Gaudenzio Ferrari: The Miracle of Marseilles in the chapel of Mary Magdalene in San Cristoforo, Vercelli (1530-1532)
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The conversion of the governor of Marseilles and his wife, thanks to the intervention of the Magdalene – known as the Miracle of Marseilles – along with their subsequent pilgrimage and baptism, is a narrative rarely depicted in renaissance art. However, in 1530-1532, the subject was treated in a strikingly prominent and unconventional fashion by Gaudenzio Ferrari in his murals in the church of San Cristoforo in Vercelli. This article seeks to provide a new interpretation of this mural within the context of the patronage of the local aristocratic Corradi di Lignana family and their relationships with the Humiliati order administering the church. The theme of the Baptism of the governor’s couple deviates strongly from the medieval iconographic tradition as it manifested itself in Italy and the Alpine regions. It seems to refer to specific circumstances – namely, the appointment of a member of the Corradi family as the new provost of San Cristoforo in 1529 – and, more generally, to the familial self-image that the Corradi di Lignana, justified or not, were determined to propagate. the unusual choice and presentation of subject matter also explain the highly striking inclusion of two “paintings within a painting” in Ferrari’s murals.
keywordsGaudenzio Ferrari; Mary Magdalene; Miracle of Marseilles; Humiliati; Corradi di Lignana; church of San Cristoforo, Vercelli.
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