinhard Piper: “From a musical point of view, azure resembles a flute, blue a cello or, when it becomes very dark, the wonderful sound of the double bass; in its darker and more solemn dimension, it has the deep sound of an organ”, quote from Lo spirituale nell’arte, ed. Milan, 1989. Kandinskij had also created a work of art called Der Blaue Reiter in 1903. This painting is the cover of the Blaue Reiter movement.

[3] Gerardo Dottori (Perugia 1884, died there in 1977), for a complete bio www.gerardodottori.net. Most of his works are kept at the Civic Music of Palazzo Penna in Perugia.

[4] Manifesto dell’Aeropittura futurista, published on the «Gazzetta del popolo», dated September 22, 1929 in the article called edited in 1929 by MarinettiBallaFortunato DeperoPrampolini, Gerardo Dottori, Benedetta Cappa, FilliaTato and Mino Somenzi, Roman journalist that flew over Lake Trasimeno with him starting in 1928.

[5] Framment from Autobiografia of 1963, published by A. C. Ponti, M. Duranti, Intervista su Gerardo Dottori, Umbria Editrice, Perugia 1977, pp. 81-96. See also M. Duranti, A. C. Ponti, edited by, Aeropitture di acque e di colline: Gerardo Dottori e il lago Trasimeno, catalogue of the exhibition (Corciano, Tuoro sul Trasimeno, 4 August – 23 September 2001), ed. Effe, Perugia 2001.

[6] M. Lüscher, Il test dei colori, Astrolabio, Roma 1976, quote. from Il significato dei colori: nelle civiltà antiche, edited by Lia Luzzatto and Renata Pompas, Rusconi Milan 1988, p. 150.

[7] Manifesto dell’Aeropittura futurista, 1929, cit. in www.gerardodottori.net.

[8] G. Dottori in Manifesto futurista umbro dell’aeropittura, 1941. In full world war he wrote the manifesto where he clarified that the real essence of his futurism lied in the representation of mystic-like ambiences and landscapes. Quote in www.gerardodottori.net. For the futurist manifestos see also www.futur-ism.it.

[9] Pastoureau, Blu: storia di un colore, ed. Ponte alle Grazie, Milan 2008, p. 217.

[10] P. Restany, cit. in L. Vinca Masini, L’Arte del Novecento, Giunti, Florence 1989, vol. 5, p. 790.

[11] A. Vettese, Arte e colore alcune linee di sviluppo nel dopoguerra, in Il colore nell’arte, Ivan Bargna … [et al.],  Jaca book, Milan 2006 p. 216. Recent volume Blu K.: storia di un artista e del suo colore di Teodoro Gilabert, Skira, Milan 2014.

[12] Piero Dorazio (Roma 1927 – Perugia 2005). In 1947 he was among the undersigners of the manifesto of Gruppo Forma 1. In 1951 it merged with the group “Origine” by Mario Ballocco, Alberto Burri, Giuseppe Capogrossi, Ettore Colla, giving life to “Fondazione Origine”, within which Colla and Dorazio published the magazine “Arti Visive”. In 1974 he moved definitely to Todi where he purchased an ancient Camaldolese hermitage and here he continued to create until his death. In 1978 he founded the Centro Internazionale della Ceramica of Montesanto, hosting international artists in Todi since the Seventies.

[13] G. Ungaretti, Un intenso splendore, cat. Im Erker Galerie, San Gallo, 1966.

[14] For further study on the colour of Dorazio, see the recent Piero Dorazio “Il colore della pittura”, exhibition catalogue (Milan, Galleria Lorenzelli, October 2015 – January 2016) Milan 2015.

[15] M. Fortunato, Quelli che ami non muoiono, Bompiani, Milan 2008, cap. 6.

[16] G. Marini, Luce Orientale, in Graziano Marini: l’ arte che sa veder morire gli imperi, text by Enrico Mascelloni, exhibition catalogue (Frankfurt, Orvieto and Zurich 2004), ed.  Industria grafica editoriale, Todi 2004.

[17] J. W. von Goethe, La Teoria, op. cit., § 502.

[18] V. Kandinskij, Lo Spirituale nell’arte, 1912 ed. Feltrinelli, Milan 1974, p. 61.

[19]  Carlo Dell’Amico was born in Perugia in 1954, for the latest updated bio see Carlo dell’Amico L’anima che perse la memoria, exhibition catalogue (Norcia, 16 April-5 June 2016) texts by Claudia Bottini, Antonella Pesola, ed. Add Art, Spoleto, 2016. Bio and works also published in the recent catalogue Light Art in Italy, by Gisella Gellini, ed. Maggioli, Milan 2016, pp. 156-159.

[20] F. Portal, Des coleurs symboliques, Paris 1839, trad. it. Sui colori simbolici nell’antichità, nel Medioevo e nell’età moderna, ed. Luni, Milan 2003, p. 71 e 75. See also G. D’Aloe, I colori simbolici: origini di un linguaggio universale, S. Pietro in Cariano (Verona) 2004, p. 85.

[21] C. Bottini, La luce vera nell’esperienza della notte della vita, in Carlo dell’Amico, op. cit. p. 60.

