Padova. Urbis Picta becomes Unesco’s heritage today

Padua. Urbis Picta is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site
SOURCE: (https://www.padovaurbspicta.org/i-luoghi-della-candidatura/)

This was announced by the president of the Veneto Region LUCA ZAIA in a post on ISTAGRAM with these words: “

“It is a beautiful day, which enters the history of art, culture, the history of Padua and the whole of Veneto: the fourteenth-century frescoes by Giotto, Altichiero da Zevio and Giusto de ‘Menabuoi, among others, become Heritage of Humanity!

Veneto now has 9 sites in the UNESCO World Heritage List, a number that places it in second position among the Italian regions, also a sign of institutional attention that supports the best of the territory.

As a Region, we also supported this candidacy with a specific provision of April 2018; now that the result is achieved, we will continue to be in the game by supporting in all venues and promoting the recognition achieved.

The places of the candidacy of “Padova Urbs picta. Giotto, the Scrovegni Chapel and the fourteenth century pictorial cycles “and historical – artistic framework
The serial site ‘Padova Urbs picta’ consists of the fourteenth-century frescoed pictorial cycles preserved in eight buildings and monumental complexes in the historic center of Padua, divided into four components, in an area that in the fourteenth century corresponded to the entire inhabited area within the walls. The four components are: Scrovegni and Eremitani (card 1), Palazzo della Ragione, Reggia, Baptistery and their squares (card 2), Cittadella antoniana (card 3) and San Michele (card 4) . It is a complex of monuments known all over the world, preserved in an area where the tradition of fresco mural painting has roots as far back as the 10th century and which saw its maximum development in the 14th century: from the presence of Giotto in the surrounding city. in fact, in 1302 an extraordinary season of culture and art began which continued throughout the century, characterized by pictorial interventions of rare value.

Giotto, Guariento, Giusto de ‘Menabuoi, Altichiero da Zevio, Jacopo Avanzi and Jacopo da Verona are the protagonists of this undertaking. At the service of illustrious families, the clergy, the Municipality and the Lordship of the Carraresi, they will paint inside religious and civil buildings, public and private, together giving life to the new image of the city.

Even today the frescoed cycles can be visited in the original buildings and monumental complexes. The cycles constitute a unitary system due to their common Giotto ancestry – even if the work of different hands, commissioned by different clients and within buildings of different nature – and each personal interpretation of the master’s language adds exceptional value to the whole.

Historical area

In the Late Middle Ages, Padua distinguished itself as a free municipality by participating in the Veronese League and the Lombard League against the emperor Frederick Barbarossa. During the municipal period, the city was enriched and the University was founded in 1222, one of the oldest in the world.

Passed through the Ghibelline ranks during the domination of Ezzelino III da Romano, after his death, Padua returned to the control of the Guelphs and became the object of continuous attacks by the Veronese Ghibellines which led, in 1318, to the affirmation of the Lordship of the Carraresi.

Thus began a period of new splendor for Padua, in which the economy and the arts flourished, but the wars against Verona also continued, as well as those against Venice and Milan. The ambition of the Carraresi spelled their end and that of the Veronese Scaligers. Padua was defeated by the Republic of Venice in 1405, after which the centuries-old Venetian domination of the city began.

The pictorial cycles included in the serial site ‘Padova Urbs picta’ are chronologically placed in the historical period just summarized, from the beginning to the end of the 14th century, in particular from 1302, the moment of Giotto’s arrival in Padua, to 1397, the year of construction of the last cycle frescoed by Jacopo da Verona in the Oratory of San Michele.

Within this chronological context, the different components fully represent the stages of the evolution of the 14th century Paduan painting of Giotto origin, from the first receptions of artists who had been able to work directly with the Tuscan master in Rimini, such as Pietro and Giuliano da Rimini. , to the already “courteous” interpretations of Guariento who worked in the middle of the century, up to artists such as Giusto de ‘Menabuoi, Altichiero da Zevio and Jacopo Avanzi active in the seventies and eighties, to conclude with Jacopo da Verona who works at the end of the century.

