Pair of Umbrian decorated panels with Saints

Vincenzo Pagani (1490 ca.-1568); S. Sebastiano, S. Antonio di Padova e S. Nicola, e a destra S. Rocco, S. Chiara d'Assisi e S. Venanzio, pilastrino proveniente da una pala d’altare scomposta; tempera su tavola; Musei Vaticani; Pinacoteca Vaticana; Invv. 40341 e 40345

Inventory Number: 40341, 40345

The current allocation of these beautiful pieces to the Marche painter Vincenzo Pagani (Monterubbiano, Fermo, ca 1490-1567), is in the process of verification. Pagani had a flourishing workshop in his native country and was very active in the churches and monasteries of the southern Marche. These two panels are the side panels of an altarpiece now lost, painted either for a church in the town of Ascoli Piceno Ripatransone or one in the southern Marche region. In 1844 the City of Ripatransone donated these panels, held in the town hall, due to a Napoleonic pillage, and several other works to Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846) for the then newly-formed Pinoteca Laterano. In 1909, the panels were transferred to the Pinoteca of St. Pius X (1903-1914) and they are now on display in the Pinoteca Vaticana.On each panel are represented three saints, with the lower figures on marble plinths and the upper figures on shelves, branching out from acanthus scrolls. On the panel that would have originally been to the right of the lost centerpiece, is St. Sebastian. He is dressed in the fashion of the time, with a short, gold, brocade robe and long, red cloak highlighting the arrows characteristic of his martyrdom. Above him, the white lily and attributes of the Gospel identify the monk in habit as St. Anthony of Padua. At the top, is a Bishop, beardless and dressed in a gold, brocade cope and mider. On the left-hand side, St. Rocco is shown on a plinth, wearing a tight-fitting dark suit, pink cape and boots. He bears the staff of the pilgrim and a band around his thigh that hides the swelling of the plague. Above him is a Holy Nun (the exact name of the nun is unknown), dressed in a white robe and wimple, black veil and stole, and brown coat. She is holding the rulebook traditionally associated with Saint Claire of Assisi. Finally, in the top register, is a crusader in a holy hat and red clothes, in keeping with the fashions of that time. He holds a banner and has been identified as such saints as Vittore, Giuliano, Venancio and Sylvester.
The Bishop on the right-hand panel is likewise lacking the attributes that would present a concrete identification. It has been suggested that he is meant to represent several saints including Saints Nicholas of Bari, Augustine of Ippona, and finally-as the presence of Saints Claire of Assisi and Anthony of Padua suggest a Franciscan client Louis of Toulouse. Saints Rocco and Sebastian, typically invoked by the faithful to guard against epidemics and plagues, are depicted as young and beautiful. Their long, softly curled hair stands in great contrast to their wounds and visible signs of disease.
Both paintings can be dated to the early decades of the 16th century and are attributed to a painter from central Italy of Umbrian education and influenced by the style of Perugino (Raphael’s teacher), as the style reveals certain figurative aspects characteristic of the Late Gothic of the Marche region. The current attribution of this work to the painter Vincenzo  Pagani  (Monterubbiano,  Fermo,  c. 1490-1567),  who  ran  a  flourishing workshop in his native country and was very active in the churches and monasteries of the southern Marche, has yet to be verified.

Sculpted portrait of Giuseppe Bossi by Antonio Canova

Antonio Canova (1757-1822); Ritratto di Giuseppe Bossi; calco in gesso; Musei Vaticani; Inv. 44547

Inventory Number: 44547

On December 9, 1815, friends and admirers gathered to remember the famous writer, painter and critic, Giuseppe Bossi. Bossi, who served as the Secretary of the Brera Academy between 1801 and 1807, was a dynamic and important intellectual personality of the Luminaries and Romantic periods. At his funeral service held in S. Giorgio in Palazzo, the famous poet, Gaetano Cattaneo, recited a funeral prayer. Two years later, in 1817, the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera dedicated a beau- tiful “erma”, carved by Camillo Pacetti, to the thinker. But, perhaps the most striking homage to Bossi is the bust made in his memory by sculptor Antonio Canova. Origi- nally intended for the cenotaph designed by Palagio Palagi and Giacomo Moraglia, it was inaugurated in the Sala Custodi dell’Ambrosiana on May 16, 1818. This bust was the result of a great friendship between the two artists, characterized by mutual respect and unconditional devotion. The hundreds of letters that the two exchanged between 1801 and 1814 stand as testimony to their great camaraderie. Canova also stayed with Bossi at his home in Palazzo Durini in Milan while the sculptor traveled and gave lectures in the early nineteenth century. There are two existing casts of Canova’s portrait of Bossi, both slightly different from the version in marble at the Ambrosiana; one is in the collection of the Gipsoteca di Possagno and the other, in the Vatican Museums.
The works by Canova now in the Vatican Collection were discovered in the sculp- tor’s studio by Antonio d’Este following the Canova’s death. Upon his own death, d’Este donated the works to Cardinal Placido Zurla, who then bequeathed them to Pope Gregory XVI in 1834. The Pope bestowed them to the Seminario Romano Maggiore in Laterano. This portrait has been in the Vatican Museums’ collection since 1984. The attention that Canova lavished on these casts presents an excellent opportunity to learn about the process of creating sculpture. Canova was first introduced to pla- ster casts in Venice, where the artist became fascinated with the collection of Abbot Phillip Farsetti. Farsetti’s eclectic collection of plaster casts included casts of both ancient works and those of more modern artists such as Michelangelo, Sansovino, Giambologna, and Duquesnoy. During his trip to Rome in 1779, Canova recognized many works from Farsetti’s collections and became convinced of the importance of molds. Once Canova settled in the capital, he began an ongoing collaboration with the expert teacher Vincenzo Malpieri to create casts not only of the clay models upon which he would base his marble sculptures, but also of the finished works themsel- ves, which he then magnanimously made available to fellow sculptors. Their purpose, however, was not wholly instructive. Many of these casts were de- stined for private residences, where they were seen both as art and as a physical manifestation of the refined taste of the owner.