Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Saints Flora and Lucilla

Master of Saints Flora and Lucilla, active ca. 1300 - 1340
Saint Flora
ca. 1310
Tempera on panel
90.4 x 55.4 cm
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Ct

Master of Saints Flora and Lucilla, active ca. 1300 - 1340
Saint Lucilla
ca. 1310
Tempera on panel
90.3 x 54.4 cm
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Ct

The cult of Saints Flora and Lucilla was strong in Tuscany especially around Arezzo

They appeared to have died martyrs` deaths circa AD 260-265 during the reign of Gallienus

They were two sisters who were virgins who were martyred along with Eugenius, Theodore, Antonius  and another 18 companions

Their feast day was 29th July until their names were expunged from the Roman calendar in 2001 on the basis that their stories were probably a medieval legend

About AD 851 their relics were taken from Ostia to Arezzo by John, Bishop of Arezzo where he placed them in a Benedictine abbey

He later built a church on the Titano (Torrita) hill overlooking the town and an  abbey to house the remains

The church (La Badia delle Sante Flora e Lucilla)was rebuilt in the 1560s by Vasari 

The presbytery is dominated by the monumental altar built by Vasari (a native of Arezzo) for the chapel of his family in the parish church of Santa Maria in 1563 and moved here in 1865. 

A masterpiece of baroque artifice is the false dome, painted on canvas by the celebrated Jesuit brother Andrea Pozzo (1642-1709)  in 1702 and placed above the main altar

In the 9th century their stories were memorialised in The Passio. however it simply copies verbatim the stories of other saints and martyrs with some insignificant changes

The relics are still in the Badia but housed in the altar dedicated to  Saint Rita. 

The cult did spread throughout Tuscany and also into France and Spain

Here is a Mannerist version of the Baptism of St Lucilla by St Valentine by da Ponte:

Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo da Ponte) (1510-1592)
St Valentine Baptizing St Lucilla
Oil on canvas
183.5 x 129.5 cm
Museo Civico, Bassano del Grappa

Bassano has conflated a number of stories and produced a parable on Light

Lucilla as painted is the daughter of a Roman noble who seeks Baptism from the hands of St Valentine

She is blind

On being baptised her sight is restored

Valentine and Lucilla are subsequently martyred

As might be expected from an artistic master of the Veneto and pupil of Titian the light effects in the painting dazzle the viewer reinforcing the theme of the painting

By the early 1560s Bassano freed himself from Mannerist preoccupations, returning to a new objectivity and classicism with compositions based upon the unifying power of light. 

In Baptism we become Children of God, the brothers and sisters of Christ, the Light of the World

Out of the darkness Lucilla will step into the Light and will never be the same again

A religious man and a painter of many religious works, da Ponte is said to have stated:
"Sono di fede et religione cristiana, e chi si ingana, suo dano” ("I am of the Christian faith and religion, and if somebody believes the contrary, he is wrong and it is his problem")

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