Category Archives: Italy

FRENCH ART in the 17th Century: Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632).

FEATURE IMAGE: Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Allegory of Rome, 1628, oil on canvas, 330 x 245 cm, Villa Lante (Institutum Romanum Finlandiae Foundation). Villa Lante in Rome is an example of the work of the 16th century Raphael school in the reign of the Medici popes. The Renaissance villa, which was a residence for Roman aristocracy, was purchased in 1950 by the Finnish state. The Institutum Romanum Finlandiae Foundation started operating there in April 1954.

Ruins of the Coliseum in Rome, Circle of Willem van Nieuwlandt, II, c. 1600,  Pen and brown ink, with brush and brown and gray wash, on pieced cream laid paper,  35.3 × 61.3 cm (13 15/16 × 24 3/16 in.) The Art Institute of Chicago.
https://www.artic.edu/artworks/95904/ruins-of-the-coliseum-in-rome

INTRODUCTION.

Le Valentin de Boulogne (c.1591/1594-1632), sometimes called Jean Valentin, Jean de Boulogne Valentin, or simply Le Valentin, was a French painter. Born in Coulommiers-en-Brie about 35 miles east of Paris, Le Valentin may have been at least half Italian. His artwork was certainly influenced by Italian painting more than any other though he was familiar with Northern or Flemish painting. Le Valentin may have been in Rome as early as 1612 – German painter and art-historian Joachim von Sandrart (1606-1688) remarked in 1675 that Valentin reached Rome before Simon Vouet (1590-1649) who had arrived around 1614. Whether in 1612 or definitely by 1620 (Le Valentin appears in the census), Le Valentin spent the rest of his life In Rome. In the Eternal City Le Valentin  was greatly influenced by Simon Vouet (French, 1590-1649) and Bartolomeo  Manfredi (Italian, 1581-1622), a leading Caravaggiste or follower of Carravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610).

Joachim von Sandrart, Self Portrait, 1641.
Bartolomeo Manfredi, The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew (detail).
Simon Vouet, Self-portrait, c. 1626–1627 Musée des Beaux-arts de Lyon.

Le Valentin’s oeuvre is today around 55-60 paintings, most of them identified by modern scholarship (i.e., Jacques Bousquet; Roberto Longhi). Le Valentin’s major commissions date from the last seven years of his life. Opportunities to acquire his artwork was  rare, though avid collectors such as Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661) and Louis XIV collected them.

Cardinal Mazarin by Pierre Mignard, Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.
Louis XIV, Charles Le Brun, Château de Versailles.
Piazza del Popolo, Rome. “Piazza del Popolo.. Rome” by Nick Kenrick.. is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In Rome Le Valentin forged close ties with other French artists and lived with many of them in and around the Piazza del Popolo to the Piazza di Spagna. Most French painters born in the 1590s made a stay in Rome  – and influenced art in France in the 17th century. Reasons young painters fled to Italy in the early 17th century included depletion of opportunity in Paris due to the professionalization of artistic practice in and outside the capital although establishment French art was no longer flourishing. Conversely, Roman art – and not only the schools of Michelangelo and Raphael but new horizons afforded  by Annibale Carracci (1560-1609) and Caravaggio (1571-1610) -was at an apex. The Eternal City was drawing international artists from Paris and elsewhere and, between 1610 and 1630, the Roman style became internationalized. The dialogue among artists in Rome in this period was exciting – and its outcomes often unpredictable. The culture of Rome (and the papacy) could actually be liberating for foreign, usually destitute, often libertine talented young artists who had great ambitions for a prominent commission as they were exposed to Rome’s virtue and vice almost equally. Many of these young artists, even ones whose artworks survive, exist today virtually anonymously. Le Valentin de Boulogne is one of the better-known artists of the period, although his precise name is uncertain and his artwork requires connoisseurship based on modern scholarship.

Annibile Carracci, Self-portrait, 1604, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Caravaggio, David with the Head of Goliath, included a self portrait of the artist, 1610, oil on canvas, Borghese Gallery, Rome.

In 1626 Valentin, in Rome several years, was invited by Vouet to organize with Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) the festival of the Accademia di San Luca ‘s patron saint. Around the same age, Vouet led the academy whose artists’ association was founded in 1593 by Federico Zuccari (1539-1609). This appointment signaled that Valentin was an active and respected rising French artist in Rome in these years. Though Caravaggio died in 1610 his influence was still felt very strongly in Rome in the 1620s.

Two of Caravaggio’s masterpieces—The Martyrdom of Saint Peter and The Conversion of Saint Paul—hung in the neighboring church of Santa Maria del Popolo which Le Valentin certainly had opportunity to study. In Italy, Valentin took swift, direct, and enduring inspiration from Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro and realistic depiction of characters drawn from Roman street life, including extensive use of half figures. As one of the young Caravaggisti, Valentin applies these elements to his artwork, whether genre or, later, Biblical subjects.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Group of figures seen mid-body, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl020210527

None of the works from Le Valentin’s earliest Roman years is documented, but it is believed he produced his Card Sharps (Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen), The Fortune Teller (Toledo Museum of Art), and Soldiers Playing Cards and Dice (The Cheats) (NGA) – and probably in this order – between 1615 and 1620.

In Le Valentin’s compositions which often contain several actors in a scene, the French artist’s realism and Caravaggio-inspired technique is often imbued with energetic rhythm in which diagonals and geometric concurrences play a role. This schematic suggests animation in the subject matter while retaining the human figures’ inner reserve and mystery. This creates a psychological quality in his artwork that is unique whichever drama is unfolding in the picture. Louis XIV who was an admirer of le Valentin acquired and hung several of his paintings in his bedroom at Versailles. Cardinal Mazarin, another art collector with a keen eye, acquired works by Valentin, some of which today are in the Louvre.

Andrea Sacci, Cardinal Francesco Barberini, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, Germany, oil on canvas, c. 1631-1633 (detail).

By way of Le Valentin’s important young patron, Cardinal Francesco Barberini (1597-1679) – made a cardinal in 1624 by his uncle, Pope Urban VIII (1568-1644) – Valentin became a competitor to his artist friend Nicholas Poussin. Le Valentin’s first documented work commissioned in May 1629 and completed in the spring of 1630 called Martyrdom of SS. Processus and Martinian is a compendium to a slightly earlier work by Poussin–both  in the Vatican (Poussin’s was a different stylistic statement called Martyrdom of S. Erasmus). Valentin had further won the patronage of Cavaliere del Pozzo (1588-1657), the secretary of Cardinal Francesco Barberini and one of Rome’s leading art patrons. Paid the handsome sum of 350 crowns for Martyrdom of SS. Processus and Martinian , after 1630 Valentin’s artwork continued to command high prices and prestige.

Valentin de Boulogne, Martyrdom of Saints Processus and Martinian, 1629–30, Oil on canvas, 118 7/8 × 75 9/16 in. (302 × 192 cm), Vatican Museums, Vatican City/
Jan van den Hoecke (Flemish, 1611-1651), Portrait of Cassiano dal Pozzo. Pozzo’s portrait was painted by Le Valentin though it is lost.

Though SS. Processus and Martinian is Le Valentin’s most important public work, he also produced many pictures for private commissions. There are several pictures by, or today attributed to, Le Valentin in many of the world’s leading art museums. Le Valentin produced artwork especially for the ruling Barberini family and their circle.

How Le Valentin died in 1632 is not certain though it was sudden and of natural causes. The professional artist who is admired in today’s major art institutions reportedly left no money to pay for a funeral. Identified as a “Pictor famosus” on his death certificate, Le Valentin was buried at Santa Maria de Popolo on August 20, 1632 paid for by Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588-1657).

Façade – Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo –Rome. Valentin lived in Rome on or near Via Margutta which is steps from the 15th century church.
File:Roma – Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo – Facade.jpg” by M0tty is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

SELECTION OF PAINTINGS BY LE VALENTIN DE BOULOGNE.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Judgment of Solomon, 1627/29, Louvre. 68 ¼ x 83 ¾ inches, 1.76m x 2.1m, oil on canvas.  https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061974

One of the most moving and beautiful stories in the Bible is the judgment of King Solomon in the case involving two disputing harlots over who was the mother of a living child (I Kings).

Both had had a child, though one died and the other lived. To have an offspring was considered a blessing. One harlot claimed that her living child had been taken from her bosom at night by the other harlot. She replaced the child with her dead child after “she had smothered him by lying on him” (I Kings 3:19).

Since this was a case of one harlot’s word against another’s Solomon had no simple and fair resolution at hand. King Solomon said: “Cut the child in two and give half to one woman and half to the other” (I Kings 3:25). Le Valentin shows the viewer what is at stake – a real flesh and blood child. The import of Solomon’s judgment could not be missed. Le Valentin’s women are modeled on those mothers and others the artist observed along Via Margutta.

Detail. Judgment of Solomon. Le Valentin.

When one harlot said, “Divide it! it shall be neither mine nor yours!” and  the other harlot said, “Please, my lord, give her the living child. Please do not kill it!”, the king’s judgement changed.

Solomon spoke again and said, “Give her the child alive, and let no one kill him, for she is his mother” (1 Kings 3: 16-28). Solomon knew a woman privileged to be a mother would seek to see the child live most of all.

It is this final pronouncement that Solomon appears to give in Le Valentin’s painting, as the complete biblical episode can be readily seen in the gestures and expressions of its characters.

Acquired by Louis XIV at Cardinal Mazarin’s death in 1661, The Judgment of Solomon has long been presented as a counterpart to The Judgment of Daniel. These canvases, which may actually be pendants, share the same format and show examples of just judgment in the Bible. The Judgment of Solomon is dated later than The Judgment of Daniel. There is a variant of it by Le Valentin in Rome at the Barberini Gallery in the same format and oil medium. The Louvre painting was restored in 1966.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Judgment of Daniel, 1621/22, oil on canvas, 68 ¼ x 83 ¾ inches, 1.76m x 2.1m, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061975

The subject is taken from chapter 13 of the Book of Daniel, the book’s addendum. In Babylon, a pair of wicked elders covet Suzanne, “a very beautiful and God-fearing woman” who was the wife of the “very rich” and “most respected” Joachim. After these wicked elders surprised Suzanne in her bath, she refuses their advances and they denounce her for adultery with the intent to put her to death.

Daniel condemns these wicked elders for “growing evil with age” including their past sins of “passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty.” Daniel interrogates them and, by their own words, shows the assembly they are lying. The painting depicts that moment of judgment.

Detail. Judgment of Daniel. Le Valentin.

Le Valentin depicts Daniel in the painting instead of Suzanne in her bath which was a more popular subject. Suzanne is at right, her hands across her chest, “As she wept, she looked up to heaven, for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly” (Daniel 13:35). A guard seizes one of the wicked elders as the other shows surprise and incredulity. Young Daniel, at left, is seated on a throne under a red canopy and stretches out his hand in judgment over the scene for their sin. For each judgment by Le Valentin the artist was inspired in some of its details by Raphael’s artwork in Rome. Louis XIV acquired the painting in 1662.

Valentin de Boulogne, Martyrdom of Saints Processus and Martinian, 1629–30, Oil on canvas, 118 7/8 × 75 9/16 in. (302 × 192 cm), Vatican Museums, Vatican City.

Within iconography that is cyclonic, two Roman soldiers are placed on the rack to be tortured after they refused their commander’s orders to sacrifice to an idol. The soldiers had been converted to Christianity by Saints Peter and Paul when they guarded them in prison. The altar to Jupiter is on the upper left while, at right, the commander clutches his eye with his left hand after God blinded him in retribution for the idolatry. The foreground figures build on 16th century Franco Italian Mannerist style. One has his back to the viewer; another grinds the wheel of the rack; and, a third bends down with his arm outstretched. All are advanced expressions of realistic figural development and rendered in spatial perspective correctly.

Le Valentin’s powerful painting is an artwork with a psychological dimension. To the left, a hooded figure, Lucina, is a Christian woman who encourages the martyrs to be steadfast as an angel out of heaven extends a palm of martyrdom. To the right, realistically portrayed, is a Roman soldier indifferent to another brutal slaying by the authoritarian government in the face of nascent, meddling, heroic, and expanding Christians in their pagan global empire.

With his attention to detail, Le Valentin’s picture accomplishes an exciting imagined drama based on Renaissance-inspired natural world observation and by way of colorful contemporary 17th century formulations that give a viewer visionary immersion into a complex and significant Bible scene.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632 A Musical Party, 1623/26, oil on canvas, 44 × 57 3/4 in. (111.76 × 146.69 cm),Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
https://collections.lacma.org/node/186803
Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Concert in an Interior, 1628/30, oil on canvas, 1.75m x 2.16m, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061973

Some of Le Valentin’s great ambition as an artist is demonstrated by this large format canvas whose composition includes eight realistically delineated  figures including 5 musicians and 3 singing youths. The five instruments are depicted accurately as well as the demeanors of the musicians and singers. Instruments have been identified by others as a polyphonic spinet, an alto, a chitarrone, a bass viol and a cornetto.