The magnificent landscapes of Umbria, in particular the Nera Valley, have over time bewitched several world-famous artists. Today, a project as innovative as it is interesting, aims to retrace the paths they have trodden.

In 1818, the French painter Léon Cogniet writes to Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, his master: “You ask what impresses me at most: the sculpture of the Ancients, the painting of the masters or people’s features. Something else impressed me more than all this: I want to tell you about the beauty of Nature!”[1]. Exactly this is what enchantes painters coming to Italy starting from middle Eighteenth Century and which is the same striking Umbrian painter Franco Passalacqua: the universe of the nature as main source of inspiration. Maybe the love for the valley of the Nera river beauties – as Marmore waterfall, Piediluco Lake, River Nera, Narni, Papigno and Augusto’s Bridge – pushed him to set out on a journey of discovery and knowledge on the previous artists who chose to get on the spot to represent these sites on canvas and to design this important project on the Plenaristi.

 

Martin Verstappen , La cascata delle Marmore, olio su tela, 76,9 x 61,8 cm, secc. XVIII-XIX (Terni, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Terni e Narni)

 

Anna Ottani Cavina, woman of note as art historian and whose role in the project contributes to grant for its soundness, underlines that en plein air painting has been the big change of these artitsts who, facing the extraordinary landscapes of Italy, chose to leave their comfortable atelier to immerse themselves in the beauties of the nature, depicting what the enchanted panorama offered to their eyes with short and quick dabs on the canvas, preferring watercolour and oil on paper so that colours dried as soon as possible. The details are left out while an effect of chromatic synthesis prevails in order to capture a specific fraction of light or time. Of course, the sensibility of each painter was decisive in determining the result of the portrayals. In fact, German artist Adrian Ludwig Richter[2], in Italy between 1823 and 1826, writes: “our goal was to depict the landscape with the greatest faithfullness. It was amazing to see our four researches for the a clear-cut distinction between them. Our eyes had seen the same place, but each one through his own temperament”. The Valle incantata, new earthly paradise, becomes the location of choice for tens of European painters’ artistic pilgimage as the Swiss Abraham Louis Rudolphe Ducros and François Keisermann, the English Francis Towne, the Dutch Joseph August Knip, and especially the French Jean Baptiste Camille Corot and the Deutsch Carl Blechen perhpas the two most important representatives of en plein air painting here made.

The project has been enthusistically welcomed by the municipalities of Narni and Terni and it has obtained the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Terni e Narni financial support because, as declared by CARIT chairman, Luigi Carlini, we immediately recognized “the great potential for economic and tourism development”, in fact “the promotion and the upgrading of a great environmental and landscape value area are the main objectives of this project”. Three are the souls of this iniziative: the documentary La valle incantata by Franco Passalacqua[3], the Dispersed Museum of the en plein air painting that is an itinerary of over 20 km along the routes where the artists created their works and, eventually, a complete virtual archive of all the works realized in this area, which today are housed in the museums all over the world. The virtual archive (available to view online at www.plenaristi.beniculturali.it[4]) has been realized thanks to the support of the Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio dell’Umbria and to the efforts of Marcella Culatti.

 

Nera waters

BOX

Stifone and the Blue of Nera waters

During the centuries, the village, built upon karstic sources (among the most important in Italy), has exploited the water power to activate grain and olive mills and the bellows of the foundries obtsining the mineral from the above mount Santa Croce, which is destination of speleologist thanks to the many caves.

Magnesium, sodium and calcium salts present in the chemical composition of water determine an intense blue colour that enhances during the bright days when the rays of the sun reflect on the calm surface of the Nera river. The small but fascinating village lays just down the rocky crags which make a spur to the Taizzano castle, on the left river bank. In ancient times, into the valley, only a hundred metres away from it, was the port of Narnia romana, from where food and wood departed for Rome. In fact, in his guide of the town of Narni Rutilio Robusti writes: “the orgin of the word Stifone is Greek-Pelasgian and it used to point at a place where they built and launch boats or rafts of wood to send to Rome or somewhere else, then to serve to the building of larger-sized ships”[5]. In the town centre the buildings date back from Trecento to Cinquecento, you get surprised by the unexpected poetry in the air. Just into the town, down to the old wash-houses, supplied by two powerful resurgences, you can find the remains of the first power station in that area, which was able to generate a power of 60 Kw, enough energy to light 700 bulbs in Narni, so that it was one of the first Italian towns to enjoy electric light. The theatre was the first buiding illuminated, then the rest of the town. The power plant was opened the10th of November 1982, at the presence of the mayor of Narni, Paolo Eroli, and of the designer and engineer, Mr Aldo Moretti, who was born in Stifone. An interesting nature trail follows the old railway line Orte-Terni starting fron the Augusto’s Bridge, recently replaced by a route inside tunnels, which runs along the river past Stifone.

 


[1] A. Ottani Cavina (curated by), Un Paese incantato. Italia dipinta da Thomas Jones a Corot, Milano, Electa, 2002.

[2] The quotation is taken from Franco Passalacqua’s documentary La valle incantata.

[3] The documentary is visible on request at Museo Archeologico, at Centro Arti CAOS (Terni).

[4] To know more about the project visit the website www.plenaristi.it

[5] R. Robusti, Narni. Guida della città e dintorni1924.

«Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color, and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows — a colorless, all- color of atheism from which we shrink?» Herman Melville, Moby Dick.

A perfect opposition to black, white too is a non-color, similarly a clot of all possible colors. «White strikes us as a grand silence which feels absolute», says Kandinskji. There is white as an absence of sound, as a place of purity, a place of nothingness and of the invisible. A color telling tales of silence, of hiding, of progressive subtractions until almost nothing remains. This is how extreme abstraction unfolds, achieved by the exercise of Kazimir Malevič, Russian painter and founder of Suprematism, who in 1918 painted the unconceivable: a white square on white background. Only an imperceptible contour outlines the quadrangular area, slightly rotated, the mental space delimited, a non-object nevertheless possible, where slightly different shades affirm the existence of a protected space. Almost invisible. He writes: «In art the absolute supremacy of the plastic sensitivity must prevail on the naturalistic descriptivism, this is an invitation to research a non-objective art, in which figurative and representative elements are canceled; this painting of mine says: this is not an empty canvas, a deleted icon I framed, but it is an invitation to perceive the non-objective of the objective in status nascendi»[i].

Affiliati Peducci & Savini, a school of sculptural art

The artistic duo Matteo Peducci from Castiglione del Lago and Sienese Mattia Savini met because of their love for sculpture, a passion both pursue after graduating from the Fine Arts Academy of Carrara in 2007. But Affiliati Peducci Savini isn’t simply the name of their partnership, it is also the name for their place of art: a decommissioned quarry of pink limestone in the hills of Assisi, now home to their white creatures, where they both live and work and which has become their ideal place of research and experimentation. They transform marble with ability and craftsmanship, reproducing the other materials with striking resemblance, proving the versatility of the marble here molded to imitate materials like paper, polystyrene, wood or plastic, to an estranging effect, suggesting just how deceptive reality can be.

By a deep knowledge of the classical canons, sculpture is directed towards new interpretations, enhancing the nobility of the material with a witty sense of humor. Research and experimentation are the hinges of this artistic duo, who have turned an important laboratory into a bustling art-studio, retrieving the single specializations and pausing on each step of the artistic process, from the extraction of the marble to the final levigating of the stone. An ideal dimension, resembling the old botteghe (art workshops), where the ancient knowledge and work is taught in direct contact with the maestro.

The craft foresees great teamwork, with specialists for each step, from molding clay to polishing the finished stone-work; the demand for professional artisans arose and a proper school of sculpture was founded. Peducci and Savini, after many years spent working in Italy and abroad, sculpting artworks for the king of Thailand and collaborating with important artists, such as Cattelan, Penone and Jan Fabre, since 2014 have also worked closely with the Research Center of the Normale di Pisa University, developing new technologies for electroplating and electro-sculpture, used for their metal artworks – and studying the geopolymers.

The reality created by Peducci and Savini embodies the Magnum Opus – in alchemy, the process of manufacture and transformation of matter, material and spiritual metamorphosis into purification. They are sculptors who search for new perspective and new application within contemporary art, recovering the values that made it indispensable.

 

Contenitori vuoti, 2019, di Tonina Cecchetti. Proprietà privata.

A journal of femininity by Tonina Cecchetti

An artist from Sigillo, sculptor of great experience, Tonina Cecchetti almost exclusively uses ceramics though with various techniques and is especially interested in the human body, either in its integrity or mutilated, but always in the great expression of a shiny white.

Her bodies, shaped as mannequins, are of different height, at times only visible as legs, with bare feet standing on wooden bases, often dressed in white garments, evoking ceremonial sacred rites, inevitably embellished with lace and veils.  Cecchetti displays a journal of femininity in relationship to the acceptance or refusal of one’s body, while investigating the great mystery of maternity. Her statues scream in silence, a dramatic relationship with aesthetics unfolds, the social will of an always perfect body, the recognition of a public equalitarian and dignified status.

The most investigated themes are those of the female body and of the child, with graceful shapes often set in unsettling and surreal context. The pale shade of the flesh is often in contrast with the dark backgrounds, becoming beacons of light in the night, like dreams governing the obscurity of a deep sleep rummaging through the unconscious by just existing.

The double we often find in her artwork represents duality, a declared value she wishes to rehash, the tensions of the union with the other, a breath of hope for a harmonious cohabitation. The artist explores the two-dimensionality, a space where her actors are trapped in a thought-out scenography, where they may recover a harmonious livability by overcoming a tragedy, a subtle restlessness ironically evoked, staging actions scanning mutations, unravelling the conscious yet not always ending in happiness.

The vibrating and estranging nature of Eraldo Chiucchiú

The Deruta-born sculptor has always expressed his imagery in ceramic and in his long career he has conducted a scientific research, studying the different themes and the different techniques, investigating geological phenomenon and constantly experimenting to find new technical solutions.

White has become predominant in his latest productions, inevitably, as he wisely works with porcelain, crafted into thin sheets in light boxes lit by led and in mobiles, part of his intriguing series Litofanie. The sheets become as fine as paper, etched with graphemes their surfaces are vibrant. White is investigated in all its potential and transparency plays an important role as it influences the tactile or visual perceptions.

