Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Japanese Martyrs

Giovan Mauro Della Rovere ("il Fiamminghino") (1575 - 1640)
The Martyrdom of the Franciscans 
(Also known as The Martyrdom of the Franciscan and Japanese martyrs at Nagasaki)
c 1621
Oil on canvas
The Chapel of the Franciscan Martyrs, Church of San Bernardino di Siena, Chiari, near Brescia

Giovan Mauro and his elder brother Giovanni Battista were known as "I Fiamminghini"

Both from Milan they were responsible for many religious art works commissioned in Northern Italy by a number of orders and in particular the reformed Franciscans

Their greatest work is probably to be found in the transept of The Abbey of Santa Maria di Rovegnano, Chiaravalle Milanese in Milan dedicated to the  Cistercian martyrs

His work is also seen in the Sacred Mount of Varese

Chiari is now a small town near Brescia in Lombardy

The present Franciscan Convent or Monastery of St Bernardino of Siena was built in 1546 on an earlier foundation. Its size increased substantially in the 17th century

However like many other religious institutions it was suppressed during the Napoleonic conquest

After the restoration it was taken over by the Jesuits, then the Benedictines until now it is College run by the Salesian order, the Istituto salesiano San Bernardino

The website of the Curazia San Bernardino at Chiari has an interesting commentary on the painting

It is in a .pdf file in Italian here

Another illustrated guide to the convent and the church is here in Italian (.pdf file)

Contrary to other catalogue entries on this work, the major attribution is not to Giovan Mauro but rather to Giovanni  Battista Della Rovere 

Again it  says that it is a work dedicated to all the Franciscan martyrs and not simply to the Franciscan Japanese Martyrs at Nagasaki as also narrated by some commentaries

The centre of the work is indeed dominated by the Martyrdom of the Martyrs at Nagasaki: 6 Franciscans and 20 Japanese and  amongst whom is the Jesuit martyr Paul Miki who was martyred on 5th February 1597

Beneath the cross of Christ a disciple embraces with love his cross prior to execution

The Franciscans first came to Brescia in 1220 and quickly spread throughout the area round Brescia 

By the 15th century the Franciscans around Brescia had become decadent and in need of great reform which took place after 1482 when  a General Chapter at Brescia was held, 

The painting and the other works in the chapel was an example to those in more comfortable surroundings who were tempted to be less fervent 

It was meant to shame as well as to inspire