Thursday, March 19, 2015

"Il Pastura" in Trastevere - Roman Renaissance.

Antonio del Massaro also known as Il Pastura was a Renaissance painter from Viterbo. His style was inititally inspired by Pintoricchio with whom he worked in the Sistine Chapel, and later by Antoniazzo Romano - in the second half of the XV century (1470) he was chosen to paint together with his master Pintoricchio the Ponziani Chapel in Santa Cecilia in Trastevere - while Pintoricchio decorated the ceiling (Pintoricchio in Santa Cecilia) he decorated the walls with beautiful Renaissance frescoes representing some saints. Now they are unfortunately very damaged. The altarpiece with the iconography of Our Lady of Succour, Saint Stephen and the family's saint: Francesca - is rather important in the understanding of how commissions worked in the Renaissance, and in this case the lesser known ones, such as in the case of Antoniazzo Romano. This is the unknown Roman Renaissance and this is one of its gems.

 The Blessed Virgin Mary with Saint Lawrence and Saint Frances.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria (?)

Saint George

Saint Jerome

Saint Sebastian

Monday, March 16, 2015

Gothic altarpiece in Rome.

The tiny church of Santa Barbara dei Librai, by the Campo de' Fiori, hosts a unique, rather than rare, example of late Medieval, early Renaissance art in Rome. An altarpiece by Leonardo da Roma, that shows the transition of the two styles, while these works are quite common in northern Lazio or Umbria, after the Counter-Reformation they became obsolete in Rome, especially as Rome at the time, unlike Florence was a city of mosaics and frescoes, rather than altarpieces - and several were removed from churches, this one example is a wonderful surviving testimony of a lost past. It is not in the great innovators and master that we see the style of the time, but in the works of these minor artists, they open a window into the artistic scene of their own time. In this case, the Gothic frame and gilded background merge with tridimensional figures that show a new sense of movement and balance that was rising from antiquity, a sign of the reborn arts that were to come during the second half of the 15th century. The Renaissance was breathing its first breath.

Madonna with Child and St. Michael and St. John the Baptist, Leonardo da Roma, c. 1450, Santa Barbara dei Librai, Rome.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Melozzo da Forlì at the Quirinal Palace.

In 1472 Melozzo da Forlì, the great Renaissance artist inspired by Mantegna and Della Francesca, painted with frescoes the apse of SS. Apostoli with a glorious scene representing Christ sorrounded by angels. Unfortunately in 1710 the apse was remodeled and the frescoes dismantled - they can be found today in the Vatican Museums except for the central figure: Christ - which is now in the Scalone d'Onore in the Quirinal Palace in Rome. It is a beautiful fresco which shows the greatness of the master who made it, Melozzo was in fact the first artist to develop the technique of foreshortening.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Damaged Renaissance frescoes in Santa Francesca Romana.

Santa Francesca Romana church, formerly known as Santa Maria Nova is an ancient church located near the Coliseum and it hosts the shrine of its patron saint. The first chapel on the right hand side has XV century frescoes by Melozzo da Forlì, the Borgias' pictor papalis, on the ceiling and the under-arch - they represent four doctors of the Church as well as God the Father, Adam, Eve and landscapes. 

This was truly a little gem but I could not avoid to notice the bad state in which the frescoes are - dampness has largely damaged St. Mark the evangelist and is now spreading to the central section of the ceiling. 
I am truly concerned and will do my best to promote the restoration of this chapel, if you can help in any way send a message to our facebook page, thank you.

The most bizarre Renaissance work in Rome.

The Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, near the Lateran hosts probably the most bizarre Renaissance work of art in Rome. The ceiling of the anti-chapel of Saint Helen is decorated with a mosaic executed by Melozzo da Forlì (then pictor papalis) in 1489 - it represents Christ in the act of blessing sorrounded by the evangelists. This work replaces a lost V century mosaic, hence the Byzantine influence of the work.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Saint Frances' Monastery.

Medieval window.

