The oratory of San Rocco was erected by the community of San Colombano (now San Colombano al Lambro) starting in 1514, just outside the walls of the village, on the route to Lodi. The building belongs to a still relatively unstudied period, and it exemplifies the continued experimentation on shapes derived from the late 15th Century, especially in the outer areas of the Milan territory. Although being the subject of several historical studies, San Rocco still required a thorough architectural analysis which may highlight its most important elements, its similarities and differences with other coeval buildings and its connections with the modus operandi of the artists working in Lombardy at the time.
The essay attempts an overall description of the Carthusian oratory of Mary Magdalene in San Colombano al Lambro, destroyed in 1846. The mural paintings and the altarpiece, the work of Cremona native Bernardino Campi and his workshop (1579-1581) were partially preserved, and several fragments were acquired by Pinacoteca di Brera between 1908 and 1913. Previously unpublished letters from the Parish archive of San Colombano made it possible to retrace the facts surrounding the detachments. A comparison between these and the remaining sinopias, now walled up inside a chapel of the church of San Colombano, makes it possible to reconstruct the original decoration. Moreover, the description of the oratory made by Alessandro Lamo in 1584 and that found in a document dated 1831, just before the demolition, constitute an important base not only for hypotheses regarding the structure and size of the building, but also for a possible reconstruction of the seven paintings, with episodes from the life of Mary Magdalene, that decorated its walls. The research also brought to the discovery of the 17th-Century altar, with an antependium signed «Jacobus Proffit Parisiensis», a so far relatively unknown artist who may also be the author of a newly attributed work at the Certosa of Pavia.
The essay presents the results of a study conducted upon the recently restored frescoes by the Natali brothers in the church of San Giacomo in Soncino (1695-96). New discoveries from contemporary sources and a document found in the church archive finally allow an all-around knowledge of the cycle. The analysis of Giuseppe Natali’s quadrature decorations, which compares them to some of the artist’s most famous works, is paralleled by an inquiry on the activity of the two unknown figure painters who took part to the project, Antonio Sirone and Pietro Ferrari, the latter evidently connected with the production of Francesco Boccaccino. The author also suggests a new interpretation of the iconography, in which the main characters of the whole representation are the virtues mentioned by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica, a clear benchmark for the Dominican friars of the convent of San Giacomo. Finally, the author presents a newly retrieved inventory of the properties owned by the church and the convent at the time of the Napoleonic suppression of 1798, now kept in the Archivio di Stato in Milan.
Renown painter Giuseppe Bossi (1777-1815) shaped his experience as a connoisseur by personally seeing the artworks, and during several journeys through Italy. The unpublished memoirs from his stay in Rome in 1810 constitute an insight on his considerations on Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and, episodically, Michelangelo. After reporting the presumed theft of Leonardo’s Libro di pittura (cod. Lat. Urb. 1270), Bossi works to dismantle the traditional attributions of works to the artist, starting with a critical analysis of the notorious frescoed lunette from the convent of Sant’Onofrio al Gianicolo. The individuation of Raphaelian elements brings to the identification of a possible preparatory sketch carelessly attributed to the painter from Urbino. The episode exemplifies the miscues of Bossi’s early attribution practice on Raphael’s drawings, and particularly on the corpus of the Libretto veneziano, now at the Cabinet of Drawings of the Venice Academy. Following Bossi along his Roman journey, we find him innovatively interested in Michelangelo’s production as a poet, which he examines on the manuscripts, with a striking philological approach.
The paintings of Sebastiano De Albertis (Milan, 1828-1897), and particularly those depicting themes of the Risorgimento, have often been brought to the attention of the public and critics as well, while his graphic work has been so far relatively neglected. Of such a vast production, the essay analyzes one particular aspect, which casts new light on De Albertis’ art: his caricatures, and specifically the illustrations for two satire journals of the 1850s and 1860s, «L’Uomo di Pietra» and «Lo Spirito Folletto», and a series of caricature portraits from the collection of the Civica Raccolta delle Stampe Achille Bertarelli in Milan. These apparently ‘minor’ works are nonetheless a testimony of the artist’s celebrated wit and drawing ability, his being part to the climate of the early Milanese Scapigliatura and the friendship and mutual consideration between him and many exponents of Milan’s aristocracy and haute bourgeoisie, the most common targets of his irony.
