The Gallery of Maps in Cortile Della Pinacoteca

The Gallery of Maps takes its name from the forty topographic maps made up of 40 frescoes along its walls, which depicts the Italian regions and its possessions of the Church that Pope Gregory XIII attained. The maps were painted between 1580 and 1583 by Ignazio Danti, a major cosmographer of the sixteenth century.

The tunnel is 120 meters long and six meters wide, with a barrel vaulted ceiling. The hallways was built between 1578 and 1580 by Octavian Matte.

Each map is divided by Italy’s regions, from the Alps to the Adriatic Sea. Each regional map is accompanied by its native plant and a small illustration of the most populated town.

Four major ports of that period are depicted at the entrance wall; Civitavecchia, Genoa, Venice and Ancona. the Siege of Malta, Battle of Lepanto, and Elba Island are a collection of battles depicted in the gallery as well.

In 1631, by order of Pope Urban VIII, the maps were completed by Luca Holste. Two other painters by the names of Cesare Nebbia and Girolamo Muziano coordinated the completion of the Gallery of Maps, along with a larger group of painters who painted a series of 80 episodes with stories of saints of the Church, linked to the corresponding maps.

The impressive Gallery of the Maps is being restored thanks to the generosity of the United Kindom and California Chapters.

Italia Antiqua

La Pietà of Crivelli

Artist: Carlo Crivelli
Date: 1488 ca.
Dimensions: 105 x 205 cm
Material: Tempera and gold on wood

Restoration efforts made possible by the generosity of the Philadelphia Patrons Chapter

This lunette shaped tablet recalls a rich tradition of other pietas with the same iconography and has long since been identified as the “Painting of Carlo Crivelli representing the dead Christ. The Governo Pontificio bought the piece from Bernardino Giusti for the Capitoline collection in 1831 and placed it in the Vatican Pinacoteca in 1838.

The painting represents the dead Christ is placed in a seated position between the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and St. John the Evangelist who mourn over him with anguished gestures. The otherwise simple background is decorated with an opaque pattern of winged angels. The foreground is dominated by a ledge on which Christ is laid and from which a woven drapery is languidly hung. The lifeless body of the Son of God is on a parapet and is held in veneration by the faithful, both delimiting the physical space and at the same time separating the scene from the viewer. It also marks an imaginary divide between the empirical and figurative world.

In this same context, the liturgical applications of this separation should not be underestimated considering the original sacred setting of the piece, destined to be looked at from down below as it sat in the niche of an apse. The painting’s origins in the Marche where it was originally found lend credence to the theory proposed by Pietro Zampetti in which the painting of Crivelli would have sat in the lunette of an altarpiece originally in San Pietro di Muralto. This church was a Conventual Franciscan church in Camarino (1488) whose main painting is the Mother and Child in the act of giving the keys to St. Peter amidst a crowd formed by St. Francis, Cipriano, Ludovico di Toloso, Ansovinio, Giovanni da Capistrano and Jacopo della Marca.

This lunette represents a later Crivelli style when, under the influence of the Umbrian school, the monumental presentation of the figures with pathetic expressions are mixed in a slower rhythm favoring their decorative function.

State of Preservation

The support of the lunette presents some difficulties since both the lateral and horizontal supports do not compensate adequately for the natural flexing of the wood, therefore cracks have formed. The presence of certain wood-eating pests has also damaged the wood from the back side.
The pictorial surface also suffers some weaknesses. There are lesions and peeling of the original pigments from the base, particularly in the points of pressure caused by the axis of the supports. The presence of an altered state of the varnish has led to a strong “yellowing” and general darkening of the colors. There are localized chromatic variations that also noticeably affect the reading of the painting.

Cittadel Vaticano

Bernini Angels of SS. Sacramento in S. Peter

In 1629, Pope Urban VIII Barberini, commissioned Bernini to build an altar dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament, but which was completed only in 1673-1674 under Pope Clement X Altieri.

Bernini completed an altar with a tabernacle, flanked by two kneeling and adoring angels, of these two angels produced for the bronze castes, we still have one surviving model.

Materials and Implements

The materials used for these models are mainly clay combined with straw. The straw was used in the impasto in order to prevent the formation of cracks during the drying process.

This impasto, made of clay and straw, is shaped on a wrought iron structure fixed to a vertical wooden support.

In some areas, the internal structure is covered with bundles of vine branches tied with twine used to increase the thickness where necessary.

The mixture of clay was applied layer upon layer with different compositions and thicknesses. The final polished surface is the result of the spreading of a thin layer of fine clay painted with clay-water over the various strata which produce variable thicknesses.

Some documents of the time which refer to the construction of these models evidence the use of materials like bundles of sticks, hay, cart delivered clay, as well as tortori which were braids of straw or hay generally used for cleaning horses.

These materials can be easily seen in those areas where the molded surface is lost, leaving exposed the lower layers also called superfici di frattura.

Preparatory models for the bronze angels of the Chair of St. Peter

These Bernini Angels are very important works because they illustrate how a masterpiece is born, while their high quality gives evidence of Bernini’s direct intervention in their creation.