Cultural sphere

Giotto’s arrival in Padua marks the beginning of a process of artistic and cultural rebirth that continues and finds its maximum development during the rule of the Lordship of the Carraresi. In this period the arts, painting, but also literature and the sciences flourished

a game of significant relationships between the illustrious families who gravitated around the court.

In this scenario, the pictorial cycles represent a real “politics of the image”, which starting from Enrico Scrovegni finds its maximum expression in the frescoes commissioned by the Carrarese Signoria and by the families linked to the court: it is a desire for representation of power, which passes through the representation of the city, real and ideal, and portraits of the personalities of power and who govern it at that time. This is that fundamental period in the history of art of transition between late thirteenth-century painting and the Renaissance.

The city’s cultural dynamic is nourished by the exchange relationships between clients, artists, theologians, philosophers, writers and scholars who are born not only in the context of the Carrarese court, but also of the University and cultural circles that were part of the conventual life, where figures emerge such as between Giovanni degli Eremitani, Alberto da Padova, Altegrade dei Cattanei and Pietro d’Abano. These are the characters who dictate the philosophical-religious indications that underlie the iconographic choices of some of the frescoed cycles, contributing to the choice of themes to be represented also supported by sacred or hagiographic texts. This happens in Padua precisely because, since the beginning of the fourteenth century, it has enjoyed a favorable political, social and cultural climate, thanks to a period of peace, stability and orderly development. In this time of economic prosperity and demographic growth, part of the commercial and financial bourgeoisie rises to the rank of nobility, becoming a model for various Italian centers, and calls artists to work in the decoration of their noble residences and chapels, as had been done also from the free Municipality of Padua.

Among the personalities of major cultural importance present in the city is Francesco Petrarca, called to the court of the Carraresi by Iacopo II, and who will stay in Padua on several occasions, starting from 1348, then residing in nearby Arquà from 1370, where he still preserves his house-museum. A man of letters and scholars like Petrarca will be a distinguished point of reference for the city not only in the literary field, but also in the artistic field, dictating or inspiring with his work and his presence the iconographic programs of various pictorial cycles, also through other intellectual figures of the court, like its Lombard secretary of Silk. This is a remarkable testimony of that interesting interchange between literary and artistic culture, which had already taken place in Padua between Dante and Giotto.

But the exchange relationships between clients, theologians, philosophers, writers and scholars are not born only in the literary field: the study of physics taught in the Studium Padua seems to have influenced Giotto’s research on perspective thanks to the research of Pietro d’Abano present in Padua. between 1298 and 1302, as well as academic studies on the stars and celestial motions seem to have suggested the first so real and unconventional representation of Halley’s comet in the Nativity of Jesus in the Scrovegni Chapel and the other paintings on the cosmos and planets always painted by Florentine master in the Palazzo della Ragione.

Historical-artistic field

The history of painting in Padua in the fourteenth century begins with the arrival of Giotto called around 1302, probably by the Franciscan friars of the Basilica del Santo, in the wake of a web of close relationships that at the time linked Padua and Florence.

Giotto frescoes the first Paduan pictorial cycles inside the Basilica and the convent of the Saint around 1302, probably in the Chapel of the Madonna Mora, a place of great symbolic value because it was the seat of the first burial of the Saint, and in the Sala del Capitolo, another fundamental place for conventual life.

Inside the Basilica of the Saint he will then decorate the Chapel of the Blessings placed under the patronage of that Scrovegni family who between 1303 and 1305 will have him paint the wonderful cycle in the chapel of the same name.
Giotto’s third intervention in Padua takes place in Palazzo della Ragione, between 1310 and 1317, and consisted of an extraordinary astrological cycle destroyed following the fire of 1420. What makes this cycle still extremely significant today is the fact that it was repainted following the master’s idea in the years immediately following the fire.

Already immediately after Giotto’s departure, painting in the city began to develop in a new way following his lesson: the anonymous Master of the Scrovegni Choir who painted the Stories of the Virgin between 1317 and 1320 in the choir of the Scrovegni Chapel. expresses with a language that, albeit at a more elementary level, is strongly influenced by Giotto’s lesson.

