The exhibition itinerary in the first room, formerly seat of the Chapel of the Rosary, develops along a chronological criterion with masterpieces of the painting art from the 15th to the 17th centuries.
The combination of the paintings is really significant with masterpieces such as "Il Volto Santo di Lucca e il miracolo del giullare", and the almost contemporary "Madonna col puer dolorosus". Some very historically important paintings are the complex composition of Adorazione dei pastori, dated to 1581, and the pieces by the 17th century Ortonese painter Tommaso Alessandrino, and those ones referred to Giovan Battista Spinelli, born in Chieti at the beginning of the 18th century and whose father was from Bergamo.
1.1 Unknown artist from Abruzzo, 15th century, Madonna col Puer Dolorosus, about 1440, tempera on table, coming from the Chapel of the Saviour in the Cathedral
The piece, which is rather uncommon in its iconography since it portrays the Child- showing the signs of the Passion- on the Virgin’s lap, is among the few ones made before the sack of the City by Turks led by Piyale Pasha in 1566.
The painting, probably part of a polyptych and originally larger in dimensions, shows many similarities with the table of Our Lady of the Milk in the Church of Santa Maria in Platea in Campli, both for the flowered carpet the throne of the Lady is on, and for the drawing of the eyes and the representation of the fabric design and of the folds of the dress, arranged on the lap in plissé undulations. Formerly referred to Giacomo from Campli, more recent studies have connected it to the circle of Francesco d'Antonio Zacchi from Viterbo whose nickname was ‘Il Balletta’, chronicled between 1407 and 1476.
1.2 Unknown artist, Il Volto Santo di Lucca e il miracolo del giullare, 15th cent., Tempera on table, coming from the Chapel of the Saviour in the Cathedral
The large painting on table portraying the Holy Face from Lucca, still included in the wonderful altar dossal in gilded wood datable to the second half of the 16th century, was once placed in the Chapel of the Saviour in the Cathedral, formerly Riccardi’s family chapel than ended up in the Canons’ possessions
The Riccardi family , Angevins supporters, lived in Ortona between the end of 14th century and the first decades of 16th century and were very influential in the kingdom of Naples during the 15th cent., especially with Francesco I, Chamberlain, Seneschal, Castellan in Naples, Ambassador in Konstanz for the papal election of Martin V, Viceroy and Governor of Perugia from the 1408 to 1414, died in 1424. They had many feuds, in Abruzzo and outside , and they got related with remarkable and noble families.
The Holy Face of Lucca, object of a widespread worship in all Europe starting from the Middle Age, is a wooden crucifix kept in the left aisle of S. Martino Cathedral in Lucca, in a little central plan temple built by Matteo Civitali in 1484. According to the old legend handed down by the deacon Leobino, the Holy Face crucifix was entirely carved by Nicodemus, after Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension, apart from the Face that was completed only thanks to divine intervention thus proving to be Christ’s “real face”. The painting shows one of the most famous miracles of the Holy Face that let his golden sandal slip into the hands of a jester in order to demonstrate his appreciation to the man that had sung for him in sign of devotion.
The worship for the Holy Face can be put in relation both with Riccardis’ origin from Lucca, and with the acknowledged power of the Simulacrum of keeping invaders and pirates away.
1.3 Unknown author, Adorazione dei pastori, 1581, oil on canvas, coming from the Congregation of the Augustinians
The painting, arranged according to a vertical space perspective in which different characters crowd around the main scene, while on the background detailed landscape we can see a very long procession, seems to have been painted by the same painter of the Annunciation, dated to 1583, placed in Santa Maria di Costantinopoli Church but probably coming from the Church of Annunziata in Porta Caldari that hosted Celestinians after the pirates’ raid in 1566. In the past the author had been identified with the Venetian painter Giovan Battista Rusconi, but this attribution seems obsolete nowadays even if it hasn’t been possible to refer the two pieces to any other artist’s catalogue, although the presumed author seems to reveal Marchigian influences close to Lorenzo Lotto, while the narrative and figurative tone would connect him to Simone De Magistris and Bartolomeo Morgante.
