Home / Posts Tagged "tourism"

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.

Crushed by an unforgiving international competition, Umbria gave up on the production of silk and focused on sericulture instead: today only an echo of the white silkworms chomping tirelessly on the mulberry leaves remains.

For centuries, wearing silk garments was an exclusive prerogative of the nobility and the wealthy. Goods made of silk, as in the case of other luxury goods, contributed to the social divide and to the distinction in social class.

The silk fever

This radically changed in the beginning of the Eighteenth century, when consumption became less selective. With the desire to imitate the fashion of the great European courts, the shades and patterns of silk cloths began to dominate the wardrobes of the emerging social classes (merchants, government officials, middle class), who also felt obliged to respect social etiquette and show off their status through appearance.

The baroque era introduced new clothes also among men, like stockings, handkerchiefs, vests, undergarments, blouses – all rigorously made out of silk. Though not everyone had the means to buy the best silk imported from oriental Asia, the newly-born fashion industry embraced the silk fever infecting Europe and its colonies as a powerful launching pad. For manufacturing, some European cities such as Lyon and London were especially favored, becoming industrial capitals of silk in the European continent.

The Italian regions, following the general fashion, found space within the silk production chain, whether choosing to work in the delicate phase of silk thread making, or in the agricultural operations of breeding the bombyx mori – the silkworm – on which the whole production depends upon, from raw material to finished product. The region of Umbria too, promptly became part of this new dynamic trade.

 

Silkworm

Umbria’s turnaround

In the middle ages, everyone admired the famous silk veils of Perugia, cloths of exceptional quality, made with silk thread imported mostly from the southern regions of Italy. The silk manufacturers in Perugia, crushed by the international competition, were hit by a crisis during the modern age. When in the 1700s the demand for silk rose again, unlike in the past, Umbria began to produce the raw material. To describe the magnitude of the change running throughout the region, it suffices to notice the suddenly increasing mentions of mulberry tree cultivations in the historical documents. The mulberry leaves are the only viable nutrition when breeding the silkworm, a delicate and special creature. The Umbrian landscape was suddenly filled with mulberries: along roads and boulevards, in private gardens, by the farmhouses, in the olive groves, until it became widespread and familiar. A tree imported all the way from Asia largely contributed to today’s Umbrian landscape’s colors. As an example, the estate of Casalina (near Deruta), owned by the monastery of St. Peter, counted around 10.000 trees. The mulberries grew by the same number as the silkworms, in the attempt to satisfy the growing international demand. The French court and the Papacy encouraged sericulture, setting the groundwork for an economic development in a more industrial fashion.

 

Silk

Silkworm breeding yesterday and today

To this day, the diffusion of the mulberry trees in the rural landscape of Umbria may be easily retraced. Unfortunately, a large number of specimens have been eradicated or barbarically cut down, yet in many cases some still stand with their beautiful and rich foliage, especially in the summer months. It is a tree that though it has lost in time its original purpose – that of guaranteeing a constant replenishment of leaves to feed the silkworm and cocoon – remains the symbol of an era and of the intense economic endeavor for the many farmers’ families involved in the breeding of silkworms.
As the cocoons grew – from one larval age to the other – not only did the consumption of leaves increase, but also the demand for ever larger spaces, until entire rooms, carefully environmentally controlled, were occupied. The most ventilated and well heated rooms in the premises became silkworm nurseries, with stoves and thermometers to control the temperature. At times built as towers, these structures have also contributed to shaping the rural landscape of Umbria: they are the architectonic testament of an economic reality, which in time, has found profound changes
During the summer months, from May to August, everyone in the family would work to replenish the leaf supply – which needed to be fresh and moist-free – clean the trellises to avoid infections, select the best specimens and harvest the ripe cocoons before the chrysalis pierced the protective casing, made of one single extremely thin continuous thread of a length comprised between 300 and 1000 meters. For the distinctive characteristics of the autochthonous silkworm, Umbria became a provider of raw material of excellent quality, resistant to illnesses and infections.
After the growing period was over, the cocoons would be treated by dipping them in hot water before being sold. In the farmer’s homes, special machinery was used either manually or mechanically, to allow the threads to be woven into a thicker one.
A silky white filled the workspaces, recreated today in Bevagna during the annual Medieval Gaite markets, when the Gaita of Saint Mary reenacts with patience and detail the various steps of the silkworm breeding: from the time the larvae are carefully deposited on the mulberry leaf-bed, until their rise into the woods to make the cocoon, from the boiling of the latter to the production of the thread by using a refined hydraulic mill. Scenes and gestures which remind us of the time when the Umbrian farmhouses were filled with the mono-tone and deafening sound of the worms relentlessly chomping down on the tender mulberry leaves.

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.