Frattura holds a unique stylistic code and displays his great technical wisdom in turning surfaces into enlarged particles or materials: Chiucchiú investigates what lies beyond which is cleverly evoked in his work. His light boxes, made of two thin sheets of porcelain descending from above, compose a habitat where a new refined plant universe reigns, reminiscence of the elegant oriental art.

Everything changes if the light goes on: the sculptural elements strike for their harmony and balance, but the led-lights change the perspective and the cold milky white is transformed in warmer welcoming shades, lovingly embracing the viewer, inviting into a new natural dimension, estranging yet also reassuring.

 

“QUIETE” di Eraldo Chiucchiù

Assaulting white: Giosuè Quadrini

The most recent artworks of Giosuè Quadrini, a young artist from Terni and among the most interesting to date, are solved in a complex composition of impressions, graphics and symbols standing out on their surfaces of wax. He rediscovers the ancient technique of encaustic painting, repurposed in a dramatic modernity, where opacity is in contrast with the writings, where white is constantly assaulted by the signs, color zones, words and become a welcoming surface of a convoluted tale.

The whites affectionately absorb the light, the opacities are in contrast with the symbols and writings and other shades, evoking the deepest emotions for an intimate yet universal narration, because they tell us of the meaning of being; there is no embellishment, just humility.

Quadrini’s poetic wafts through like a whisper, the dirty white creates the neutral tonality, never uniformed, revealing the manual work,  layer after layer: the shades are never shrill or in opposition, but compose a refined palette, researched, intended, experienced. The choice of wax allows more subtle engravings: like a layer of pale skin, the wax is a veiled surface which protects but never hides. His investigation of the material is tarnished, yet sublimed, it is fused with the process of time which consumes: there is something of archeological in Quadrini’s work, the elements must be carefully observed and searched for. The canvases are like walls with niches inhabited by the relics of the everyday or like closets, they are content and containers, as if they suggest that there is a hiding place, a safe place, somewhere to conserve.

Image is pure meaning: Lauretta Barcaroli

Artist from Terni, active for many years, Barcaroli recently developed a series of artworks which abandon the original figuration of her early training. The recent cycles exalt the gesture of the artist, now imbedded in the artwork’s materiality: here the image, free within a chromatic annihilation, may be exhibited to the observer as pure significant. Apparently Barcaroli’s material cycles seem to avoid any space defined by composition: rather we have surfaces autonomously undergoing the transformation in art work, according to the laws of chemistry. The narration is nullified, what we see is pure matter, as is its creation, it being a physical act; absence of color must underline the objectivity of the surface. Everything is planned into a carefully woven warp, even though we only realize later: by scrutinizing the surface, the color white used by the artist does nothing other but exalt the essence of the artwork, which is white and nothing else, rather is and nothing else: to be, total essence in pure becoming.

 


[i] K. S. Malevič, Non si sa a chi appartenga il colore, scritti teorico-filosofici, Nadia Caprioglio (a cura di), Torino, Hopefulmonster, 2010, p. 163.

An enigmatic artwork, laying between the snow-white walls of an unfinished church in Foligno: a cosmic union between sacred and profane.

In the nave of a church dedicated to the Annunciation and suspended between Baroque and Neoclassicism – its beauty and simplicity combined into a space of great symbolic and cultural significance – visitors are awed by a body of time-cancelling perfection; an artwork of historic value for its enigmatic and strongly characterized aura: the Calamita Cosmica (Cosmic Magnet) by Gino de Dominicis.

A monumental mostrum

Time has stopped upon a mighty white skeleton twenty-four meters long, perfectly replicating the bone structure of the human body; the skeleton has a thin and pointed nose, splitting the body in half and introducing conflict and division in the delicate lines of the face, making it some sort of monumental mostrum and generating a sense of inferiority and littleness in the observer. The eyes are sunken into a deep inward gaze, the arthritic hands and the long spindly fingers hold their own mysterious elegance; the only thing that breaks the purity of the white bones is a golden shaft, the so-called magnet, nine-meters high and balanced upright on the phalanx of the right middle finger[1].

 

Calamita Cosmica

The magnet that tells the time

The name, Calamita Cosmica, derives from the existence of a profound relationship between the white skeleton and the cosmic world: the golden shaft also known as magnet or gnomon, can tell time. The magnetic field created by the shaft pervades the whole skeleton – he is the creator and the beneficiary.
The artist could feel the weight of the human condition and was obsessed by the reality of age and by the cosmos: in his letters on immortality he wrote: «Aging is an illness […] corroding body and mind […] it is a tragic problem […] by stopping time at a chosen age and interrupting age, man would break the spell of the most mysterious dimension regulating the universe, and this would be the first step towards the possibility of a larger comprehension of life»[2].
The masterpiece was shown at Castel Sant’Elmo in Naples, at the Mole Vanvitelliana in Ancona, at the Royal Palace in Versailles, in the square of the Royal Palace in Milan and at the MAXXI Museum in Rome, finding its definitive location in the former church of Holy Trinity in Annunciation, in Foligno[3].

