Bergognone’s Crucifixion (1490) for the Certosa di Pavia dates from the period of highest influence of Bramante’s monumentality and perspectival experimentations on the artist. An architecture in the background immediately recalls Bramante’s theoretical and architectural ideas: a marble church with a square layout lantern, decorated with flying buttresses and Gothic pinnacles. In his Opinio given to the overseers for the building project of the Duomo of Milan, Bramante suggested, in place of the octagonal lantern already outlined by Guiniforte Solari, a powerful Gothic square layout-tower, actually very similar to that depicted by Bergognone. Such a singular connection confirms the relationship between Bergognone and Bramante, already suggested in the past based on the influence of the former’s style on the latter’s, but also on their actual collaboration for the church of Santa Maria at San Satiro, very few years later. Bergognone’s interest for architecture, and especially for the Gothic lantern, is further documented in other paintings; and compared to the other visualizations of Bramante’s Opinio – such as that found in Cesare Cesariano’s commentary on Vitruvius (1521) – Bergognone’s appears by far more coherent with the writings and artistic vision of the architect from Urbino.
The retrieval of the contract for the moving of Bernabò Visconti’s statue from the choir of San Giovanni in Conca in Milan (1571) gives an opportunity to reconsider the years following the Pastoral visits of Carlo Borromeo, which marked an important renovation of the Carmelite church. While the Cardinal once again had to deal with the problem of ducal remains occupying a place of worship and prayer, Vincenzo Seregni, the actual promoter of the architectural adjustment, looked for a solution to numerous problems, regarding which ancient and recent tombs played a relevant role.
The author reports the full text of a previously unpublished manuscript by Michele Caffi – kept at the Archivio della Società Storica Lombarda in Milan – which allows to clarify the tormented events of the now dismembered marble complex of the tomb of St. Evasius in the Cathedral of Casale Monferrato. The manuscript accounts for some excerpts from a now missing convention signed in Milan on January 5th 1548, in which Bambaia and Cristoforo Lombardi – appointed to the building of the tomb in 1525, together with Gian Giacomo Della Porta – entrust stonemason Giovanni Antonio Della Torre from Como with the realization of some parts of the monument, as well as the assemblage of the works in Casale, which probably never started. The contract also constitutes the very last known document of the activity of Bambaia, who would die six months later.
An unpublished document from the Chapter’s Archive of the Duomo of Milan certifies the offer of a tabernacle to be placed in the Cathedral, upon a drawing by Michelangelo («tabernacolo di metallo da porsi in Duomo giusta il disegno di Michel Angelo Buonaruota»), thus adding new facts to our knowledge of a tabernacle realized by Giacomo Del Duca upon a drawing by Michelangelo for the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. Del Duca’s work described in the document is very similar – even in size – to that offered to Philip II for the church of Saint Lawrence of El Escorial, thus allowing to say it is the same tabernacle; a relation to the one now placed in the Charterhouse of Padula, formerly at the Museum of Capodimonte, is less likely. The tabernacle offered to the Duomo has an octagonal shape, a stone pedestal and a metal body with a total height of 50 hands. On one of the eight facets of the pedestal there is a door which takes along a stair to the octagonal reliquary guarding the Blessed Sacrament, illuminated by eight windows, some with red stained glasses, with six corresponding figures; both on the upper and in the lower sides are fourteen bas-reliefs with the Stories of the Passion. A Crucifix and a Resurrected Christ are embedded in the two main windows. Underneath, a second octagonal bronze element constitutes the base of the actual tabernacle, while the upper side culminating in an eight-sided vault with a balustrade, a globe and an image of Christ ascending into heaven («Cristo […] il qual sta in atidudine di ascendere in cielo»).
Ambrogio Figino’s Madonna of the Serpent, placed in the oratory of the Immaculate at Sant’Antonio Abate in Milan, constitutes the well-known iconographic model for Caravaggio’s Madonna and Child with St. Anne (Madonna dei Palafrenieri) from the Borghese Gallery in Rome. The common subject was the Immaculate Conception, a thoroughly discussed theme, especially during the Counter-Reformation. Figino’s painting – which was in the painter’s house in 1591, and would be kept there until his death in 1608 – was probably an altarpiece rejected by the customers, perhaps destined to the church of San Fedele, where Milanese critic Giovan Paolo Lomazzo saw a «Madonna del serpe» by the same artist. It’s likely the Jesuits rejected it because of its ambiguous iconography: since the Child helps Mary smash the serpent, the beholders might have thought she was not able to defeat the Original Sin on her own, and so she had not been conceived immaculate. Such ambiguity probably played a similar role in the unfortunate events of Caravaggio’s Madonna dei Palafrenieri, which stayed in its place on Ste. Anne’s altar in the basilica of St. Peter in Rome for only a week. Successively, the same iconography would be used with completely opposite intentions: in France to support the Protestant refusal of the cult of Mary and Ste. Anne, in the Spanish Netherlands to spread the worship of the Immaculate Conception.