1.5 Unknown author, Deposizione dalla Croce, about 1590, oil on canvas.
The painting shows the evident signs of the vicissitudes it must have been involved in, in particular the extensive colour losses in correspondence to old folds in the canvas that had been deprived of the frame. Even if it has been in part compromised by these rather extensive blanks its reading reveals, according to the experts, the personality of an artist who trained in the Tuscan-Roman area but was influenced by Marchigian artists. With its deep expressivity and the sense of pity that comes out, the subject is perfectly in line with the counter-reformation painting and follows widespread models and in particular the Ortonese work seems to derive from the “Deposizione” by Daniel from Volterra. At the foot of the cross it’s worth noting the presence of Saint Francis that would connect its assignment to the Minorite area.
1.6 Tommaso Alessandrino, Pietà di Chioggia o Apparizione della Madonna della Navicella, 1629, oil on canvas. Coming from Santissima Trinità Church in Ortona.
The work commissioned by Cesare Gervasone, the member of a rich family from Bergamo settled in Ortona and who is portrayed in prayer at the bottom and identified with the same emblem appearing on the following piece, is very interesting from an iconographic point of view. The subject is the Apparition of the Virgin of the Small Boat so called because on 25th of June 1508, the Lady of Sorrows appeared to the greengrocer Baldassarre Zalon (DA BALDESARSE VISTO IL GRAN MERTO DI CRISTO), near the beach of Sottomarina di Chioggia (ECCOVI CHIOZA A PIENO DELLA PIETADE IL SENO), holding Christ -plagued for the sins of Chioggia people -in her lap, and then disappeared on a small boat with no boatman.
At the top, very recognizable, there is Venice with Saint Mark square with Saint George Island and, in an exceptional representation, the Bucentaur.
The painting, signed and dated THOMAS ALESSANDRINUS ORTONIENSIS IN PINGEBAT A. D. MDCXXVIIII, was made only some decades after the completion of the Sanctuary in 1585 and its becoming a point of reference for the Capuchin community.
1.7 Tommaso Alessandrino, I tre regni dell’oltretomba o Giudizio Universale, 1631, oil on canvas, coming from Santissima Trinità Church in Ortona.
As the previous one also this piece was commissioned by Cesare Gervasone, as shown in one of the many inscriptions on the painting, the one placed just below the emblem on the right, is very complex from the iconographic point of view. It shows the Doomsday. On the vertical axis there are, in sequence from bottom to top, Satan, Archangel Michel, Saint Francis embracing the Cross, Christ between the Virgin and Saint John, the Dove of the Holy Spirit and God the Father among the celestial spheres and the angels choruses; under them we can see those who had died before the coming of the Saviour and the Apostles. On a lower level the Saints and, still lower, at the sides of the cross, the angels with the symbols of the passion. All the lower half is instead dedicated to the earth dimension, crowded with many other figures and animated by the movements of the bodies, attracted by the higher level or thrown away toward the abyss of eternal damnation.
1.8 Tommaso Alessandrino, Assunzione di Maria, 1627, oil on canvas, coming from Santissima Trinità Church in Ortona.
Besides being an evident tribute to the Virgin who, at the end of her life was moved to Heaven both in her soul and her body, the painting also represents a reference to an episode that the tradition refers to the Apostle Thomas who doubted, even in this case, about the actual ascent of the Virgin in Heaven and for this reason she let her belt fall from the sky, and the belt became one of the iconographic attribute Thomas would be subsequently identified with, together with the square ruler. The author was born in Ortona in 1570 and worked mainly in his home town even if we have news about his activity in Caldari , Crecchio and Lanciano where he painted a Piety for the Saint Bartholomew capuchin convent, that is currently among the deposits of the Diocesan museum, and the Last Supper, formerly in the Annunziata Cathedral and now on the Altar of the Blessed Sacrament in Madonna del Ponte Cathedral. Tommaso Alessandrino died in June, 1640.
