Recanati città dell'Infinito

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Lorenzo Lotto in Recanati
Rrecanatis' works
THE TRASFIGURATION OF CHRIST

IDENTITY CARD

Transfiguration of Christ (main panel)

1510-1512 approximately

Oil on panel.

Signed on the scroll below: LAVRENTIVS (S LOTVS)

Inv. 1555

Provenance: Recanati, high altar of the church of Santa Maria di Castelnuovo; moved to a side altar before 1711; in 1861 the main panel was reported in the sacristy and the predella was already disassembled and lost; since 1890 Recanati Town Hall (home of the Municipal Art Gallery); since 1998 Recanati, Civic Museums of Villa Colloredo Mels.

Restorations: 1890; 1973; 2020-2011; 2019; 2022

 

The commission of the altarpiece dates back to 1507 and was carried out by 1512 for the high altar of the church of Santa Maria di Castelnuovo, located immediately outside the walls of Recanati in the center of a neighborhood populated by artisans. The subject, narrated in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, depicts the moment in which Christ, at the center between Moses and Elijah, reveals his divine nature to the apostles John, Peter and James. The altarpiece was equipped with a predella, currently missing, divided into three compartments, depicting subjects linked to the main theme. The large panel clearly documents Raphael’s stylistic turn towards classicism in the Vatican Rooms, where Lotto had also worked in 1509. He, in fact, chose to turn the pictorial language into an anti-classical perspective, with a strong chromatic and expressive accent, which seems to be a prelude to Mannerism, moving away from the previous production to which, for example, the Polyptych of San Domenico belong.

THE WORK

CHRONOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK

1506, May 20

Marino di Giacomo Rossetti left 50 florins in his will for the creation of the main altarpiece of the church of Santa Maria di Castelnuovo.

1507, 7 February

The altarmen of the church of Santa Maria di Castelnuovo with the provost Don Alessandro Mencioni, ask the municipality of Recanati for the contribution of 100 florins intended for the creation of the altarpiece of the main altar. In this period, Lorenzo Lotto is at work in the convent of San Domenico and paints the Polyptych.

1507, 20 July

The first known payment for the altarpiece is recorded: Lorenzo Lotto receives, from Antonio di Angelo Gionta, a rich landowner and member of the Confraternity of Santa Maria di Castelnuovo, 25 ducats of the 100 florins agreed with the provost Don Alessandro Mencioni. He then received 50 florins on 17 February 1508.

1508, 20 January

The nephew of the deceased Don Alessandro Mencioni Amedeo, prosecutor of the new provost of the church Battista Bongiovanni, makes an agreement with the carver of San Severino Giovanni di Piergiacomo, for the creation of the altarpiece of the church.

1509, March 7

The work on the altarpiece was postponed because the artist was documented in Rome for works carried out in the Vatican, perhaps in the Room of Heliodorus and in the Room of the Signature, commissioned by Julius II for which the considerable sum of 100 ducats was paid.

1509 September, 18

A further payment of 50 ducats to Lorenzo Lotto for work carried out in the Vatican is recorded.

On 4 October of the same year, however, as Giorgio Vasari well recounts, Julius II decided to entrust the entire pictorial decoration of the Vatican Rooms to Raphael, thus relieving the other artists already involved from their duties, including Lorenzo Lotto and having all the previous paintings removed.

1510

After Rome, perhaps with a stop in Florence, Lorenzo Lotto worked in Recanati in relation to the last payments for the Polyptych of San Domenico. He presumably worked on the altarpiece of the Transfiguration, which he completed by 1512; in fact, on 12 September 1511 the altarists of the church of Santa Maria di Castelnuovo asked the Municipality to pay the 100 florins requested and granted on 7 February 1507.

The San Giacomo Maggiore (visible in the museum), the fresco depicting San Vincenzo Ferrer for the church of S. Domenico (currently preserved in the Cathedral) and several other paintings such as the Deposition of Jesi also date back to these years.