The unfinished church of Foligno

The church itself has a controversial history and background. It was built between 1760 and 1765 – when it was consecrated – to be one of the most beautiful churches in the Foligno area. It bares the prestigious signature of Carlo Murena, scholar of Luigi Vanvitelli, and was meant to embody the highest architectural ambitions, topped by refined plaster decorations, but was instead left unfinished. From the beginning it had been destined to be a church, instead it was also used as a granary and a warehouse; today it has become an exhibition area[4]. Probably, its bare and unfinished architectures is what makes it such a fascinating space, where time feels still and suspended.
Two realities so far from one another, yet so close. Two completely contrasting styles: on one side, the neoclassicism and perfect architectural design by Carlo Murena, on the other, pure innovation of an immense white skeleton.
Two different and opposing destinations: sacred and profane, two similar yet contrary natures creating the perfect unity in one of the most characteristic cities in Umbria.

 

Gino de Dominicis

In the second half of the Twentieth century, Italy is enriched by an eclectic artist: Gino de Domenicis (Ancona, April 1st, 1947 – Rome, November 29th, 1998). He studied at the Art Institute in Ancona; in 1968 he moved to Rome, enlivening its artistic scenery by displaying his artworks in the streets and squares. De Dominicis has always been the main custodian and defender of his artworks: with lucidity and relentlessness, during his thirty-year long activity, he tried to subtract them from the homogenization of the mass media and the artworld, escaping any attempt of classification of his research within a specific current and opposing any publication of catalogues and books about his work. Regardless, his artworks were admired in the private galleries and public museums from Rome to Paris, from Grenoble to London, in New York and at many editions of the Venice Biennale.
Especially through his art, but also with verbal declarations and communications, he has always claimed for the visual arts a special mission and condition of existence: his is not an art reflecting on art, but an art that reflects on life[1].
His artworks reclaim the power of image and tackle the fundamental questions: death, mystery of creation, the end of history and art as a practice to stop time. The objects had to be durable and immobile in their existence, so they could resist; the Calamita Cosmica, immobile for years inside the ex-church of Santissima Trinità in Annunziata in Foligno, perfectly embraces these principles.

 


[1]N. Bryson, The Buddha of the future in De Dominicis. Selected works on the art and the artist, by Gabriele Guercio, Umberto Allemandi e C. Torino, Stamperia artistica nazionale, 2003, pp. 28-29; G. di Pietrantonio e I. Tomassoni, Calamitati da Gino. Centro Italiano Arte Contemporanea di Foligno, 26 November 2011-14 January 2012, promoted by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Foligno, p. 4.

[2]G. Guercio, Raccolta di scritti sull’opera e l’artista, Torino, Umberto Allemandi e C. Stamperia artistica nazionale, 2003, p. 73.

[3]G. di Pietrantonio e I. Tomassoni, Calamitati da Gino, Centro Italiano Arte Contemporanea di Foligno, 26 November 2011- 14 January 2012, promoted by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Foligno, p. 3.

[4]G. Bosi, Foligno, una stagione: la città tra Otto e Novecento, Foligno, Orfini Numeister, 2009, p. 100.

 


[1]Filiberto Menna, De Dominicis o della immortalità in De Dominicis. Raccolte di scritti sull’opera e l’artista curated by Gabriele Guercio, Umberto Allemandi e C. Stamperia artistica nazionale, Turin, 2003, p. 13.

Umbria preserves the memory of Raphael’s extraordinary artistic story; throughout the region, in fact, Rapahael left traces, direct or indirect, of his art.

Crucifixion Gavari

He was one of the most famous painters and architects of the Renaissance. He considered one of the greatest artists of all time, his works marked an essential path for all subsequent painters and he was of vital importance for the development of the artistic language of the centuries to come.
Raphael was born in Urbino in «the year 1483, on Good Friday, at the tree in the morning, by Giovanni de’ Santi, a painter no less excellent, but a good man of good talent, and capable of directing his children to that good way which, unfortunately for him, had not been shown to him in his beautiful youth»[1]. A second version identifies the artist’s birth day on 6th April.

The school of Perugino

The city of Urbino was decisive for young Raphael: indeed, from a very young age, he had access to the rooms of Palazzo Ducale, and he could admire the works of Piero della Francesca, Francesco di Giorgio Martini and Melozzo da Forlì.
But the real apprenticeship took place in Perugino’s workshop of Perugino, where he was able to rediscover, through the refined variations of the master, the rigorous spatial articulation and the monumental compositive order.
Raphael intervened in the frescoes of the College of Change in Perugia: his painting is recognizable where the masses of colour assume almost a plastic value. It is precisely in this context that Raphael first saw the grotesque, painted on the ceiling of the College, which later entered his iconographic repertoire.[2]
In 1499 a sixteen-year-old Raphael moved to Città di Castello, where he received his first independent commission: the Standard of the Holy Trinity, commissioned by a local confraternity that wanted to offer a devotional work as a token of thanks for the end of a plague. It is preserved now in the Pinacoteca Comunale di Città di Castello. It is one of the very first works attributed to the artist, as well as the only painting of Raphael remained in the city. The banner, painted on both sides, depicts in the front the Trinity with Saints Rocco and Sebastiano and in the direction of the Creation of Eve. The precepts of Perugino art are still evident, both in the gentle landscape and in the symmetrical angels.

 

Marriage of the Virgin for church of San Francesco.