Detail. Concert in an Interior. Le Valentin.

The painting had been dated at around 1626, though more recent connoisseurship dates it to around 1628 or 1630. It was restored in 1940. It was owned by that avid art collector, Cardinal Mazarin.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Concert in bas-relief, 1624/26, oil on canvas, 1.73 m x 2.14m, Louvre.
Detail. The Concert in bas relief. Le Valentin.
Detail. The Concert in bas relief. Le Valentin.

Le Valentin painted seven figures gathered around a classical bas-relief. There are a pair of drinkers, one in the foreground, the other in the background; two singers; and three musicians – a violinist, guitarist and lutenist.

The painting, filled with mystery and gravity, is Caravaggesque and not merely telling a story or depicting a genre scene of performance. The painting has been dated to as early as 1622 by some connoisseurs. It was owned by Cardinal Mazarin and restored in 1959. It entered the collection of the Louvre in 1742.

Valentin never ceased producing genre paintings as attested by Concert with Eight Figures and Fortune Teller (both Musée du Louvre, c. 1628), and what is thought to be his very last painting, the Gathering with a Fortune Teller (Vienna, Liechtenstein Collection) in 1632.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Musicians and Soldiers, c. 1626, oil in canvas, 155 x 200 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg.

This is a tavern scene with impromptu music-making among transitory musicians. They are playing for a pair of drinking soldiers. Le Valentin’s painting is Caravaggesque with its interplay of shadows and light, dark palette, and depiction of realistic figures, and a psychological vivacity that is imbued by Le Valentin. It is by his passion and energy for Caravaggio that Le Valentin helped  revolutionize art in 17th century Europe.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Jesus and Caesar’s Coin, around 1624, oil on canvas, 1.11 m x 1.54m, Louvre.

In Matthew’s Gospel the Pharisees were plotting to entrap Jesus by his own words. They sent some of their followers along with local government types (“Herodians”) to flatter Jesus as a truthful and humble man. They asked him to reply to a question: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” (Mt 22:17).

Jesus, knowing their motivation, responded hardly very nicely, by calling them “hypocrites.” He asked them to show the coin that paid Caesar’s tax.

Le Valentin’s painting depicts the moment when the Pharisee’s henchmen show Jesus the coin with Caesar’s image and inscription on it. Jesus tells them: ”Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mt 22: 21).

Owned by Louis XIV it was put in his dressing room at Versailles in 1680. The Louvre acquired it during the French Revolution in 1793.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Soldiers Playing Cards and Dice (The Cheats), c. 1618/1620, oil on canvas, 121 x 152 cm (47 5/8 x 59 13/16 in.), The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.107315.html

This painting is inspired by Caravaggio’s The Cheats in the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Le Valentin’s painting, only discovered in 1989, shows a group of soldiers idling in Rome and identifiable by their piecemeal armor and other livery. The crowding of the figures into the picture space adds to the scene’s tension.

In this early painting in Rome, Le Valentin presents a scene of its contemporary street life. These figures are seriously gaming at a table where two players (center and right) roll dice and two others (left and center) play cards. A fifth figure in the background signals to his accomplice what is in the hand of the card player in a feathered hat. It is an early artwork that Le Valentin gives a psychological dimension.

As had been Caravaggio’s practice, the artwork is painted alla prima, that is, directly onto the prepared canvas without under-drawing or any preliminary work which works to give it greater spontaneity. The painting is indebted to Caravaggio not only for its subject, but for its vivid sense of actuality with which Le Valentin invested his protagonists as well as for the chiaroscuro, and a thinly and rapidly-applied brushed execution.

Valentin de Boulogne (French, Coulommiers-en-Brie 1591–1632 Rome). Cardsharps. c. 1614-15. Oil on canvas. Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
https://skd-online-collection.skd.museum/Details/Index/415366

This painting is one of the first genre pictures Le Valentin painted in Rome. It is a pair of figures to which Le Valentin would soon numerically expand in his pictures. The composition is simple and sturdy.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Herminia among the Shepherds, c. 1630, oil on canvas, 134.6 x 185.6 cm (53 1/8 x 61 5/8”) Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen – Alte Pinakothek München. https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/de/artwork/RQ4XPr8410 

Erminia, the king’s daughter, escapes her persecutors and asks a peaceful shepherd family for shelter. The scene is based on a contemporary (1576) epic poem The Liberated Jerusalem by Torquato Tasso (1544-1595). The picture was a private commission whose patron was likely a Roman art collector and cognoscente. Valentin’s painting combines Caravaggesque chiaroscuro with exquisite coloring. In this realistic depiction of a human encounter between characters who represent contrasting social experiences, the subject matter is rendered psychologically sensitively.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Crowning of thorns of Christ, around 1616/17, oil on canvas, 173 x 241 cm Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München-Alte Pinakothek, Munich
https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/de/artwork/bwx0jkJGm8

One of the great artworks of Le Valentin’s early phase in Rome, biblical subjects painted before 1620 such as The Crowning of Thorns of Christ were interpreted in the street-life idiom, with expressive protagonists and bystanders resembling the cast of characters in his genre paintings. Although the painting was earlier believed to be by Caravaggio, it may have been a pendant to Le Valentin’s much-later Abraham Sacrificing Isaac (c. 1629) in The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

This is Le Valentin’s most ambitious of 3 such “crowning with thorns” pictures. The artist in horizontal-format depicts Jesus before his going to Calvary. Christ is mocked and tormented; a crown of thorns is pressed onto his head (Matthew 27: 27-31; Mark 15:16-21; Luke 23:11; John 19: 1-3). With its dramatic lighting and shadows, the naturalistic depiction of Christ’s body and soldiers in contemporary costume is Caravaggesque.

Le Valentin’s scene adheres to the Bible episode: a whole cohort of soldiers surrounded Jesus, stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak on  him. Henchmen have weaved a crown out of thorns and are placing it on Jesus’s head. Another puts a reed as a faux scepter into Jesus’s right hand. To mock him they kneel before him and say: “Hail, King of the Jews!” The soldiers spit on Jesus and then take the reed away and strike him repeatedly with it. When they were done with these violent actions, the soldiers stripped Jesus of the military cloak, dressed him in his own clothes and led him out to be crucified.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Crowning with Thorns, around 1627/28, oil on canvas, 51 15/16 × 37 15/16 in. (132 × 96.3 cm) Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München-Alte Pinakothek, Munich https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/de/artwork/Dn4ZR224aK/valentin-de-boulogne/dornenkroenung-und-verspottung-christi

Le Valentin’s Passion theme is a later vertical-format picture of a subject he had painted masterly before. In these last years the subject matter had gained in classical beauty as well as psychological involvement compared to Le Valentin’s earlier artwork. The painting covers over a discarded portrait of Cardinal Barberini which suggests Valentin’s close relationship with the ecclesial prince, very likely being in his employ. What caused the artist to revisit the subject of a brutalized Christ is unclear though it may have been based on the artist’s own struggles or that of his employer whose portrait he painted over.

Valentin de Boulogne (French, 1591–1632), Noli me tangere  c. 1620. Oil on canvas. Perugia, Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria.
Valentin de Boulogne (French, 1591–1632), Christ and the Samaritan Woman c. 1620. Oil on canvas. Perugia, Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria.
Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, 1622/24, oil on canvas, 195 x 261 cm, Prado, Madrid. Spain.

St. Laurence (d. 258) became a popular early Roman martyr. Laurence has been continually honored by the church since the 4th century and is a patron of Rome.

In the mid 3rd century, Laurence was a deacon to a new pope, Sixtus II (257-258). Sixtus II was martyred along with his seven deacons, including Laurence, during the persecution of Christians by Emperor Valerian (199-264).

Following the pope’s martyrdom, Laurence was arrested and ordered to collect and hand over church treasures to the secular authority. Instead, Laurence distributed any goods to Rome’s poor which infuriated the emperor against him. These paupers appeared in Le Valentin’s painting to the left.

The emperor ordered the Catholic deacon to sacrifice to Rome’s gods which Laurence refused to do (in prison Laurence converted his guard). Laurence was martyred after being tortured and then roasted alive over a fire on a spit. The saint is famously quoted as telling his executioners: “One side is roasted, so you can turn me over and roast the other side.”

In the Prado Le Valentin gives orderly arrangement to a complex scene of 15 figures and a horse. It shows the saint during his martyrdom isolated in the center of the composition. As with Caravaggio’s figures, the soldiers are in modern costume, use of chiaroscuro is evident, and further drama is added by the use of diagonals whose construction suggest movement that add to the tension of the naturally rendered figures. However, Le Valentin uses these derived elements unconventionally.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), St Luke, Evangelist, 1624/26, oil on canvas, 120 x 146 cm, Palace of Versailles, Versailles.
Detail. St. Luke Evangelist. Le Valentin.

Dating from the years 1624-1626, le Valentin painted all four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) for the same religious order in Rome whose name is unknown. They entered the collections of the Sun King in 1670.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Last Supper, c. 1625, oil on canvas, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini, Rome.

For his The Last Supper, Le Valentin was, at least through engravings, aware of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (c. 1495–1498) in Milan and Raphael’s Last Supper (1518-1519) in Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican. Le Valentin explores the 12 apostles’ reactions. Commissioned by Asdrubale Mattei (d. 1638), one of Rome’s nobili, to decorate a gallery in his family’s palace, the picture depicts a central event presented in the gospels. The moment that is depicted in these Last Supper paintings is when Christ announces that one of his disciples will betray him. Judas, in the foreground left, was treasurer for Jesus’s disciples and betrayed Jesus for a bribe payment of 30 pieces of silver. The picture, with its simple and monumental composition, so impressed Jacques-Louis David  (1748-1825) in 1779 that he copied it and sent it from Rome to Paris.

Portrait of Asdrubale Mattei di Giove, 17th century, attributed to Caravaggio, Condé Museum, Chantilly, France.
https://www.musee-conde.fr/fr/notice/pe-61-portrait-d-asdrubale-mattei-di-giove-1318fe15-3a5f-48ef-9486-e6920ed8d0b8
Valentin de Boulogne, Samson, 1631, Oil on canvas, 135.6 x 102.8 cm (53 3/8 x 40 1/2 in.), The Cleveland Museum of Art. https://www.clevelandart.org/art/1972.50

An Old Testament Judge, Samson was born in a miraculous fashion and with an angel telling his mother and father, “No razor shall touch his head” (Judges 13:5). Samson is often depicted with his locks unshorn. As a youth Samson displayed an incredible physical strength attributed to “the spirit of the Lord rushing upon him” (Judges 14:6).

Le Valentin’s picture presents Samson’s legendary strength by showing the solid demeanor of his physical body as well as objects which hold symbolic value of his strength. These include that he killed a lion with his bare hands and liberated the Israelites by slaughtering a thousand Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone (Judges 15: 15-16). The strength of his arm is displayed as his fingers curl under his jaw as his wandering gaze looks off with intense interiority. One contemporary allusion in the painting is Samson’s breastplate which is joined at the shoulder by a clasp in the form of a bee which was the emblem of the Barberini family who commissioned the painting. It is speculated that the facial features of Samson in a picture before his fateful meeting with Delilah (Judges 16), may be a self-portrait of Le Valentin.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632), Judith with the Head of Holofernes. c. 1626-27. Oil on canvas. Musée des Augustins, Toulouse.

The story of Judith in the Old Testament relates of a woman of great beauty and reverence to the God of Israel who is highly respected by her people and its leaders. The nation, desperate for survival, turns to Judith who is given the opportunity to kill their enemy’s military leader which she believes she can and must do and that all believed impossible as Israel’s military defeat by their enemies was a foregone conclusion.

The story has a femme fatale aspect as Holofernes was captivated by Judith’s physical appearance, but the Biblical episode of the execution, while a climax of her mission, pales in comparison with the relating of Judith’s overall dedication to her people and her God, a femme forte, which carries on into her long life of blessedness to her natural death. Le Valentin chooses that sacred element of the Bible book when he shows an iconic Judith, triumphant woman of Israel, holding in her hands the decapitated head of one of Israel’s once-formidable mortal enemies. Judith is shown as a heroic woman with her hand raised as she admonishes: “But the Almighty Lord hath disappointed them by the hand of a woman.”

For Le Valentin’s artwork, Judith is an icon of God’s justice to his obedient people. Purchased for French King Louis XIV from German banker Everhard Jabach, the picture was installed in the king’s bedroom at Versailles to be especially admired.

The picture belongs to Le Valentin’s period of maturity for it displays the artist’s full interpretation of the realism of Caravaggio and Manfredi though, as expressed here, with a new appreciation for colors. The pretext of a Judith who, according to the Bible, had adorned herself in her best finery so not to dissuade Holofernes’s gaze (Judith, 13, 14), allows le Valentin to illuminate the dress’s rich fabrics with monochrome refractions, while the jewels and hair are bathed in ethereal light.

