Gaudenzio Ferrari (Valduggia, between 1475 and 1480 – Milan, January 31, 1546) was a Northern Italian painter and sculptor of the Renaissance.He is a very long-awaited Gaudenzio Milanese painter, very practical and expeditious, who made many works for Milan, and especially a friar of the Passion, a beautiful Cenacle who for his death remained imperfect. He still worked excellently with oil, and his work is very much in Vercelli and in Veralla, highly esteemed by those who own it.
He was a very prolific painter, distinguished by strong animation. In general character, his work suggests more the 15th than the 16th century. His subjects were always religious.
The little news on the apprenticeship of the young artist, destined to become one of the greatest exponents of Italian art from the sixteenth century, places him in Milan where, at the end of the fifteenth century, the influence of Leonardo, Bramante , But also of the elderly Vincenzo Foppa and Bernardino Zenale.
Giovan Paolo Lomazzo wants it – what criticism today tends to confirm – a pupil of Stefano Scotto, an artist involved in those years in the Duomo Factory in Milan; But in his works in addition to the influx of Leonardesco, which was preeminent, there are also suggestions from Perugino and Raffaello and motifs derived from Dürer and the dancers of the Nordic artists, known through the engravings. The young Gaudenzio is therefore able to assimilate and integrate the various lessons.
It is to be expected, however, that another and more fertile apprenticeship is realized in “his” Varallo, between the walls of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the nascent enterprise – wanted by the Franciscan father Bernardino Caimi – of the construction of Sacro Monte di Varallo In the sense of “New Jerusalem”, a project to which Ferrari will inevitably tie his name.
Those who were the first artists who worked in Varallo (the echo of the Spaniard school was hypothesized), Gaudenzio’s artistic debut takes place between the new and the old century; The artistic trials of this period (we mention the table of the Crucifixion and the figures of the angels in the sunken frescoes preserved at the civic gallery of Varallo) already make sense of the poetic full of inward humanity with which the valseian artist will constantly interpret sacred art.
Among the works of the first decade of the sixteenth century, when Gaudenzio now has the magister title, mention should be made of the frescoes of the Chapel of Santa Margherita (1507) in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Varallo and the Polyptych of Sant’Anna (1508 ), Made for the same church in Vercelli (now dismembered and divided between the Sabauda of Turin and the National Gallery of London), in which the artistic debt towards Bramantino is recognizable.
In the same decade the collaboration of Gaudenzio began with the work of the Sacred Mount: its splendid wooden statues are in the chapel of the Annunciation and in that of Jesus ascending the Pretorio scale (figures of Christ and of the Manigold)
Shortly before the realization of these works, the trip is perhaps made with Eusebio Ferrari (some hypothesize together with Bramantino), through the capitals of Italian Renaissance art, to Rome, where the most renowned artists are concentrated. From this study trip comes in particular the attention of Ferrari to the poetry of Perugino
In the next decade, the creation of the great cycle of frescoes with the Stories of Life and Passion of Christ is carried out on the scaffolding of the church of S. Maria delle Grazie in Varallo. In such a challenging work, Ferrari is worth the lessons learned in his Milan apprenticeship (Bramante’s architectures, rocky landscapes of Leonardo da Vinci, etc.) and in his Roman journey; But it is far from immortal – perhaps by direct impulse of those Franciscan committers to whom it will remain bound – of the similar work on the wall of San Bernardino in Ivrea by Giovanni Martino Spanzotti.
This is not only for choosing to use the same compositional partition, with almost identical scenes (also borrowing the idea of ”nightlife”), but above all for that narrative simplicity and for that popular religious affiliation which is found above all in the Crucifixion And in the scenes that preceded it.
In addition to searching for cultural debts, emphasize those elements of originality that the painter of Valduggia matures: one for everyone, the extended use – taken from Gothic art – of the tablet for the bodies of helmets, braces and aureas , Which makes it possible to understand that project of fusion between painting and sculpture that will be accomplished in other works over the rocky wall of Varallo.
The Sacred Mount of Varallo – the “great mountain theater” according to the happy expression of John Testori’s essay that has strongly contributed to “return” to the work of Ferrari the dignity of one of the high points of Renaissance art – is permeated by the genius Of Gaudenzio, who here exploits, creatively combining them, his sculptor, painter’s ability and also – according to the testimony of Lomazzo – an architect who can adapt the edifices of the chapels to the poetry of the mountain landscape. Thanks to the synthesis of sculpture and painting, the chapels of “New Jerusalem” assume the sense of a theatrical representation, with the main actors, plated in polycarbonate terracotta, placed in the foreground, and a series of spectators who face the frescoed walls, such as In the figuration of a “medieval laude” involving an entire country.
