WISDOM SHINES. Madonne of Abruzzo from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance


This exhibit that take place in Rimini, curated by Lucia Arbace and a large scientific community (Allemandi catalogue), shows about twenty panels and wooden sculptures from the Abruzzo region, which cover a chronological period from the end of the 12th century to the beginning of the 16th century and an extensive area of Abruzzo.

Some of these superb depictions of the Virgin, which fuse the folk imprint with more noble and learned intonations, and which stand out in their solemn, to say the least, setting, have been reassembled and restored after the earthquake, so that now we are able to read them in their morphological and chromatic particularities.

The chapter on wooden sculptures and Medieval sculpture from Abruzzo is still under the lens of art historiography, but after decades of studies designed locally, we can finally record a marked progress in the research, which led to the individuation of peculiar stylistic traits that qualify these Abruzzo productions as autonomous art, though in relationship with the figurative culture of Umbria and Lazio, as well as the Byzantine substrate, which was so influential in the art of Central Italy in the Medieval era. This autonomy was reconfirmed in the Renaissance, a moment that witnessed the production of artists of the caliber of the painter Saturnino Gatti and the sculptor Silvestro dell’Aquila.

Some of the best examples of the group, which are connected to each other on the basis of the subject–The Virgin and Child Enthroned–were shown in the Piccolomini Castle of Celano and a limited selection from the XII-XIV century were shown in the Buonconsiglio Castle in Trento.

Rimini’s edition presents a new selection and is characterized by a strong emphasis on the concept which underpins the title of the event: Wisdom Shines. Madonnas of Abruzzo from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, which was inspired by an inscription we read at the bottom of the superb thirteenth-century Madonna from Sivignano.

Among the works on display, the Madonna and Child of Castelli, from Teramo, which was kept in the old destroyed abbey of St. Saviour and Our Lady of Ambro, originally from San Pio of Fontecchio, near the l’Aquila, stand out for their classical severity. The first is carved in two blocks of walnut that give a monumental quality to the close-knit group of Mary and Jesus, designed to be placed on a throne that no longer exists. Here the Virgin softens her role as queen, attested by the beautiful crown once studded with glass, in an expression of confidence, while the Child, crowned in turn, gazes at the observer steadily, slightly absorbed and above all a judge. Our Lady of Ambro, so named perhaps from a shrine near Ascoli Piceno, depending from Farfa, from the first glance betrays a Byzantine influence. We see it in every detail: from Mary’s luxurious hair, to the pendilia, the strands of beads that fall like those of an empress of Constantinople.

Here too, the solemn majesty of Mary softens in her motherhood because this queen on the throne is also lactans, following the oriental iconography.
The sculptor of this amazing piece is to be found among the Umbrian painters active in the circle of the Benedictine monasteries. The name of Alberto Sotio, who made the cross painted in the Cathedral of Spoleto in 1187, the supreme example of central Italian painting prior to Cimabue, was even suggested.
Amazingly, the Madonna of the milk of Montereale will also be present, with its dazzling colors.

From a later era, special mention must be made of the Virgin of the Teacher of St. Catherine Gualino, probably from an artist of Teramo, who instilled in the figures a grace full of intensity and subtlety of feeling that is not separated from their forms.

A great representative of the Renaissance from these lands is the painter Saturnino Gatti, who rightly fits into the large group of great teachers that worked between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in the large swatch of Italy that also includes central Umbria, Lazio and Marche.

It is difficult to subject these noble and varied works to a strict hierarchy of value, being a series of masterpieces that, as such, deserves to be known by as diverse an audience as possible.

In this sense, the exhibition organized in Rimini, from August to November, in the Museum of the City will make a substantial contribution to the reputation of this important chapter of Italian art, even in relation to the diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds of the people visiting the Meeting for Friendship, whose opening will coincide with the opening of the exhibition.

Curated by: Lucia Arbace
Scientific committee: Lucia Arbace, Marco Bona Castellotti, Anna Colangelo, Mauro Congeduti, Caterina Dalia, Gaetano Curzi, Fabrizio Magani, Franco Marzatico, Graziella Mucciante, Cristiana Pasqualetti, Rosella Rosa, Ernestina Stinziani, Alessandro Tomei, Marta Vittorini.
Organization of the exhibit: Foundation for the Rimini Meeting for Friendship Among Peoples
Exhibition of project: Aurelio Ciotti

Video, “Saved Art”, Copyright Superintendence for the historical, artistic and ethno-anthropological goods of Abruzzo.

Informations: tel. 0541.783100, mail: madonne.abruzzo@meetingrimini.org, www.meetingrimini.org