Detail. Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632), David with the head of Goliath, c. 1615/16, oil on canvas, 99 x 134 cm, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza Madrid,
Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Four Ages of Man, c. 1627/30, oil on canvas,. London, National Gallery.
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/valentin-de-boulogne-the-four-ages-of-man

The Four Ages of Man is a painting commissioned by Cardinal Barberini. It is an allegorical work whose human figures are painted by Le Valentin in natural poses. Groups of figures around a table were common in the work of Caravaggio and his northern followers. The allegory of the ages of man was a common subject for paintings during the sixteenth and seventeenth century, though its quantity of ages varied.

The allegory presents humanity in four categories of age – childhood (holding an empty bird trap); youth (playing a lute); adulthood (with a book and victor’s laurel); old age (with coins of wealth and delicate glassware).

The theme had its origin in classical literature: Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Dante’s Inferno acknowledged the stages of human life according to physical growth and decline. Contemporary poems were written on the subject that Le Valentin may have known.

In the 17th century, the painting was owned by Michel Particelli, seigneur d’Emery (1596–1650) in Paris. In the 18th century it was in the Orléans collection at the Palais Royal. During the French Revolution and the dispersal of the collection in 1791, the painting was brought to England where it is today.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Christ Expelling the Merchants from the Temple c. 1626. 192 x 266.5 cm, oil on canvas, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/wcm/connect/8276ab63-4bcc-40e9-83ab-91aa57903031/WOA_IMAGE_1.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&1677c4b2-bad6-47ed-b628-27cda4f71809

Le Valentin painted many half- or three-quarter-length figures of saints, prophets and narrative scenes including this painting. The scene of Christ expelling the moneychangers from the Temple of Jerusalem is told in all four gospels of the New Testament. Le Valentin adapted the method of half-length, full size street figures depicted in dark, precisely lighted spaces and emerging in relief from the shadows from the Caravaggistes.

Gospel readers would recognize that the cleansing of the temple was prophesied in the Old Testament as a  sign of the ushering in of the Messianic Age (Zechariah 14:21). In the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) the episode appears at the close of Jesus’s public ministry and in John’s gospel at the start (2:13-17). The chronology of the episode in Jesus‘ ministry is generally not considered its most important element.

Le Valentin shows the “whip of cords” held by Christ, a detail mentioned only in John (Jn 2:15). There are overturned tables, a bench, and scattered coins. Le Valentin depicts the gestures, movements and emotions of the characters involved, focused on a wrathful Christ and fear of the unrighteous.

While in Synoptics the point of the episode appears to be the dishonesty of the Temple money changers, in John’s gospel Jesus’s wrath is directed to the Temple institution itself. In John’s Gospel Jesus declares the Temple is to be “My Father’s house.” Though not a term unique to John, he uses it more than any other Gospel writer (27 times).

Derived from Caravaggio are the types of ordinary people, distinct contrasts of light and shade and the natural plasticity of the figures involved in the composition.

The painting entered the Hermitage collection in 1772.

Valentin de Boulogne (French, 1591–1632), Expulsion of the Money Changers from the Temple. Oil on canvas, 195 x 260 cm (76 ¾ x 103 1/8 in.). Palazzo Corsini, Rome.

The painting’s structural asymmetry lends energy to the scene. With Christ’s raised arm, he is a menace to the money changers. Le Valentin, taking inspiration from Caravaggio, unabashedly renders a scene in grand format of violence in the gospels. The painting was rediscovered in Rome in the mid19th century.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Allegory of Rome, 1628, oil on canvas, 330 x 245 cm, Villa Lante – Institutum Romanum Finlandiae Foundation. https://irfrome.org/en/villa-lante-4/architecture/salone-en/

The oil painting called Allegoria d’Italia by Le Valentin was originally called Historia d’Italia. Its massive volumes imbued with inner life are rendered using a brown palette and highlights that retained the Caravaggiste tradition. Le Valentin’s redoubling his commitment to Caravaggio in the late 1620s was on display in this painting as other leading painters, such as Vouet, Poussin, Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1647) and Pietro da Cortona (1597-1669), were deploying brighter “modern” colors.

In March 1628 Cardinal Barberini gave Le Valentin the commission for the Extraordinary Jubilee of 1628 and paid 113 crowns for it. This major painting which renewed Caravaggio-inspired technique in the late 1620s attracted greater attention to Le Valentin’s artwork not only by Caravaggeschi but the broader Roman art circles.

A young Roman girl wears an emperor’s cuirass, holds a spear and shield, as the personification of Italy. At her feet are the fruit and nuts of the land’s bounty. Below her image are two male figures, naked and bearded, who represent the Tiber and the Arno, Italy’s great rivers. The figure of the Tiber is joined by Romulus and Remus and the suckling wolf who founded Rome and the later Papal States. The Arno that runs through Florence is joined by its symbol of the lion. In the top left corner, a tree stump with a bee swarm symbolizes the Barberini.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Christ and the Adulteress,, 1618-22, oil on canvas, 167 x 221.3 cm, Getty Museum, Los Angeles.  https://museum-essays.getty.edu/paintings/ebeeny-valentin/

The gospel story that Le Valentin depicts using the typical Caravaggiste method (half-length, full size street figures in shadow and light) is from John 8. The story had been painted by the Flemish and the Venetians. The plump young woman in a torn garment exposing her shoulders and full-formed breasts is taken into custody by soldiers in armor to Jesus. According to the law the woman should be publicly stoned for adultery. The Pharisees lay verbal and other traps repeatedly in the gospels for Jesus to say or do something that is expungable. Jesus’s response moves past their premise. Whereas Jesus will soon be arrested, tried, and condemned by the authorities for his “transgressions,” the focus of le Valentin’s artwork is Jesus showing mercy to the sinful woman. From a theological viewpoint, Jesus’s innovative teaching is again based on the appeal to an extant biblical tradition of God’s anger towards, and forgiveness of, harlotry or unfaithfulness when such sin is repented (Hosea 5:4). Jesus tells her: “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). While the woman’s disheveled look suggests the nature of her sin, she represents humankind and points to Christ, the God-Man and prophesied suffering servant (Isaiah 53). Christ  takes the harlot’s place as the arrested agitator and manhandled by soldiers along the Via Dolorosa. In that episode, Christ goes to the cross to shed his blood in the new covenant whose outcome for “adulterous” humankind is  eternal forgiveness of sins and rising to new life.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Lute Player, c. 1625/26, 128.3 x 99.1 cm The Metropolitian Museum of Art, New York. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/439933

The image of a young soldier singing in armor breastplate a love madrigal is unique in Valentin’s oeuvre. The painting was part of the collection of Cardinal Mazarin, minister to Louis XIV.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Return of the Prodigal Son, c. 1615–16, oil on canvas, 59 1/16 × 70 1/16 in. (150 × 178 cm), Museo della Venerabile Arciconfraternita della Misericordia, Florence.

One of Jesus’s most famous parables, The Prodigal Son tells the story of a young man who demanded his “full share of [his father’s] estate that should come to [him],” and departed to waste it “on a life of dissipation” (Luke 15). When the lost son falls on hard times, he seeks his father’s house though “only as a hired servant.” The forgiving father who has been on the look-out for his lost son (dressed in rags) since the day of his departure welcomes him back as a son “who was dead and has come back to life.” Which of the other figures may be the older brother who is unhappy about his dissolute brother’s return is not clear. Le Valentin treats the parable as a human story of repentance, forgiveness, and unconditional love.

Valentin de Boulogne (French (active Rome), 1591-1632), Fortune-Teller with Soldiers, 58 7/8 x 93 7/8 in. (149.5 x 238.4 cm), Toledo Museum of Art.
http://emuseum.toledomuseum.org/objects/54884/fortuneteller-with-soldiers?ctx=99a0dbca-6a24-444e-a66b-95c576c7395c&idx=1

The attribution to Le Valentin and its dating for this artwork is the result of modern scholarship. Art historians can thereby draw conclusions and make conjectures about the development of Le Valentin’s early artwork in Rome -he uses a larger format, growing complexity of compositional qualities and its subject matter, and the retention of low-life characters and stylistic indebtedness to Caravaggio as he moves beyond him.

A dark tavern filled with low-life characters provides the setting for a scene of fortune and deceit. As a gypsy fortuneteller reads the palm of a young soldier he is looking pensively as she speaks his fate, there are carousers and thieves in the scene.  The picture is emblematic of Le Valentin – the techniques of a somber palette and dramatic lighting and tabletop groupings but also a mysterious mood and psychological depth to the complex interplay among its characters.

Valentin de Boulogne (French (active Rome), 1591-1632), Portrait of Roman Prelate, 128 x 94 cm, private collection.

The prelate is dressed in the robes of a papal chamberlain. Modern scholarship has proposed various individuals as the sitter from cardinals to lawyers.

Denial of St. Peter, c. 1623/25, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, 119 x 172 cm.
https://collection.pushkinmuseum.art/entity/PERSON/273?query=valentin%20de%20boulogne&index=0
Valentin de Boulogne (French (active Rome), 1591-1632), Abraham Sacrificing Isaac, 1629/32, 149.2 x 186.1 cm The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
https://www.mbam.qc.ca/en/works/8394/
Valentin de Boulogne (French (active Rome), 1591-1632), Moses, 1625/27. Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, 131 x 103.5 cm. https://www.khm.at/en/objectdb/detail/2012/

Moses led the Israelites out the slavery of Egypt into the freedom of the Promised Land during the Exodus. The event is told and retold in the Old Testament and Moses as Liberator and Law Giver is its most significant figure. Le Valentin shows him holding a miraculous rod that he used  to open the Red Sea (Exodus 14), struck the rock to produce water (Numbers 20) and, after its transformation into an iron snake, healed the ill (Numbers 21). Moses points to the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments of God (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). This late work by Valentin is characteristic in its dark and pensive tone that is reminiscent of Caravaggio.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632),Cheerful company with Fortune Teller, 190 × 267cm, oil on canvas, 1631 Vienna Liechtenstein.
https://www.liechtensteincollections.at/en/collections-online/cheerful-company-with-fortune-teller
Detail. Cheerful Company with Fortune Teller. Le Valentin.

The picture is one of Valentin’s last paintings before his death in 1632. Prince Hans Adam Il von und zu Liechtenstein (b. 1945) acquired the work in 2004.  Throughout his painting career, Le Valentin never ceased producing genre paintings.

SOURCES:

A Dictionary of Art and Artists, Peter and Linda Murray, Penguin Books; Revised,1998.

French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century, The Collection of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue, Philip Conisbee and Frances Gage, Washington, D.C., 2009 pp, 413-414.

Art for the Nation, text by Philip Conisbee, National Gallery of Art exhibition catalogue, 2000.

French Painting From Fouquet to Poussin, Albert Chatâlet and Jacques Thuillier, trans. from French by Stuart Gilbert, Skira, 1963.

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/663663

https://www.metmuseum.org/press/exhibitions/2016/valentin-de-boulogne

https://arthistorians.info/bousquet

https://arthistorians.info/hoogewerffg

https://arthistorians.info/longhir

https://www.kulturelles-erbe-koeln.de/documents/obj/05011488/rba_d054126_01

The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, edited by John Coulson, Guild Press, New York, 1957.

The New American Bible, Catholic Book Publishing Corp, New York, 1993.

Mannerism: The Painting and Style of The Late Renaissance,  Jacques Bousquet, trans, by Simon Watson Taylor, Braziller, 1964.

The Liberation of Jerusalem, Torquato Tasso, trans by Max Wicker, Oxford World’s Classics, 2009.

Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio, Annick Lemoine, Keith Christiansen, Patrizia Cavazzini, Jean Pieere Cuzin, Gianni Pappi, Metropolitan Museum of Art; 2016.

https://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/hauts-de-france/somme/amiens/six-tableaux-de-la-chambre-du-roi-du-chateau-de-versailles-exceptionnellement-exposes-au-musee-de-picardie-2620412.html

https://www.liechtensteincollections.at/en/

Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J,  and Roland E. Murphy, O. Carm.,The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1968.

Lehmbeck, Leah, editor. Gifts of European Art from The Ahmanson Foundation. Vol. 2, French Painting and Sculpture. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2019.

Marandel, J. Patrice and Gianni Papi. 2012. Caravaggio and his Legacy. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Fried, Michael. After Caravaggio. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016.

Schmid, Vanessa I., with Julia Armstrong-Totten. The Orléans Collection. New Orleans: New Orleans Museum of Art; Lewes: In association with D. Giles, 2018.

Merle Du Bourg, Alexis. “L’omniprésence de la musique.” Dossier de L’Art no.246 (2017): 64-67.