In 1324, the Rimini pupils of Giott arrived in the city, called by the friars of the order of the Eremitani

or, Pietro and Giuliano; Having lost the polyptych made for the church in that year, the fragments of a large wall decoration made for the convent remain at the Musei Civici degli Eremitani. The Coronation of the Virgin, The Crucifixion and the other scenes show the application of the schemes learned by the masters in Rimini and their updating on Giotto’s novelties. After these experiences the most important figure emerges

of the central decades of the century, Guariento di Arpo. Active at least since the 1930s, he was the first painter to fill the role of artist of the Carrarese court. His is the decoration of the tombs of the lords Jacopo and Ubertino da Carrara already in the church of Sant’Agostino di Padova. In the more than thirty years of his rigorous stylistic path, he increasingly accentuated the linear Gothic taste, he managed to show an increasingly mature ability to organize large scenes of courteous taste within prospectively constructed spaces. The frescoes and painted tables for the Chapel of the Carrarese Palace are famous. His language was also appreciated outside Padua and Doge Marco Corner commissioned him to paint the fresco on the subject of Paradise for the Doge’s Palace in Venice, probably between 1365 and 1367. His last work, the grandiose decoration of the main apse of the Chiesa dei Santi Filippo e Giacomo alle Eremitani shows the great skill achieved in the articulation of extensive spatially complex scenes.

The painter destined to replace him at the Signoria, the Florentine Giusto de ‘Menabuoi, was to follow him. Active in Padua from the beginning of the seventies until his death in the nineties, Giusto continued on the path of the gothic evolution of painting in Padua, showing an increasingly evolved perspective capacity, treating religious episodes as court ceremonies in which are recognizable portraits of characters of the time. Already in the frescoes of the Cortellieri Chapel in the church of Santi Filippo e Giacomo agli Eremitani he shows a great doctrinal wisdom, however his masterpiece is the decoration of the Baptistery of the Cathedral, executed starting from 1375. In this building, destined to become the mausoleum of the lord Francesco I da Carrara and his wife Fina Buzzaccarini, he creates a cycle with which he demonstrates a refined narrative ability in creating increasingly complex scenes and often unpublished iconographic content. In the frescoes of the Blessed Luca Belludi Chapel in the Basilica del Santo, dating back to 1382, the spatial amplification is affected by the comparison with the works of other masters, the Bolognese Jacopo Avanzi and the Veronese Altichiero da Zevio who, shortly before, on the walls of the nearby chapel of San Giacomo, under the commission of the Marquis Lupi di Soragna, had introduced a new naturalness in narrating religious episodes and an elegant courteous taste.

These frescoes are distinguished by an ever greater ability to arrange and articulate large spaces and masses of characters, for the precious and delicate color, for an increasingly accentuated perspective ability that can only be found in the Tuscan achievements of the early Renaissance years. In the early eighties, Altichiero’s other enterprise dates back to the frescoes of the Oratory of San Giorgio. Narrating the Stories of Saints Giorgio, Barbara, Caterina and Lucia, protectors of the Lupi di Soragna family, the artist paints against the background of the scenes of the cross-sections of an ideal Gothic city in which the episodes increasingly populated with portraits of characters take place of the court, such as Francesco Petrarca, guest and dignitary of the Carraresi.
One of his pupils and collaborators, Jacopo da Verona, left us in 1397 the last pictorial monument of some importance in the decoration of the Chapel of Santa Maria in the Oratory of San Michele. The last exponents of the Carrarese Court are represented in the Stories of the Virgin.

In 1405 the city fell under the dominion of Venice and with the disappearance of the Signoria the main center of artistic patronage was also missing; the environment was, however, vital up to the last if the documents recall the presence of the Tuscan Cennino Cennini, author of the first remaining manual on artistic techniques, written in Padua, while he was in the service of Francis II. Also worth mentioning are the cycles that have disappeared, erased by time and by men: just think of those existing in the churches of Sant’Agostino and San Benedetto or the decoration of the Reggia Carrarese. What still remains today is still sufficient to give us the idea of ​​one of the most extraordinary and original figurative civilizations that developed in Italy.


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