Day 8: Bologna art

Bologna was intended as a place to get ourselves onto European Central Time and we kept our stay relatively unplanned. But I never want to visit somewhere in Italy and not look at the art and architecture.

Bologna has a lot of churches that are in disrepair and its art no longer in situ. When Napoleon took over the city, as the book Plunder by Cynthia Saltzman will tell you, he collected a lot of art from the places he conquered and transported them to the Louvre in Paris. He also closed the churches. However, a lot of the art that Napoleon left behind was collected and housed in a former convent located at what is now the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna or National Gallery of Bologna. After the fall of Napoleon, much of the art was returned to Bologna.

The building was enlarged and added to over the 19th and 20th centuries but in 1997 was completely renovated.

It’s located 1.6 km from the apartment but a portion is uphill which would aggravate Scott’s knees. Uber works in Bologna so that was how we got to the gallery.

The gallery has a lot of Medieval art which I haven’t much interest in but it has an early Giotto.

I’ll describe more about Giotto when we go to Padova or in English, Padua, later this trip.

Scott thought they had a painting with the world’s ugliest baby Jesus. Medieval art usually shows Jesus looking like an old man because he was considered to have been wise, even as baby, but maturity does not have to be ugly, does it?

The gallery was featuring loans of works by Perugino (ca. 1446-1523) who was born Pietro Vannucci in Citta della Pieve in what is now Umbria, close to the city of Perugia, thus his nickname. He was one of the early Italian oil painters, and according to Vasari, he was apprenticed to the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio alongside Leonardo da Vinci, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi, and others. Piero della Francesca is thought to have taught him perspective form.

He was the highest paid artist of his generation. He worked mainly in Florence and was one of the painters sent to Rome to fresco the Sistine Chapel walls (not ceiling). He is perhaps most famous as Raphael’s teacher.

The gallery has one Raphael.

They have a lot of Renaissance artists from the northeastern area of Italy, many with names not well known. One who should be better known is Giovanni Battista Cima, called Cima da Conegliano or Cima (c. 1459 – c. 1517), who was a Renaissance painter, mostly working in Venice and considered part of the Venetian school, though he was also influenced by Antonello da Messina in the emphasis he gives to landscape backgrounds and the tranquil atmosphere of his works. Bologna has a small but typical work.

An artist whose works I am hoping to see a lot more of this vacation is Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola (11 January 1503 – 24 August 1540), also known as Francesco Mazzola or, more commonly, as Parmigianino. He was one of the few painters considered entirely Mannerist. He died young and most of his best works are in Parma, where he was born and began his training. He also worked in Florence, Rome and Bologna moving often due to war or plague. His two largest projects were frescoes in Rocca Sanvitale in Fontanellato (a castle near Parma) and in the church of San Giovanni Evangelista in Parma. Several of his smaller paintings, particularly portraits, are found in galleries throughout Italy and Europe. A refined sensuality and often elongated forms characterize his works. One of his most famous paintings called Madonna of the Long Neck, because the Virgin Mary has a neck like that of a swan, is in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. What Austrian-British art historian E. H. Gombrich wrote about it also describes characteristics of the art and architecture period known as Mannerism:

Instead of distributing his figures in equal pairs on both sides of the Madonna, he crammed a jostling crowd of angels into a narrow corner, and left the other side wide open to show the tall figure of the prophet, so reduced in size through the distance that he hardly reaches the Madonna’s knee. There can be no doubt, then, that if this be madness there is method in it. The painter wanted to be unorthodox. He wanted to show that the classical solution of perfect harmony is not the only solution conceivable … Parmigianino and all the artists of his time who deliberately sought to create something new and unexpected, even at the expense of the ‘natural’ beauty established by the great masters, were perhaps the first ‘modern’ artists.

The Story of Art

The gallery has an entire wing devoted to Bologna artists. Most famous is Annibale Carracci (1560 – 1609) who was active in Bologna and later in Rome. Along with his brother Agostino and cousin Ludovico, Annibale was one of the founders of a leading Baroque style, borrowing styles from both north and south of their native city of Bologna, and returning to classical monumentality in contrast to the Mannerist style, but adding a more vital dynamism.

Annibale’s work covered a broad range of themes from religious subjects, landscapes, portraits and genre paintings. The most remarkable of the last theme is his The Beaneater at Palazzo Colonna in Rome. He is also credited with inventing caricatures.

The gallery has a number of versions of their Assumption of the Virgin. One of Annibale’s hangs between two Caravaggios in Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. The arrangements display considerable similarity.

Annibale’s Assumption of the Virgin

Agostino’s Assumption of the Virgin

A room was filled with works by Guido Reni (1575-1642) who was born in Bologna and a member of the Bolognese School started by the Caracci and like them, showed a classical manner. After Caravaggio’s death in 1610, Reni became the leading painter in Rome but also worked in Naples and Bologna. He continued to accept commissions in Rome but from 1614 was primarily based in Bologna.

There were a lot of Carvaggisti or followers of Caravaggio’s style. I find those paintings are never as good as Caravaggio. Elements are copied but rarely is the entire work particularly successful.

The gallery is quite manageable. Not too many works and the chronological range spans the Medieval to the 18th century. The latter period paintings were fairly small in number.

The train we rode yesterday

We returned to Piazza Maggiore and went to the market where we found seats at Simoni, a place recommended by Carmelita because they produce their own bread and meats and care about the quality of their other food items.

The weather was sunny and about 21, nice enough to sit outside in the shade.

The best known Bolognese wine is Lambrusco, a frizzante or bubbly red. We tried a rosé.

After his disappointment with viewing yesterday’s Michelangelo statue, Scott declined to go with me to see a statue in another church. The work is by Niccolò dell’Arca (c. 1435-1440 – 2 March 1494) an Early Renaissance sculptor, who worked mostly in terracotta. The “dell’Arca” refers to his contribution to the Arca di San Domenico, the same church with the Michelangelo.

The work is called Compianto sul Cristo Morto or Lamentation over the Dead Christ.

It is made from terracotta and originally was highly coloured with paint of which only faint traces remain. The work, done around 1465, is remarkable for the emotional intensity of the women’s faces.

It’s about life size—much bigger than the Michelangelo.

Interestingly, research has not uncovered how the individual pieces of the statue were intended to be arranged. The current array is a best guess.

While I was in Santa Maria Della Vita, Scott was buying sunscreen then enjoying the weather.

We walked past Cremeria Cavour for another gelato, piccolo, this time. We hoped the walking matched the calorie consumption—likely not but on vacation, it’s one of those self-deceptions we like to indulge in.

We returned to the apartment to read, rest and start packing.

For dinner, we went to Trattoria da Me, a restaurant with a female chef. The restaurant won some competition in 2017 making it well known and popular. Reservations were essential as people queuing to get a table were turned away.

Régional Sangiovese

I had a tagliatelle with ragù as a primi (first course). If I was smarter, I would have stopped at one course. I had both a piece of whole wheat sourdough bread and fried bread with the pasta—carb heaven.

Scott had a taco which was filled with red cabbage and a regional soft sausage called Mora Romagna.

Carmelita recommended the osso buco, which Scott had; I tried the Bolognese Cotoletto, veal cutlet with a parmigiana sauce—too much!

Despite not finishing even half my secondi (main course) which we accompanied with a spinach dish (also not finished), we tried a sorbetto of green apple, celery, star anise and popping candy. Refreshing, a bit weird and also not finished.

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