ITALIAN ART in the 16th Century.

FEATURE image: Dosso Dossi (c. 1489–1542), Melissa, 1520s. 69.25 x 68.5 inches, Borghese Gallery, Rome.

Dosso Dossi (c. 1489–1542), Melissa, 1520s. 69.25 x 68.5 inches, Borghese Gallery, Rome.

Dosso Dossi (c. 1489-1542)– whose actual name was Giovanni de Lutero–was an Italian Renaissance painter who belonged to the School of Ferrara. Among scores of artists who painted mainly in the Venetian style influenced by Giorgione (c. 1477-1510), Dosso Dossi dominated the school that maintained its tradition of painterly artificiality.

Melissa is Dosso Dossi’s masterpiece: a benign personage in the Italian epic poem Orlando Furioso (1516) of Ludovico Ariosto (1574-1533). The enchantress frees humans from the black arts of the wicked sorceress Alcina. The painting depicts Melissa at the moment she burns the seals and spells of Alcina and liberates two men from the tree trunks.

The realistic dog is certainly a human being under Alcina’s spell who will be liberated by Melissa and take up again the suit of armor he watches earnestly. The trees are stylized, artificially-lighted elements – that is, Giorgionesque – that provide a magical setting for the poem’s characters.

The figure of Melissa is draped in a fringed red-and-gold-brocaded robe and enriched by Titianesque glazes. She is particularly alluring in a sparkling gold and green setting moored by meticulously and softly portrayed meadows, background figures, and distant city towers.

Titian (c.1511-1576), The Death of Actaeon. c. 1559-75, oil on canvas, 178.8 × 197.8 cm. National Gallery London.

SOURCE: History of Italian Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Third Edition, Frederick Hartt, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1987.
A Dictionary of Art and Artists, Peter and Linda Murray, Penguin Books; Revised,1998.
Italian Paintings of the Sixteenth Century, Allan Braham, The National Gallery, London (William Collins), 1985.

The Battle of Anghiari (1503-06) in Florence by LEONARDO DA VINCI (1452-1519) and a Fabled Competition with Michelangelo for Laurel of Italy’s Greatest High Renaissance Artist.

FEATURE image: Peter Paul Rubens, Copy of Leonardo’s Battle of the Standard (from the Battle of Anghiari), 1603, Louvre.

Profile Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, attributed to Francesco Melzi, circa 1515–1517, Royal Trust Collection.

On May 2, 2019, the world remembered the day 500 years ago when Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Italian Renaissance artist and polymath, died. The 67-year-old applied the spheres of the human brain to its many branches of knowledge and voraciously fused his interests and studies into one lifetime that inspired universal learning in Europe.

Leonardo da Vinci made original contributions as an inventor, draftsman, painter, sculptor, architect, scientist, musician, mathematician, engineer, writer, anatomist, geologist, astronomer, botanist, paleontologist and cartographer.1 Leonardo was involved in military science, hydraulics, aerodynamics, and optics. Used by princes and admired by kings, charming and handsome Leonardo da Vinci could show in his notebooks that he was often misanthropic.2 A significant part of his important visionary achievements is that Leonardo da Vinci painted two of the most reproduced artistic masterpieces of all time: the Mona Lisa (1503, Louvre. Paris) and The Last Supper (1490s, Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan). Leonardo, after a lifetime of adventure, curiosity, and solid achievement died in Amboise, France, following a short illness.

Italy, c. 1500.

In 1516 Leonardo left Italy for the first time to live in France under the protection of its most cultured young French king, François I (1494-1547). As a dedicated artist, Leonardo experienced a lifetime of disappointment from most of his would-be patrons starting with his father through to Lorenzo de’ Medici, the Magnificent (1449-1492), hapless Milanese duke Ludovico Sforza (1452-1508), Milanese governor Charles II d’Amboise (1473-1511), and Lorenzo’s son and a papal brother, Giuliano di Lorenzo de’ Medici (1479-1516), among others. As Leonardo was ahead of his times it can be said that only at the end of the artist’s life—in 1516, under the wing of François I—that the bulk of his times, that is, the temporarily powerful men in them, had failed him and mankind’s enduring greatness. François I was Leonardo’s first unconditional patron3—while the rest, relatively speaking, are history’s minor players.

François I, Jean Clouet, c. 1530. Louvre, Paris.
Lorenzo the Magnificent, Agnolo Bronzino (1503-1572), Uffizi, Florence, Italy.
Ludovico Sforza (detail), Master of the Pala Sforzesca, c.1495, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Italy.
Charles II d’Amboise, Andrea Solario, 1507.
Giuliano de’ Medici, Raphael.

At Leonardo’s death his reputation as an artist and man rested, as Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) relates, on his physical strength, generosity, and artistic innovations which brought art and society out of its reliance on the past and its well-intentioned model books into a future of science and art which characterized the best of the Renaissance period. Because of Leonardo’s lifetime of study and work, mostly in isolation from a majority of his fellow artists’ and other practitioners’ careers, he bore the fruit of innovation, including new and creative forms and motifs for art. These emanated out of the imagination of the individual artist who closely observed the workings of nature. Leonardo’s artistic innovations included the subtle skill of sfumato (shadowing) and, as a draughtsman, progressive chalk and cross-hatching techniques. These inspired other great artists, like Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), and only begins to account for the knowledge Leonardo gained from the physical sciences, particularly anatomy.

Leonardo spent his final three years in Italy in the Vatican (1513-1516), effectively a refuge from petty Italian tyrants. He departed for France in 1516 under the protection of its warrior and cultured 21-year-old new king, François I, whom 64-year-old Leonardo first met in late 15154. Like his cousin and father-in-law predecessor King Louis XII of France (1462-1515) and his cultured mother Louise de Savoie (1476-1531), François I worked hard to recruit the Italian High Renaissance’s most inventive artist for the Gallic Kingdom. When Leonardo finally crossed the Alps he carried with him his recent paintings of the Mona Lisa, Saint John the Baptist, and the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne—all works in the Louvre in Paris today.5 In the second edition of Vasari’s Lives of the Artists6 he described Leonardo in his last months of life in France. In 1519, after a happy period in France at the Château de Cloux, Leonardo was a sick and bedridden man. At the very end, Vasari writes, Leonardo “could not stand [and had to be] supported by his friends and servants.”7. The King paid Leonardo “affectionate visits” in these last days. Vasari intimates that the dying artist consciously felt himself honored to be ministered to by François I Vasari and that Leonardo realized the distinct privilege to “[breathe] his last in [the king’s] arms.”8 This death bed scene, particularly Vasari’s tender detail, has been subsequently imagined in the artwork of artists, including Ingres’ famous painting dated 1818 in the collection of the Petit Palais in Paris.

Louis XII of France, Workshop of Jean Perréal, c. 1514. Cousin and father-in-law of François I Louis admired and collected Leonardo and passed down this admiration to France.
Bemberg fondation Toulouse – Portrait de Louise de Savoie, mère de François Ier – École De Jean Clouet (1475;1485-1540) 22×17 Inv.1013

The mother of François I, Louise de Savoie (above), worked hard to convince Leonardo to leave Italy for France.

Leonardo carried with him over the Alps to France three of his recent paintings (above) – Mona Lisa (1503), Saint John the Baptist (1513), and the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne (1503). All are in the Louvre today.

Châteaux de Cloux (Clos Lucé), Amboise, France.
Leonardo’s room, Châteaux de Cloux.
Death of Leonardo, Cesare Mussini (1804-1888).
Death of Leonardo, pencil, 11 x 8½ in. (28 x 21.8 cm.), Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867).
Death Of Leonardo da Vinci, 1818, oil on canvas, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Petit Palais, Paris.

Ink consecrated to the artistry of Leonardo da Vinci is vast. The Bible-like exhibition catalog for Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman from the 2003 show at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is a 786-page testament. That tome presents and discusses about 100 drawings by the master. This article focuses on one image – Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari, particularly its central section called the Battle of The Standard.

In October 1503 Leonardo’s commission by the Florentine Republic was to commemorate the military victory of the Florentines over the Milanese in 1440. It would be one of the major artworks in the newly-built Sala de Gran Consiglio (Grand Council Hall) by IL Cronaca (“The Chronicler”) to the rear of the Palazzo della Signoria, also known as the Palazzo Vecchio.9 The commission was given to Leonardo by Republican standard-bearer Piero Soderini (1450-1522) with one of Leonardo’s contracts signed by Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)—and so entered into the annals of what became a fabled art competition (“concorrenza”).

Ink consecrated to Leonardo da Vinci’s art is vast.

View of Florence (detail, Arno River, Palazzo Vecchio, Duomo), c. 1561, Giorgio Vasari.
Piero Soderini (1450-1522) by Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio.

Statesman Piero Soderini of the Florentine Republic awarded Leonardo the mural commission for the Battle of Anghiari in October 1503.

Today’s Salone dei Cinquecento by Giorgio Vasari, 1563-1572.

In the process of re-decorating this room with its coffered ceiling and walls with paintings of battle scenes dedicated to the exaltation of Cosimo I de’ Medici, Leonardo da Vinci’s innovative fresco of the Battle of Anghiari was lost or destroyed.

Battle of Marciano by Giorgio Vasari, 1571, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy.
Peter Paul Rubens’ copy of 1603 of the lost Battle for the Standard.

Peter Paul Rubens’ copy of 1603 of the lost Battle for the Standard, the central section of the Battle of Anghiari fresco by Leonardo, 1503-06, in Palazzo della Signoria (also, Palazzo Vecchio) in Florence. While Rubens’ copy is the best known, there are copies of Leonardo’s work by other 16th century artists.

After Leonardo Da Vinci, Fight For the Standard (from the Battle of Anghiari), oil on canvas, 28.625 x 33.125 in. (72.8 x 84 cm).
After Leonardo Da Vinci, Fight For the Standard (from the Battle of Anghiari) oil on canvas, 16th century, Museo Horne, Florence.

In 1503 Leonardo da Vinci was at the height of his artistic powers. The Battle of Anghiari was a commission for a large scale, complex and dramatic fresco mural on one wall of the Sala de Gran Consiglio in Florence during the short-lived restored Republic (c.1492-1512). Leonardo looked to paint the fresco in dazzling oils and glazes but his complicated experimental techniques to adhere the pigment to the wall largely failed.10 With the fresco’s ultimate destruction in the early 1560’s under Vasari who redecorated the Great Council Hall with six of his own massive battle scenes, he and his Medici rulers were faced with another of Leonardo’s deteriorating frescos similar to the disastrous flaking of The Last Supper in Milan. The Battle of Anghiari was not in an obscure monastery refectory but the central hall of changing political power in Florence.11

Leonardo’s Last Supper, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.

Leonardo’s Last Supper fresco in Milan started flaking almost as soon as it was painted in the 1490’s. Leonardo’s experimental painting techniques for that project had largely failed.

Fragmentary remains by Leonardo of his Florentine project are his preparatory drawings whose subjects include horses, riders, and combatants on the battlefield in various stages of creative development. Some of these drawings were made by Leonardo immediately upon receiving his commission in late 1503.12 Several copies and copies of copies made by other artists also survive. While the preparatory drawings do not complete the full composition— though contemporary written sources lend credence to books of sketches that are lost13—Leonardo possibly did not even complete a cartoon before he started painting on the wall.14 While copies by others intrigue, they are problematic to envision Leonardo’s final fresco of the Battle of Anghiari—yet each of these sources provide insights.

The Battle of Anghiari is arguably Leonardo’s most important public commission.15 It manifested itself in the context of impactful local history, civic pride, city government, and the artist’s own vision and skills in its employ. Florence was Leonardo’s native city and he wanted to make a strong impression. Sixty years after Leonardo left his brilliant fresco on the west wall.16 Vasari, whose redecoration of the Palazzo Vecchio included a fresco cycle of his own almost certainly covered over all or part of Leonardo’s unfinished fresco. A desire for new artwork to showcase the Medici restoration under Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519-1574) naturally extended to the Grand Council Hall. The late-fifteenth-century Republic had commissioned Leonard’s battle fresco—and that form of government had ended in Florence in 1512.

Portrait of Cosimo I de’ Medici, 1535, Alessandro Allori (1536-1607), oil on poplar, 86 x 65 cm (34 x 25 5/8 in.), Florence.

Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519 -1574) ruled Florence from 1537 until his death.

Cosimo I de’ Medici (detail), c. 1564, by Giorgio Vasari, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.

