Un ciclo carolingio a Milano. Nuove ipotesi sulle pitture murali in San Satiro
| ARTE LOMBARDA - 2012 - 1-2
A Carolingian cycle in Milan.
New theories on the mural paintings in San Satiro
Embedded in the complex urban and architectural stratification of Milan’s
historic center, the church of San Satiro is the lone Carolingian
monumental building in the area: its plan has been preserved, as has a
cycle of mular paintings datable, for the most part, to the years of the
foundation, which was ordered by Ansperto da Biassono (Archbishop of
Milan from 868 to 881) within the so-called Insula Ansperti.
Despite the defective conservation, it is possible to suggest a reconstruction
of the original project – a task only inconsistently attempted so far
by scholars – based on the recognition of “pairs” of figures on each of
the four corners of the building. Such reading gives way to new theories
on the identity of the portraited characters, and casts new light on the
presence of figural elements such as the flowered cross – strictly connected
with 9th-Century funerary painting – or the raceme decoration of
the vaults, prompting an analogy with Carolingian cycles north of the
Alps, such as the westwork of Corvey.
All the collected data concerning composition, iconography, technique
and style are put in relation with Ansperto’s patronage and the cultural
scene in late-9th Century Milan: this reinvigorates the ipothesis, often rejected
by scholars, of a homogeneous Carolingian cycle.
The intent of this article is not to give a final answer to the questions
surrounding the artwork, but rather to put such questions in a critical
perspective, reconstructing the cycle in its complexity and opening up
new lines of interpretation thanks to a broader basis of comparison, and
thus to finally include the commission for San Satiro in a truly Milanese
– and at the same time European – context.