The two bronze door knockers from the cathedral of San Giusto in Susa (Turin) are among the most significant surviving examples of metalwork production of this kind. These works, which can be ascribed to a Lombard workshop, were commissioned during the abbacy of Bosone (1120-1128) when the abbey church was enlarged and a new campaign of decoration was undertaken. The aim of this article is threefold: to examine the original location and the later relocations of the door knockers in the church, providing a more plausible interpretation of their iconography; to gain a better understanding of the provenance of the artists, and to show commonalities with coeval monumental sculpture in Northern Italy.
In the church of San Francesco at Pozzuolo Martesana, near Milan, on the left wall of the north apsidiole one can see an interesting fresco, which can be dated back to the late thirteenth century. The fresco is an unusual pictorial reworking of an apologue originated from ancient India. This apologue – which can already be found, in another version, in the great Indian epic Mahābhārata – was brought to medieval Europe thanks to the diffusion of the Legend of Barlaam and Ioasaph, into which it was merged through a complex process of textual transmission. This text, written on Mount Athos between the tenth and eleventh century by the Georgian monk Euthymius (955-1028), is undoubtedly a christianized version of Buddha’s life. In this version the apologue recounted in the text – the fourth in the narrative sequence – is known as The Wayfarer and the Unicorn. In the fresco at Pozzuolo Martesana, as well as in every other figurative work in medieval Italian (and not only Italian) monumental art, the apologue reveals itself to be a genuine example of representational reworking. This version distinguishes itself from the written text owing especially to a narrative enlargement. More generally, from a historical and anthropological point of view, this interesting fresco, rather unknown as yet, deserves to be regarded – as well as all the other representational reworkings of the apologue existing in the Italian peninsula – as a noteworthy evidence of the process which, during the Middle Ages, led to the migration of texts from East to West.
Starting from the investigation of the most ancient sources concerning the basilica of Sant’Eustorgio, the article casts light on the historical problems of the patronage of the chapel between the Torriani and Visconti families and focuses on its transfer from Duke Filippo Maria to Giorgio Aicardi. During the dissertation it is revealed how the initiative of the fifteenth century re-qualification of the sacellum should be plausibly collocated within the ambit of Filippo Maria’s commissions and that it should be related particularly to the Duke’s interest in the church of Sant’Eustorgio in the early twenties of the Quattrocento and in 1438. This proposal dovetails with the iconographic and stylistic elements of the paintings. Thanks also to the valuable support from old photographic campaigns it has indeed been possible to put forward suggestions to identify each saint depicted on the vault. Furthermore, the examination of important Dominican historical sources, of the early episodes of saint Catherine of Siena’s veneration and of the stigmata controversy arisen at the end of the fourteenth century between the Dominican and the Franciscan order, has allowed the problematic issue of the dating of the cycle that was raised by Maria Luisa Gatti Perer to be solved. Special attention is paid to the damsel represented alongside Mark the Evangelist, so far always interpreted as Bianca Maria Visconti and whose identity here instead goes through a different proposal recognizing her as the link in a series of Visconti’s heraldic representations. Concerning the style, on the strong substratum of Michelino da Besozzo’s features, it is possible to notice the simultaneous presence of two artistic patterns that would thus reveal a choral work, the former softer and more conventional, the latter akin to the distinctive touch of the subsequent activity of Cristoforo Moretti.
The start of the demolition of an entire block near the Duomo in the historic centre of Milan, in the early twentieth century, led to the discovery of copious traces of the original decoration of the ancient Casa Missaglia located in Via Spadari, one of the most precious buildings of fifteenth century art in Milan. It had been the home of the renowned family of gunsmiths native of Ello, near Lecco, who made the manufacturing of guns and armour, especially in the second half of the fifteenth century, the pride of Milanese production. Despite the attempts made to preserve the building, even suggesting it be moved to another location with requalification as an ancient arms museum, its fate lay with total destruction. Fortunately, thanks to the allocation of certain funds, they were made numerous reliefs and the more interesting fragments of the ancient house were saved, such as the columns, capitals, keystones, and even some decorative terracotta pieces that profiled the windows and a strip of the string course of the inner courtyard. These fictiles materials – primary object of this study – were received by the Castello Sforzesco in 1903, but it was only in 1906 that, in a hall of the Civico Museo Artistico ed Archeologico, Ambrogio Annoni performed an anastylosis of a front of the inner courtyard of the house in Via Spadari, with the reconstruction of a large window on the first floor and two windows on the second floor separated by the few remains of the string course. With the restructuring by Studio BBPR, which led to the inauguration in 1956 of the new Museo d’Arte Antica, these windows were demolished and the terracotta pieces, many of which now reduced to fragments, were put in deposit. An analysis of the surviving fictile production of Casa Missaglia shows a heterogeneous ornamental sample: there are in fact eight decorative forms identified, and some of them can also be observed in other buildings in Milanand Lombardy. The most common motif is the so-called ‘putto vendemmiatore’ that is found identical – and even with some variations – on the terracottas at the two best-known sites of the second half of the fifteenth century: the Certosa di Pavia and the Ca’ Granda.