As Vasari relates in his Lives of the Artists, Leonardo depicted a scene from the life of Niccolò Piccinino (1386-1444), an Italian mercenary officer or “condottiere” in the service of the politically brilliant and physically repulsive duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti (1392-1447). Fighting for Milan, Piccinino—aided by two score of cavalry squadron, many foot soldiers17and treacherous Florentine exiles—was defeated by a force led by the Republic of Florence under Francesco I Sforza (1401-1466). The victory at the Battle of Anghiari on June 29, 1440 handed the Florentines domination of central Italy. At the turn of the sixteenth century the new republic of Florence continued to face warring tyrants as neighbors including Cesare Borgia (1475-1507). At the start of a new century and Republic the timing was ripe to depict in its government hall valorous Florentine warriors defeating political enemies. In 1503, Florentine officials gave Leonardo an in-depth orientation of the 1440 battle using historical texts but the artist brushed these aside as he conceived the scene to be depicted, a virtually cinematic induction of the battle’s climax —the mortal contest by the Florentines to capture the standard from the Milanese. Leonardo’s first sketches for it are of a condensed melée full of the swirling movement and stirring sensations of battle.18 The actual standards taken during the battle had been kept in the Grand Council Hall as a trophy.19

Niccolò Piccinino. Defeated at the Battle of Anghiari, the Italian mercenary becomes the central protagonist of Leonardo’s fresco.

Front (Recto) of a medal of Duke of Milan, Filippo Maria Visconti, by Pisanello (1395-1455).

Local battles such as the Battle of Anghiari were usually part of larger campaigns— in this instance, The Lombardy Wars of 1423-1454— and fought by hired warriors. Mercenaries usually provided terms to competing foes that protected the mercenary’s best interest. Following the Battle of Anghiari, Piccinino, who had been captured, was soon after released. In the next battle at Martinengo, he defeated and captured Sforza. Because of these endless war games, Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) advised in The Prince that a ruler should not be tempted to use these swords for hire – and cited Francesco Sforza by example.20

Mercenary Francesco Sforza, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.
Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito (1536-1603).

Machiavelli, author of The Prince, signed an order to commission Leonardo to create the fresco commemorating the Battle of Anghiari for Florence’s newly-built Sala de Gran Consiglio (Grand Council Hall).

Leonardo’s sketches of probably Cesare Borgia.

Cosimo I de’ Medici who ruled Florence starting in 1547 was interested in that which supports power— including art. Vasari’s new paintings of Cosimo I de’ Medici’s wartime exploits was partly a political act. By ridding the hall of Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari — a Republican military victory from long ago — Vasari worked his political masters’ desires. The ultimate reasons and fate of Leonardo’s artwork is not known but if Vasari destroyed the mural he would not be the first Italian artist to destroy a competitor’s artwork as shall be seen.

In late 1503 Leonardo, installed in a temporary workshop at Santa Maria Novella, about a fifteen-minute walk to the Palazzo, was given a deadline for the mural’s completion of February 1505. Like the fabled competition between Leonardo and Michelangelo that was intentionally arranged by Florence’s political operatives, the deadline for completion was also a demand for Leonardo’s art outside the artist’s concerns. The first late winter deadline passed as did those in spring and summer. Setbacks included Leonardo’s meticulously slow work, other projects he took up that kept him away from the fresco, and even bad weather.21

Santa Maria Novella, Florence.

Leonardo’s designated workshop for the mural commission was the Dominican church built in 1420, Santa Maria Novella.

In early 1504 the wall painting of the Battle of Anghiari and its 51-year-old artist was joined by Michelangelo Buonarroti who would paint his Battle of Cascina in the same room and possibly on the same wall. Michelangelo, recently turned 28 years old, would depict the Florentine military victory over Pisa in 1364. Neither this imposed rivalry or proximity encouraged their friendship.22 Michelangelo was intense, pious, and unwashed contrasting to Leonardo’s genial, independent, and stylish manner.23 However, their professional relationship temporarily influenced each other’s artmaking.

Michelangelo, Self-Portrait.
Leonardo da Vinci, (Lucan) Self-Portrait.

In 1504 and 1505, Michelangelo learned to use Leonardo’s innovative stylus cross-hatching technique along with the chalk technique that Leonardo was continuing to exploit in the Battle of Anghiari. Inspired by Michelangelo, Leonardo did masterful drawings of nude figures though he did not use them. In Michelangelo’s preparatory drawings for the Battle of Cascina—that and copies by others are what survive of the project– the younger artist used Leonardo’s cross hatching technique for the pull of the skin. He experimented with Leonardo’s chalk technique to display types and degrees of muscular tension on figures.24 Yet, according to Vasari, the two clashed at almost every turn. Michelangelo’s use of Leonardo’s advanced techniques was restricted to the short period of their common commission and Leonardo openly disparaged Michelangelo’s cartoon of male nude bathers as coldly analytical.25

Two Michelangelo chalk studies. Above: Life Study for a bathing soldier in the lost cartoon for the Battle of Cascina, black chalk, 404 x 258 cm, Teylers Museum, Haarlem, The Netherlands. Below: Male back with a flag.

Leonardo da Vinci, Anatomical Studies of the Nude, connected with the Battle of Anghiari, c. 1504, Royal Library, Windsor. Though influenced by Michelangelo’s nude drawings in this time, Leonardo’s design and imagery for his battle scene looked to invention and unexpected drama rather than the nude.

In spring 1505 Michelangelo’s cartoon was finished but his painting barely started—and the younger artist left Florence for Rome. Michelangelo accepted the commission to build the tomb of Pope Julius II (1443-1513) although it would not be completed until 1545 and on a much-reduced scale. He returned to Florence the following spring but was soon back in Rome to paint, between 1508 and 1512, the Sistine Chapel ceiling. In 1506 Leonardo’s gradual departure for Milan, complete by 1508, began. Leonardo stayed in Milan until 1513 when he was invited by the pope to the Vatican. Leonardo and Michelangelo had in Florence shared a common commission from the Republic. Their two battle scenes presented, each in their own way, a tangle of intertwined figures. Otherwise, each artist created compositions of varying subject matter and style which proved seminal for art-making schools of the future. Leonardo’s swirling horsemen in the Battle of Anghiari inspired the Baroque style and Michelangelo’s bathers in the Battle of Cascina displayed a perfect template for Classicism. These two great artists also shared, despite their age difference or varying temperaments, the fact that neither of them completed their commissioned work.

Michelangelo, The Tomb of Pope Julius II, completed 1545, San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome.
Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel ceiling, 1508-1512, Rome (The Vatican).
Michelangelo, David, 1501-1504, Galleria dell’ Accademia, Florence, Italy.

Michelangelo’s David had just been placed Florence’s central square when the painting competition (“concorrenza“) between himself and Leonardo da Vinci began. Leonardo had served on his native city’s committee which decided where to place Michelangelo’s 17-foot tall marble sculpture. Today a copy stands outside the Palazzo Vecchio.

At the time of the public commission in Florence, Leonardo had just finished his Mona Lisa (1503, Louvre, Paris) and Michelangelo had just installed, in the city square, his David (1501-1504, Accademia Gallery Museum, Florence). Leonardo had been part of the city committee to recommend where Michelangelo’s David should be placed.26 Over the next decade, until 1512, Leonardo’s and Michelangelo’s unfinished wall paintings—that they both had abandoned (a worthy reason for a later Medici to paint it over)—adorned the same room possibly side by side. Michelangelo’s work was mutilated first with the fall of the Republic. Young artists had flocked to study and copy these unfinished artworks, including a young Raphael.27 In 1512 one of these artists, a 24-year-old named Bartolommeo Bandinelli (1488-1560)—he had been obsessive in studying Michelangelo’s cartoon to the point of sneaking in to the Council Hall at night—in one moment grabbed the cartoon and cut it into pieces. The motivation for Bandinelli’s destruction is unclear. The center section of Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari – namely, Battle of the Standard– remained intact on the wall and for decades saw copies and written descriptions made of it. After 1508, neither Michelangelo nor Leonardo were anywhere near Florence as both moved on to larger opportunities.28

Michelangelo, Battle of Cascina, 1504-6, destroyed copy by Aristotile da Sangallo, grisaille on panel, 30 x 52 in. The Courtauld Institute of Art, London.

Leonardo openly disparaged Michelangelo’s cartoon of male nude bathers as coldly analytical. Younger artists preferred the noble and expressive form of Michelangelo’s nudes to Leonardo’s messier constructions.

Focusing on Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari, and, particularly, the Battle of the Standard, its central panel, one is impressed by Leonardo’s revolutionary approach to drawing.  Leonardo shattered tradition, specifically in drawing. First, Leonardo was not tidy in his drawing. Medieval tradition was fundamentally concerned with conserving the controlled line. A draftsman’s artistic ability was judged by patrons and cultural tastemakers by the accurate lines he created directly out of an existing model-book.  Leonardo’s early silverpoint drawing of a Bust of a Warrior in the British Museum demonstrates his ability to masterfully fulfill this Renaissance expectation.29 As Leonardo the artist developed, by the end of the fifteenth century he was attacking this long-held linear tradition in his notebooks as a failed technique.30 The fiery scribbling of Leonardo’s drawing style expresses his process of creative exploration but equally his rebellion towards the old technique. In its place, Leonardo shows himself in his drawings to be actively pushing outside the linear restraint of quattrocento drawing and formulating a new artistic standard derived from orientation to the model. As an avant-garde artist in this mode Leonardo practiced it alone for 25 years.31 The profligacy of his drawings – often multiple images on the same page of paper expressing his changing primo pensiero (“first thoughts”) – indicates the brilliancy of Leonardo’s creativity. His drawing technique points to the artist seeking to free the immaginativa to emphasize dramatic invention that included individual details (such as heads) and unto an entire scene.  Leonardo’s artistic practice worked to overturn, or revolutionize, the tradition-bound formulas imposed on art. He replaced it with a new and radical conception of nature ever-changing as the drawing framework.

Leonardo da Vinci, Bust of a Warrior in profile, 28.7 x 21.1 cm, silverpoint, c.1478, The British Museum.
Model-book page, 1390’s, pen and ink with wash and watercolors on parchment, workshop of Giovannino de’ Grassi (1350-1398).
Giorgio Vasari, Self-portrait, 1560’s.

Vasari goes into admirable detail on Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari in his Lives of the Artists in editions of 1550 and 1568. That Vasari destroyed or painted over this same work by Leonardo around the same time during a re-decoration of Florence’s Grand Council Hall is difficult to reconcile with his writings.

Invested Quattrocento cultural taste-makers and practitioners found danger in Leonardo’s new artistic direction. Art producers and patrons could not understand why a single artist for his own personal exploration would forsake generations of practiced skill and systematics. The challenge for Leonardo after he discarded the model-book was difficult and clear– to invent figures and forms to replace it. This monumental task helps explain some of the artist’s motivation for working in many areas such as anatomy, mechanics, botany, and geophysics. Wide study was certainly owing to Leonardo’s “unquenchable curiosity”32 but its practical application worked to fulfill his ambition to locate source material to replace the model-book’s groupings, movements, and forms that he had audaciously sacked. The culmination of his approach is manifest in the Battle of Anghiari. To discover some of Leonardo’s unfolding revolutionary creative process makes this artwork exciting to consider as Vasari describes it in detail in his Lives:

The great achievements of this inspired artist so increased his prestige that everyone who loved art, or rather every single person in Florence, was anxious for him to leave the city some memorial; and it was being proposed everywhere that Leonardo should be commissioned to do some great and notable work which would enable the state to be honored and adorned by his discerning talent, grace, and judgement.  As it happened the great hall of the council was being constructed under the architectural direction of Giuliano Sangallo, Simone Pollaiuolo (known as Cronaca), Michelangelo Buonarroti and Baccio d’ Agnolo, as I shall relate at greater length in the right place.  It was finished in a hurry, after the head of the government and the chief citizens had conferred together, it was publicly announced that a splendid painting would be commissioned from Leonardo.  And then he was asked by Piero Soderini, the Gonfalonier of Justice, to do a decorative painting for the council hall.  As a start, therefore, Leonardo began work in the Hall of the Pope, in Santa Maria Novella, on a cartoon illustrating an incident in the life of Niccolò Piccinino, a commander of Duke Filippo of Milan.  He showed a group of horsemen fighting for a standard, in a drawing which was regarded as very fine and successful because of the wonderful ideas he expressed in his interpretation of the battle.  In the drawing, rage, fury, and vindictiveness are displayed both by the men and by the horses, two of which with their forelegs interlocked are battling with their teeth no less fiercely than their riders are struggling for the standard, the staff of which has been grasped by a soldier who, as he turns and spurs his horse to flight, is trying by the strength of his shoulders to wrest it by force from the hands of four others.  Two of them are struggling for it with one hand and attempting with the other to cut the staff with their raised swords; and an old soldier in a red cap roars out as he grips the staff with one hand and with the other raises a scimitar and aims a furious blow to cut off both the hands of those who are gnashing their teeth and ferociously defending their standard.  Besides this, on the ground between the legs of the horses there are two figures, foreshortened, shown fighting together; the one on the ground has over him a soldier who has raised his arm as high as possible to plunge his dagger with greater force into the throat of his enemy, who struggles frantically with his arms and legs to escape death.

