Thursday, April 09, 2015

A Taste of Franciscan Art

Bartolomeo della Gatta ( born Pietro di Antonio Dei) (1448 - 1502)
San Francesco riceve le stimmate; St Francis receives the stigmata
Tempera on panel
186 cm  x 162 cm.

In 1468 Pietro di Antonio Dei of a good Florentine family took holy orders, probably in the Camaldolese monastery of S Maria degli Angeli, Florence, in which his brother Nicolo had already entered. 

In 1470 he was in Arezzo at the convent of S Maria in Gradi (not Santa Maria degli Angeli as reported by Vasari) and had the adopted name of Bartolomeo ('della Gatta' apparently refers to his fondness for a female cat). 

He spent most of the rest of his life in Arezzo, where he became abbot of S Clemente in Arezzo

The building of Santissima Annunziata in Arezzo was directed by Bartolomeo della Gatta and, after his death, by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder. 

He became one of the most original interpreters of Piero della Francesca. 

Most critics regard him as an eclectic and versatile  artist greatly influenced by artists of different styles from Perugino, Signorelli, Piero, Pollaiuolo and Verrocchio . But he had an absolute mastery of the technique of drawing

The work above was commissioned for the Franciscan church of San Francesco in Castiglion Fiorentino

Here we see the passionate religious feelings of the two friars -  St  Francis and his companion, Leone - totally immersed  in the vision of the Seraph and the Stigmata. The setting is La Verna on the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross in September 1223

We also note the broad backdrop of the  Apennine forest, described with realistic attention to the  rough rocks, the sparse vegetation and trees and of course the owl who appears to be looking away from the Vision

But above all we note the light and the exultation as if the whole of God`s Creation animate and inanimate had been transformed:
"in cui il Monte della Vernia parea ch’ardesse di fiamma isplendidissima, la quale risplendeva e illuminava tutti li monti e le valli d’intorno, come se fusse il sole sopra la terra"

The Galleria dell`Accademia in Florence presenly has an exhibition on Franciscan art. It is entitled L’arte di Francesco: Capolavori d’arte italiana e terre d’Asia dal XIII al XV secolo - Franciscan Art
Masterpieces of Italian art and Asian lands from the 13th to the 15th centuries

The exhibition illustrates the flowering of art – painting, sculpture and the sumptuary arts – directly related to the Franciscan movement between the 13th and 15th centuries.  

At the same time, it endeavours to highlight the Franciscans’ astonishing achievement in spreading the gospel throughout Asia, from the Holy Land to China 

The works of art were  commissioned either by Franciscan friars through their most prestigious churches and convents, or by private citizens who nurtured a special devotion for the saint and his immediate followers

Here are some of the other exhibits in the exhibition in Florence:

Maestro del dossale di San Giovanni Battista
San Francesco e quattro storie della sua vita : St Francis and four stories from his Life
c 1270
Tempera on wood panel with gold leaf
173 x 83 cm
Museo d’arte sacra, Orte

St Francis looks haggardly thin

He is holding a book. Either the Gospels or  his Rule

His hand rises in benediction as he looks out at the viewer

On the top left is the scene at La Verna

On the top right is the Sermon to the Birds

On the bottom left is his preaching in Alexandria when he met a rather bemused Sultan

On the bottom right is the recollection of a miracle wrought after his death

The Franciscans were given the Church of Sant`Angelo in Orte in 1259 and the work was commissioned for that church sometime in the 1270s

A century later (1366) it was transferred to the Franciscan church of San Tedoro alla Rocca in Orte

Neapolitan school
St Bernardine of Siena 
Oil on panel
Sala Capitolare, Monastero di Santa Chiara in via Vitellia, Rome

This work shows the passion of the man

What it was that communicated to the crowds who flocked to hear him preach

Images of the great Franciscan preacher and saint  Bernardine of Siena abound. Here , here and here

The price of his stock is low at the moment but will rebound

He  was canonised in 1450 scarcely six years after his death

Maestro di Figline (active 1315-1335 circa)
Madonna col Bambino in trono fra sei angeli, sant’Elisabetta d’Ungheria e san Ludovico di Tolosa
Madonna and Child enthroned with six angels, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary and St Louis of Toulouse
1317 -  1320 
Tempera on wood panel with gold leaf 
298 cm. x 175.5 cm.
Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta, Figline Valdarno, 

The artist known as Maestro di Figline was active during the first half of the fourteenth century. He was one of the greatest painters of the time and was almost certainly a member of the Franciscan Order

Here we see a reminder of the great devotion of the Franciscan order to the Blessed Vurgin Mary in what seems to be an almost Sienese work

His works can be found in Tuscany and Umbria

His best known work is probably his Crucifixion of 1320 which hangs in Santa Croce, Florence and which has recently been restored. 

Figline Valdarno llies just outside Florence and it is thought that the Madonna and Child was commissioned for a Franciscan church in the town, the Chiesa di San Francesco

The Museum is extremely under-rated (as is the town itself)

It is one of the “piccoli grandi musei”