Friday, November 24, 2006

Refectory, Convent of San Marco, Florence

SOGLIANI, Giovanni Antonio (b. 1492, Firenze, d. 1544, Firenze)
St Dominic and his Friars Fed by Angels 1536
Convent of San Marco, Florence
Together with Interior view, refectory (designed by Michelozzo), towards fresco of Saint Dominic and his Bretheren Fed by Angels on end wall

In 1536, the monks of San Marco (Florence) commissioned Giovanni Antonio Sogliani to paint a full size fresco for the end wall of their large refectory.
Sogliani wished to paint a modern design on the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes. The monks rejected this.
They insisted on the Dominican themes pictured.
Angels are miraculously bringing bread to Saint Dominic and his fasting and penniless brethren at S. Sabina at Rome, who are sitting around a table and number twelve just as the apostles in the Last Supper.
Above the Supper theme is a crucifixion image: St Antoninus is kneeling on the left; St Catherine of Siena is kneeling on the right of the cross.
As regards the painting of the supper, the portraits of the friars are friars who were in residence at the time of the painting.
On the extreme left is a portrait of a young novice in white who is standing. His family (the Molietti) paid the bill for the fresco.
The painting is formal, austere and static. It is livened by touches of movement in the clothes, gestures and expressions.
When the friars sat down to dinner, they were not only reminded that Christ had dined before them. They saw a picture showing themselves re-enacting Christ's meal.
Of the portraits, the portrait of the white novice standing on the left is the most life like and alive. He is shown turning round and gazing out at the people entering the refectory.
After more than four hundred and fifty years, their bodies are now dust and most if not all are forgotten. However the painting has captured those brief instances in time and those brief moments come alive in the painting after all those centuries. As it was intended.