It is impossible to convey the fine draughtsmanship with which Leonardo depicted the soldiers’ costumes, with their distinctive variations, or the helmet-crests and the other ornaments, not to speak of the incredible mastery that he displayed in the forms and lineaments of the horses which with their bold spirit and muscles and shapely beauty, Leonardo portrayed better than any other artist.  It is said that to draw the cartoon Leonardo constructed an ingenious scaffolding that he could raise or lower by drawing it together or extending it.  He also conceived the wish to paint the picture in oils, but to do this he mixed such a thick composition for laying on the wall that, as he continued his painting in the hall, it started to run and spoil what had been done, So shortly afterwards he abandoned the work.”33

It seems nearly inconceivable that Vasari could write so appreciably of Leonardo’s fresco and then destroy it. Yet its removal, whether wholly destroyed, or lost by being painted over or misplaced, is a fact. Leonardo who no longer relied on the model-book as his authority the artist answered with his own creative immaginativa and all of the facets of nature. In this revolutionary creative process, Leonardo further anticipated the modern era’s introduction of the psychological component into a drawing. The psychological element that Leonardo introduced extended to the figures Leonardo depicted in drawings but it benefited the individual artist’s ability to think and dream creatively. To this end Leonardo consciously devised mental exercises to produce psychological effects in himself.34

Leonardo da Vinci, Head of a Warrior in Profile, black chalk, 220 x 116 mm, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice.

Leonardo anticipated the modern era’s introduction of the psychological component into a drawing.

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of a Warrior’s Head for the Battle of Anghiari (Recto), Red chalk on prepared paper, 22.6 × 18.6 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.

It is half life size from a live model. Over the years some scholars have doubted its authenticity as a Leonardo drawing.

Verso of Study of a Warrior’s Head for the Battle of Anghiari (above drawing).

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of Two Warriors’ Heads for Battle of Anghiari (c. 1504–5). Black chalk or charcoal, traces of red chalk on paper, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.

This is one of the most famous drawing studies by Leonardo da Vinci for the Battle of Anghiari fresco mural project.

Within wide study in the physical sciences, Leonardo attempted everything̱– and did not always finish. It was the immensity of his study and his loathing of the finished quality of the model-book that allowed Leonardo to abandon projects and pick up new and creative directions and methods. Leonardo’s world view as an artist for his art was universal—indeed, he personified the popular definition of “Renaissance Man.” In his artistic boldness and innovation, Leonardo’s methods and objectives found him its sole practitioner for years—even decades. Yet Leonardo was a man of his times. The era of the mid-to-late fifteenth century was one of social awakening to the globe and its conquest by nations and kingdoms. The historical period saw great changes in cultural perceptions based on European cities achieving charters of economic and political freedom as well as new scientific and other discoveries. These included the heliocentric model of the solar system by astronomer and mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and the international voyages of discovery by Christopher Columbus (1451-1506). It was an age of revolutionary ideas and technology and Leonardo da Vinci had no doubt it included art.

In Leonardo’s drawings there is the untidy immaginativa quality in its hasty, scribbled animations. Studies for the Battle of Anghiari present a cacophony of images—drapery studies; grotesque heads; armory; horses. For each area, Leonardo’s drawing between 1503 and 1506 had reached mature stylistic development.35 Not since Leonardo’s The Adoration of the Magi in 1482 had he created a composition achieving the cohesion of gestures and inter-relationships among figures.

Nikolaus Copernicus (The Torun portrait), Anonymous, c. 1580.
Leonardo da Vinci, Adoration of the Magi, 1482, oil on wood, 246 cm × 243 cm (97 in. × 96 in.), Uffizi, Florence.

There are speculatively three panels or sections completed for the Battle of Anghiari. The most recognizable is the large central panel or section known as the Battle for the Standard. It is known by its copies by other artists. Leonardo’s central panel depicts four men, one partially hidden, riding war horses. They are engaged in the heat of combat, frozen in a frame of animated movement, for the capture of a standard during the battle. Other sections of the Battle of Anghiari—derived from Leonardo’s small preparatory sketches—depict a wild, galloping horse and a pair of belligerents on horseback. These are briefly discussed below. The most well-known copy of the central section of Leonardo’s fresco (the only section he apparently painted) is by the great artist Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640). In the collection of the Louvre, Rubens’ copy dates from 1603 and is, in fact, a copy of a copy. Rubens copies Lorenzo Zacchia’s (1524-c.1587) copy dating from 1553 which he possibly took directly from the fresco or a lost cartoon. There are three extant copies by other artists of Ruben’s copy of a copy of the possibly original artwork.36 These copies at various removes provide insight into the impact for art through the centuries. The rest of Leonardo’s composition is conjectured based on drawings.37 The left panel or section Leonardo could have intended to be horsemen charging into battle while the right panel or section could be the taking of the bridge over the Tiber on horseback which was a key action for victory. The preparatory drawing sheets have images on top and below and may be related as part of a narrative sequence that Leonardo worked to clarify and simplify as a design until he started painting the composition.38 Throughout the project Leonardo had detail and atmospherics in mind though in its piece meal condition today, a full aspect of his creative process is irretrievably lost.39

Peter Paul Rubens, Copy of Leonardo’s Battle of the Standard (from the Battle of Anghiari), 1603, Louvre.

Horses are one of Leonardo’s favorite subjects. The Battle for the Standard portrays three soldiers on three horses with swords brandished in the smoke and flame of hand-to-hand combat. A fourth soldier on horseback is partially hidden. Two more soldiers have fallen beneath the hooves of their reeling horses and attempt to cover themselves with their shields. The weight of the horses is depicted in their meaty haunches. The horses’ heads are ancient and noble. They crush, bite, and plow into the heat of battle. The screaming head of Niccolò Piccinino –the protagonist of the Battle for the Standard — and from whose hands the standard is wrested away by Florentine soldiers (the profile on his immediate right) wore a large red cap as described by Vasari.40

The overall configuration of the scene is Leonardo’s Renaissance construction of the type of dense figures discovered on ancient Greek and Roman sarcophagi. The stylistic effect of Rubens’ copy of Leonardo’s Battle of the Standard is, by virtue of its similarity, carried forward into the seventeenth century as witnessed by Rubens’ The Hippopotamus Hunt (1616) and The Lion Hunt (1621) both in the Alte Pinakoteck in Munich. The question can be posed: to what degree is Rubens’ stylistic effect, by virtue of his 1603 copy of a 1553 copy of Leonardo’s 1503 image, inferred into Leonardo’s Battle of the Standard? Yet Leonardo’s battle, seen by thousands over decades before its demise, can be said to have directly influenced battle scene depictions whose style continued into the Romantic Period in mid19th century France.41

Fall of Phaeton, Greek marble Roman sarcophagus, 62 x 220 cm, c. 150 AD, Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
Peter Paul Rubens, The Hippopotamus Hunt, 1616, Alte Pinakothek, Munich.
Peter Paul Rubens, The Lion Hunt, 1621, Alte Pinakothek, Munich.
Tintoretto, Saint George and the Dragon, oil on canvas, 157.5 x 110.3 cm, The National Gallery, London.
Eugène Delacroix, The Combat of the Giaour and Hassan, 1826, The Art Institute of Chicago.
Bronzino, Allegory of Venus and Cupid, c. 1560, The National Gallery, London.

The screaming head in the background on the left side of the painting is speculatively based on the head of Leonardo’s protagonist in the Battle of the Standard.

Along with these artistic innovations and achievements by Leonardo in a long, lonely process of exploration the hallmark achievement of the Battle of Anghiari is its reckless artistic inspiration.  While historical construction of Leonardo’s drawing method requires speculation, existing studies for the work, including those specific to the Battle of Anghiari, provide insights. For instance, Leonardo deployed the pen as well as chalk in preparatory drawings for the Battle of Anghiari. This practice continued the spontaneous and dynamic plasticity of his drawing technique from the 1490s42 and contained psychophysical and temporal effects.43 Up to Leonardo, the general practice for using a pen or stylus was by way of short parallel lines. In the Battle of Anghiari Leonardo is the first Italian artist to systematically use curvilinear hatching.44 A complementary contrast to Leonardo’s inventiveness is that he valued and paid attention to his work experiences. After the early 1480s he retained his sense of form and design and continued to work through particular problems that interested him within a general trend of development.45

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of Rearing Horse, light fine red chalk and hatching with traces pen and brown ink, 153 x 142 mm, Royal Library, Windsor.

The horse drawn from life shows a tense rider pivoting.

Leonardo’s drawings, including his preparatory studies, convey a sensational appearance of continuous movement. Formed into a triangle the figures of combatants in the central section of the Battle of Anghiari and elsewhere move in a swirling motion similar to the apocalyptic liquid cascades Leonardo would later draw. Facial expressions, gnarled and strained on both man and beast, add their distinctive vitality to the animated whole. The Battle of the Standard works similarly to Leonardo’s mechanical drawings in their careful construction. The “machine” operates as an expression of the physicality and emotional and psychological intensity of men fighting to the death. Leonardo, as discussed, based this key scene for the city-state commission on an episode described in historical written texts.46

Leonardo in his first draft of a drawing worked to establish this general sense of movement. In first drafts he attempts the pictorial pitch that he will develop. In the second stage (“per ripruova”) Leonardo begins to create major motifs.47 The two most important primi pensieri for the Battle of Anghiari are pen and ink drawings from the Gallerie dell’ Accademia in Venice, Italy. Scholarship’s quest to reconstruct Leonardo’s creation of the Battle of Anghiari has been identified as “quixotic,”48 yet these drawings while no larger than the size of a clenched fist give out significant clues.

Leonardo da Vinci, Battle Study, two skirmishes between horsemen and foot soldiers, c.1503, pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, 147 x 154 mm (6 x 6 in.) Gallerie dell’ Accademia, Venice, Italy.
Leonardo da Vinci, Battle Study, Skirmish between Horsemen, Foot soldiers and Foot soldiers Wielding Long Weapons, pen and brown ink over black chalk and stylus, c.1503, 147 x 154 mm (6 x 6 in.), Gallerie dell’ Accademia, Venice, Italy.

In one of the preparatory drawings the horseman on the left is looking back over the horse’s haunches, a dramatic image among the handful of fighters in close combat that Leonardo will condense into a dominant motif in the Battle of the Standard. The artist’s steady progression belies his reputation as a slow worker though this inventive stage of drawing appealed to him most. For each stage, Leonardo’s drawing is a fully animated artistic expression of his subject matter. While the creative process of Leonardo’s drawing brings the image, as Heinrich Wöfflin observed, to the “verge of the unclear,”49 it also begins to reveal some of the inner workings of Leonardo’s brilliance. In exchange for the free and kinetic character of drawing studies taken to the brink, the later and final work becomes increasingly plastic and compact.50

Leonardo da Vinci, Fight for the Standard at the Bridge and Two Foot Soldiers, pen and brown ink, 99 x 141 mm, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice.

It is speculated that this preparatory drawing was for the right panel (or section) of the fresco. It depicted the taking of the bridge over the Tiber River that was a key historical action to military victory for the Florentines over the Milanese at the Battle of Anghiari on June 29, 1440.

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of charging horses and Soldiers, red chalk on paper, 167 x 240 mm, Royal Library, Windsor.

Anticipating Degas’s racehorses 350 years in the future, this drawing of horsemen charging to battle may represent the left panel (or section) of the Battle of Anghiari that Leonardo envisioned as a three-part narrative sequence.

Copy of a horseman from the Battle of Anghiari, pen and brown ink, brush and gray wash, white gouache on paper, 267 x 237 mm, The British Museum.

In the drawings for the Battle of Anghiari he communicates in lively action and engrossing drama the close physical contact of the horses and their riders encircling and falling upon one another in the passion and violence of war.51 The fresco in the Florentine council chambers would remind leaders of war’s brutality and, though a glorification of civic heroism and pride, the wall-sized image served to show the fury of slaughter that military battles cost. The Battle of the Standard was an image that conveyed the phrase that typified the meaning of war for Leonardo: pazzia bestialissima (“beastly madness.”)52 Recalling Bertoldo’s battle scene that originally decorated the Florentine palazzo of Lorenzo de’ Medici (“the Magnificent’) and based on an ancient Roman sarcophagus, proffered to the viewer no identifiable sides. War is not a glorious narrative, but combatants falling into one another. In addition to its classical and Renaissance allusions, its plastic form appealed to Leonardo’s beliefs and attitudes about the intrinsic nature of combat that he then looked to dramatize in the Battle of Anghiari.  

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of horses for the Battle of Anghiari. Leonardo depicts horses displaying emotion.

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of group of riders in the Battle of Anghiari, c. 1503, charcoal and black chalk reworked with brush and brown wash, Royal Library, Windsor.

The left-handed hatching is for a drawing taken from a clay or wax model.

