At the Palazzo delle Paure, Lorenzo Lotto dialogues with Giovanni Frangi in the sign of restlessness

Inaugurated at Lecco's Palazzo delle Paure the exhibition Lotto. The restlessness of reality. The gaze of Giovanni Frangi. Through April 6, 2021.

Opening on December 5, 2020 behind closed doors at the Palazzo delle Paure in Lecco, Italy, the exhibition Lotto. The Restlessness of Reality. The gaze of Giovanni Frangi, sponsored by the Pastoral Community and Cultural Association Madonna del Rosario, the Municipality of Lecco and the Fondazione Comunitaria del Lecchese, with the collaboration of Fondazione Cariplo and Forfunding and Banca Intesa.

The exhibition presents Lorenzo Lotto’s masterpiece, Madonna and Child between Saints John the Baptist and Catherine of Alexandria, signed and dated 1522 and kept in a private collection.

“The scene is composed with Lorenzo Lotto’s characteristic nonconformism, arranging the characters almost in contrast to one another, along diagonal lines that cross the space,” explains Giovanni Valagussa, artistic curator of the event. “The central group of Mary with the Child is probably influenced by distant Raphaelesque suggestions, but more generally it reasons about the search for expression of movement and the possibilities of representing a group in torsion that is built on a roughly pyramidal structure. Typically Lottoesque, however, is the disconcerting solution of the small wooden coffin that protrudes on the bias in the foreground and immediately gives a dramatic thrill to the representation. It is a reference to the Child’s future death that becomes the key to interpreting the entire scene, explaining the motion of fright that drives him toward the Mother, who is in turn worried and protective. Beneath the chest we also notice a plank also made of wood on the edge of which the painter writes signature and date, in a probable identification in the common fate that seems to evoke a coming death. Facing the sides are two saints. John the Baptist pointing toward the Child and dramatically indicating its future: Ecce agnus Dei. And St. Catherine who in the tradition of the mystical marriage represents the Church, the continuer of Christ’s earthly presence, but accompanied by the martyrdom recalled by the hooked wheel. A very rare presence, on the other hand, is the squirrel, from which the Child seems to retreat in terror: the most probable explanation is that the squirrel was thought to be able to sense the arrival of storms in advance, going to take refuge in its burrow. So one imagined a kind of ability to predict the future, which is therefore exactly what the Child tries to shy away from, as in a prediction of the Oration in the Garden. Our painting is almost certainly the same one seen by Francesco Maria Tassi in the late 18th century in the Pezzoli house in Bergamo. So its provenance is confirmed from its origin for a client from Bergamo unknown to us and some subsequent passages in city collections, until its arrival in the present family, probably at the beginning of the nineteenth century.”

On display alongside Lorenzo Lotto’s masterpiece is the series of Esercizi di lettura specially created by the contemporary artist, Giovanni Frangi: "I have always had a great admiration for Lorenzo Lotto, perhaps also thanks to the admiration that my uncle, Giovanni Testori, was able to transmit to me. My path, however, has always moved on themes other than figurative ones, more oriented to the observation of the natural world. Therefore, when asked by Giovanni Valagussa, I was initially displaced. Then I started to think of some examples of great artists who confronted masters of the past: Richter, Bacon, Kentridge. And I slowly began to approach Lotto’s altarpiece. When I saw it live, I was struck by its colors. So I thought that precisely color could be the foundational element and the common ground of a dialogue. And this gave rise to these Esercizi di Lettura (Reading Exercises)."

As Valagussa recounts, “these are seven works, four of which are painted on large, worn canvases, where wide drips in red and yellow glide over the surface washed away by an unusual process that dampens the tones, resulting in a very special liquid vibration. Lotto’s Renaissance colors become contemporary colors, in the lack of certainty that characterizes us in this age. On these already ancient drafts, Frangi has drawn silhouettes in light, nervous black: one recognizes the squirrel or the cogwheel of St. Catherine, which in the enlargement of many times the original took on a raw and dramatic evidence. And in the center, among the four major canvases that serve as the antecedents of this modern polyptych, a sequence of three smaller works on which cutouts of shiny, glossy film instead bring back before the eyes precisely that unmistakable transparent light, quieting the dialogue with the ancient original by reason of chromatic intensity.”

The tale of this dialogue and confrontation over time is entrusted to Francesco Invernizzi’s docufilm: “One would think that years of experience in directing and producing art films would put one in a position to make the narrative path of an author or a work easy and intuitive, but this is not the case. Turning the camera and the spotlight on an artist, be it Lorenzo Lotto or Giovanni Frangi, implies a pact with the viewer who is asked to endure that inviting personalization that the documentary filmmaker cannot, by its very nature, fail to express. One tries to be as objective as possible, not to influence the viewer by dwelling on certain details, to question more art historians, but the vision always remains polluted by what strikes my directorial eye. I therefore start from the assumption that I will have to influence my audience as little as possible in order to get the artist, and not what I think of him, across. I am helped in this by my background, the art historians who accompany me in reading the works, the authors and scriptwriters with whom I relate for writing. And of course the artists, with their biographies if they have passed away or with meeting them if they are contemporaries.”

The exhibition is on display on the ground floor of Lecco’s Palazzo delle Paure until April 6, 2021. It is supported by numerous private sponsors and institutions, and by a crowfunding project conducted in collaboration with Fondazione Comunitaria del Lecchese, Fondazione Cariplo, Forfunding and Banca Intesa. Numerous volunteers will manage the reception of visitors. Access will be mainly by reservation, through the website, in groups of six to eight people per shift (every 15 minutes) and 45-minute guided tours. The cost of the ticket is 2 euros. Through the website it is possible to prepare for the visit and explore it later, thanks to content dedicated to different age groups.

At the Palazzo delle Paure, Lorenzo Lotto dialogues with Giovanni Frangi in the sign of restlessness
At the Palazzo delle Paure, Lorenzo Lotto dialogues with Giovanni Frangi in the sign of restlessness

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