LOMBARDIA - Milano - Cathedral
FILE : Milano Cathedral 76
TITLE : Bathsheba at the bath

LOCATION: Milano Duomo window XVII , panel 4c

DIMENSIONS: cm 116 x 59,5

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) : in the background, there’s a complex architecture with two-winged palaces, linked by a loggia with two arches underneath, through which a further courtyard can be made out, with buildings closed up by domes. In the foreground Bathsheba, almost naked, is plunging into a bath where water is gushing from two openings. David, in regal cloths, notices her from the loggia and hopelessly falls in love. Bathsheba is David’s senile love; she makes him lose his head and will make him commit a terrible deed (see Milano, Duomo 75). A son will born of their union, Salomon. The episode is generally linked to Susan’s bath; but, whilst the latter is an edifying model, Bathsheba’s example, an adulterer, rises perplexity. In the Renaissance both the subjects are often translated pointing out the most sensual feature. In the Christian exegesis Bathsheba is a symbol of the Church, David a symbol of Christ, and the bath represents the need of purification of the Church to be worthy of being Christ’s spouse. The panel is stylistically a bit different from the homogeneous group of the Old Testament windows, whereas it shows some affinities with the Saint Catherine of Siene window (see. Milano Duomo 25) drawn and realized in glass by Conrad of Cologne.

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)