The chapels surely and entirely realized by Ferrari are those of the Crucifixion (1520-1526) and that of the Adoration of the Magi (1526-1528); His interventions are also present in those of the Nativity, the Adoration of Pastors and the Presentation to the Temple. When Gaudenzio in 1529, after almost thirty years of collaboration, abandoned the Sacred Mountain, his legacy was imposed as a guideline for artists in the Piedmontese and Lombardy regions who, in the next few centuries, would fall into the new chapels.
The works that adorn the chapels of the Sacro Monte, once (still recent) considered an expression of “folk art”, are today “one of the tops of Italian art of the sixteenth century”.
During the years of commitment to Sacro Monte di Varallo, Ferrari also responds to the demands of other important contractors, as witnessed by the politicians of the Collegiate of Arona (1511) and of San Gaudenzio in Novara (1514-21).
The same frescoes and terracotta works are performed at the suggestive Madonna of Loreto, in Roccapietra, a small center near Varallo.
After the abandonment of the work on the super-parietem, the Gaudenzio sculptor gives way to the Gaudenzio painter, so he maintains a high level of expressive capacity, focusing on a strong sense of the scenic system And on an exuberant imaginary vein, as well as the two symmetrical cycles of frescoes with the Stories of the Virgin and the Stories of Maddalena made in 1532-34 in San Cristoforo in Vercelli, which Jacob Burckhardt believed to be perhaps his most important paintings.
In the church of San Cristoforo, before the frescoes, Ferrari had already realized the majestic anchovy on the main altar, The Madonna of Oranges destined to become for years an essential point of reference for all the Vercelli’s pictorial production.
The figurative capacity shown in the popular angelic presence of the chapel of the Crucifixion makes it useful, with a more inventive estimate, in the vertiginous representation of the musician angels in Paradiso, which hosts the Assumption (also known as the Concerto degli Angeli) Dome of the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Miracles in Saronno (1534-36).
The Paradiso depiction made by Gaudenzio is crowded with an astonishing turbulence of colorful angels that are placed on four concentric circles: in the upper one there is a nest of angry angels and full of light turning their gaze upward towards the Father in the center Of the dome; Below it is the representation of the actual concert, with the singing angels who read together choral books and charts, and angels intending to make music: they make up the most varied orchestra of stringed instruments and breath that has ever been painted .
In 1537 Ferrari moved definitively to Milan where he would remain until his death: his reputation as an artist was well-established so that he could produce a large number of orders. Gaudenzio was able to support the clients in accordance with the tastes that they were affirming in the Lombard capital.
On his fame acquired in Milan it is to be noted that if Vasari in Vita dedicates to Gaudenzio Ferrari the few – albeit somewhat praiseworthy – the words quoted in epigraph, Lomazzo in his Idea of the Temple of Painting (1590) considers Gaudenzio one of the great Of painting, one of those he baptized the “Seven Governors of Art”.
Among the works of the Milanese period can be mentioned the frescoes of the Chapel of the Holy Crown in Santa Maria delle Grazie (1540-1542), Saint Paul for Santa Maria delle Grazie and today at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon (1543) San Gerolamo in San Giorgio al Palazzo, the polyptych of the Assumption for S. Maria di Piazza (with collaborators) in Busto Arsizio.
At his shop is Bernardino Lanino, who in the following years will be the most faithful interpreter of the master, with more manners of intonation.
In the last few years of his career, Gaudenzio has also become the main collaborator of the novelist Giovanni Battista Della Cerva, also known for being a master of Giovan Paolo Lomazzo.
The Milanese period – in a political context that sees Spanish dominion and its ceremonial pompous, still remaining the city a pioneer of artistic attraction, thanks to its lush manufacturing and commercial activities – is, as has been mentioned, pervaded by a will to Stylistic updating to more spectacular and magniloquent forms derived from coeval painting of Manieristics: as in the Crucifixion of the Sabauda Gallery in Turin, with the flattering composition of figures and episodes rich in pathos, or in the Martyrdom of St. Catherine (1539-1540), coming from the church Of Sant’Angelo and today at the Pinacoteca di Brera, where the composition is theatrically designed, with the torturers acting as “characters-queen” at the sides of the saint, portrayed in an attitude of ostentatious impassiveness.
Ferrari in the latest works combines with greater balance the new manieristic motifs with Lombardy’s naturalistic tradition: an example is the Last Supper blade, made for the Milanese church of Santa Maria della Passione (palace in which Gaudenzio, recovering Nordic memories and Strong in terms of stylistic autonomy, he has no hesitation in departing from the eminent model of the Leonardo Cenacle); But above all it is an example – for the expressive ease of the story – what is his last important work in fresco (pictorial technique that is once again particularly congenial to poetics of Gaudenzio): The Stories of Joachim and Anna (1544-45 ) Realized in Santa Maria della Pace, and now – torn and painted on canvas – kept in the Brera Pinacoteca.
The frescoes of Santa Maria della Pace were already praised by Lomazzo, who was able to grasp the freshness of the tale. Testori emphasized the influence that these frescoes have had with respect to the peculiar connotation that Mannerism had between Piedmont and Lombardy.