Bertoldo di Giovanni (ca. 1440–1491), Battle, c. 1480–85, Bronze, 17 3/4 × 39 1/8 in. (45 × 99.5 cm), Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence.

The artistic drawings that survive which reveal Leonardo’s artistic process are an invaluable piece of a final enterprise that ultimately failed to materialize on several levels despite Leonardo believing the high-level commission was vital to his reputation as an artist.53 In the end, Leonardo was viewed by the oligarchs as not only procrastinating but having not fulfilled his contract and they sued Leonardo for breach. Yet more enduring than a legal concern was the art project involving Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti. The work accomplished by these two giants of art reverberates through the centuries to today. Theirs is a legacy of the individual artist still being sought out—though by chairmen and presidents rather than popes and princes. A legacy that says artists are no longer craftsmen or tradesmen but artistic personalities in their own right with a unique and appealing style who are thus engaged for their singular brilliance.54 In the face of what was an incomplete, sometimes failed, and ultimately abandoned project—its competitive nature notwithstanding—all the variations of Leonardo’s creative activity funnels into a tremendous example for the mission of the artist –that is, to serve first neither patron nor purse nor artistic reputation —but the glory of making one’s art.

Leonardo, Self-Portrait, c. 1512, Royal Library of Turin, Italy.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Acidini Luchinat, Christina, Butters, Suzanne B., Chiarini, Marco, Cox-Rearick, Janet, Darr, Alan P., Feinberg, Larry J., Giusti, Annamaria, Goldthwaite, Richard A. , Meoni, Lucia, Piacenti, Kirsten Aschengreen, Pizzorusso, Claudio, Testaverde, Anna Maria, The Medici, Michelangelo, And The Art of Late Renaissance Florence, Yale University Press in association with The Detroit Institute of Arts, New Haven and London, 2002.

Ames-Lewis, Francis, Drawing in Early Renaissance Italy, Revised Edition, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, Second Edition, 2000 (originally published 1981).

Ames-Lewis, Francis, The Intellectual Life of the Early Renaissance Artist, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 2000.

Bambach, Carmen C., editor, Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2003.

Berenson, Bernard, The Italian Painters of the Renaissance, Phaidon Press, London, 1959.

Braham, Allan, Italian Paintings of the Sixteenth Century, The National Gallery, London in association with William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd, London, 1985.

Braudel, Fernand, Out of Italy: 1450-1650, trans. Siân Reynolds, Flammarion, Paris, 1991.

Clark, Kenneth, Leonardo da Vinci, Penguin Books, London, 1993 (first printed 1939).

Clark, Kenneth, Selected Drawings from Windsor Castle:  Leonardo da Vinci, Phaidon Press, London, 1954.

Durant, Will, The Renaissance: A History of Civilization in Italy from 1304-1576 A.D., Simon and Schuster, New York, 1953.

Gombrich, E. H., Norm and Form: Studies in the Art of the Renaissance, Phaidon Press, London, 1966.

Hartt, Frederick, History of Italian Renaissance Art:  Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, Third Edition, 1987.

Hohenstaat, Peter, Leonardo da Vinci, Könemann, Köln, 1998.

Isaacson, Walter, Leonardo da Vinci, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2017.

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Meiss, Millard, The Great Age of Fresco Discoveries, Recoveries and Survivals, George Braziller, Inc. in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1970.

Popham, A.E., The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, Jonathon Cape, London, 1977 (first published 1946

Saviotti, Franco, Florence, Edizione – SAFRA, Firenze, 1981.

Steinberg, Leo, Leonardo’s Incessant Last Supper, Zone Books, New York, 2001.

Turner, Jane, editor, Encyclopedia of Italian Renaissance & Mannerist Art, Volume 1 and II, Grove Dictionaries, Inc., New York, 2000.

Vasari, Giorgio, trans. George Bull, Lives of the Artists, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England, 1965.

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©John P. Walsh. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system.

FOOTNOTES: Available at link below.

https://www.academia.edu/41301480/On_the_500th_Anniversary_of_Leonardo_da_Vincis_death_a_look_at_a_masterpiece_the_Battle_of_Anghiari_and_its_Fabled_Competition_with_Michelangelo_for_the_Laurel_of_Greatest_High_Renaissance_Artist_in_Sixteenth-Century_Italy

St. Francis of Assisi and the plenary PORTIUNCULA INDULGENCE: since 1216, from sunset of August 1 to sunset of August 2.

FEATURE image: Detail from St. Francis Receiving the Franciscan Order from Pope Honorius III by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494). The fresco, painted in the mid1480s (1483-85), was originally for Santa Trinita in Florence, Italy. It is today in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence. Ghirlandaio’s complete fresco image is included in this post below.

Giotto (1267-1337), St. Francis with two men (detail), 1297-1300, Upper Church, Basilica di S. Francesco, Assisi, Italy.

By John P. Walsh

A plenary indulgence in the Roman Catholic Church wipes clean all punishment for sins during a person’s entire lifetime. For something that may assure a soul is heaven bound, there are specific and precise earthly requirements to be followed. A plenary indulgence means that the punishment for sins that could well be experienced on earth or after death in purgatory are expiated or removed. A plenary indulgence stands in contrast to the more common partial indulgences which are less comprehensive and come in a far broader range.

The plenary indulgence granted by the Pope in 1216 to the Portiuncula, a lowly Franciscan chapel outside Assisi — the so-called Portiuncula Indulgence — is remarkable in church history. As with most things associated with the life of St. Francis of Assisi (c.1181-1226), the episode turned the church’s indulgence system on its head. The new pope, Honorius III (1150-1227, reign 1216-1227), who followed the powerful and influential Pope Innocent III (reign, 1198-1216), was asked by St. Francis himself for the plenary indulgence linked to the Portiuncula, the one-room chapel given to the Franciscans and the central place for many of their founder’s most profound religious experiences.

The Portiuncula (or “Little Portion”) is a 9th century chapel given to the Franciscans by local Benedictine monks. It was here that St. Francis of Assisi received his calling to be a mendicant or beggar following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Since the mid-17th century it has been enshrined within a massive basilica in Assisi called Santa Maria degli Angeli (“Our Lady of the Angels”).

Honorius III listened to the little poor man Francis and expressed extreme reluctance to grant his request. How could the mighty church bestow its fullest plenary indulgence on an obscure, rundown 180 square foot chapel when a holy place such as that might normally receive only a partial indulgence? Churches, usually at their dedication, would gain a partial indulgence of days or perhaps a year or two. The Portiuncula Indulgence which begins each year at sunset on the evening of August 1 and extends until sunset of the following day, is a plenary (or lifetime) indulgence that was approved at the highest levels of the church by virtue of St. Francis of Assisi’s bold request. The saint always insisted it was not he, but Jesus Christ Himself who was asking for the plenary Portiuncula Indulgence.

Pope Francis who when elected in 2013 took his name from St. Francis of Assisi sits inside the Portiuncula chapel during his visit to Assisi in 2016 for World Day of Prayer For Peace.

In the early 13th century the church’s only plenary indulgence was for the Crusades in the Holy Land — at first for the Crusaders themselves and later for those who provided their spiritual and material support. Interestingly, the distribution of and sharing in this sole plenary indulgence had been granted to the Franciscans. The new order (1209) which started in Assisi under St. Francis had quickly spread not only throughout Europe in Francis’s lifetime but the known world. The Franciscan Order would soon embrace both men and women, religious and laity. St. Francis’s own vocation started dramatically in 1208 at the Portiuncula, the tiny dilapidated chapel on a wide plain below Assisi, no more than an hour’s walk from the hill town’s main square.

Francis’s request to the pope who was holding court in Perugia was a bold one. The pope greatly hesitated; then assented. The cardinals and the Curia—as well as the local bishops—were opposed to the idea of a plenary indulgence for the Portiuncula. Francis’s “Little Portion” was just that and unworthy of the church’s fullest indulgence especially as an international banking system was watching and to which the church had become increasingly aligned. Unable to quash outright the Poverello’s request with its papal approbation, the cardinals and Curia worked successfully to limit its temporal parameters, that is, allowing the plenary indulgence for the Little Portion to work for the littlest of time. The plenary indulgence would be one day each year, from sunset of August 1 to sunset of August 2. This has remained its arrangement for more than 800 years.

St. Francis Receiving Confirmation of the Franciscan Order from Pope Honorious III, by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494), originally in a central position in the Santa Trinita, Florence, Italy. It is housed today at the Piazza della Signoria. The approval of the Franciscan order by Honorius III depicted in this fresco occurred in 1223 which was about 7 years after the Portiuncula Indulgence, This late 15th-century art work provides insight into the almost public event that any papal encounter entailed.

To acquire any plenary indulgence including the Portiuncula Indulgence requires taking action regarding the work to which the indulgence is attached -– in this case, it began with pilgrimage to the Portiuncula in Assisi. It also means fulfilling three more conditions. The applicant must (1) make a sacramental confession, (2) receive holy communion, and (3) pray for the intentions of the pope. To acquire a plenary indulgence also means that not even the smallest attachment to any sin is permitted.

After their meeting in 1216 the pope offered Francis the appropriate paperwork for his extraordinary indulgence but like many times before and on integral events in the life of the Franciscan Order, Francis waved it off. This great saint concluded that even church documents could be superfluous to the actual manifestation of God’s work.

Simone Martini (c. 1285-1344), St. Francis with the Stigmata, Basilica di San Francesco, Assisi, Italy.

After St. Francis died on October 3, 1226 at the Portiuncula, its plenary indulgence’s lack of a contemporary document and continued animosity from grandiose church figures led early Franciscans to not highlight the privilege. By the 1270’s with the last of the Franciscans who personally knew Francis dying off, those brothers who had been at Perugia in 1216 to witness the Portiuncula indulgence set about making notarized statements attesting to its veracity.

In this first quarter of the 21st century Franciscans and other pilgrims continue to arrive to Assisi in a constant stream as they have since the 13th century. Their visits often include traveling the short distance to the Portiuncula which is the spiritual home of St. Francis and the Franciscan movement, all of which has made a noteworthy impact on world history. But not every visit— especially among 13th century Franciscans—provides easy historical documentation of their witness to the Portiuncula’s plenary indulgence in August.

In a certain way, the origin of the Portiuncula indulgence attributed to St. Francis is shrouded in history as much as possibly legend. In 2019 the Portiuncula indulgence will be in effect, as it has since 1216, from the evening of August 1 to that of August 2.

In addition to the sacramental requirements, its plenary indulgence may be received by visiting any Franciscan church in the world and that the pilgrim— in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi— has that tiny terra sancta called the Portiuncula uppermost in mind so that out of that place its graces may flow.

SOURCES:

St. Francis of Assisi, Johannes Jörgensen, translated from the Danish with the author’s sanction by T. O’Conor Sloane, Image Books in association with Longmans, Green & Company, Inc, 1955.

Manual of Indulgences,  USCCB Publishing, 2006.

Civilisation, Kenneth Clark, Harper & Row Publishers, New York and Evanston, 1969.

Fashionable, versatile award-winning Italian film actress CAROLINA CRESCENTINI is always working. Filmography and Commentary.

FEATURE image: “File:Carolina Crescentini.jpg” by Nicogenin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Carolina Crescentini is an Italian film and television actress who has appeared in more than 20 films since 2006. Born in Rome in 1980 (April 18) Carolina grew up in the elegant Monteverde Vecchio district. Not unlike Grace Kelly of Philadelphia, Carolina wanted to become an actress from an early age and studied and worked diligently in the craft.

Carolina attended Italian acting schools including the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – or, The Center for Experimental Cinematography. This Italian institution hosts a national film archives (Cineteca Nazionale) as well as one of Italy’s most prestigious film acting schools (Scuola Nazionale di Cinema).

Soon after, Carolina began her acting career in television commercials, short films and music videos. The blonde beauty whose stage presence is similar to Kate Hudson and whose fashion savvy is like Chloë Sevigny got her first big break in films from another Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia alumni –  Fausto Brizzi.

It was in the sequel to Brizzi’s 2006 film Notte prima degli esami (The Night Before The Exams). The original film was a phenomenon in Italy. It earned around 15 million euros and won the David di Donatello Award (the Italian Oscar) and several more awards.

In Brizzi’s 2007 hit Italian teen comedy Notte prima degli esami – Oggi (The Night Before The Exams – Today), Carolina Cresentini plays Azzurra, the love interest of the main character. Where Brizzi’s 2006 teen comedy is set in Rome in 1989, the 2007 sequel which featured many of the same actors in the same roleswith the addition, of course, of Carolina Crescentini— it is set in the summer 2006. This is the same summer Italy played for the World Cup which they won that year.

Brizzi’s sequel and Carolina’s first major film was an even bigger hit than the original. Even the French film industry made a version of Notte prima degli esami calling it Nos 18 ans and featuring French teenagers set in 1989.

