LOMBARDIA - Milano - Cathedral
FILE : Milano Cathedral 64
TITLE : The vow of Jephthah (a)

LOCATION: Milano Duomo window XVIII , panel 5c

DIMENSIONS: 116 x 61cm

PROVENANCE: Milano Duomo. Wind. n. II (scattered panel)

CHRONOLOGY: middle of the XVI cent.

AUTHOR(S): Giuseppe Arcimboldi(drawings);Conrad Mochis from Cologne (execution )

ASSIGNMENT: Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo.

SUBJECT(S): a man, clearly worried, is handing a letter to someone placed in a panel that completes the scene and clears up its meaning. That panel has been noticed in a glass with the image of some female figures turned to the left (see Milano, Duomo 69). The same setting, an interior with a bricked wall and windows open to a hilly landscape, as well as the same dimensional scale of the personages lead to consider the two panel as part of the same scene, maybe the ‘Vow of Jephthah’. That is narrated in the Book of the Judges (11, 29-36) , symbolically represented in the glass by the letter in the hands of the man that, for his victory against Ammon’s sons, has to sacrifice to God the first person he will meet in his way back. The unavoidable and tragic fate wanted his only daughter to be the innocent victim of that promise, to be fulfilled despite the fact that the civilization described in the Bible never makes human sacrifices to thank God.

CRITICAL NOTES: The panel is arbitrarily inserted together with other stained glasses, part of iconographic cycles of both the Old Testament and The Passion of Christ. Most likely, both the cycles come from the large apsidal windows (nII Old Testament and sII New Testament) whose panels, executed between XV and XVI cent., had been scattered all through the 19th century in consequence of the G.B. Bertini’s remaking (1835-38) and the following interventions in the general reorganization of the ancient stained glass windows (G. and P. Bertini 1861). Neither the post-war replacing of the panels, nor the recent restorations (since 1962) have taken into consideration the problem of giving an order and a legibility to the corpus of the scattered panels that are in a great disorder. From a stylistic point of view, the panel considered is homogeneous with the most of the Old Testament panels: monumental figures, vigorous postures but helpless, there is no depth in the background, the scenes are barely enriched of descriptive details and given to the protagonists only. This kind of concept derives from the Bramantinesque figurative tradition, that prefers solid figures fixed in geometric shapes. It’s certainly part of the cultural background of the master of the old testament window, keeping himself abreast of the manner halfway through the ‘500, steeped in both the culture of central Italy and the northern interpretation of the Romanism. The name of that artist has to be found out among the active masters at Duomo’s glass yard that are listed in the documents between the forties and the sixties of the XVI cent. Most likely, according to some scholars, the artist is Giuseppe Arcimboldi. He was paid for a great number of drawings (1549-1557). Some of them are certainly related to the St. Catherine of Alexandria window which he collaborated to with his father Biagio; but, after due consideration, numerous could be those of the Old Testament window . That attribution is supported by the stylistic analogies with the artist’s famous works. Others, shift their attention on foreign artists that presented drawings between 1558and 1561 (Antonio de…., the Flemish Cornelius, Batista of Putheo) but as for their personality, it is almost unknown and anyway, their intervention was modest. Yet, Conrad Mochis from Cologne was the executor of the stained glasses. He had been at Duomo’s glass yard between 1544 and 1569, working at several panels (he made the drawings of St. Catherine of Siene window nXI, see Milano Duomo 25). He was an appreciated and good master and enjoyed a certain independence in his work. That leads to believe that as for some drawings where unlikely is the attribution to Arcimboldi, there could have been Conrad’s hand.

CONDITIONS: in good conditions, in spite of the several replacements by the Bertinis. 1962 Restoration by Ven. Fabbrica del Duomo, Directed by Arch. E. Brivio: the dusting, the cleaning of the glasses with detergent stuff based on polyphosphates, the washing with distilled water, partial re-leading, protective nets with frames in bronze-marina and mesh in copper wire. No counter- stained glass window.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: see Bibl. Milano, Duomo – XVI century stained-glass windows

PHOTOGRAPHIC CREDITS: photographic files Ven. Fabbrica del Duomo

EDITOR: Marina Fassera (January 2000)