LOMBARDIA - Milano - Cathedral
FILE : Milano Duomo 5
TITLE : Saint John Damasceno window

LOCATION: Milano, Cathedral, window nVI

DIMENSIONS: window with 3 lancets and a tracery composed of trilobes and a rose window; h. 2300 x w. 380 cms. ; each rectangular panel measures 114 x 80 cms.; each trilobe measures 65 x 36 cms. and 58 x 39 cms.

PROVENANCE: It was executed for the " fenestra illa quae est apud altare Notariorum"...."capelle seu altaris dictorum aromatariorum Mediolani sitae....versus Curiam seu contrafortum predictae maioris ecclesie" (the window near the Notaries altar, in the chapel or altar of the mentioned Apothecaries towards the Archbishop's palace or the buttress of the mentioned cathedral): that is the window sXII where the window was positioned until 1516.

CHRONOLOGY: 1478-1516

AUTHOR: Niccolò da Varallo (documented)

PATRONAGE: The College of the Apothecaries

SUBJECT(S): 1a)-1c) Patchwork panels; 2a)-2c) panel with coat-of-arms (by P.Bertini); 3a) The Birth of St.John; 3b) The Monk Cosma teaching St. John; 3c) St.John holds the pastoral Chair; 4a) The Virgin appears to St. John; 4b) St. John confides his Vocation to his Family; 4c) St.John retreats to a Monastery; 5a) St. John becomes a Monk; 5b) St. John teaches the Children; 5c) The Saint teaches Languages; 6c) The Saint offers his work to the Virgin ; 9a) St. John welcomes the Son of the Prince; 9c) St. John is appointed to his first Offices; 10a) The Deceit of the forged Letter; 10b) The forged Letter is brought to the Emperor; 10c) St. John is arrested; 11a) The hand of the Saint is hung on the city Gate; 11b) The Torture of St. John Damasceno; 11c) The Prince verifies the Miracle; 12a) The Miracle of the Virgin; 12b) The Monks verify the Miracle; 12c) The Prince invites ascertainment of the Miracle; 13a) The Ordination of St. John Damasceno; 13b) St. John in his Study (episode invented by P. Bertini inexistent in the hagiographic sources ); 13c) The Saint at the Market (episode invented by P. Bertini inexistent in the hagiographic sources); 14a) St. John celebrates the Mass - The Deacons, (left panel of triptych); 14b) St. John celebrates the Mass - The Saint, (central panel of triptych); 14c) St. John celebrates the Mass - The Deacons, (right panel of triptych) (by P. Bertini); 15a) The Death of the Saint - The Deacons (left panel of triptych; 15b) The Death of the Saint- The Saint (central panel of triptych); 15c) The Death of the Saint - The Deacons (right part of triptych; 6a),6c),7b) Avicenna-Dioscoride, Mesna-Ipocrate, Galieno-Serapio, trilobes (by P. Bertini); 7a), 8a), 7b), 8b), 8c), 9c) Angels (by P. Bertini); 3 little rose windows and the main rose window (by P. Bertini).

CRITICAL NOTES: The activity of Niccolò da Varallo, son of the famous Leonardo (who, was already painting stained glass windows in the Milano Cathedral in 1439), is documented from 1449 until 1489, and perhaps, until 1516. So he was working in the Duomo during the same period as Cristoforo de' Mottis and Antonio da Pandino. In 1477 da Varallo signed a contract with da Pandino thereby becoming partners. And with his partner Niccolò drew up a deed to paint all the Pavia Charterhouse windows. Therefore, the two glaziers monopolized all the stained glass windows in the Milan Cathedral and in the Pavia Charterhouse. Nevertheless, their activity was divided: Antonio executed mainly the Charterhouse windows, and only one stained glass window in the Milan Cathedral, the Life of Jesus; while Niccolò was predominantly active in the Milan Cathedral. In 1478, in fact, the Apothecaries College obtained permission from the Milan Cathedral committee to commission a stained glass window near the Notaries altar. In 1479, they commissioned Niccolò da Varallo to execute the said window. The necessary material was repeatedly delivered until 1516 "iuxta solitum" (as usual). It is thus reasonable to suppose that Niccolò pursued the stained glass execution until this date. His particular style demonstrates a predilection for representations of family life enclosed within little attentively described rooms. The last episodes of the cycle on account of the diverse typology of the figures and looser composition are datable to the last work phase after 1486.

CONDITION: Already in need of restoration in 1539, this stained glass window was probably transferred at that time to window n VI, its present location. Some XVI century panels, attributable to Pietro da Velate, seem to be an earlier restoration. Several heavy mending leads. Many replacements and heavy overpainting (P. Bertini, 1877).

Restoration and Conservation: 1970 Ven. Fabbrica del Duomo-Curator: E. Brivio. Cleaning system: on the external face clear water thickened by cellulose; on the internall face a brush dusting. New frames in "bronzo marina" (a particular type of bronze alloy); and new copper protective nets. No protective glazing. Many missing panels are now located in foreign museums.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: See Bibl. Duomo 5

PHOTOGRAPHIC CREDITS: Fototeca Ven. Fabbrica del Duomo

TRANSLATION: Suzanne Miele