1568

Giorgio Vasari, in the second edition of “Vite/Lives”, is the first to describe the Transfiguration of Christ and the three sections of the predella that starting from the left, depicted: Christ leading the apostles to Mount Tabor (St. Petersburg, The State Hermitage Museum); the Oration in the Garden and the Ascension of Christ (both lost between 1711 and 1783).

1601

Giovan Francesco Angelita, city historian and collector of Lotto’s works, records the Transfiguration of Christ in the church of Santa Maria di Castelnuovo

1648

Carlo Ridolfi (The wonders of art, 1648) and Francesco Maria Tassi (Lives of the painters, sculptors and architects of Bergamo, 1793) take up the description of Giorgio Vasari’s altarpiece in the parts dedicated to the biography and works of Lorenzo Lotto.

1711

Diego Calcagni in his Historical Memoirs of the City of Recanati located in a side altar of the church of Santa Maria di Castelnuovo, records and traces back the work to Lorenzo Lotto, with no mention to the predella.

1783

The abbot of Treia Luigi Lanzi in his travel notebook where he describes the works of art of the Papal State, highlights the Transfiguration of Christin the church of Santa Maria di Castelnuovo. The author does not mention the predella.

1834

Amico Ricci in the Historical Memoirs of the Arts and Artists of the Marca di Ancona highlights the works of Recanati by Lorenzo Lotto including the Transfiguration of Christ in the church of Santa Maria di Castelnuovo.

1861

Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle and Giovanni Morelli, traveling in the Marche and Umbria from 27 April to 9 July to draw up the inventory of the most significant works of art present in the territory of united Italy, indicate that the altarpiece, without the predella, is in the sacristy of the church of Santa Maria di Castelnuovo.

1890

Transfer of the Transfiguration of Christ to the municipal art gallery in the municipal palace.

1998

The painting becomes part of the exhibition itinerary of the Civic Museums of Villa Colloredo Mels.

 

The “Transfiguration” described by Giorgio Vasari

Giorgio Vasari
, in the second edition of “Vite/ Lives” is the first to describe the Transfiguration of Christ and the three compartments of the predella that starting from the left, depicted: Christ leading the apostles to Mount Tabor (St. Petersburg, The State Hermitage Museum); the Oration in the Garden and the Ascension of Christ (both dispersed between 1711 and 1783). The chapter “Life of Iacopo Palma and Lorenzo Lotto, Venetian painters”, includes a description of it: It is by the same hand…an oil panel is in the church of Santa Maria di Castelnuovo with a Transfiguration of Christ, and with three stories of small figures in the predella. When Christ leads the Apostles to Mount Tabor, when he is in the garden, and when he ascends into heaven.
 

• Commissioners

The idea of creating a new altarpiece for the church of Santa Maria di Castelnuovo is recorded for the first time in the will dated 20 May 1506 of Marino di Giacomo Rossetti who chooses to allocate 50 florins towards its creation. The actual commission, however, can be traced back to 7 February 1507 when the altarmen and the provost of the church, Don Alessandro Mencioni, asked the municipality for a contribution of 100 florins for the altarpiece. Other important names involved emerge from the archive documents. Amedeo, nephew of Don Alessandro Mencioni makes an agreement with the carver Giovanni di Piergiacomo of San Severino for the creation of the altarpiece for which he perhaps also executes the frame on drawing by Lorenzo Lotto.

Antonio di Angelo Gionta, rich landowner and member of the Confraternity of Santa Maria di Castelnuovo, was responsible for remunerating Lorenzo Lotto for the altarpiece (20 July 1507 and 17 February 1508). Finally, the altarists of the church urged the municipality of Recanati to pay the 100 florins requested and granted on 7 February 1507.

