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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.

Summer in Florence is hot, down below the Apennines and far from the sea. Even Perugia is far from the sea, but at least it is at the top of a hill and there is always a wind chill refreshing.

Surely in that hot July 1503 Pietro Vannucci was regretting his city. Work and family had brought him to Florence and he was forced to deal with the heat. There are times when the heat also takes away the power to think, not even knowing that the summer is bound to finish, can relieve the feeling of being inside an oven.
But he had to work despite the heat and, while he was working, he sucked his sugared almonds. His supplier was Di Giovanni who provided him, at a high price, with those little delights that cheer the long hours spent sitting in front of the canvases.
Di Giovanni was the apothecary of the Al Giglio pharmacy, and he was used to listen to the artists’ requests, and we’re not talking about painters or stonebreakers, but of the most famous Italian artists of the Renaissance.

 

The painter in black

In the highest spheres of Olympus there was Perugino, the painter with a round, plump face, high forehead, long hair, a cap and an elegant black velvet jacket. Perugino portrayed himself exactly like in the description above, in the Sala del Cambio in Perugia.
Pietro Vannucci from Città della Pieve, known as Perugino, was one of the most influential painters of his time, and like all the best ones, he worked in Rome for the Pope and for the most prestigious customers of that time. Perugino and his colleagues – the painters of the Renaissance – did not use much black because it was considered  the color of mourning. They preferred the delicate colors.
Pietro Vannucci used the black color in the Lamentation of the Dead Christ and in Depositions because the pain inspired by the topics required it. On the other hand, in his portraits he always wears a black jacket, perhaps because it was fashionable among the artists. Even in the portrait done by his pupil, Raphael, he wears a very elegant black jacket and on his head he has a paired black cap.

 

Il Perugino

Confetti with a heart

In July 1503 the artist sucked the sugared almonds with coriander seeds. The sugared almonds make the flavor last for a long time in the mouth. Perugino was a well-to-do gentleman who could afford confetti. Confetti had been known since Roman times because considered digestive, and Lorenzo de ‘Medici offered them at the end of his wedding dinner.
The apothecary  Di Giovanni recorded that in July the painter’s employees, bought three ounces of sugared almonds, about two hundred pounds, so as other delicacies: pink and violet sugared candies, candy quinces and other specialities which were the medicinal preparations of the time.
If Mary Poppins sang: “just a little sugar and the pill goes down”, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the processed sugar was the pill. Sugar and quinces were the base to use with spices and sauces of plants, in order to obtain medicines in the shape of dates, hands, rods and also of clamps.
Perugino was like a rich oilman and he did not pay any attention to the expenses to satisfy his pleasure and care for his big family, because the products that he bought were, from the “Florentine Pharmaceutical Recipe book of 1498: only for the rich and powerful”.

 

 

The Vannucci’s family food

Unfortunately, not everything was so easy. In 1503 his fame as a Vannucci went through a crisis because new trends were advancing and more torment in painting and sculpture was requested. The serenity of Humanism was no longer in fashion and did not correspond to the harshness of the times. The fact of not being appreciated and even criticized, as had happened at the Gonzaga court, had left its mark, and he slept badly. Di Giovanni prepared him some pills which contained poppies to reconcile sleep, as it was believed.
The apothecary’s records are precious, because he noted all the purchases of his customers allowing us to know, over the years, the diseases that occurred in the Vannucci family. So we know that the stomach and intestines were his weak points and also the same for his wife. They often sent somebody to buy the powder of Cassia and Agaric which are laxative plants, so as the Trifera persica.
This remedies of ancient Persian origins, were a very complicated preparation and contained a wide variety of plants: prunes and agaric, but also red roses, oils of violets and dried violets.
It was thought that an ancient remedy was a guarantee of effectiveness. In fact, pieces of mummy were also used, because if the mummy after millennia was still existing, it meant that it was something certainly effective.
The”stomachic things”, were good remedies for treating the stomach of his wife. Chiara Fancelli, daughter of a famous Florentine architect, was the wife and mother of Perugino’s five sons.
He  painted “Our Lady” dozens of times. To paint the Madonna he always used young and beautiful models and perhaps, the most beautiful, was Chiara Fancelli, who seems to have a fragile constitution. Perhaps because of the parties which debilitated the woman.
The products that came out of the ancient pharmacies were remedies with various indications, from the plague, to the headache, to the dog’s fleas.
At home Vannucci come two preparations that are almost panaceas, but that may have to do with childbirth. In fact, the Galen Infringing ointment was also considered an aid to labor pains, while the maidenhair water was considered useful after the birth. Will it be true? We’ll never know. But the aphotecary Di Giovanni has brought down Perugino from Olympus, close to us. Because he suffered from stomachiche and struggleed to sleep too and he loved sucking sugared and sweet things.