The purpose of these bronze sculptures was to guard the venerated relic of the Cathedra in wood and ivory, on which, according to medieval tradition, St. Peter sat to instruct the early Christians (however, the throne was given to Pope John VII by the Emperor Charles the Bald in 875 AD).

The Bernini models testify Bernini’s hard work on this project which lasted ten years and was modified several times over this period. The angels, in fact, have different sizes and attest two stages of work. The final Cathedra which is now visible in St. Peter’s, is more than double the original design.

In 1658-1660, a natural size model of the Cathedra was completed in wood and plaster and then placed in the apse of St. Peter to check the proportions of the whole. Right afterward the first models of the angels were placed in their position but they appeared too small to Bernini’s friend and painter Andrea Sacchi who said: “These statues should be a good hand width bigger … and Bernini who had already realized on his own that the statues were too small, decided to remake them” (L. Pascoli, Vite, 1730). With the help of sculptors Ercole Ferrata and Antonio Raggi, Bernini decided to enlarge the models, and performed a second version of the Angels used for casting in bronze.

Ekta 33315.D

Assumption of the Virgin Mary with Saints

This fragile painting of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary depicts a beautiful and valuable representation of the Virgin Mary offering her sacred belt to the apostle, Thomas. The iconography in this painting was very well known in Tuscany at the end of the thirteenth century and refers to a story found in the apocryphal gospel of St. Thomas. The incredulous apostle Thomas arrives from India at the sepulchre of the Virgin Mary and finds it inexplicably empty. After, Thomas has a vision of the Virgin Mary. In his vision, Mary appears to him offering her cincture as a symbol of the miracle of her perpetual virginity and thus, assumption into heaven. The relic of the cincture of Saint Mary was found in Jerusalem before the Second Crusade and has been kept in the Chapel of the Dome since 1141 in Prato, Tuscany.

In this Assumption of the Virgin, the landscape in the background illustrates hills and mountains leading into the horizon. At the bottom of the composition, lies the sarcophagus from where the Virgin is prodigiously taken to Heaven by the Angels. Surrounding her are St. Rocco, patron of pilgrims and plague-stricken persons, and an unidentified female martyr at her side. Both of these saints are painted in a frontal position to illustrate a sacred conversation among them. St. Bartholomew, patron of tanners and butchers, is also present. What little we can read of the style indicates a strong influence of the fifteenth century, but the face shapes and decoration on the façade of the sarcophagus, is evidence that this likely dates from the early sixteenth century. Unfortunately, the seriously damaged state of the painting does not allow a more detailed reading of the style and subjects.

State of Preservation

Currently, this painting is extremely fragile. The back of the panel is composed of several horizontal boards and crossbars. Unfortunately, the crossbars prevent natural movement of the wood and have caused several cracks and fissures on the painted surface. The entire pictorial surface is damaged and the colors are faded, thus it is extremely difficult to get a clear view of the painted subjects. The extension of these lacunae required the application of a temporary Japanese paper cover.

madonna-della-cintola-close-up

Perseus

This exquisite marble statue of Perseus is being restored thanks to the Generosity of the Northwest Chapter of the Patrons of the Arts.

Antonio Canova is one of the most important Italian sculptors of all time. His marble statues are characterized by classical beauty and they are now on display in the most important museums in the world.

Antonio Canova (1757 – 1822) was born in Possagno, a village near Venice. He spent most of his youth studying, with a strong bias towards the art of sculpture, and was greatly rewarded by the benefit of his grandfather’s stonecutting. His move to Rome as a young man gave him the opportunity to examine the splendid relics of antiquity, and put his abilities to the test.

Canova’s Perseus had not been commissioned by anyone, thus he put it up for sale. Giuseppe Bossi, secretary of the Academy of Brera, and personal friend of the sculptor wanted to place the Perseus in the Foro Bonaparte and he had already begun the payments when a letter came from Cardinal Doria informing Canova that Pope Pius VII wanted to buy the sculpture for 3,000 gold coins in order to place it in the Vatican Museum. Thus, the Perseus was moved to the Vatican and was placed on the empty pedestal of the famous Apollo Belvedere which had previously been moved to Paris by the French, following the Treaty of Tolentino. Pope Pius VII also appointed Canova with the prestigious award received by Raphael under Leo X: the Inspector General of Fine Arts. The location of the statue on the pedestal of the famous Apollo together with the nomination of the sculptor as Inspector, consecrated Canova’s success.

The imposing statue depicts the hero of Greek mythology Perseus, son of Zeus and Danaë, with the helmet of Pluto (which had the power of invisibility), the winged sandals of Mercury and the diamond sword given to him by Vulcan.
These gifts were granted to Perseus in order to allow the hero to defeat Medusa, against whom he was sent by Polykleitos, king of the island of Serifos.

Canova represented the Perseus triumphantly raising his left arm with the head of Medusa. The excitement of the action is frozen as is customary of the classical style. The Argive hero has similar proportions and positioning to the Apollo Belvedere.

By following the classical theme of the heroic male nude in action, Canova seems to have been able to achieve results as advised by Winckelmann and the Neoclassical age, according to which the only way to become great is to be inspired by ancient models. Stendhal said that Canova imitated the Greeks, but like them, his genius invented a new beauty.

perseus 15.5.2013 011