The six XIVth century portals of the city walls of Milan were adorned by really significant statues of saints flanking a Madonna and Child (partially ascribed to Giovanni di Balduccio and to the Maestro delle sculture di Viboldone together with their workshop), originally placed into tabernacles. Unfortunately some sculptures have been dispersed over the centuries and their original provenance is now unknown. This research, based on the study of ancient documents and of almost unheard religious and historic sources, allowed us to formulate new hypotheses about the original location of the statue of Madonna di Riozzo and other figures of saints coming from the destroyed Porta Comasina, Porta Vercellina and Porta Romana.
The starting point of the essay are the stylistic and iconographic differences that mark the sculptures once placed above the six gates of medieval Milan. These differences would seem to be indeed the result of a deliberate choice by two different clients and to signify very different political messages. By the end the author makes a proposal about the identification of some saints still unknown which are part of these sculptures.
This paper focuses on the sculpted decoration of the city gates of Milan during the 14th century. The different theories about the iconography and the chronology of the sculpted groups are considered here from an historical perspective. The aim is to demonstrate that the decoration was commissioned by Azzone Visconti before his death (1339). Moreover, iconographic reasons raise the question about the responsibilities of the project (that unfortunately was changed in progress): besides Giovanni di Balduccio, the artist who materially made three of the six tabernacles, the participation of Giotto, who probably was in Milan between 1335 and 1337, can’t be excluded. In the same way, the influence of some exponents of the Dominican Order (in primis Galvano Fiamma) should be considered. The magnificence of the original project for the sculpted decoration of the city gates of Milan makes it an outstanding expression of civic identity, even more so if compared with the Italian city gates of the same period of time.
The argument of this article is that ‘essere campionesi’ (to be campionesi) has meant sharing a workshop experience, and how this one had to adapt, active in Milan with various type of clients, in the presence of the arrival of Florentine masters who had a great range of planning and operational knowledge. It mentions finally the problem that is still insuperable due to the difficulties to gather the adequate measurement; that is, to prove how and when was reintroduced in the statue making of fourteenth century the modular system of «organic articulation of the human body» (Panosfky).
The article examines some episodes of artistic revival of the medieval Lombard art at the end of the 17th century in Milan, and focuses in particular on the Italian art dealer and connoisseur from Milan Sebastiano Resta (1635-1714), which introduces some problematic drawings. The figure of Resta is framed in the intellectual Milanese context who preceded him, above all Borromeo season, of which he assimilates the sensibility for the evidences of medieval Art. Taking inspiration from the Lives of Giorgio Vasari and his Libro de’ Disegni, Resta attempts to traces the progress of the history of Italian art from Cimabue and Giotto, holding together the development of the several regional schools, not least the Lombardy school. As proof of this assumption the paper presents a series of ancient drawings of the Lombardy area set up by Resta within its volumes of drawings, and a group of ancient sheets of dubious provenance, kept at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, which were in the past referring to the figure of Resta.
The Museum of Ancient Art in Milan has a significant testimony of architectural elements and sculptures from the fortified walls of Milan. Among these, a prominent place is the group of seventeen votive statues placed in the lodges that identified the medieval gates, and the three statues from the walls of Monza. The arrangement of the works in the museum, which began in the early nineteenth century, has continued to this day thanks to the generosity of individual donors or through deposit by public bodies. During the two centuries that have seen the change of the museum location, the statues of the city gates were constantly included in the exhibition circuit in close dialogue with the archival and artistic heritage of the Museum.
The high relief is carved from a single block of Candoglia marble by approximate weight of six quintals. The state of conservation had rather homogeneous characteristics: the sculptural surface was darkened by a layer of compact deposit whose thickness varied according to the position. Copious squirts of plaster and paint were observed on all the figures. The marble shows no morphological alterations; mostly of damage, splinters and small lacks, are located in the more jutting out sections and therefore more subject to the action of traumas. Two of the most important gaps, the face of the Angel on the left and of the Child Jesus, were remedied by blocks stone. The reconstruction of the nose of the Virgin, made with plaster, was demolished with small chisels and this has allowed us to rediscover the original volume of this element. The left corner of the relief base has been reconstructed in order to increase the stability of the work during the exposition. Small traces of polychrome were kept in the areas of more protected modeling. Diagnostic analysis have shown to be fragments of a repainting performed at the end of the nineteenth century; for this reason the Works Supervisor has decided to remove them in order to enable a clearer reading of the work. The restoration of the relief of the Madonna and Child had a twofold result: firstly, the sculpture has regained luster, bringing out the real volume and chiaroscuro ratios, the other has allowed to recognize more clearly the intervention that relief has suffered in the past.
The sculptures from the city gates of Milan, before their positioning in the Museum of Ancient Art of the Sforzesco Castle, have undergone several vicessitudes, which can be identified through careful observation of their condition. The considerations emerged during the maintenance allow to describe the sculptures in all their aspects with a focus about the closer examination of the natural and human degradation. Starting from the analysis of the materials, the comparison between the different types and origins of the marbles, the observation of processing technologies with the marks of the tools used, the recognition of rework or traces of sculptural elements missing, allow to collect data on the execution characteristics useful for identifying a recurring style, while the presence of degradation phenomena attributable to human causes may suggest a path of conservation.
After an introduction to the tipically country character of Riozzo, and to his belonging, from the beginning, to the Visconti’s Milanese family, previously Aicardi (one branch of those was successfully named “Visconti of Riozzo”), we describe the history of the village, especially in relation to its lords: his purchase, with attached rights (1419), the construction of his church (1469), his promotion to feud (1616) and to marquisate (1657). Concerning the St. Roque church, in need of restoration work already in 1597, it begins to be rebuilt, after a controversial period, only after 1651 in order to end before 1673, still without becaming, in the same time, an autonomous church, but remaining formally dependent from Melegnano’s parish. With reference to the historical documents concerning the altar, their systematic collection and critical attribution showed, firstly, a long traditional phase, starting from the establishment (or a little later), with the Virgin Mary’s icon in terra-cotta, connected to the similar figures of saints Lucy and Roque (perhaps, after the reconstruction of the church, rebuilt as an unconnected statue, with the two saints only as pictures). The current Madonna di Riozzo appears to be later, seeing that can be testified only starting to the pastoral visit of 1749, without the possibility to come back before 1711; within this period, his appearance may preferably refer (but only through surmises) to the years between 1725 and 1728.