 

In Città di Castello the artist left at least two other works: the Crucifixion Gavari and the Marriage of the Virgin for the church of San Francesco. In the first one it is easy to note a full assimilation of Perugino’s manners, even if we note the first developments towards a style of its own. Today it is conserved at the National Gallery in London. The second, however, is one of the most famous works of the artist, which closes the youthful period and marks the beginning of the stage of artistic maturity.
The work is inspired by the similar altarpiece made by Perugino for the Duomo of Perugia, but the comparison between the two paintings reveals profound and significant differences.
Entering the small but delightful church of San Francesco, next to the chapel calves, built in the middle of 1500 on a design by Giorgio Vasari, there is the altar of San Giuseppe, which contains a copy of the Marriage of the Virgin. The original, stolen by the Napoleonic troops in 1798, is kept in the Pinacoteca di Brera.

The works created in Perugia

Meanwhile, the artist’s fame soon began to spread throughout Umbria; thus he came to the Umbrian capital city: Perugia. In the city he was commissioned the Pala Colonna, for the church of the nuns of Sant’Antonio and in 1502-1503 the Pala degli Oddi, commissioned by the famous family in Perugia for the church of San Francesco al Prato.
In 1503 the artist undertook many trips that introduced him to the most important Italian cities such as Florence, Rome and Siena. But the commissions from Umbria were not long in coming: in 1504 was commissioned the Madonna and Child and saints Giovanni Battista and Nicola, called Pala Ansidei.
In the same year he signed in Perugia the fresco with the Trinity and Saints for the church of the monastery of San Severo, which years later Perugino completed in the lower band.
The work of crucial importance was the Pala Baglioni (1507) commissioned by Atalanta Baglioni to commemorate the bloody events that led to the death of Grifonetto, her son. The work was carried out for the church of San Francesco al Prato in Perugia. Raphael in the altarpiece represented the indescribable pain of a mother for the loss of her son and the vital disturbance, through a monumental composition, balanced and studied in detail.

 

Trinity and Saints

 

Raphael became the reference painter for the largest and most important families of Perugia such as the Oddi, Ansidei and Baglioni, establishing himself as a great artist of relief; in the contract of his work, the Coronation of the Virgin, for the church of the nuns of Monteluce, he was mentioned as the best teacher in town. Raphael died on 6th April 1520 of fever caused, as Giorgio Vasari specifies, «by loving excesses». This year marks the 500th anniversary of death.
The artist was at the top of the Renaissance artistic season, bringing his painting to the highest levels of beauty and harmony. Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo wrote: «Raphael had in his face that sweetness and that beauty of the traits that are traditionally attributed to Good».
He lived his life with great commitment and continuity, giving future generations his incredible talent and his precious art, so much that he already deserved the title of divine in life.


[1] Giorgio Vasari, The lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors and architects, Life of Raphael from Urbin, Firenze, 1568.
[2] Paolo Franzese, Raphael, Mondadori Arte, Milano 2008, p. 13.

Pietro Vannucci, known as Il Perugino, is considered one of the greatest exponents of humanism and the greatest representative of Umbrian painting in the 15th century. The painter moves in a historical context that is that of late humanism. «In the city of Perugia was born to a poor person from Castello della Pieve, called Christophe, a son who at baptism was called Peter (…) studied under the discipline of Andrea Verrocchio». (The lives of the most excellent Italian architects, painters, and sculptors, from Cimabue to our times. Part two. Giorgio Vasari).

Self-portrait

Perugino was born in 1450 in Città della Pieve and its first Umbrian artistic experiences were probably based on local workshops such as those of Bartolomeo Caporali and Fiorenzo di Lorenzo. From a very young age he moved to Florence, where he started attending one of the most important workshops: Andrea del Verrocchio’s. The city of the Medici was fundamental for its formation.
His masterpieces conceal religious intimacy: the gentle hills typical of Umbria, the wooded landscape realized with more shades of green, the soft-patterned characters and the fluttering tapes of the angels are his decorative styling that he then transmitted also to his pupil: Raphael.

The works in Umbria and beyond

One of his first documented works is The Adoration of the Magi, and the gonfalone with the Pietà, both in the exhibition halls of the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria. In 1473 Perugino received the first significant commission of his career: the Franciscans of Perugia asked him to decorate the niche of San Bernardino.
Later (1477-1478) is the detached fresco, today in the Pinacoteca Comunale of Deruta, with the Eternal Father with the saints Rocco and Romano, with a rare view of Deruta in the lower register; probably commissioned to invoke the protection of the Saints Roman and Rocco, since an epidemic of plague raged in the territory of Perugia. In 1478 he continued to work in Umbria, painting the frescoes of the Chapel of La Maddalena in the parish church of Cerqueto, near Perugia.
When he reached fame, he was called to Rome in 1479, where he carried out one of the greatest and most prestigious works: the decoration of the Sistine Chapel, work in which also Cosimo Rosselli, Botticelli, and the Ghirlandaio. It is here that he realizes one of his many masterpieces: The Delivery of the Keys to Saint Peter, the Baptism of Christ and the Journey of Moses to Egypt. In the next ten years Perugino continued to gravitate between Rome, Florence and Perugia.
Between 1495 and 1496, he created another masterpiece: the Pala dei Decemviri, so called because it was commissioned by the decemviri of Perugia. In the same period he worked on the decoration of the Sala dell’Udienza in the Collegio del Cambio in Perugia, a cycle completed in 1500. In 1501-1504 is the year in which he made the Marriage of the Virgin, painted for the Chapel of the Holy Ring in the Cathedral of Perugia, iconography taken by Raphael for the church of San Francesco in Città di Castello.

