Tuesday, July 18, 2017

An unusual Renaissance gem in Florence.

Florence, as mentioned in other articles, is a city that hosts several treasures, among these many treasures there are several convents and monasteries that often have the most outstanding works of art, most of them host the popular Last Supper frescoes we have seen before: the Ghirlandaio, Andrea del Castagno, etc. But there is also an unusual one, at the Convento di Fuligno, which hosts the Perugino Last Supper. Uniquely open to the public this summer, a very rare event. Why is it unique? As we have seen before, with his Crucifixion, it is incredible that an Umbrian artist (remember Umbria was in the Papal States) managed to get art commissions in the centre of the Renaissance: Florence, the city of Ghirlandaio and Botticelli, but this just shows how popular and outstanding his work was, so popular he eventually became Raphael’s master.
The convent took its name from a community of Franciscan nuns coming from Foligno in Umbria which took possession of it in 1419. It eventually became a convent for young aristocratic Florentine ladies and was embellished thanks to donations by Lorenzo de’Medici and the Lapaccini family. Perugino arrived in Florence in 1493, where he stayed for about two years after he married his wife Chiara Fancelli, that same year he worked on in the convent.


The large work is located in a wall in the shape of a horseshoe, the scene is set in a portico, the apostles are sat on a long Renaissance wooden sedilia, decorated with a beautiful green brocade, the iconography is rather common, as usual Judas Iscariot is on the other side of the table, looking towards the viewer, but still giving us his back to us, on the other side are the "holier" apostles and Christ, from the left: James the Less who is inviting us into the scene, then, Philip, James, Andrew, Peter, Jesus, John, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, Simon and Jude, all looking at their Lord, and eating on a table. The floor presents a rather complicated geometric pattern in rose and white marbles, similar to that in the younger works by Perugino. The work is very similar to another Florentine Cenacolo, that by Ghirlandaio at San Marco, especially in the background where behind the sedilia a Renaissance loggia, where decorated pilasters open the scene of a bucolic Italian countryside panorama, with gentle hills and large trees. This was rather common at the time. The point was that these frescoes were made in refectories, in this way it was as if the religious people would eat with Our Lord and the Apostles, as the room architecturally continued into the painting and spaced into that magic countryside. In the background is also a smaller scene, still linked to the Last Supper: Christ preaching in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he and the Apostles slept after the Last Supper and before his Crucifixion, the moments that link his revelation, his sacrifice in the very institution of the Eucharist. An angel appears to be overseeing the whole scene from above. The whole scene is set within a grotesque frame, similar to ancient Roman ones, except there are small portraits of saints, a rather common Florentine detail.
This little Florentine gem is indeed worth seeing, it shows how varied the artistic life in the 15th century was and Florence not only saw local artists, but also Flemish, German but very rarely from other parts of Italy. It's truly worth it!

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