Blessed Osanna Andreasi's House

Spirituality and art, devotion and paintings: a new look over a collection hidden in the folds of time

By Mantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Blessed Osanna with an angel wrestles the devil to the ground by Luigi CostaMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Blessed Osanna with an angel wrestles the devil to the ground

The work is part of the donation made by count Alessandro Magnaguti, who in turn probably received it from the Andreasi, whose last descendant, Luigia, married Giovanni Battista Magnaguti in 1780. The author of the painting is unknown, although it has often been attributed to the Costa workshop, the school of Lorenzo Costa the Young and his brother Luigi. Some scholars have hypothesised that it is a copy of a more valuable painting now lost. The impression, in fact, is that the style, although stiff, is reminiscent of that of Giulio Romano, who created a similar drawing. Some comparisons have been made with the Tradizione delle Chiavi, the only work by Costa that has survived to this day. In any case, the dramatic quality of the scene depicted is worthy of note. The mystic Mantuan figure rises in the sky, full of dark clouds, in the act of squashing a goat-like and feral Satan. The tail of the demon is like a snake unfolding in the direction of the mountains in the background. Next to Osanna, an angel with large wings seems to comfort her and support her, also immobilizing the enemy.

Blessed Osanna Andreasi by Unknown artist, 16th centuryMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Blessed Osanna Andreasi

This beautiful painting was donated to the Andreasi House in 2002 by private collectors, it is a replica of a painting made in the late 16th century, the original is also part of a private collection, attributed to Luigi Costa the Elder. This versions differs from the original in that it lacks the plate at the bottom, and also because in the background we can see a large writing in gold letters and the figure of a swan, the symbol of the Andreasi family. Though the original is more intense, this version also is very interesting, with the large cross and the lily around it, indicating the woman’s condition of virgin. The crown of thorns she is holding evidently creates a direct relationship with the suffering of Jesus Christ. In the course of time a specific physical type representing the Blessed took shape: she is both severe and beautiful, conveying a sense of quiet prayer but also the charisma of a benefactor.

Blessed Osanna Andreasi by Unknown artist, 17th centuryMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Blessed Osanna Andreasi

This painting is another portrait of the Blessed, evidently from a series beginning with the work that is part of the private collection attributed to Costa the Elder. The low quality of this canvas does not, however, prevent the viewer from recognizing her typical features, here particularly severe, and lacking many of the usual symbols. Here, in fact, we see only the cross, long and slender, that the Blessed holds as usual in her right hand, showing it to the worshippers.

San Tommaso by Unknown artist, 17th centuryMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

San Tommaso

Saint Thomas Aquinas is here represented in the moment Jesus speaks to him from the cross, as is indicated by the letters in gold that, like a spear, separate his gaze from the head of Christ, with his crown of thorns. According to tradition, the Dominican saint was spoken to by a cross of the 3th century, which uttered the words “You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward will you have?”, to which the saint answered that he wanted none other than God himself. Also this painting from the late 17th century is influenced by the traditional interpretation of the Dominican as representing the ideal unity between intelligence and faith. His teachings are symbolized by the books in the painting; one is next to him while the other is in his left hand. The saint touches his heart with his right hand, signifying an intimate and total identification with the word of God. The painting represents a triangular relationship between writing, vision and the awareness of faith.

Blessed Osanna and the Mysteries of the Rosary by Unknown artist, 17th centuryMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Blessed Osanna and the Mysteries of the Rosary

In this devotional composition, the Blessed Osanna is painted standing on the left, while invoking the Virgin Mary who appears above, surrounded by clouds, carrying Baby Jesus in her arms. Next to Osanna we see Saint Dominic, who is in turn admiring the celestial vision. The peculiarity of this painting is, however, the presence of a total of fifteen tondos on the two sides and in the upper part of the painting, depicting the Mysteries of the Rosary. On the right we have the Joyful Mysteries: Annunciation, the Visitation of Mary to saint Elizabeth, the Nativity, the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, the Finding of Jesus in the Temple. On the left the Sorrowful Mysteries: the Agony in the Garden, the Scourging at the Pillar, the Crowning with Thorns, the Carrying of the Cross and the Crucifixion. Above the Glorious Mysteries: the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Assumption of Mary and the Coronation of the Virgin. Finally, it must be noted that between the Blessed and Saint Dominic, we can make out the outline of the city of Mantua seen from San Giorgio. This detail allows to identify with certainty the female figure as being the Blessed Osanna

San Domenico and Santa Caterina by Unknown artist, 18th centuryMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

San Domenico and Santa Caterina

This beautiful painting dating to the 18th century, represents Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine, the former characterized by the lilly, who are kneeling in front of the Virgin Mary carrying Baby Jesus, and offering a rosary to Saint Catherine. The delicate tones of the composition create a fascinating play of backlight, visible in the large and bright cloud that surrounds the Virgin Mary. Also the delicate features indicate that the artist, unfortunately unknown, was a skilled painter, his touch gentle and firm.

