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White marbled skin, covered by duster and webs. Semiopened mouths seem sometimes whispering, or singing. A walk in the Cemetery of Perugia offers an interesting experience through a quite and fascinating atmosphere, meeting sculptures as angels in a pensive mood or melancholy spirits.

Silent Guardians

The cemetery, built over an ancient Etruscan necropolis, close to the ancient Church of San Bevignate, was opened in 1849 and enlarged later, according to the projects of the architects Filippo Lardoni and Alessandro Arienti. Visiting the cemetery means to have a wide panorama of the funeral sculpture in Perugia between XIX and XX centuries.

The monumental entrance takes to three paths, passing trough chapels and mausoleums of different styles and features, fascinating for their variety and their occasional eccentric accents, well shown in the Vitalucci Chapel, a pyramid-shaped monument projected by Romano Mignini in 1892, enriched with two sphinxs placed in front of the door.

Two beautiful starry ceiling vaults, projected by Alessandro Arienti, rise up at the sides of the graveyard: here series of commemorative graves adorn the walls; the light, seeping through the arcades, makes enchanting effects.

Un gusto raffinato

A moltitude of white winged statues and dead effigies seems to look at you with doubtful eyes; others have a vitreous gaze, as they had been petrified. Different works represent angels with young features and curly long hair, taken in gentle attitudes, wearing flowing drapery.

The Liberty style, between XIX and XX centuries, quietly embraces the funeral sculptures in Perugia, thanks to different artists who were born and then had worked in Umbria: most of them studied at the Accademia delle Belle Arti.

Different works are signed by Giuseppe Frenguelli, a sculptor from Perugia (1856 – 1940): placed at the corner of Vicarelli’s monument (1895) there is an angel, making the gesture of silence, while the wind seems to gently blow his curly hair. The same artist realized the music angels on Rossini’s tomb, dated 1905: they look like they are drown in a soft and quiet music, arranged in a complex flowing composition.

The indistinct and undefined atmosphere resulting from a walk through the galleries is given by gestures and attitudes of the paralyzed sculptures. Another example is the angel lazily sitting on the top of the Nottari family’s sepulchral monument, who sustains his head with an hand over a pile of books, looking nowhere with a vague and motionless expression. The work was realized in 1888 by Raffaele Angeletti (1842 – 1899) and Francesco Biscarini (1838 – 1903): the two artists founded a workshop in Perugia in 1861 that later became an active laboratory with a factory of decorative terrecotte.

Allegories of the Hereafter

There are legendary and epic allegories too: two greek sphinxs, substaining Maria Alinda Bonacci Brunamonti‘s monument (1914), have the sembiance of two elegant winged women with powerful leonine paws; a laurel crown passes through their hair, braided with ribbons moved by the wind, echoing undulating liberty motifs. The author, Romano Mignini, helped by his son Venusto, who studied in the Accademia in Perugia and in the Angeletti-Biscarini’s laboratory.

In the cemetery, there are different representations of children: the one with angelic traits, sleepy or melancholy set on the sepulchral monument realized by Giuseppe Scardovi (1857 – 1924), while, on the central walkway of the cemetery, another child, expressing pleinfully the deadly feeling, was carved by Giuseppe Frenguelli in 1915 for Pagnotta family‘s Chapel. This little spirit has fixed and languid eyes; he is properly sit in a cold and static pose, while a great attention is given to clothing details.

The visit at the monumental cemetery of Perugia shows the sculptural interpretation of the deadly unconscious during the XIX e XX centuries, where symbols and allegories go along into a silent tour: a walk into a silent open-air museum.


More on Perugia

arte liberty in umbria

Title: Il Liberty in Umbria.

Architettura – Pittura- Scultura e Arti decorative. Architecture – Painting – Sculpture and Decorative Arts

Scholar: Maurizio Bigio

Publisher: Fabrizio Fabbri

Date of publication: 2016

ISBN: 97888677806886

Features: 231 p., photos 28 x 24.5cm, numerous colour photographs, stapled illustrated paperback.

Price: € 35,00


«This publication has been created from the interest I have always had for the arts in general, in particular for painting, sculpture, architecture and photography. I have always been interested in beautiful things.»

This is how Maurizio Bigio, a graduate in Business and Economics, and a Chartered Accountant for the last 37 years, speaks of his latest enterprise “in the field of the arts”. This is not a new departure for him, as he has always been involved in the arts as a musician, having had important achievements in collaborating with major singer-songwriters of the Seventies and issuing the Rock Bigio Blues LP. He recently expanded his artistic horizons devoting himself to photography, collaborating in the creation of the new MUSA (Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts P. Vannucci of Perugia) catalogue edited by Fedora Boco and the book on Ferdinand Cesaroni edited by Luciano Giacchè.

The Author

The subject of Liberty in the Umbrian region previously had only been addressed by Professor Mario Pitzurra, when in 1995 he published Architettura e ornato urbano liberty a Perugia, a text which is now out of print and, according to the author, it was limited to the regional capital city area. It was Pitzurra himself who concluded his work with the hope that «…others will follow my example, possibly extending their study to the rest of Umbria.»

And now, twenty years on, Maurizio Bigio takes up the challenge with purpose of re-awakening interest in this XX century art movement, which has been little studied in the region.


The foreword to Il Liberty in Umbria, is written by Anton Carlo Ponti with the text edited by Federica Boco, Emanuela Cecconelli, Giuliano Macchia, Maria Luisa Martella, Elena Pottini and Mino Valeri as well as Bigio himself.

The publication is divided into sixteen chapters, encompassing the region from north to south, touching on the city of Città di Castello, Perugia, Marsciano, Deruta, Foligno, Spoleto, Terni, Allerona, Avigliano, Acquasparta and Narni.

The Publication

And the author’s interest is not just in architecture, he also focuses on the decorative details in wood, wrought iron, ceramics, glass and, where possible, on the internal painted decoration inside dwellings.

An interesting chapter, edited by Elena Pottini, is devoted to liberty sculptures in the Perugia Cemetery, while Fedora Boco outlines the protagonists of this period with a small biography and related bibliography. The photographs also include Liberty design lost in time such as the Perugina shop and the internal decor of the Bar Milano. This interesting volume also includes a translation of the text in English by Eric Ingaldson.