 

Marriage of the Virgin

 

Perugino continued to receive commissions; in fact he realized the Madonna of Consolation, the gonfalone of Justice and the Pala Tezi, preserved in the exhibition halls of the National Gallery of Umbria and the Resurrection for San Francesco al Prato. Excellent works of the painter are also preserved in Città della Pieve, not far from the border with nearby Tuscany. At Santa Maria dei Bianchi and the Cathedral of SS Gervasio and Protasio, there are some of his most significant works such as the Adoration of the Magi.[1]
Following the footsteps of Perugino, you must sop in Panicale, a picturesque village that is part of the most beautiful villages in Italy. In the Church of San Sebastiano there is the work the Martyrdom of San Sebastiano, an entire wall frescoed by the artist.

 

Martyrdom of San Sebastiano

 

Another important stop to discover the whole art of the Divin Pittore is Fontignano, where in 1511 Perugino established his workshop to escape the plague. But the painter died because of the plague in 1523-1524, while he was working on a fresco depicting the Adoration of the Shepherds commissioned for the small Church of the Annunziata. That fresco then was finished by his students, and finally a Madonna with child, the last work he completed in 1522.
Perugino was the initiator of a new way of painting; the artist goes in constant search of landscapes of wider breath, admiring the example of previous Florentines such as Filippo Lippi, Domenico Veneziano and Beato Angelico. The Perugino proceeds towards a slow and gradual conquest of the natural. The harmony inherent in the landscape of Perugia was created by a mystical approach with nature and by an art that, rather than being based on the intellect and training of the eye, as happened in Florence, flowed from the heart and strength of feelings.[2] The Perugino thus marked the taste of an era.

 


[1] Emma Bianchi, “Petro penctore”: l’Adorazione dei magi e la confraternita di Santa Maria dei Bianchi di Città della Pieve, in Perugino e il paesaggio, Silvana Editoriale, 2004, pp. 119-128.
[2] Silvia Blasio, Il paesaggio nella pittura di Pietro Perugino, in Perugino e il paesaggio, Silvana Editoriale, 2004, pp. 15-41.

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.

I was talking to a friend of mine who decided to spend her holidays in Umbria. I found myself giving advice on local design-themed itineraries! Thinking about which stages could be more curious and interesting, I could not help mixing design with craftsmanship and architecture, facets of a single large area made of manual skills, planning and creativity that strongly characterizes the Umbrian territory.

Piazza Nuova in Fontivegge

Piazza Nuova in Fontivegge

 

During our chat, my friend was pleasantly surprised by the amount of small and large companies operating in these areas, but, to tell the truth, what she found most interesting was Aldo Rossi, architect and designer who worked in Perugia, drafting, in the Eighties, the project for the redevelopment of the Fontivegge district, designing a new face for the former Piazza del Bacio, now Piazza Nuova.

I will tell you what I told her a few days ago and I leave you some indications for a short route through this architectural work, the most important of Perugia in the Twentieth century.

The itinerary

Leave your car in Pian di Massiano and get the Minimetro: by doing so you can easily reach the Fontivegge district which, a few steps from the railway station, houses the complex of offices and houses that embrace the square. Coming from the station, you enter this space by passing through a large staircase; as soon as you go up, the feeling you have is to be extremely small because of the grandeur of the buildings surrounding this urban space. The eye is immediately enraptured by the main building, a modern temple with clock, characterized by a massive colonnade with a staircase that, like a fortress, dominates the area; on the sides, there are two other buildings with a highly rational character. In the center of the square stands a fountain with straight lines and a monolithic appearance, today – alas – without water. Other modern residential and commercial buildings complete the modern acropolis.

The architect accepted the assignment in 1983, designing the long-awaited business center. In fact, in the previous decade, the international competition launched by the municipal administration had been cancelled, since the winning project was too oversized and expensive to afford, especially because of the crisis that ran in the Seventies.

 

Architecture

Rossi, who was the first Italian to win the Pritzker Prize for architecture, designs a long brick-paved pedestrian square that follows the natural slope, similar to other Umbrian squares placed in the city center. Looking for dialogue and integration with the past, Aldo Rossi – in this as in many other projects – makes use of archetypes, recurring elementary geometric shapes in the history of architecture, easily recognizable and capable of making the project surprisingly innovative and traditional at the same time. In this regard, someone wanted to see in Piazza Nuova the modern revival of Piazza IV Novembre with the steps of San Lorenzo, Palazzo dei Priori and the Fontana Maggiore. Pure and essential geometries are also recurring in his projects as designers; at the beginning of the 1980s, Rossi devoted himself to this type of activity by designing miniature architectures for Alessi, creating poetic small-scale domestic landscapes; the Tea & Coffee Piazza project is the realization of this definition.