San Domenico by Unknown artist, 19th centuryMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

San Domenico

In this work that dates to the 19th century, the Saint is seen communicating with the crucifix, gently touching a lily, symbol of purity. According to the Dominican tradition the star is a symbol of predestination and is also a personal sign of Saint Dominic: indeed the story goes that on the day of his baptism his mother saw a star appear on his forehead. The star also plays a role in the Dominican vocation because it not only indicates the ability to direct one’s life towards Christ, but also the order’s mission, the ability to direct others, through words and the examples set by one’s life. The painting we are looking at was evidently created to be worshipped, and this explains the neatness of the images and the composed posture of the protagonist. The image of Dominic de Guzmán thus becomes the symbol of certain faith, together with the intense desire to mentally contemplate the mystery of God. And so, symbolizing the harmony between reason and faith, the features of the Saint continue to be passed on through time.

San Giacinto by Unknown artist, 18th centuryMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

San Giacinto

This representation of the Saint, in the act of praying while a small Virgin Mary and baby appear in his thoughts among the clouds, shows a certain solidity and above all a certain effectiveness. Although it is not known with certainty who the protagonist of the painting is, it must be remembered that among the various saints, Hyacinth was the name of two Dominicans: Saint Hyacinth Castaneda, who died a martyr in Tonkin in 1773, and Saint Hyacinth Odrowaz, who died in 1257. The latter, Polish, born into a noble family, became a Dominican after meeting Dominic de Guzmán in Bologna, and worked to unite the Western and Eastern churches. The iconographic detail of the apparition of the Virgin Mary can also be found in a very powerful painting of El Greco, also depicting Saint Hyacinth.

Crucifixion with the Virgin, Saint John and sleeping hebrew by Giannino GiovannoniMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Crucifixion with the Virgin, Saint John and sleeping hebrew

The interest in the painting by Giannino Giovannoni is sparked by two aspects. On the one hand he was an amateur artist, very cultured and productive, whose style was influenced both by Chiarismo and by a strong expressionist and existential tendency. A very prolific artist, he was also a passionate collector, and one of the protagonists of the 20th century tradition. Giannino Giovannoni was also a member of the Dominican laic order. His constant and tranquil faith, interacting in a critical way and with a lively intelligence, led him to conceive a cycle of sacred paintings, most of which were donated to the Andreasi Home. The crucifiction we can admire here, for instance, displays an overall dramatic quality enhanced and not diminished by the free brushwork. Christ is torn and consumed. The cross stands in front of the buildings in Jerusalem, behind it a sky that seems to be bursting into one big flame. The very thin figures of Mary and John are extinguished in a gesture of crushing pain. On the left the sleeping Jew is a beautiful example of 20th century orientalism, revealing the artist’s technical skill, whose nervous mark connects the clothes of the character to the surrounding scenery.

Saint John in the desert by Giannino GiovannoniMantova Museo Urbano Diffuso

Saint John in the desert

The focal point of Giovannoni’s research was the precariousness of the human condition, that here is beautifully conveyed by the figure of John the Baptist, sitting on a rock and surrounded by a desolate landscape. The body of the man who will show Christ to humanity is traced with white and red lined, to indicate the torment of the flesh and the exhaustion of vital energy, which is however substituted by an intense spiritual energy. The moment of solitude, reflection, tiredness, makes Saint John similar to a Saint Jerome. The colour of the sky, a dark blue, seems to indicate a future in which the deeds of the Saint and of Jesus will unfold, indeed they were both destined to die in order to save humanity. In the story of John the Baptist, his passage through the desert corresponds to his leaving behind the luxury of everyday life, and is a prelude to a great mission, as if in the aridity of the desert he could experience the utmost concentration of his faith, which will later allow him to baptize the Messiah.

Credits: Story

Ideato e promosso da / Founded and Promoted by: Mattia Palazzi (Sindaco del Comune di Mantova) con Lorenza Baroncelli (Assessore alla rigenerazione urbana e del territorio, marketing urbano, progetti e relazioni internazionali del Comune di Mantova) Coordinamento Scientifico / Scientific Coordinator: Sebastiano Sali Curatore testi e immagini / Superintendent texts and images: Giovanni Pasetti Foto di / Photo by: Art Camera Redazione / Editor: Erica Beccalossi Assistente / Assistant: Fabrizio Foresio

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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