Ferrari, Gaudenzio

FERRARI, GAUDENZIO (1484-1549), Italian painter and sculptor, of the Milanese, or more strictly the Piedmontese, school, was born at Valduggia, Piedmont, and is said (very dubiously) to have learned the elements of painting at Vercelli from Girolamo Giovenone. He next studied in Milan, in the school of Scotto, and some say of Luini; towards 1504 he proceeded to Florence, and afterwards (it used to be alleged) to Rome. His pictorial style may be considered as derived mainly from the old Milanese school, with a considerable tinge of the influence of Da Vinci, and later on of Raphael; in his personal manner there was something of the demonstrative and fantastic. The gentler qualities diminished, and the stronger intensified, as he progressed. By 1524 he was at Varallo in Piedmont, and here, in the chapel of the Sacro Monte, the sanctuary of the Piedmontese pilgrims, he executed his most memorable work. This is a fresco of the Crucifixion, with a multitude of figures, no less than twenty-six of them being modelled in actual relief, and coloured; on the vaulted ceiling are eighteen lamenting angels, powerful in expression. Other leading examples are the following. In the Royal Gallery, Turin, a "Pietà," an able early work. In the Brera Gallery, Milan, "St Katharine miraculously preserved from the Torture of the Wheel," a very characteristic example, hard and forcible in colour, thronged in composition, turbulent in emotion; also several frescoes, chiefly from the church of Santa Maria della Pace, three of them being from the history of Joachim and Anna. In the cathedral of Vercelli, the choir, the "Virgin with Angels and Saints under an Orange Tree." In the refectory of San Paolo, the "Last Supper." In the church of San Cristoforo, the transept (in 1532-1535), a series of paintings in which Ferrari's scholar Lanini assisted him; by Ferrari himself are the "Birth of the Virgin," the "Annunciation," the "Visitation," the "Adoration of the Shepherds and Kings," the "Crucifixion," the "Assumption of the Virgin," all full of life and decided character, though somewhat mannered. In the Louvre, "St Paul Meditating." In Varallo, convent of the Minorites (1507), a "Presentation in the Temple," and "Christ among the Doctors," and (after 1510) the "History of Christ," in twenty-one subjects; also an ancona in six compartments, named the "Ancona di San Gaudenzio." In Santa Maria di Loreto, near Varallo (after 1527), an "Adoration." In the church of Saronno, near Milan, the cupola (1535), a "Glory of Angels," in which the beauty of the school of Da Vinci alternates with bravura of foreshortenings in the mode of Correggio. In Milan, Santa Maria delle Grazie (1542), the "Scourging of Christ," an "Ecce Homo" and a "Crucifixion." The "Scourging," or else a "Last Supper," in the Passione of Milan (unfinished), is regarded as Ferrari's latest work. He was a very prolific painter, distinguished by strong expression, animation and fulness of composition, and abundant invention; he was skilful in painting horses, and his decisive rather hard colour is marked by a partiality for shot tints in drapery. In general character, his work appertains more to the 15th than the 16th century. His subjects were always of the sacred order. Ferrari's death took place in Milan. Besides Lanini, already mentioned, Andrea Solario, Giambattista della Cerva and Fermo Stella were three of his principal scholars. He is represented to us as a good man, attached to his country and his art, jovial and sometimes facetious, but an enemy of scandal. The reputation which he enjoyed soon after his death was very great, but it has not fully stood the test of time. Lomazzo went so far as to place him seventh among the seven prime painters of Italy.

See G. Bordiga, two works concerning Gaudenzio Ferrari (1821 and 1835); G. Colombo, Vita ed opere di Gaudenzio Ferrari (1881); Ethel Halsey, Gaudenzio Ferrari (in the series Great Masters, 1904).

There was another painter nearly contemporary with Gaudenzio, Difendente Ferrari, also of the Lombard school. His celebrity is by no means equal to that of Gaudenzio; but Kugler (1887, as edited by Layard) pronounced him to be "a good and original colourist, and the best artist that Piedmont has produced."

(W. M. R.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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