A rediscovered masterpiece by Orazio Lomi Gentileschi

The Opera della Primaziale Pisana in collaboration with the National Gallery of Umbria and the Free Academy of Caravaggio Studies, organizes from July 19 to September 19, 2018 at the Museo delle Sinopie in Pisa, the exhibition A rediscovered masterpiece by Orazio Lomi Gentileschi, The Madonna in Adoration of the Child. The exhibition is curated by Pierluigi Carofano and makes use of a scientific committee composed of Raymond Ward Bissel and Marco Pierini.

The exhibition aims to present to the general public the Madonna in adoration of the Child, a little-known painting by Horace Lomi Gentileschi (Pisa 1562 – London 1639), known in the chronicles for being the father of Artemisia, linking it to the Holy Cecilia playing the spinet of the National Gallery of Umbria and the Madonna with Jesus Sleeping Child painted by Horace in collaboration with his son Francesco.

This painting by Horace Lomi Gentileschi was entitled by historiography as a Madonna with Child Jesus, but the subject to which the work is most closely approached is that of the ‘Madonna in adoration of the Child’. But even in this case, although it may seem the most appropriate title, it is actually imprecise because in the figurative production of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance that type of iconography provides that the mother of Jesus is depicted with both hands open (as in the famous painting by Correggio of the National Gallery in London) or joined in prayer (as in the equally famous panel by Filippino Lippi at the Uffizi). In the case of the painting of Horace Lomi Gentileschi the figure of the Madonna does not correspond to a precise iconographic canon but this gesture indicates the presence of a strong inner emotion. It is not that of an adoring Madonna, but of the Mother who feels the tragedy that awaits her Son. It is easy, in fact, to grasp the attitude of ‘tragedy’ of the entire composition: the two sacred protagonists present a sad look, but not resigned, partially redeemed by the gesture of the Child who, with his right hand on his chest (with a mirrored act compared to that of the Mother), indicates towards her with the index of the left hand, to give symbolically to the Madonna, at the foot of the cross, the guide of the entire community of the faithful.

The Madonna in adoration of the Child and the Saint Cecilia playing the spinet, performed around 1618-1620, had a similar path within the studies on Orazio Lomi Gentileschi: both works have struggled to establish themselves with the scientific community as autographs of the Pisan master, in the first case for the poor visibility of the work itself, preserved in an Italian historical collection; in the second case because there is another version (with variations) in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. In recent years, thanks to the studies of Bruno Santi, Raymond Ward Bissell, Claudio Strinati, Pierluigi Carofano, Paola Caretta and Alberto Cottino, the two paintings have been recognized as autographs by Orazio Gentileschi and exhibited in exhibitions dedicated to the Pisan Master or Caravaggio subjects. The third canvas in the exhibition, the Madonna with Sleeping Child, shows well the quality of Orazio Gentileschi’s collaborators, in particular of his son Francis.

In the exhibition the three works dialogue with the sinopie of the frescoes of the Monumental Cemetery collected in the Museum that houses them. Intended to remain hidden under the work completed, the sinopia is the first phase of the fresco, is the drawing drawn on the first layer of plaster spreading a red pigment brush, the land of Sinopoe, mixed with water. A unique collection in the world that of Pisa, came to light as a result of a disastrous event, the fire fired in the cemetery under the bombing of World War II. This made it necessary to detach the frescoes from the plaster in order to recover large portions, those saved by the fire, and start their restoration. It was precisely the ‘tear’ of the pictorial film that allowed the sinopia to be revealed, the hidden part of the fresco that, with the same technique as the ‘tear’, was removed from the walls of the Cemetery and since 1979 housed in the current museum.

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