|TOSCANA - Firenze|
|FILE : Val d'Ema Charterhouse 1|
|TITLE : Grotesquerie with Stories of St. Brunone – Funerals of Raymond Diocrés (a)|
The monks little cloister plan
LOCATION: Val d’Ema Charterhouse [Florence Charterhouse] Little cloister, Colloquium of the monks. Wind. n II a
DIMENSIONS: lancet window 182 x 80 cm; central medallion 31 x 21 cm
PROVENANCE: original location
CHRONOLOGY: Like the other stained glass windows: 1559 (central oval) – 1560 (decorative parts); date confirmed by the inscription in the cartouche in the interior half of the external frame on both the sides of this and the contiguous window (n.4).
AUTHOR: stained-glass oval: unknown author, cartoons; Paolo of Brondo glazier, execution . Decorative frames: unknown author, cartoons; Gualtieri of Flanders glazier, execution.
ASSIGNMENT: the Carthusians Chapter
SUBJECT/S: the storied scene is part of the six windows cycle (FIRENZE Val d’Ema Charterhouse 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) that narrate the main events of St. Bruno’s life, the founder of the Carthusian order . This is the first of the three illustrating episodes of ‘Dr. Raymond Diocrès’s Funerals’ taking place in Paris, during which, it is said, his remains raised three times crying meaningful sentences of the divine justice. The phrases above the ovals are the following: in this one ‘ JUSTO DEI JUDICIO ACCUSATUS SUM" and in the following two (see FIRENZE Val d’Ema Charterhouse 2, 3): ‘JUSTO DEI JUDICIO JUDICATUS SUM’ , ‘JUSTO DEI JUDICIO CO(N)DEMNAT(US) SUM’. In St. Bruno’s life is narrated that the saint, being present at that event, was so astonished that he decided to retire to an ascetic life.
The cycle continues with the window (see FIRENZE Certosa di Val d’Ema 4) where it is represented The dream of Hugh, bishop of Grenoble, in which he saw seven gold stars rising to the sky and flying over the mountains of the Dauphin state in a place called ‘Désert de Charteuse’, chosen as the destined location of the first Charterhouse. The seven stars stood for Bruno and his followers that applied to the bishop in order to obtain a solitary place. In the following window (see FIRENZE Val d’Ema Charterhouse 5), Hugh of Grenoble, after personally escorting the seven hermits in the Desért de Chartreuse, shows them the right place seen in his dream.
In the window that ends up the cycle (FIRENZE Val d’Ema Charterhouse 6), Bruno and his followers are building the first charterhouse.
There are couples of decorations in the windows similar among them (see FIRENZE Val d’Ema Chartehouse1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8). In both this window and number 2 the motif that frames the oval is a cartouche with two grotesqueries with a couple of facing puttoes above it ; behind the puttoes there is a broken curvilinear tympanum architectonic element with a vase in the middle and a cartouche with an inscription in it. Bottom, a double volutes motif on a winged protome with feminine features and two festoons hanging from it.
The exterior decoration is composed of grotesque masks alternating stylised vegetation. In the middle of the side motif, on both sides, the carthusian symbol and below, in a cartouche, the date ‘1560’. It’s extremely interesting for the history of the mannerist windows to note how the particular frame structure determines the ductus of the lancet drawings.
The background is made of colourless glass rectangular and lozenge-like tesseras, like a chess-board.
CRITICAL NOTES: Giuseppe Bacchi, in his Guide to the monastery was the first to consult the archive sources and to annul the old assignment to Giovanni of Udine that would have realized them on Raphael’s cartoon (Guide 1861, p.34). Bacchi presumed the author was the glazier Maestro Paolo of Brondo fro Genoa, except for the two windows that present the date 1560, works of Gualtieri of Flanders (Bacchi, 1930, pp.113-116)
Marchini (Marchini, 1958, pp. 56-57, 232) notes how Vasari, entrusting the stained glass masters coming from the Flanders, adopted the grotesquerie motif in the stained glass windows as a precious decoration, and about that he cites the Laurenziana Library windows (see FIRENZE Biblioteca Laureziana, the Charterhouse Colloquium and some halls of the Palazzo Vecchio (see FIRENZE Palazzo Vecchio, grotesquerie 1). A further comparative reading of the works style and of the documents related to the cycles at the Colloquium goes beyond even the considerations made in previous studies by the writer (Chiarelli, 1982, pp. 270-81) and carries to the following remarks.
