The Rebirth of St. John the Evangelist

A look at the conservation program of the Parma monastery

As part of a program of conservation and enhancement of the heritage of the Parma Monastery of San Giovanni Evangelista, supported by the generous contributions of Dr. Giovanni Bormioli (CERVE) and the Monte Parma Foundation, the recently completed restorations of the frieze are worthy of note.

The brilliant results of the work, carried out by Marcello Castrichini, (2020 - 2022) have allowed some new important reflections, the subject of dedicated contributions in press.

Ferretti Chapel (1519) by Giacomo Francia and Giulio FranciaComplesso di San Giovanni Evangelista

Thanks to the support of the Rotary club Parma Est, President Mariella Amoretti, the imposing 16th century altarpiece with the Adoration of the Shepherds, a wooden structure, accompanied by the predella, whose elongated rectangular tablet forms the lower base, was also intervened.

The painted figures depicting St. Jerome, Christ carrying the cross and Saint Anthony the Abbot, allude to the patron of the work: the presence of Sant'Antonio recalls the name of the owner of the chapel, the second on the right, Antonio Ferretti.

The name appears in conjunction with that of Joanna, his wife, in the altarpiece. The work, inscribed within a carved and gilded wooden frame, was carried out by the Bolognese brothers Giacomo and Giulio Francia, sons of the famous Francesco Raibolini, in 1519, as one of the cartouches in the dossal states.

Adoration of the shepherds (1519) by Giacomo Francia and Giulio FranciaComplesso di San Giovanni Evangelista

The work was in poor condition despite previous interventions. A first examination revealed the presence of a process of anomalous constrictions which affected the support boards and did not allow the wooden material the necessary expansion spaces.

Adoration of the shepherds, detail (1519) by Giacomo Francia and Giulio FranciaComplesso di San Giovanni Evangelista

The consequent tensions of the pictorial film caused it to rise, followed by the fall of flakes of color.

Ferretti Chapel (1519) by Giacomo Francia and Giulio FranciaComplesso di San Giovanni Evangelista

From this diagnosis it emerged that the constraints stemmed from the assembly system, a wooden altar with frame, columns and base, inside which the table with the Nativity is housed. The phenomenon of decohesion was found with less intensity in the lower panel with Christ between the two saints , set in the predella, therefore less subject to tensions.

These are the relevant notes found in a preventive investigation followed by the intervention plan.

Adoration of the shepherds (1519) by Giacomo Francia and Giulio FranciaComplesso di San Giovanni Evangelista

This imposing and precious reredos, which was available for closer inspection during the work phases, has brought to life an ancient history of great interest. It confirms the attention given by the Benedictine fathers to Art in their church.

Adoration of the shepherds, detail of the Virgin (1519) by Giacomo Francia and Giulio FranciaComplesso di San Giovanni Evangelista

First of all, the presence of a charcoal drawing on the back of the panel depicting the Nativity. The drawing is accompanied by two glued scrolls which testify, in great detail, to the restoration of the panel sponsored in 1825 by an illustrious client, the abbot Remigio Crescini.

Adoration of the shepherds, detail of the cartouche (1519) by Giacomo Francia and Giulio FranciaComplesso di San Giovanni Evangelista

In 1774 he made his profession at the age of seventeen at the abbey of San Giovanni Evangelista, taking the name of Remigio; for a decade he studied literature, philosophy and theology. In 1809 Pope Pius VII, his teacher, conferred on him the rights and privileges of abbot of "government" of San Giovanni Evangelista in Parma.

Adoration of the shepherds, signature and date (1519) by Giacomo Francia and Giulio FranciaComplesso di San Giovanni Evangelista

In 1828 Pope Leo XII appointed him bishop of Parma; a respectable cursus honorum. As the cartouche states, he entrusted the restoration of the panel, corroded by moths (blattis as they are indicated in the writing) to Ferdinando Boudard whom Scarabelli Zunti defined as a mediocre painter, but a good restorer, recalling as an example our Nativity, which he attributed to Francesco Francia.

Adoration of the shepherds (1519) by Giacomo Francia and Giulio FranciaComplesso di San Giovanni Evangelista

An illustrious workshop, that of the Francia, an example of the best Bolognese proto-Renaissance: painters, engravers and goldsmiths Giacomo and Giulio, epigones among other Raphael artists, would have continued their father's activity together.

Credits: Story

Text by Maria Cristina Chiusa

Credits: All media
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