Een serie tekeningen van Johannes Stradanus met scènes uit het leven van de Heilige Giovanni Gualberto

in Oud Holland – Journal for Art of the Low Countries
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Among the extensive collection of pen sketches by Johannes Stradanus (Bruges 1523-Florence 1605) in the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design and the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York (Notes 1,2) are thirteen hitherto unknown compositions which prove to be preliminary studies for eleven detailed drawings and two engravings. Inscriptions identify them as scenes from the life of St. Giovanni Gualberto and they belong to a set which must originally have consisted of al least fifteen illustrations. St. Giovanni Gualberto of Florence (Note 4), who died in 1073, is mainly known as a powerful reformer of the church, who set himsef above all to root out corruption and simony, and as the founder of the Benedictine Order of Vallombrosa. His cult enjoyed a revival during the Counter-Reformation, witness the decoration in 1580 of the chapel at Passignano, where he was buried, with frescos and altarpieces by A. Allori and his pupils and the installation there of a new tomb designed by G. B. Caccini, in which his remains were deposited (Note 5). In 1586 his lower jaw was removed to a new reliquary by G. B. Puccini in S. Trinita, the most important Vallombrosan Church in Florence, and in 1594 this was ceremonially installed in the new chapel designed for it by Caccini (Note 6). The saint also occupied an important place in the decoration of tha façade of the Cathedral for the entry of Christina of Lorraine in 1589 (Note 7), while in 1595 came the official recognition of his feast day on 12 July. In 1583 a new life of the saint, commissioned by Don Salvadore, Abbot General of the Order of Vallombrosa, was published in Florence by the Vallombrosan monk and historian Eudosio Loccatelli (Notes 8, 9). From this it is possible to identify all but one of the subjects illustrated by Stradanus, which follow the text so closely that he would seem to have used it as his literary source (Note 10). The subjects illustrated are as follows, in the chronological order given by Loccatelli: The Miracle of the Crucifix (Fig. I, Note I I), St. Giovanni Gualberto Publicly Accusing the Bishop of Florence and the Abbot of S. Miniato of Simony (Figs. 2, 3, Notes 12, 13), The Alms Returned Threefold (Figs.4, 5, Notes 15, 16), A Miraculous Provision of Bread at Vallombrosa (Figs. 6, bottom right, 7, Notes 17, 18), A Miraculous Provision of Food at Vallombrosa (Fig.8, left, Note 19), The Destruction of the Monastery at Moscheta (Figs. 9, top left, 10, Notes 20, 21), A Miraculous Distribution of Grain at Vallombrosa (Figs.9, top right, 11, Notes 22, 23), The Miraculous Catch of Pike at Passignano (Fig. 12, Notes 24, 25), The Miraculous Storm at Moscheta (Figs.9, bottom left, 13, Notes 26, 27), The Massacre and the Miraculous Healing of the Monks of S. Salvi (Figs. 6, top left, 14, Notes 28, 29), The Trial by Fire of Pietro Aldobrandini at Settimo (Figs. 6, bottom left, 15, Notes 30,31), St. Giovanni Gualberto Visiting a Sick Woman (Figs. 9, bottom right, 16, Notes 34, 35), An Angel Assisting St. Giovanni Gualberto on his Death bed (Figs.6 top right, 17, Notes 36, 37) and The Miraculous Healing of Adalassia (Fig. 8, right, Note 38). Insofar as sketches and finished drawings can be compared with each other, Stradanus proves in general to have taken over his first composition without appreciable change, albeit the scene of the accusing of the Bishop of Florence and Abbot of S. Miniato has been done in reverse to the sketch for topographical reasons. In those cases where more radical changes have been made, these all serve to heighten the expressiveness of the scene or to focus attention on the divine aspect of the event or the saint himself. The difference in character between the spontaneous pen sketches and the final drawings is striking. The latter are done in pen and brown ink and brown wash, carefully heightened with white, over traces of black chalk. They are highly finished drawings with a notable plasticity and monumentality for their modest size. The technique is close to that of Stradanus' numerous studies for engravings and the lefthandedness of the figures and the margins reserved for inscriptions at the bottom show that these drawings were also meant as models for a set of engravings. This set was evidently never executed, but there are separate, prints of two of the compositions, made at a later date, in the library of the abbey at Vallombrosa. One of these (Fig.18, Note 41) shows the Massacre scene in reverse and is dated to between 1625 and 1629 by its dedication to Don Averardo Niccolini, Abbot General of the Order during those years (Note 42). The other (Fig. 19, Note 43) shows The Miraculous Healing of Adalassia in reverse and enriched with some decorative details. Of the two coats of arms on the sarcophagus, one is presumably that of the Order of Vallombrosa (Note 44), the other that of the Visdomini family of Florence (Note 45), to which St. Giovanni Gualberto is traditionally said to belong. The arms of the Del Sera family of Florence (Note 47) below are clearly an addition to Stradanus' composition. Both prints are anonymous and of mediocre quality. They will presumably have, been made in or around Florence. The only clue to the dating of the drawings is their style which is close to that of the work of the last period of Stradanus' long career. In these years his style evolved from Mannerism to an early Baroque idiom, with an increasing concentration on lucidly structured compositions with quite large, plastic figures in a clearly defined space. Other striking elements are the genre-like conception of predominantly Biblical or literary themes, the narrative manner and the far-reaching detailing. The drawings discussed here can be dated c.1595 on the basis of their closeness to such sets of that period as Nova Reperta, Vcrmis Sericus and The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Note 48). Nothing can be said, however, about the reasons behind the set. An appendix is devoted to a discussion of Stradanus and the so-called Crucifix of St. Giovanni Gualberto. The miracle of the crucifix, first related by Bishop Atto of Pistoia (d. 1153) in his lift of the saint, later came to be localized in S. Miniato, where a Medieval crucifix painted on panel was identified as the legendary one that bowed its head to the saint (Note 49). This crucifix is first mentioned in the 14th century in the crypt (Note 50), but in the 15th century it was set in front of the nave of the upper church in a ciborium made for it by Michelozzo to the commission of Piero de' Medici. In 1671 it was moved to S. Trinita where in 1897 it was installed in its present position in the chapel to the right of the high altar. The crucifix (Fig.20) has been cut down on all sides and so overpainted that it is no longer possible to discover its precise date (Note 51). That the Virgin and St. John were originally to be seen on the side panels emerges from the description by F. Tacca (Note 52), while some idea of them can be gained from an engraving by Th. Verkruys after Fr. Soderini (Fig. 21, Note 54). They were probably painted over after 1856 (Note 53). A small study by Stradanus (Fig. 22, Note 55) can be linked with this crucifix, while the correction of the halo and the hatching to the right of Christ's head give the impression that the head is bent forward away from the cross, so that the study can be seen as a rendering of the moment when the head bowed to St. Giovanni Gualberto in gratitude. Although it is fairly close in type to the crucifix which Stradanus could have seen in S. Miniato, it is in all probability not a reliable rendering of it (Note 57). It will have been done in connection with his sketch The Miracle of the Crucifix (Fig.I) and shows that at a certain stage he thought of depicting the crucifix frontally. In the sketch however he has switched to a sculptured crucifix, perhaps because of the difficulty of rendering the bowing of a head on a painted panel seen from the side.

Een serie tekeningen van Johannes Stradanus met scènes uit het leven van de Heilige Giovanni Gualberto

in Oud Holland – Journal for Art of the Low Countries



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