Tuesday 23 October 2018

Works of art

The Polyptych of Sant’Egidio

The Polyptych of Sant’Egidio, which was once used as the altar piece of a lateral altar in the church of Fontanella, is composed of six panels of poplar wood mounted in a conifer wood frame that divides the three panel levels: predella, lower and upper. Completed in the mid-16th Century by a painter of the Bergamascan art scene called Giacomo Gavazzi of Poscante, the work boasts an opulent frame, delicately carved and gracefully embellished and gilded in blue and gold. The panels of the upper level depict the Virgin Mary with Child, San Sebastian (on the left) and San Rocco (on the right), the central panel depicts the Sant’Egidio abbot seated upon a throne and dressed in pontifical robes, San Nicola of Bari and San Gregorio Magno.
In 1973 the Polyptych was stolen and tragically lost its predella that consisted of three stands painted by the same artist, depicting the Redeemer and four angels (on the central altarpiece covering the tabernacle) and the 12 apostles on the remaining pieces. The central frieze, which separates the upper and lower panels, was also lost during the theft.
The existing architectonic structure is composed of two semi-columns and two pilasters that frame the lower panel level, four pilasters that frame the upper panels and three mouldings that surmount the Polyptych.
Over the centuries this work has undergone numerous restorations, the last of which was carried out in 1997 by the Ferriani-Beccaria studio in Milan who, with the authorisation of the Superintendency, completed a total conservative restoration of the altar piece, involving work on both the structural frame and on the individual panels. During this restoration the rear of the altar piece was modified to incorporate an aluminium frame to replace the old wooden cross members, whilst the paintings were cleaned with the aim of removing later alterations to the original design. In particular the panel depicting the Madonna with Child, saw the removal of a number of previous restorative alterations, most of which were elaborated directly onto the original surface, in addition to the removal of the old oxidised varnish. Wherever possible, the other panels were cleaned of the extensive 19th Century re-paintings, without damaging the original artworks (the re-paintings of San Gregorio Magno for example redefined both the gloved hands and the white robe of the saint). For security reasons, the Polyptych of Sant’Egidio is currently housed in the Episcopal Administration building in Bergamo, in the assembly room named after Pope John XXIII.

G. BERETTA, Inventario degli arredi sacri esistenti negli edifici di culto della parrocchia di S. Egidio in Fontanella, 1965/02/27, p. 8; L. PAGNONI, Le chiese parrocchiali della diocesi di Bergamo, 1974, Vol. II, pp. 806, 807; AA. VV., Per una politica dei beni culturali. Restauri 1961/1981, 1981, p. 106; AA. W. All' Abbazia di S. Egidio in Fontanella, 1991, p. 38; U. ZANETTI, II monastero di S. Egidio a Fontanella di Sotto il Monte,1993, p. 116; F. ROSSI, Pittura anonima bergamasca del primo Cinquecento, 1980 pp. 57, 58; A. PINETTI / G. LOCATELLI, Catalogo generale degli oggetti d'arte della provincia di Bergamo, 1932, p. 38; FERRIANI e BECCARIA snc, Relazione di restauro, Milano, 1998.