Saturday, March 29, 2014

Madonna with Child and with Saints

Benozzo Gozzoli 1420 - 1497
Madonna with Child and with Saints
Chapel of St Jerome, Church of St Francis, Montefalco

These works are renowned, many still in situ, especially the fresco cycle on the Life of St Francis some abroad in national galleries

He enlisted the help of some co-workers as was customary in the fifteenth century artist workshops

The Church was run by the Conventual Franciscans rather than the Observants

The rivalry between the two branches in the town was intense. 

It was scandalous. They shared more in common than divided them. Both were convinced that their way was the way of doctrinal purity and despite the efforts of the Church, great time and effort was wasted

The eventual legal split did not come about until 1517

In the chapel dedicated to St. Jerome, where scenes illustrating episodes from the life of the saint is accompanied by a mock Gothic polyptych. His  illusionistic  fresco has a painted altar with a painted  altar-step, all framed by a carved and gilded wood carpentry. 

The chapel was owned by a local nobleman: Ser Giovanni Battista de Filippis

The work properly commenced in the chapel on 1st November 1452 (The Feast of All Saints) which was quite apropriate in view of the subject matter

We know this from the inscription: 
Local assistants included Jacopo Vincioli (active 1444-1495)  and Niccolo di Liberatore (1430–1502)

Some of the work was based and copied from another work by Gozzoli in one of the chapels in the the Church of St Augustine in Montefalco

The centrepiece is the Madonna in Majesty with the Infant Christ

To the left of her are St Anthony of Padova and St Jerome. To the right are St John the Baptist and St Augustine

Further up in the centrepiece  with the Eternal One are the Four Doctors of the Church: St Augustine, St Gregory the Great, St Jerome and St Ambrose

The saints in the predella include: St Christopher, St James, St Claire of Assisi and St Fortunato (a local saint)

Above the centrepiece is a dramatic Crucifixion. The Crucified Jesus is surrounded by four angels who recover the precious blood as it spurts from various wounds

At the foot of the Cross are four kneeling Saints: Saint Dominic, St Francis, Saint Romuald and Saint Silvester

The scenes in the Chapel of the Life of St Jerome are naturally based on "The Golden Legend"

These two scenes depicted above are first, when St Jerome leaves Rome

He does not so much leave it but abandons it as if he wants nothing more to do with it.

He throws his red hat of his cardinalship to the ground, showing his distaste for ecclesiastical preferment and politics. Nothing much changes, does it ?

If one peers closely one can see the Castel San Angelo and the Aurelian walls

The second highlighted work shows St Jerome in Bethlehem taking the thorn out of the lion`s paw. He seems to be a  Franciscan. The three monks with him have varied reactions to the "miracle"

The story would have recalled to mind the story of St Francis and The Wolf of Gubbio, a town also in Umbria and not far distant, a reminder of the need for peace and reconciliation

The Church is now no longer a Church but a Museum