The historical heritage of this city speaks a language of modern inflection. An emotional place, to be saved from oblivion.

«Et maiores et posteros vestros cogitate».
«Think of your ancestors, think of posterity», wrote Publio Cornelius Tacitus and never, like in the case of Carsulae, has it been ever so adequate.
Even though today’s visitors may walk through a site of scattered ruins and remains around 20 hectares large, the compared studies supported by modern technologies (applications and video-mapping especially), are allowing to enjoy a rather complete vision of a sensational place, which deserves to be torn from oblivion.

A salubrious island, florid and welcoming

Built in the vicinity of Interamna Nahars and Casventum, the modern cities of Terni and San Gemini – harbingers of contrasting images of steel mills and mineral water springs – Carsulae is an island in the course of the Roman Flaminia way. Its destiny is consumed along the white cobblestones of the consular road, marked by the furrows of the wagons – and there were many! – built between 220 and 219 b.C. to connect Rome with the northern Adriatic Sea.

The pre-roman populations had understood the opportunity for increasing trade and quality of life and eventually settled closer to the road, building town centers and putting to use the nearby flat lands. Under Emperor Augustus (44 a.C – 14 d.C.), after being recognized as a township, Carsulae reaches its definitive urban layout. The Roman historian Tacitus (Hist. III, 60), together with Plinius the Younger (Ep. I, 4), describe it as florid and hospitable, rich in architectural splendors, salubrious and fertile, speckled with cultivations, vineyards and olive groves, politically active and open to the world.

 

Carsulae, photo by Carsulae site

Teeming with life

What if we were tourists in the age of its maximum splendor? We would be blinded by its white monuments, statues and bright enthusiasm! Let’s try and walk through it all again, walking along the Cardo Maximus (Flaminia road) cutting through the ancient town. There is the San Damiano Arch, suggestive northern gate, built with robust travertine block and inset in a triple-vaulted structure. Beside it, just outside the town perimeter, we find a place of remembrance: the Necropolis, with its sepulchral monuments of illustrious families. In front of the Forum, the basilica – once used as a tribunal – and around it, we can almost hear the sound of passing-by wagons, voices of men, women and children, of deals being struck at the shade of the associations’ guilds. The square, paved in marble and lined with porticos on its longer sides, is embellished by the facades of the public buildings, two twin temples dedicated to Castor and Pollux and the Capitolium, in honor of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. All around, the tight network of the domus, the Roman houses. Social life was enriched by entertainment varied in venues and cruelty. In the theater, harmoniously inserted in the urban context, tragedies, comedies and satires would be staged, while the nearby amphitheater – about 85 meters long and with a dug-out ring built into a natural depression – gladiators would engage in gruesome fights. Among the luxurious urban commodities, the cistern replenished the city with water, also used for the public thermal baths, major attraction for relaxing and socializing time.

 

Carsulae, photo by Carsulae site

End and rebirth

Yet a mist of forgetfulness descended on Carsulae. Between the Fourth and Fifth century A.D. it became an inhospitable place, after an earthquake caused great damage and caused the route of the Flaminian way to be diverted towards Terni and Spoleto.

The white road which had once brought favorable conditions for the city, now concurs to its fall, and Carsulae becomes a mine for construction materials. The archeological digs, started in the Sixteenth century but especially effective between 1951 and 1972, have now allowed the rediscovery of a historical heritage of inestimable value for the province of Terni, which has entrusted its communication to the documentation center U.Ciotti[1].

BOX – The battle of battles

During the winter of 69 A.D., in full Roman civil war, while the generals Vitellus and Vespasian were fighting for power, Carsulae became a crucial player for the faith of Rome and its Empire. After setting up camp on a well-exposed plain with views over Narni, where Vitellus had left some of his cohorts, Antonio Primo, Vespasian’s general, and the lieutenant Arrio Varo decide to scout out the city of Carsulae. After appreciating its beauty and its people’s warm welcome, the two spend a few days in the basilica to plan their strategy – knowing that the soldiers prefer a victory to peace. After laying out a plan and having offered sacrifices to the gods, the battle begins at the shout “Ahead men, fight! As long as you do not want to leave your banner to the enemy”. The victory of Antonio Primo end the civil war will favor the proclamation of Emperor Vespasian.

 


[1] Cfr. www.carsulae.it consulted on 19 July 2019.

The city art museum in Todi conserves a jewel of the Renaissance architecture: the wooden model of the Tempio della Consolazione.

In the Sixteenth century the production of wooden models and architectural mockups is consistent, for they held a dual purpose: to allow the customers to visualize the project they commissioned and to serve as a guide for the artisans and stone masons, especially when encountering any problems during construction. In 1629, after the monument is completed, the model is carried to Rome by the architect of the Factory of St. Peter Carlo Maderno seeking council for some unfinished work; in 1660 Maderno travels to Rome again seeking advice from Francesco Borromini on how to protect the Temple from moisture.

