EMILIA ROMAGNA - Bologna
SCHEDA : Opera Pia Bargellini 1
TITOLO : Madonna with Child

LOCATION: Bologna, Opera Pia Bargellini

DIMENSIONS: about cm 30 x 50

PROVENANCE: unknown

CHRONOLOGY: second quarter of the XVI cent. (?)

AUTHOR: master from the Bologna area

ASSIGNMENT: unknown

SUBJECT: The Madonna sitting down, in three quarters, is wrapped in an ample light blue mantle. She is lovingly holding the little but vigorous child in her arms turning her eyes upon him.

CRITICAL NOTES: it is a small fragmentary window whose provenance is unknown. It appeared the first time in a restoration laboratory (Studio Fenice in Bologna) for its precarious conditions. A publication came out after its restoration, where only the technical features in there were described, omitting a historical-stylistic analysis on it. The high quality of the work would deserve a deeper research, verged to identify not only the assignment, provenance and author, but also to contextualize and fill the gaps in the stained glass production in Bologna. The present file, waiting for further rigorous studies, intends to be a first step to spread the knowledge of this little window, tracing a first cautious profile with reference to the Bolognese artistic culture in the first half of the XVI century.

In the panel Mary is represented sitting down on a chair, as it is suggested from her position in three quarters, with a round-shaped cut in the lower part. She is holding Jesus, in a quick twisting movement; their looking one another with intense sweetness. The typology of the Virgin reflects the Raphael’s models spread all over Italy even before the diaspora of his students and collaborators soon after the Sack of Rome (1527), thanks to the engravings by Marcantonio Raimondi.

Since the first decade of the Cinquecento Bologna had been a center where the classicist Tuscan-Roman language spread from, and whose author was Francesco Francia, with his such gentle and generous shapes, with the harmony and the fluid rhythm of his compositions, with "la dolcezza nei colori unita" – ‘the sweetness merged in the colors’ (Vasari), that he is been considered to be the artist that paved the way to Raphaelesque innovation. Such ‘revolution’ makes itself concrete when in Bologna arrived a work wanted by Antonio Pucci, Saint Cecile’s ecstasy (1514, Bologna, Pinacoteca Bologna Nazionale) , that will have influence both in the content and in the form ( Malvasia suggests the presence of the same Raffaello in the town, as there is evidence from a drawing notepad "fatto in Bologna suxo le dipinture del Bagnacavallo e del Sancio de Urbino"- made in Bologna on the painting by Bagnocavallo and by Sanzio from Urbino).

With the presence of that work in Bologna an era is over, whose protagonist was Francia, besides the Ferrarese supremacy (Francesco del Cossa, Ercole de’ Roberti) that signs the artistic culture in Emilia between the XV and the XVI century. The group of artists closer to the Raphael’s innovations are Innocenzo Francucci named da Imola, that consciously joined the linear and pure classicism of Raphael; Girolamo da Cotignola, that in Rome gets in touch with the classicist and ancient-fashioned environment; Bartolomeo Ramenghi called the Bagnacavallo, that updates his language modelled on Francia’s one, with a deeper color sensitivity and a more natural and ideal shaping, close to the artist from Urbino’s . Finally, Biagio Pupini, that starting halfway through the 20ies reveals to join more and more the Raphaelesque model, sometimes lacking in emotion and presented more in the surface. Maybe it is among those artist that the author of the small window with Madonna and Child should be found out, keeping in mind that some archival sources assure Bagnacavallo and Pupini as authors of a lost window, realized in 1520 for the Chapel of Peace.

CONDITIONS: The window is in a XIX century context, with lead soldered glasses, of which it is a decorative element. The crucial problem is the loss of grisaille painting, maybe due to the abrasive cleaning, that caused the almost entire loss of the figures’ drawing, of which only some traces are left. Facing that problem, quite common in ancient stained glass windows, a group of technicians and experts tried to recover the lost drawing, starting with the shades that the old grisaille still showed, and getting ready a method, not invasive and easy to be applied. The surveys moved from the restoration laboratory to to the Instituto di Ricerca sulle Onde Elettromagnetiche of the CNR in Florence where they worked on a recent glass that presented the same conditions of the grisaille loss. The research starts with a first stage of restoration and photographic surveys during which, thanks to a TV camera connected with a monitor and with various sources of lights, came out a ‘negative’ and ‘positive map’ of the drawing, the shaping , the details, that couldn’t be seen with the naked eye, thanks to light diffusion and scattering phenomena. In order to obtain a good visibility, they had to lighten the glass with luminous rays from a proper incidence angle, to make the shades of the grisaille show up, and overall, to record such imprints. The scanner turned out to be the best instrument in order to pick up the drawing of the glass and thanks to it they printed with laser method the drawing on sheets of transparent plastic that could be put on the glass work giving it back its original and integral look. For further details see the issue (file PDF) (see bibliography).

BIBLIOGRAPHY: for a extensive and updated bibliography refer to two main and recent texts about the study of the Bolognese artistic culture:

V. Fortunati Pietrantoni , Pittura bolognese del Cinquecento, Bologna, Grafis Ed., 2 vol., 1986

V. Fortunati , La pittura in Emilia e in Romagna. Il Cinquecento, Milano, Electa. 2 vol., 1995

For the restoration see:
A. Casini, Franco Lotti, Lorenzo Stefani, A. Corallini, Un metodo di rilevazione e ricostruzione dei dipinti a grisaglia perduti, Istituto Lombardo Accademia di Scienze e Lettere, estratto, Milano, 1997

PHOTOGRAPHIC FILES: Archivio CVMA Italia

EDITOR: Marina Fassera (June 2001)