1. CAROLINA CRESCENTINI

Carolina Crescentini in a still photo from the pillow fight scene in Notte Prima degli Esami – Oggi (2007). The film gave the the Italian actress her breakout role.

Nicolas Vaporidis  Carolina Crescentini

Italian actors Nicolas Vaporidis and Carolina Crescentini during filming of Notte Prima Degli Esami – Oggi. About six months later they starred again together in the film thriller Cemento armato.

The pillow fight scene in Fausto Brizzi’s sequel Notte Prima degli esamei – Oggi. It is where Luca (Nicolas Vaporidis) and Azzura (Carolina Cresecentini) first meet. A box office smash in Italy, it was Carolina Crescentini’s first major film and started her on the road to stardom. In Italian. (3.22 minutes).

Within the year of her first major film Carolina immediately co-starred with Italian star Nicolas Vaporidis in Cemento armato (Concrete Romance). It is a 2007 Italian neo-noir thriller directed by Marco Martani. Crescentini’s dramatic performance as Asia, a rape victim, earned her a Best Actress nomination at the prestigious Nastro d’Argento (Silver Ribbon) Awards.

The next year, in 2008, Carolina was nominated for a David di Donatello Award for Best Supporting Actress for playing Benedetta, a fragile and spoiled rich beauty pursued by Silvio Muccino in Parlami d’amore (Speak to me of love). The film became another smash hit in Italy that year.

The trailer for Cemento armato. In a role that earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Nastro d’Argento awards in 2008, blonde beauty Carolina Crescentini wears her hair dark which matches the film’s often violent character. In Italian (1.27 minutes).

5. CAROLINA CRESCENTINI

Carolina Crescentini’s performance in the Italian thriller Cemento armato (Concrete Romance) earned her a Best Actress nomination in 2008.

7. CAROLINA CRESCENTINI reads about tennis

Before becoming an actor, Carolina Crescentini thought she would be an art or film critic. Reading about tennis star Andre Agassi.

8. CAROLINA CRESCENTINI

Carolina Crescentini’s beauty has been called special. A blonde with gentle features, her beauty captivates yet does not immediately overwhelm. Her attraction is fed by details: blue eyes surrounded by sensual dark circles that give an uneasy and lived-in air.

“File:Carolina Crescentini – 66ème Festival de Venise crop.jpg” by Carolina_Crescentini_-_nicogenin_-_66ème_Festival_de_Venise_(Mostra).jpg: nicolas genin from Paris, France derivative work: Basilicofresco (msg) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Carolina Cresentini at the 66th annual Venice International Film festival, held in Venice, Italy, in September 2009. Maria Grazia Cucinotta served as the festival’s hostess.

A scene from Carolina Crescentini’s third film Parlami d’amore (Speak to me of love) in a role which led to her being nominated for a David di Donatello Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her co-star is Silvio Muccino. (2:34 minutes).

Silvio Muccino presenta il suo "Parlami d'amore"

Carolina at the premiere of Tell me About Love (Parlami d’Amore).

Carolina made films where her roles were smaller but memorable. She played Anna in veteran Italian director Giuliano Montaldo’s I demoni di San Pietroburgo (The Demons of St. Petersburg). It is a bio-pic about Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. With a soundtrack by prolific Ennio Morricone, Carolina said her experience for this 2008 film on location in Russia was very beautiful.

The trailer from The Demons of St. Petersburg which was one of Carolina Crescentini’s favorite films to work on. It is a biopic of Fyodor Dostoyevsky shot on location in Russia featuring an all-star international cast.  (1:41 minutes).

14. Carolina Crescentini

Playing Anna in The Demons of Saint Petersburg (2008) which Carolina described as a beautiful film work experience.

In 2010 Carolina’s body of work was again recognized by winning the Giuseppe De Santis Award for Best Female Newcomer as well as the Giffoni Award at that venerable international children’s film festival.

In 2011 Carolina won the People’s Choice Ciak D’Oro award for Best Supporting Actress playing Corinna in the 2011 Italian comedy film Boris-Il Film which was based on a popular Italian TV series of the same name. 

From Boris-Il Film (58 seconds):

18. Carolina Crescentini

Carolina Crescentini as Corinna in Boris-Il Film.

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Carolina Crescentini dressed in Ferragamo for a press conference in Rome for Boris-Il Film. Part of the SS2011 collection it is elegantly detailed within a warm and refined tone. Carolina chose to combine a double-breasted jacket with brown high heel boots for a delightfully easy look.

“Carolina Crescentini @ Dolce & Gabbana SS10 Fashion Show” by SempliceMente @ndr3 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Carolina Crescentini at the D&G SS10 Fashion Show.

19. Carolina Crescentini

In 2010 Carolina Crescentini appeared in the film “Twenty Cigarette” about a survivor of the 2003 Nasiriyah bombing in Iraq. Carolina commented that the film was an authentic story told straight-forwardly, and with sensitivity and respect for the feelings of the fallen family.

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Carolina Crescentini plays Angelica in the 2009 Italian comedy film “Generazione 1000 euro” written and directed by Massimo Venier. The film received two Nastro d’Argento nominations for best comedy film and for best supporting actress.

Excerpt from a trailer for the 2009 Italian comedy film Oggi sposi (Just Married) directed by Luca Lucini where Carolina plays Glada. The movie is about a reformed ladies’ man who has his heart set on marrying the daughter of the Indian ambassador. (56 seconds)

“Oggi sposi” by Oggi Sposi is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
“Oggi sposi” by Oggi Sposi is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In the 2011 award-winning drama film The Entreprenuer (L’Industriale), Carolina worked again with director Giuliano Montaldo. It follows the story of a businessman facing extreme challenges to make his enterprises successful. A press event above with the director and cast (4:07 minutes) is followed by a clip below featuring Carolina Crescentini and Pierfrancesco Favino in a scene from the Italian Golden Globes Best Film.

22 CAROLINA CRESCENTINI PIERFRANCESCO FAVINO

Carolina Crescentini and Pierfrancesco Favino in The Entrepreneur (2011) directed by Giuliano Montaldo.

In addition to regular work in Italian TV series and movies including the series I bastardi di Pizzofalcone (2017) and movie Donne:Pucci (2016), Carolina Crescentini is a fashion icon in Italy wearing designs by prestigious fashion houses, both old and new, Italian and international.

Carolina has appeared on magazine covers including her shoot for Playboy in May 2010. Carolina said that in shots must have been “photoshopped” becausee in them she can’t recognize herself.

Tu Style Magazine [Italy] (9 May 2016)

Tu Style Magazine, Italy (9 May 2016)


Carolina’s recent film work includes Tempo instabile con probabili schiarite (Partly Cloudy with Sunny spells), a 2015 Italian comedy about business partners who find oil on their land at the same time their furniture factory is going out of business. Carolina plays Elena, the wife of the lead.

She also appeared in the discomfiting satiric film called Pecore in erba (The Sheep in the Meadow, a.k.a. Burning Love) written and directed by Alberto Caviglia which debuted at the Venice Film Festival in 2015.

In 2015 Carolina worked once again with veteran Italian film directors— this time the brothers Taviani in their wry Maraviglioso Boccaccio (Wonderous Boccaccio). The film is based on vignettes from the fourteenth centuryThe Decameron. Both the book and the film premiered in Florence, albeit six centuries apart.

Trailer for the wry and witty 2015 film Maraviglioso Boccaccio directed by veteran Italian film directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (1:34 minutes)

maraviglioso_boccaccio_carolinacrescentini_foto_umbertomontiroli_0405

Marvelous Boccaccio: Carolina Crescentini in a scene where she plays a wayward nun.

A scene from Maraviglioso Boccaccio featuring Carolina Crescentini as Isabetta, a wayward novice. Featured is Paola Cortellesi as the convent’s superior. (3.02 minutes)

KIKA PIERO TOSI CAROLINA CRESCENTINI ANNA FENDI TV

Carolina Crescentini, costume designer Piero Tosi and Anna Fendi.

“Carolina Crescentini” by spaceodissey is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
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Carolina Crescentini: red carpet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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St. Francis of Assisi and the leper depicted in “The Flowers of St. Francis” (1950) by Italian filmmaker ROBERTO ROSSELLINI (1906-1977).

FEATURE Image: Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman – “Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman” by classic film scans is marked with CC BY 2.0.

By John P. Walsh

Come la notte Francesco pregando nella selva incontro il lebbroso —or, in English, “How St. Francis praying one night meets a leper.”

Starting at 38:15, the dramatic five-minute scene in the middle of Roberto Rossellini’s 1950 Italian film Francesco, giullare di Dio (Francis, God’s Jester or The Flowers of St. Francis) shows the medieval St. Francis of Assisi (c. 1181-1226) seeking out and embracing the time-honored social outcast—a leper.

Following their embrace—an encounter Francis up to this point in his life had seriously avoided—the saint falls to the ground and, in tears he cries out: “My God. My Lord and my all!  O great God!”

Is the film scene historically accurate?

While the event of the embrace is historically accurate, it is dramatized in Rossellini’s film after Francis’s brotherhood is established. In fact, it occurred at the start of the Italian saint’s conversion.  This is an important distinction since the embrace was most significant for St. Francis. It could even be argued that without it, there would be no St. Francis of Assisi at all.

In Francis’s own Testament written in 1225—one year before his death at 44 or 45 years old—the saint stated directly that his embrace of the leper became the cause of his conversion.

For a rich young man such as Francis seeking glory in military arms, he naturally spurned the contagion of leprosy and diligently avoided lepers. As Francis put it, he “exercised mercy” to the leper as Francis bridged his religious doubt with trust by embracing Assisi’s despised.

In that way, the leper— a common sight throughout medieval Europe and one that readily filled the lighthearted Francis with horror—became the astonishing means for the saint’s conversion of faith.

Special order of knights founded by pope cared for lepers in Italy.

In the thirteenth century in Europe, lepers by law had to live apart from the rest of society owing to their contagious infectious disease.

From at least the seventh century in Italy going forward there were special orders of knights who took care of lepers.

In the time period that Rossellini’s poignant film scene is set— it is either 1205 or 1206—there existed in Europe tens of thousands of these church-run leper “hospitals.” One such leper hospital was only a short walk outside Assisi’s town walls. Called San Salvatore delle Pareti, the leper hospital near Assisi that began to intrigue a young Francis is today a farm field.

Before his famous encounter of embracing the leper, Francis —then around 24 years old—had to work up to the crucial moment of embracing a leper gradually.

After Francis gave up his several quests to be a soldier, he returned to Assisi disappointed and disenchanted. Though he found refuge in the embrace of family and childhood friends, the same impulses that led Francis to abandon a military career even before it started, now prompted him to walk beyond the comforts of Assisi’s walls onto the road that led to the leper hospital.

Young Francis visits the leper hospital — and it changes his life.

Near the hospital, Francis interacted very tentatively, first with those caring for lepers —a charitable activity instituted by Pope Gregory the Great (540-604 CE)—and then at times with the lepers themselves. 

To start, it was the sickening smell peculiar to the leper hospital wafting into Francis’s nostrils that made him flee.

But as his visits continued Francis—who by now was living as a hermit— journied to the leper hospital to leave them a charitable gift. After leaving it on the roadside, Francis vanished as bell-clanging lepers appeared.

It took Francis many more visits to the leper hospital as well as, in solitude, dwelling on his own thoughts and prayers to finally reach what he believed was God’s answer for him.

As clearly dramatized in Roberto Rossellini’s wonderful film, Francis discovered a deeper courage and confidence in himself—and in the same moment a supernatural faith— when along the road to the leper hospital he stepped up to leave for the leper the charitable embrace of one of the rich sons of Assisi.

Yet, following that encounter, Francis realized that the leper had given him a gift also.

After that Francis was free to profoundly pursue whatever track God called him to run. Francis could now be called to renounce the world’s riches. He married his “Lady Poverty” in their joyous mystical marriage so that even today, in the 21st century, poverty remains a major Franciscan charism. Francis and Lady Poverty have been married for over 800 years.  

Following a lifetime spent in heroic Franciscan mendicancy, this world-famous Umbrian saint “Francesco” proclaimed to his Franciscan family and the world that it was at that exact moment when he embraced the leper—and the leper embraced him—that a life in and for God truly started.

St. Francis of Assisi has the indelible mark of the leper. He conquered fear and embraced the other in love no matter how godforsaken. Done in the context of divine trust and love, that faith-filled action set each man free.

SOURCE: St Francis of Assisi: A Biography by Johannes Jørgensen (1912). Translated from the Danish with the author’s sanction by T. O’Conor Sloane, Image books, 1955.

Sassetta (c.1392-c.1451), St. Francis in Ecstasy, back of the Sansepolcro altarpiece, 1437-44, Panel, 80 3/4 x 48 inches. Villa I Tatti, Florence.