The travels of the model never ended and in the last few years have increased: among many of the wooden models of Renaissance architecture, Todi’s model is among the few to have been perfectly conserved, and is often requested for important art exhibitions in Italy and abroad. A few examples include The Renaissance, from Brunelleschi to Michelangelo at Palazzo Grassi in Venice in 1994, the exhibits in Paris and Berlin, the Milan Triennale, the recent shows in Urbania and Perugia.

 

The restoration of the Temple of the Consolazione, photo by Sandro Bellu

 

In 2007, with the contribution of the Lions Club in Todi, the model underwent a careful and accurate restoration process by the hands of Roberto Saccuman Snc with close surveillance of the Umbrian Cultural Patrimony Superintendence. The restoration was also a moment of study for the University of Tuscia’s Agrarian Faculty, tasked with recognizing the different species of wood, and for its Art History Faculty, assigned with the analysis of pigments. The studies with ultraviolet florescence and infrared reflectography were conducted by Davide Bussolari’s Diagnostics Studio for the Arts Fabbri. The results were surprising and unexpected and Roberto Saccuman, who coordinated and conducted the work with his team, revealed to us the most interesting details and secrets.

The model was made out of poplar tree wood, it measures 120x120x150 centimeters and is composed by a heptagonal base sustaining the central body of the building, the tambour, the dome and the lantern roof.

Through the centuries, the model underwent restorations and retouches, visible especially in the architectural elements rebuilt by using stone pine wood and of a different thickness.

The Southern apse shows a slight difference in craft probably connected to a variation of the project during the construction; there is an indent inside it which was probably made to fit the main door, never completed. The void was filled by using an inferior quality of wood, even if of the same type as the original. All of the model’s mobile components are oriented correctly thanks to a cross-shaped runner etched on the sides; the final lantern roof on the contrary does not have a matching inset.

On the heptagonal base of the monument there are five holes: the central one, square shaped, was probably used to mount the model on a stand for better viewing; the others are placed according to the pillars and are used to correctly insert the base. The orientation of the holes, with their slightly rectangular shape, forbid mistakes during mounting, especially because one of them is oriented differently from the others.

 

The heptagonal base of the monument, photo by Sandro Bellu

 

During restoration, the base was blocked and stiffened by a twin set of large crossbeams and by a peripheral frame, slightly moved towards the back. These superstructures, probably dating back to the nineteenth-century restoration, would prevent it from closing. The recent restoration work removed all the added parts and returned the model to its original function.

By detaching the body of the model, fixed with nails to the base, a drawing of the plant of the building was revealed, invisible to viewers in its entirety since the 1800s. The infrared investigations allowed further understanding by revealing what remained of the old guidelines drawn with graphite pencil, invisible to the eye because covered with a layer of light blue pigment, over the chalk and glue preparation outlining the exact blueprint of the temple.

On the contrary, the ink lines accurately defining the drawing and the metric scale are still quite readable. Interestingly, the date, 3 8bre 1963 L P, was deciphered by applying UV lighting.

The surface of the model had been completely painted: after analyzing it carefully, the body resulted covered in one coat of white color made of calcium carbonate and oil, probably spread in one solution without any preparatory phase. On the domes, a preparatory layer of chalk and animal glue was laid, followed by a layer of pigment composed of indigo and calcium carbonate.

A number of plaster fillings made with Bologna chalk and animal glue, closing the number of crevices and tiny indents on the surface, were consequently retouched with tempera colors. During restoration these materials were greatly altered, giving the artwork into an unfair dark-greyish tint. A careful cleaning of the surfaces, the retrieval of the base’s function, the reconstruction of the missing elements and the chromatic reconstruction have finally returned the model to its ancient beauty.

«Work peacefully and happily, like the stars move: without fury, but never still, on a path that follows the great law». Alice Hallgarten Franchetti

«It is a slowly disappearing art. We are trying to beat time, or even stop it». With these words, the weaving master Maria Menchi Bocciolesi[1] tries to explain the essence of Tela Umbra in a 1962 newspaper clipping[2]. The skills of the weavers and the work of the loom was in danger of being lost, so the author of the article refers to the workers of Tela Umbra as «vestals». At the end of the 19th century, Città di Castello counted 1240 looms, on a population of a little more than 24.000[3]; of course, these were domestic looms, mostly used for linen and hemp, cultivations which were widespread in the area, requiring little attending[4].

