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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.

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