Despite some recent clarifications and new documentary evidence, Giovanni Lombardo de Patriarchi from Argegno has so far been considered only episodically and there is no satisfactory overall treatment of this artist in Sforza and French Milan of the early sixteenth century. He was a member of a family of painters, like his father Giovanni (documented from 1434 to 1491) and uncle Paolo (documented 1434-1492), all so far without works attributed to them. He is documented in connection with some works of sculpture, ephemeral architecture and engineering, and in 1513 was appointed by Massimiliano Sforza as «architectum nostrum primarium ac comunis Mediolani», anticipating the roles that Francesco II Sforza bestowed on another painter, Bramantino, in 1525, and Antonio de Leyva, Governor of Milan, bestowed on Cesare Cesariano in 1528. Giovanni Lombardo therefore presents an interesting case-study with which to discuss some of the outstanding problems of Lombard architecture of the 15th and 16th centuries, for example, the role of the engineer and architect and the value that these terms assumed in the documents of the period for professional people engaged in other arts, and this can help us clarify their contributions to various projects despite the lack of specific documentation.
A payment of 1496 found among the inheritance documents of the Caprioli family, that are preserved in archive of Pio Luogo delle Orfane, allowed to attribute to Filippo de Grassi, architect-sculptor originally from Milan, but for a long time operating in Brescia, the decoration of Caprioli’s chapel in the church of San Giorgio in Brescia. The chapel decoration was commissioned by Agostino Caprioli in memory of his father Luigi who here had its superb burial. The massive despoliation of the early nineteenth century have profoundly altered the appearance of the chapel so nowadays, only a little part of the fifteenth-century decoration is kept in place, such as the decoration of pilasters of the arch of access; also an important part of the tomb of Luigi is preserved: the front where the Adoration of the Shepherds is represented. Converged on the antiques market, in the early nineteenth century, it is currently the front of the main altar of the church of San Francesco and, before the payment has been found, it was attributed to Gasparo Cairano.
The subject of this paper is the newly found contract for Gaudenzio Ferrari’s Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine with Saints Joseph, Agabius and Gaudentius, drawn up on February 25, 1530. The author reconstructs the commission of this work and the original location of the panel, tracing its movements within the cathedral of Novara up to its current location in the chapel of Saint Catherine. The work was commissioned by the two chaplain curates of the cathedral, who wanted the tutelary saints of the parish to be represented, and gave precise instructions to Gaudenzio on the subject. In the upper part of the altarpiece the artist painted the «imaginem Christi in pietate et imagines B. M. V. et S.ti Jo. Evangelistae», which still exists today in the chapel but in a different position, as a result of a reassembly which took place in 1883. The contract also allows us to return to this work the Putti dancing and making music now preserved in the collections of the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo. The conditions of payments (totalling 400 lire) and the timing are illustrated: the last payment to Gaudenzio Ferrari took place on April 23, 1534.
The Ringling Museum in Sarasota houses an important altarpiece by Gaudenzio Ferrari, the Nativity with donor commissioned by Giovanni Angelo Arcimboldi, Bishop of Novara and later Archbishop of Milan. The painting passed by inheritance to the Taverna family, where it remained until the mid-nineteenth century, when it was first exported to England and then to America. It is one of the most known works by the Valsesian painter, but critics have overlooked the fact that an almost identical replica, probably another autograph altarpiece, had long been part of the French royal collection. This second version of the Nativity was shown in a temporary exhibition at the Louvre in 1797 (with works from the suppressed churches of Lombardy) and later sent to the Museum of Brussels, where it went probably destroyed during the Second World War. If the presence of the donor’s miter in the Sarasota painting is linked to the troubled story of the allocation of the Archbishopric of Novara to Giovanni Angelo Arcimboldi, the lost work should be considered the oldest one, while the Sarasota version should be dated after 1526, in agreement with the painting’s style.
Based on a lost drawing, Villa Brambilla at Castellanza (Varese) is considered a work by Leopoldo Pollack. Instead, undisclosed sources enable to attribute its paternity to Pietro Pestagalli. Between 1812 and 1815 he designed and built the new mansion of Cesare Brambilla, milanese patrician, who appointed him as his architect and favoured other works by Pestagalli in the Olona Valley and the villages where the family owned lands, relationships and interests. Furthermore, the documents found enable to follow the development of the worksite and to shed a light on the contributions of several personalities that decorated the interior and exterior of the villa between 1813 and 1822: Giacomo Cambiasi, Paolo Santagostino, Giovanni Battista Perabò, Gaetano Vaccani, Alessandro Arrigoni, Alfieri Giosafatto, Angelo Monticelli, Gaetano Monti di Ravenna, Tomaso Bisi e Tranquillo Orsi. Finally, the research brought to light a drawing attesting the structure of the park – no more existing nowadays – as designed by Luigi Villoresi.
Like other great Italian sculptors of his time, Eugenio Pellini (1864-1934) devoted an important part of his artistic activity to funerary art. Although it was well known, this production had not been the subject of a philological study as carried out in this text through in-depth research of bibliographic and documentary sources, starting with the rich and almost unpublished materials preserved at the artist’s studio in Milan, including photographs. At the end of the article, a list of the funerary works discovered and verified in situ, amounting to 89 units, is published. Pellini carved sculptures for funerary monuments since the late eighties of the nineteenth century, operating essentially in two large yards: the Monumental Cemetery in Milan and the Giubiano Cemetery in Varese, both designed by architect Carlo Maciachini. He operates in various types, from the isolated monument of the so-called ‘garden’ tombs to the bas-relief for locules, from the cinerary urns to the most complex decorative sculpture applied to architecture in the case of funerary aedicules, collaborating with some engineers and architects such as Alfredo Melani, a significant representative of Modernism. Within almost forty years of activity, Pellini experiences a sculpture characterized by an authentic and spontaneous adherence to the Scapigliatura ways interpreted by Giuseppe Grandi, approaching from the end of the nineteenth century to stimuli and inspiration from the instances of international symbolism. His funerary production is characterized by the predominance of the figure of Jesus Christ, studied and proposed in many versions of which the most well known is the one that goes under the title of Nazareno or Getsemani.