 


  1. A. Covi, New sources for the study of Italian Renaissance art., 1969.
  2. Covi, Tacuinum de ‘spezierie, Perugia, ali & no, 2017.

There is a significant body of art work which has been acquired by foundations and banking institutions, creating a “quasi-parallel museum” as defined by Vittorio Sgarbi in the catalogue and in the video that welcomes visitors at the entrance of the exhibition at the Palazzo Baldeschi in Corso Vannucci in Perugia, which was inaugurated on the 11th April and runs until the 15th of September.

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Treasures which have been preserved in ancient stately palaces partially used as museums and are now accessible to the general public. There are 100 selected works among the approximately 13 thousand available, including paintings and sculptures, ranging ‘from Giotto to Morandi’ within the bank collections, with the objective of compensating for a lack on the part of the State in bringing together public, municipal, provincial or regional authority collections. A fundamental heritage asset that, with its variety and temporal layers, may be considered as the historical and cultural face of different Italian regions.

The exhibition, which opens this year, celebrates the 25-year anniversary of the creation of banking foundations and is being promoted by the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Perugia and organised by the Fondazione CariPerugia Arte with contributions from Unicredit. The exhibition is an incentive aimed at attracting visitors to the Umbria region following the earthquake in 1997and for this reason part of the income from the exhibition will be devoted to the restoration of historic-artistic heritage assets that were damaged at the time. Another reason to visit this “museum of museums”, which begins in the hall, is the precious tondo of St Francis of Assisi by Giotto, painted in c.1315, in the style of the frescoes of the Cappella degli Scrovegni.

It is a chronological history, leading us through seven centuries of art works through the Masters, some well-known, others less so, belonging to the main “schools”; among the many names exhibited are: Beato Angelico, Perugino, Pinturicchio, Matteo da Gualdo, Dosso Dossi, Ludovico Carracci, Giovanni Francesco Guerreri, Ferraù Fanzoni, Giovanni Lanfranco, Guercino, Guido Cagnacci, Pietro Novelli, Giovanni Domenico Cerrini, Mattia Preti, Luca Giordano. The Nineteenth century is represented by the works of Piccio, Giovanni Fattori, Giuseppe De Nittis, and Giuseppe Pelizza da Volpedo. There is a small but wonderful portrait of woman by Giovanni Boldini, sinuously wrapped in a dress made using quick brush strokes and soft colours.

Among the contemporary works, I was happy to rediscover one of the dissolved faces by Medardo Rosso, sitting next to the smooth marble of the Symbolist, Adolfo Wildt.  There are works by Vincenzo Gemito as well as a masterpiece of the Roman School by Scipione, The Octopus (The molluscs, Pierina has arrived in a big city).  What is also striking is the inevitable comparison between the shattered bottles and the quick brush strokes used in a large, dead nature landscape by Filippo de Pisis alongside the contemplative paintings by Giorgio Morandi.

The journey concludes with two splendid plasters by Quirino Ruggeri, and the monumental “Madre e figlio” (Mother and son) by Carlo Carrã in 1934, just one of the works that marks the “Return to Order” of this Master of Futurism, which we are happy has been placed near our Gerardo Dottori.

It is an exhibition that is worthwhile seeing (and not just for the beneficial intent and reduced ticket prices!) as, at times, numerous works of art are not allowed adequate space to shine; they are placed too close together or hidden in corners, while instead they deserve for their beauty to be illuminated and admired by all.

The exhibition catalogue (Italian/English), curated by Vittorio Sgarbi and Pietro Di Natale, is published by Fabrizio Fabbri Editore.

Opening hours are: from Tuesday to Friday from 15.00 to 19.30; Saturday and Sunday from 11.00 to 19.30. Closed on Mondays. Ticket prices: Full price: 6 Euros; Concessions:  4 Euros (groups of more than 10 people; over 65s; students over the age of 18). Entrance is free for students up to the age of 18. Visitors will find discounted parking rates at the Saba-Saba car parking facility on Piazza Partigiani at a discounted parking rate for the first two hours.

For more information please go to www.fondazionecariperugiaarte.it;

tel. 075. 5734760.

 

For further informations