 

Piazza Nuova

Piazza Nuova

Stories, activities and projects

A story full of contaminations, therefore. I leave you with a last note: walking towards the park, you can notice a curious conical brick structure dating back to the 1920s, which break the penalty. It is the testimony of its original use, intended for one of the most important activities of Perugia; this brick tower is in fact a find of industrial archaeology: it is one of the old smokestacks of the Perugina confetti and chocolates factory that occupied this place from 1915 (year in which, in addition to the production of sugared almonds, the production line comes into operation cocoa powder and cocoa butter) until 1965, the year of transfer to the new industrial plant in San Sisto.

The original project, which also included the construction of a theater, was never completed and Rossi’s Piazza Nuova never played the role of modern acropolis desired at the time of the project. However, the charm of the monument remains intact. «I have always thought of architecture as a monument… only when it is realized as a monument does it constitute a place». A. Rossi

Rossi’s Piazza Nuova is also destined to have a new redevelopment; in these days, work began on the implementation of a project presented by the municipal administration. Who knows if this place will finally manage to have the long-awaited social and urban role thought by Rossi?

Bernardino di Betto, known as Pinturicchio, was born in Perugia in 1454 by Benedetto di Biagio, in the neighborhood of Porta Sant’Angelo.[1] He was probably called Pinturicchio because of his tiny stature.

He was the heir to an important pictorial and miniaturist tradition, which has its precedents in Bartolomeo Caporali, Fiorenzo di Lorenzo and Benedetto Bonfigli. The Pinturicchio stood out as one of the architects of the great Renaissance season of rediscovery of classicism: in fact he copied the frescos of the Domus Aurea, and contributing to the spread of the grotesque.
He entered the Perugino’s workshop and collaborated with his teacher in Rome, between 1481 and 1482, creating two frescoes: the Baptism of Christ and the Circumcision of the sons of Moses in the Sistine Chapel.
In 1486 he executed the Stories of St. Bernardino that decorate the Bufalini Chapel in S. Maria in Ara Coeli. These frescoes were commissioned to the painter by messer Niccolò di Manno Bufalini, a concistorial lawyer, to recall the proximity between his family and the Baglioni of Perugia, thanks to S. Bernardino. In Rome he also came into contact with the painting of the Ghirlandaio and the Botticelli, who contributed to his artistic formation.
In the second half of the Fifteenth century, the artist made a small but delicious tempera on a table depicting the Madonna and Child and San Giovanni, preserved in the Duomo Museum in Città di Castello.

 

Madonna and Child and San Giovanni

 

The small table depicts Mary, Child Jesus, standing on the knees of her mother and Saint John the Baptist, who holds the inscription Ecce Agnus Dei. The three figures are bright on a broad background, with a composed and severe stylistic language.
The artist returned to Perugia on 14 February 1495, concluding, with the religious of the convent of S. Maria degli Angeli in Porta S. Pietro, the contract for the realization of the Polyptych of S. Maria dei Fossi, now in the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria. The contract for the work has reached us and contains very detailed instructions about the realization, which was intended for the high altar for the church, called dei Fossi. The painter was at the time at the height of his success, favourite by Pope Alexander VI for whom he had just concluded the great undertaking of the decoration of the Borgia apartment.

 

Polyptych of S. Maria dei Fossi

 

The altarpiece is now composed of seven main panels; in the centre stands the Madonna with the child and Saint John, flanked by Saints Augustine and Jerome, dressed as a cardinal and with a model of the church in hand, perhaps the same Santa Maria degli Angeli. Above them two panels with the Announcing Angel and the Virgin announced. On the tree stands the dead Christ supported by two angels and the Dove of the Holy Spirit.
In 1497 the frescoes were painted for the decoration of the Eroli chapel in the Cathedral of Spoleto, portraying the Madonna and Child between San Giovanni Battista and Leonardo, immersed in a sweet lake landscape typical of the Umbrian school.
In 1501 Pinturicchio made another of his best works the chapel Baglioni in Santa Maria Maggiore in Spello. The decoration was commissioned by the Prior Troilo Baglioni. The company was the last important commission of the Pinturicchio in Umbria, before leaving for Rome and Siena.

Self-portrait

These frescoes bear the signature Bernardius Pictoricius Perusinus and represent on the walls: the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Magi, Jesus among the doctors, in the sails instead the four Sibyls and a self-portrait.
The Piccolomini bookshop in Siena, built in 1502, is considered his absolute masterpiece: powerful chromaticism, taste of detail, great attention to the decorative aspect, characterize the intervention of Pinturicchio in the library built in 1495 by Cardinal Todeschini Piccolomini in honor of Enea Silvio Piccolomini.
The last documented work of the artist is the Madonna in Gloria among the Saints Gregory the Great and Benedict, for the Olivetans of the church of Santa Maria di Barbiano near San Giminiano.
It was Vasari, thanks to an anecdote, who recounted his last years: the painter had found accommodation at the Friars of San Francesco in Siena and asked insistently to remove from his cell a trunk, but during the move this broke, revealing its treasure: five hundred ducats of gold, which belonged to the friars, filling the painter with sadness until he died.[2]
The artist died on 11 December 1513 in Siena. He rested in the parish of SS. Vincenzo and Anastasio.

 


[1] Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architetti, a cura di G. Milanesi, III, Firenze 1878, pp. 493-531.
[2] Giorgio Vasari, Vite de’più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architetti, edizione commentata del 1878, vol. III, pag. 503-505.

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