The analysis of the group of 17th-Century drawings from the Bianconi collection, regarding the complex of S. Ambrogio in Milan – so far read as a series of proposals for the demolishment and rebuilding of the basilica – allows several chronological clarifications about the interventions for the realization of the monastery annexed during the 17th Century. A formal analysis, supported by documents, suggests the rejection of theories implying such a radical intervention, never mentioned by the sources. The reconsideration of a document so far nearly ignored – which attests an agreement made before 1623 for the building of a church for the exclusive use of the monks, to be annexed to the old basilica – allows to interpret the drawings as studies for such operation, eventually aborted. Nevertheless, the formal elements of the drawings, extremely refined, all very similar and lacking in measurements, reveal an abstract and academic origin. The clear influence of Mangone supports the theory that the drawings were made within the Accademia Ambrosiana – where Mangone taught Architecture – as exercises on a given theme, without any prospect of an actual realization. Such interpretation suggests further reflection upon the structure of the Accademia and its teaching methods, heavily marked – as is evident in the formal reading of the drawings – by Classicism, severe and devoid of excessive decoration, as it was handed down to the next generation of Lombard architects.
The conception and realization, between 1603 and 1612, of the Fuentes Fort in Colico, at the northern border of Spanish Lombardy, have been the subject of several studies. Yet the history of the building – wanted by the Governor of Milan, Pedro Enriquez de Acevedo, in order to allow Castilian troops the transit towards the rebellious Flanders through Valtellina, then controlled by the Grisons – is still full of surprises. After the study on the building and the engineers responsible for the projects and the structural analysis of within the boundary wall, all possible new elements seemed exhausted. On the contrary, new findings allow us to broaden the research to the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries. The well-known documents preserved by the Archivio General de Simancas and the State Archives of Milan and Venice are now joined by those coming from the Kriegsarchiv in Vienna and the private archive of Mariavittoria Antico Gallina in Milan, which reveal proposals and interventions that modified the site up until World War I, thus demonstrating the persistent strategic relevance of the Pian di Spagna. Suggestions and operations by technicians working for the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Italy point continuously – as is evident – on that part of Lake Como, from the renovation of the 17th- Century Fuentes fort to the building of the 20th-Century Lusardi fort.
In 1860 Frenand de Dartein (Strasbourg 1838 - Paris 1912) went to Italy on a mission to study northern Romanesque architecture: more specifically, he found that in the basilica of Sant’Ambrogio in Milan, undergoing a massive restoration at the time, the typical “Lombard” features appeared in their full identity. In that site, he met architect Gaetano Landriani; the collaboration between the two, furthered by a common ability in architectural drawing, addressed both the restoration and the publishing of two volumes (Dartein’s on Lombard architecture, Landriani’s on Sant’Ambrogio). This essay analyzes 17 letters – kept in private archives – from the Italian portion of the correspondence between the two colleagues (1865-92), with particular focus on the facts regarding certain parts of the basilica (which were an item of discussion at the site): the arrangement of the presbyterial area, the polychromatic stucco decoration of the apse, the stalls in the wooden choir (with a suggested date), the columns for the Pre-Romanesque basilica, the conformation of the third bay with two rectangular vaults (both demolished in ’66), the portico with its original plan and its connection to the opposite square and the bell-tower ‘of the Canons’. Upon the death of the Milanese architect (1899), Dartein had an epistolary exchange with Luca Beltrami, addressing some of his restorations and projects, and pointing out the trait d’union of their mutual friendship: Landriani himself
The activity of Riccardo Ripamonti (Milan, 1849-1930), a key figure of Lombard sculpture between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century, has to be placed among the most thought-provoking facts in Italy at the time, both on a formal and on a content-related level. Nonetheless, Ripamonti’s life and work have been long forgotten by art historians, as well as by his contemporaries. It is then very interesting to trace the evolution of his sculptural production, beyond his best-known work – the monument to Missori still placed in the homonymous square in Milan – finding a coherent thread in a consistent tension between civil commitment and explicit social protest. Such delicate balance finds its expression in a style of Verist derivation, occasionally sketchy, more often sustained by a more evident Realism, as in the case of Miscarriage of Justice, presented at the Milan Triennale of 1891, which distinguished Ripamonti as one of the most interesting actors in the tendency of Social Realism, very common in Italy, and particularly in Lombardy, during the last decade of the 19th Century.
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