Leaving the two incomplete windows momentary apart (see FIRENZE Val d’Ema Charterhouse 7,8), in the other six ones two hands can be singled out together with a further and more recent restoration that was more integrative than preservative. The six central stained glass ovals are attributed to the first hand: Raphaelesque is the influence, stylistically quite close to Giulio Romano, they are characterized by a certain expressive ingenuity, clear in the somewhat awkward manner of representing the figures, mainly when foreshortened. They turn out to be a work by Paolo of Brondo. A glazier from Genoa, as confirmed by his surname ‘Brondi’, a family whose presence is documented in Altare, a centre of glass production, since the XVII century (cp. Malandra, 1983, p.20) .
The decorations and figures around the central coats of arms were attributed to a second master, identified as Gualtieri of Flanders. That master reveals an extraordinary fresh and fluid line: light touches of reddish grisaille painting and maybe sanguine as well highlighted by a luminous silver yellow give life to figures and grotesquerie motifs that from a stylistic and iconographic point of view can be traced back to the mature Florentine Mannerism area, in the same Vasari’s group. Besides, it must be noticed his contrapuntal skill in the use of silver yellow when sketching the two caryatids in the pale blue glass paste and overall, in the technique spared along the border.
A far as the executive technique is concerned, the master’s provenance is confirmed in a comparison with the works that the Flemish master glaziers exported all over Europe.
That stylistic rereading was borne out by a further revision of the archive documents: Paolo of Brondo seemed to be carrying out a considerable work in order to realize the stained glass windows especially in the church and in the guest quarters of the Charterhouse. He was paid for the works, the materials and the equipment from October 19 1658 to December 1659 (21, cc.178r, 184v, 191r, 194v, 195r, 195v, 197v, 201r). on December 1559 he was paid for ‘six oval figures of glass’ that, on the monks’ request, he brought from Genoa (Ibid. c. 13v; n.45 c.25d). From January 1560 Gualtieri took his place , a master glazier cited as the ‘Fleming’ ( in 22, c. 37v, 85 c.47s) that had a permanent appointment until July of the same year (22, cc.15r, 17r, 26v, 27r 35v, 37v,40r, 44r, 47v; 45 cc. 20, 24, 28, 29, 35, 36, 38, 42,48,53); he works with his cousin George (22.c.37v).
If we consider that until the winter 1559 they were still building up the Colloquium (22, cc. 11r-v); that the wooden pieces of furniture were realized only in the first semester of 1560 (22 c. 37r); and that finally, on June 9 of the same year Antonio di Salvi ‘blacksmith at Galluzzo’ was paid for "libbre 287 fat in telaio per le ramate delle finestre, cioè il finestrone sopra il coro, sei finestre per il Colloquio,…" (22. c.38v) we can confirm the stained glass windows work could be assigned only to Gualtieri of Flanders, the same master cited by Vasari in his ‘Vite’ (Lives), naming him together with his cousin George, as the executor of ‘fired stained glass windows’ for the grand duke, on the same Vasari’s drawing (Vasari, pub. 1881, VII. P.588)
As for the first two windows, originally they seemed not to be scheduled. (see files n 1 and 2).
CONDITION: In good condition, they present some re-leaded breaks maybe belonging to De Matteis’ restoration, a master glazier working for Ditta Bruschi that around 1907-10 was active at the Charterhouse certainly not only as executor of stained glass windows (his it’s the lancet window behind the main altar in Santa Maria Chapel; cp. Bacchi, p. 85), but also as the restorer, a role assumed also in other Florentine churches (cp. Orsanmichele, Santa Croce). The fact that Bruschi was familiar with the windows of the Colloquium is proved by the group of windows in the Kress Coll., now at the Birmingham Museum of Art, that are a clear paraphrase of the Florentine ones. See De Matteis’ Atelier and Birmingham Museum of Art. Raymond Diocrés’ Funerals a, b, c , and The dream of Hugh of Grenoble.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: see Bibl. Charterhouse of Val d’Ema
PHOTOGRAPHIC FILES: Niccolò Orsi Battaglini, Florence
EDITOR: Caterina Chiarelli (November 2001)