1.9 Tommaso Alessandrino, San Bernardo di Chiaravalle e il Miracolo del Latte, 1632, oil on canvas. Coming from Santissima Trinità Church in Ortona.
The author has used a widespread iconographical model referring to an episode of the life of Saint Bernard, lived between 1190 and 1153, who founded the famous Clairvaux Abbey. It’s said that when Bernard was concentrated on writing the commentary to the Song of Songs, that praises the Virgin, she appeared and the milk come out from her breast dropped on the author’s lips who, from that moment, got the gift of an extraordinary eloquence. Saint Bernard, a central figure in the worship of the Virgin, developed three central themes of Mariology, taken from Pope Pius XII’s encyclical letter written in 1953, in occasion of the 8th centenary of the Saint’s death, explaining Mary’s virginity, “Star of the Sea”, how to pray the Virgin and how to rely on Mary as mediator. Even in this painting we can see, even if not perfectly readable, the donator’s emblem.
1.10 Giovan Battista Spinellli, San Luigi, San Cristoforo e San Pietro, second quarter of the 17th century, oil on canvas. Coming from Chiesa del Carmine.
Giovanni Battista Spinelli was born in Chieti in 1613 from Sante Spinelli, a rich merchant originating from Bergamo. He moved to Naples around 1630 and had the possibility to come in contact with the artistic climate of the capital city and in particular with Massimo Stanzione with whom he painted “Gesù fra i dottori” for the Neapolitan Chiesa dell’Annunziata. One of his sister Catherine married the baron Ludovico de Pizzis from Ortona. He died in Ortona on 20th November even if recent studies have supposed he was still alive in 1658. His works, that can be found in many areas of Abruzzo, Campania and Calabria, in churches and private collections, are characterized by singular composition patterns, by a personal chromatic sensitivity and by the nervous movement of the gestures and of the shapes of the figures. His figure of artist has been studied and reevaluated only in relatively recent years and this has contributed to his legitimate admission among the masters of Neapolitan painting of the 17th century,.
1.11 Abruzzo area of interest, Incoronazione di Maria Vergine tra S. Francesco e S. Antonio di Padova, second quarter of 17th century, oil on canvas. Coming from Santissima Trinità Church in Ortona.
The work, central part of a triptych with Saint Simon Zelotes and Saint Bartholomew, was placed on the wooden altar of the capuchin church of Santissima Trinità below a painting showing God the Father, from where it has been only recently removed in order to be restored. The construction of the convent of the Capuchin Friars started in 1629, as chronicled in documents and on the inscription on the church portal, and its consecration took place in 1645 by the Bishop Alessandro Crescenzi. According to what has been handed down by the historian Filippo from Tussio, the main altar with the complex wooden tabernacle, realized by the skilled Capuchin cabinet-makers, was made in 1745 when Giuseppe from Ascoli was the monastery warden and follows really widespread models in the Abruzzo convents of the same order. After the suppression of the convent in the Napoleonic period, the area was subsequently committed to host the cemetery and the Church was turned into cemetery chapel. The alter piece, with the paintings around, had already been connected to the production area of Giovan Battista Spinelli, but recent studies have doubted its paternity, besides considering it piece of a contemporary author.
1.12 Abruzzo area of interest, Commemorative stone, 1127, carved stone. Coming from the Cathedral.
The commemorative stone is an important document whose inscription testify to the reconstruction and reconsecration of the main church of Ortona to Divine Mary on 10th November 1127, after the destruction of the previous worship place. More than one hundred years later with the arrival in Ortona of Saint Thomas’ relics, the church was further transformed becoming, over time, the wonderful place of worship of the Apostle, but keeping the double title over the centuries.