Milanese sculptor Achille Alberti (1860-1943) has never been the object of a systematic, in-depth study. The essay attempts to fill such void by casting some light on the artist’s early activity, based on his works and on the prevalently unpublished archive materials he left to the Archivio dell’Ospedale Maggiore-Ca’ Granda in Milan. Alberti was a discreet protagonist of cultural life in Milan at the turn of the Century: although he did not possess the temper of the innovator, he was particularly apt – especially during his youth – in interpreting the trends of his cultural milieu. It is of particular interest to observe how he adopted and embraced the spirit of Verismo and its attempt to depict reality as a phenomenon. Such style, though often associated with a more traditional iconography, is taken to an extreme in works such as the famous Sloth exhibited at the Triennale of Milan in 1891.
During a documentary research aimed at reconstructing the history of Palazzo di Giustizia in Milan – the work of architect Marcello Piacentini – and its furnishings, the authors retrieved several unpublished sources, through which they were able to trace back the phases of planning and building, as well as to finally clarify the facts surrounding the large statue representing Justice, commissioned to Attilio Selva for the Courtyard of Honour. Thanks to a comparison of documents, photographs and accounts from the sculptor’s archive in Rome, it was possible to trace in detail the tormented story of this artwork, from its commission to its realization.
Rivarolo Mantovano belongs to a territory originally called Mantovano Nuovo (beyond the river Oglio), which was not reclaimed by the Gonzaga family before the 1410s. After the death of Ludovico II in 1478, the territory was divided among his heirs in several small states subordinate to the Marquisate of Mantua. After becoming the property of ambitious warrior rulers, the rural centers were equipped with fortifications and ennobled with the rearrangement of castles, strongholds, palaces, temples, roads and entire quarters. Surrounded by ramparts, crenellated walls or fortified fences, these hamlets still constitute excellent examples of Renaissance urban planning, which deserve to be thoroughly studied. Through the reading of coeval sources and accounts, and the aid of original cadastral maps, the author was able to include Rivarolo in this specific context: its fortification, formerly dated to the latter half of the 16th Century and attributed to Vespasiano Gonzaga, was actually built around the half of the 15th Century.
The essay traces the evolution of the parochial church of Ss. Giacomo e Filippo in Carate Urio, a small town on Lake Como, suggesting some interesting attributions for both the stuccoes and the paintings decorating the building. The sculpted decoration of the presbytery and the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary is particularly relevant; it is attributed to Agostino Silva, active between the late 1680s and the early 1690s. The stuccoes in the chapel of St. Anthony of Padua have a more debatable attribution, for which an inquiry into the vast overview of the workshops along the lake is necessary. As for the paintings, the mysteries of the Rosary in the eponymous chapel are dated (1698) and signed by Como painter Francesco Torchio; the panels decorating the vault in the chapel and in the main body are the work of Pietro Bianchi, known as il Bustino. The authors of the paintings in the presbytery are still unknown: the altarpiece is a remarkable work from the latter half of the 17th Century, probably by an artist from Central Italy, while the two scenes at both sides are definitely the work of a local painter active in the 18th Century. Particularly noteworthy is the Holy Family attributed to the circle of Francesco Torriani, a copy of the better-known version by Giovanni Baglione in Gravedona (Como).
The essay is based on a research conducted for the workshop “Lombard artworks in Italian and foreign museum”, organized by the Scuola di Specializzazione in Storia dell’arte, Università Cattolica, Milan between 2001 and 2003. The project focused on a selection of works of Lombard art, certain or presumed, from the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Bordeaux, originally part of the collection of Marquise of Lacaze (1773-1830). The examination of the inventories of this collection, kept in the museum and in the Archives Municipales in Bordeaux, proceeded side by side with an analysis of the documents on each work – mostly expert’s opinions by scholars from all over the world – which made it possible to trace the history of the attributions of these pieces from the acquisition by the museum (1829) to nowadays. The analyzed paintings are still relatively unstudied, and the author suggests new possible attributions for three of them.