 

The subject, the characters and the evangelical sources

The altarpiece focuses on the Transfiguration of Christ. It is in the first compartment of it, currently preserved at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, where the story begins with the scene of Christ leading the apostles Peter, James and John to pray on Mount Tabor. On the right, the disciples have a vision, Christ transformed his appearance in front of them, and his clothes became so bright, that not even a fuller on earth could have whitened them in the same way!(Sources: Mark 9,2-3; Matthew 17, 1-2; Luke 9,28-29). The three apostles see Christ intent on talking with Moses and Elijah. Pietro has a spontaneous impulse that is difficult to explain: Rabbi, it is good for us to be here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah (Sources: Matthew 17.4; Mark 9.5; Luke 9.33). While Peter gives shelter to Jesus, the confirmation of divine predilection comes. The narration from the predella now moves to the central panel (a narrative mechanism that Lotto will also exploit in other cases such as the famous Altarpiece of Santa Lucia di Jesi) where, as the Gospels say, a shining cloud enveloped the disciples and from the cloud, a voice was heard saying: This is my beloved Son: listen to him! (Mark 9.7). This phrase is clearly legible in the inscription placed right above Jesus’ head. The light is so strong, the moment so strong that the three apostles fall to the ground in great fright. Peter is the only one who can see the scene and he will bear witness to this in his Second Letter (I, 16-17); he holds the two keys, his iconographic attribute, one gold and one silver, symbol of the power of the Church. John and James, on the other hand, both cover their heads with their hands and arms. Christ continues to speak with Moses, also recognizable from the Tablets of the Law, and with Elijah: he shows his hands in an argumentative way and highlights two fingers, the thumb and index finger of the left hand. Christ responds to this gesture by showing three fingers instead, recalling the Mystery of the Trinity.

With the Transfiguration, Christ therefore revealed his divine nature: in prayer, he was transfigured, and the apostles saw and perceived him for the first time in the brightness of his light. The passage from the Gospel of Luke relating to the Transfiguration is instead illuminating for understanding the continuation of the narrative and the subsequent subjects of the predella: And behold, two men were conversing with him: they were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his Exodus, that which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem (Luke, 9, 30-31). The second compartment (lost) of the predella, in fact, depicted the moment of Christ’s prayer in the garden after the Last Supper: a key moment of the Passion of Christ which preludes, after Death, the Resurrection and the subsequent departure of Christ from life earthly, depicted through the Ascension, in the third compartment (also lost), of the predella.

 

• Historical-artistic facts and the connection with the artists of the time, from Raphael to Michelangelo

The Transfiguration clearly documents the stylistic change of the Venetian artist after his stay in Rome, where he is active in 1509 for some works conducted at the Vatican, in the Stanza di Eliodoro and in the Stanza della Segnatura, commissioned by Julius II and paid with the considerable sum of 100 ducats. On 4th October of the same year, however, Julius II decided to entrust the entire pictorial decoration of the Vatican Rooms to Raphael, thus relieving the other artists already involved from their duties, including Lorenzo Lotto, and having therefore all their paintings removed.

The courtly, classical and theocratic style displayed by Raphael in the Vatican Rooms; the prevailing cult for classical sculpture and the recent discovery of the Hellenistic Laocoön, with a strong expressionistic component; the strong imprint of Michelangelo who was working on the Sistine Chapel influenced Lorenzo Lotto’s pictorial path on the eve of his return to the Marche. These concomitant factors lead him to move away from the crystalline purity of the Polyptych of San Domenico. He turned his pictorial language into an unprecedented and unique anti-classical perspective, with a strong chromatic and expressive accent, which is a prelude to Mannerism. The large panel of the Transfiguration therefore reflects as the fresco depicting San Vincenzo Ferrer in glory (circa 1510-1511), painted for the church of S. Domenico in Recanati and the Deposition of Jesi (1512), the new stylistic direction of Lotto’s painting.

Completed by 1512, in connection with Raphael’s style in the characters surrounding Christ and in the brilliant and bright pictorial palette, the Transfiguration reveals expressive emphasis amplified by the unusual shapes of the drapery, by the strong chromatic accents and by the combination of strident and iridescent, care of details and emotional pathos.

The adoption of the serpentine shape, visible in the figure of Christ, imagined, as diagnostic investigations revealed, initially in frontal position with arms open and hands raised as in the predella compartment preserved in the Hermitage..

 

DETAILS

• The characters

Christ

Saint Peter

Saint James the Greater

Saint John the Evangelist

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