 

A business at the heart of Città di Castello

It is in the years of domestic weaving, when the art and knowledge was passed down mother to daughter, that Alice Hallgarten Franchetti came up with the idea of venturing into a proper business with the mission – as clearly stated in its manifest – of «conserving […] the ancient Umbrian art of weaving with hand worked loom and allow women and especially mothers to have a paid job while free of worry for their children, taken care of and fed by the kindergarten made available by the laboratory»[5].

On June 8th[6], 1908 the laboratory was inaugurated, installed at the ground floor of Palazzo Alberto Tomassini. After Alice Hallgarten Franchetti’s death – in 1911 – her husband Leopoldo, who had always supported her emotionally and economically, gave the direction of the laboratory to Maria Pasqui Marchetti, the dear and trusted Marietta to whom Alice had written countless letters, affectionately signing herself as «mamina»[7].

Hand-woven linen since 1908

In 1985 the laboratory, still in its original location, was turned into a cooperative, founded by the workers, the city council of Città di Castello and Sviluppumbria. A museum was also created in the premise. Today Tela Umbra. Hand-woven linens since 1908 is the only active laboratory in Italy of cloths made exclusively in linen, for warp and weft.

 

Weaver at work foto by Tela Umbra

Alice Hallgarten Franchetti[8]

(New York 1874-Leysin 1911)

Alice Hallgarten Franchetti was the daughter of Adolph, of rich bankers’ family, and Julia Norheimer, both German Ashkenazi Jews, and she was born in New York where the family had moved for the father’s work.
In 1882, when Alice was only 8 years old, the father was forced to leave his job due to health reasons, so the family returned to Germany.
On July 9th, 1900, Alice marries Leopoldo Franchetti, Sephardic Jew from Livorno, senator of the New Kingdom of Italy, whom she had met in Rome – where she had moved after living a few years in Frankfurt. They met at the pharmacy of the San Lorenzo neighborhood where they both volunteered as humanitarian and social assistants at the Union of San Lorenzo.

Alice Hallgarten Franchetti

In Città di Castello, Alice and Leopoldo promote a number of educational initiatives for the emancipation of the farmers, especially for women and children. In 1901, Alice founds the Scuola della Montesca, inside the palazzo baring the same name, and later on, the Scuola di Rovigliano, both free of charge for the peasants’ children up to the sixth grade. From 1905, the direction of the schools is entrusted to Maria Pasqui Marchetti, and from 1910 the educational plan is reviewed to fit the Montessori system[9].
In 1908 the laboratory Tela Umbra is born, under an extremely innovative management for those times, as it included a kindergarten for the working women’s benefit. Apart from the nursery school, at Tela Umbra one could also find an evening carpenter school for the youth and a medical consultation ambulatory to learn how to better take care of newborns. Alice Hallgarten Franchetti died of tuberculosis in 1911.

 


[1] To learn about her and the other workers see M. L. Buseghin, La “Tela Umbra” di Città di Castello. Una storia di donne, in «Pagine altotiberine», a. II, n. 6 (sept.-dec. 1998), pp. 123-136.

[2] P. Magi, Un antico laboratorio che ha fermato il tempo. Le “vestali” della Tela Umbra, in «La Nazione», June 15th, 1962.

[3] In 1881 the population counted 24.491 people. The data is collected from A. Tacchini, Le vicende politiche di Leopoldo Franchetti a Città di Castello, in A. Tacchini, P. Pezzino (curated by), Leopoldo e Alice Franchetti e il loro tempo, Petruzzi, Città di Castello 2002 also avialble on the website www.storiatifernate.it.

[4] Cfr. A. Tacchini, Artigianato e industria a Città di Castello tra Ottocento e Novecento, Petruzzi, Città di Castello, 2000, pp. 334-339.

[5] The citation of the Manifest is taken from M. L. Buseghin, Alice Hallgarten Franchetti un modello di donna e imprenditrice nell’Italia tra ’800 e ’900, Pliniana, Selci Lama, 2013, p. 66.

[6] For the date see M. L. Buseghin, Alice Hallgarten Franchetti un modello di donna e imprenditrice nell’Italia tra ’800 e ’900, cit., pp. 67-77.

[7] The letters have been published fully by M. L. Buseghin, Cara Marietta… Lettere di Alice Hallgarten Franchetti, Tela Umbra, Città di Castello, 2002.

[8] For a more detailed biography see M. L. Buseghin, Cara Marietta… Lettere di Alice Hallgarten Franchetti, cit., pp. 467-472 and the website curated by da M. L. Buseghin in http://www.enciclopediadelledonne.it/biografie/alice-hallgarten-franchetti/.

[9] S. Bucci, La Scuola della Montesca. Un centro educativo internazionale, in P. Pezzino, A. Tacchini (curated by), Leopoldo e Alice Franchetti e il loro tempo, cit., pp. 195-242.

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.

  • 1