Today is the feast of Saint Frances and I visited the Tor de' Specchi monastery here in Rome, Saint Frances was a great Roman saint who received her calling to a religious life after her two sons died and her husband got ill. She founded the monastery in 1443 as an oblate community - these sorts of communities were rather common in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. The oblates conducted simple lives - working and helping the sick and the poor. On 15 August 1425 on the day of the Assumption, ten women led by Saint Frances offered themselves as oblates, founding this community at Santa Maria Nova al Palatino - the Olivetan monks' basilica - they were dedicated to charitable works while still living with their families - often rich and part of the new bourgeois or nobility.
On 25 March 1433 they rented an house in the Rione Campitelli near a tower called Torre degli Specchi (now lost) - here the oblates begun to live a fully common life.
Here during an ecstasy, Frances with the inspiration of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Saint Paul, Saint Benedict and Saint Mary Magdalene dictated the rule of the order, based on the Benedictine one. 
On  4 July 1433, Pope Eugene IV recognizes the order and gives them the right to choose a president and their confessor. In 1439 also the Olivetan monks recognize their order and give them authonomy as well as the right of honorific burial in Santa Maria Nova for each sister.
This community still survives and through the centuries it has never stopped helping the poor and the sick, following the example of Saint Frances. Today they share their beautiful house with poor students and the elders.
When I entered the XV century house today it was like going back to the Renaissance, the nuns kept the place unchanged since the day of its foundation, everything is at it was then. The glorious frescoes by Antonio Aquili known as Antoniazzo Romano, the main Roman artist of the Renaissance - are absolutely splendid.
The frescoes were executed in 1468 and represent the life of Saint Frances, in the first room and the refectory. Interestingly, most frescoes also have a description in old Roman dialect.


Saint Frances with the Madonna and child with Saint Benedict.

Saint Frances' funeral at Santa Maria Nova.

Saint Frances and the miracle of the grapes.

Detail of the funeral.

Saint Frances resuscitates a drowned man.

Saint Frances' death.

Detail of Saint Frances' death.

Detail of the description in old Roman dialect.

Saint Frances and the miracle of the bread.

Appearance of a light orb above her during communion.

Appearance of an angel with her deceased son.

Detail of Christ enthroned.

Saint Frances heals a sick man with a bad leg.

Vision of Christ who holds her hand.

Miracle of the vineyard.

Saint Frances receives the child Jesus from Mary.

Saint Frances heals a man with nine wounds.

Vision of Saint Frances.

Detail of the miracle in the vineyard.

Saint Frances heals a young dying man.

Saint Frances heals a young hunchback.

Saint Frances and the miracle of wheat.

Saint Frances heals a young man with a head injury.

Saint Frances and the miracle of wine.

Saint Frances heals a young man with a foot injury.

Saint Frances receives communion at St. Peter's.

Saint Frances resuscitates a young boy.

The original Renaissance ceiling.

The original Renaissance ceiling and windows.

Saint Frances heals a young paralytic.

Saint Frances' vision of hell.

Detail of the vision of hell.

Saint Frances heals a young man's arm.

Saint Frances oblation to the Virgin in the church of Santa Maria.

A detail of Saint Frances' funeral.


Risen Christ.

The Blessed Virgin Mary with Saint Frances and Saint Benedict.


The refectory has frescoes of the visions she had of evil spirits, from which her guardian angel, with her son, saved her.

Demons beat Saint Frances while she is at prayer in her cell.

Saint Frances in her cell is tormented by demons while she prays.

While doing laundry for her infirm husband she meets three demons in disguise as monks.

Saint Frances in her cell is tormented by demons.

Saint Frances finds a rotten corpse, Satan tries to push her on it.

Saint Frances is going to her infirm husbands's room when a serpent and a lion attack her.

The demons visit Saint Frances while she is at prayer, dragging her out.

Saint Frances meets Satan in disguise as her patron saint.

Satan appears to Saint Frances as a dragon with several heads, Saint Paul saves her.

Saint Frances meets a flock of sheep, then they become wolves and dragons.

Detail of the description in old Roman dialect.