The Immaculate Conception of Voghiera

Written by  Bevilacqua Balboni Ghelfi

INITIAL INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES. First section . An oil painting on plaster : restoration work .A detail of the Immaculate cnception fresco in the half dome apse in Voghiera..

The restoration work carried out on the half-dome apse of the  Voghiera church involved a series of scientific and technical analyses to gather information on the type of execution and techniques  employed.   The  mural  in  question  is  located  in  the apsidal vault of the church,

and its architectural structure comprises wooden arches covered by "lathing" on which a double layer of plaster was applied. The plaster was primed with an off-white coat containing white lead: the picture was painted on this background and comprises aImage of the  restoration works executed on the Voghiera fresco. very wide range of pigments in an oil-based media. This therefore represents one of the many Ferrara murals painted using oil-based media. Even though the more famous examples were painted between the XVI and XVII centuries, the technique had already been tried in Ferrara, or by Ferrara artists. But it was between the XVI and XVII centuries that artists began to show special interest in technical contamination, and an increasing inclination to use different techniques to execute their work from the classic "a fresco" technique. New aesthetic requirements could not be met using the traditional fresco technique, which requires great competence, fast execution, and limited colours. On the other hand, oil-based painting meant that more than one layer of colour could be applied, resulting in a wider range of colour effects, and allowing more corrections to be made, even after extended breaks. The initial inspection carried outImage of the  restoration works executed on the Voghiera fresco.  We recognize Fabio  Bevilacqua. in view of the restoration revealed a highly damaged pictorial surface. A general check of both the pictorial and plaster surfaces was followed by a consolidation process using injections and stucco-work. The chemical cleaning was carried out in two stages. Tempera colours were used to fill the few holes and finally work was carried out to protect the surface.


SECOND SECTION Documents and models: initial notes on the historical-iconographic research. By Veronica Balboni
Extensive information on the pictorial heritage of the church and painting the half-dome apse as well as local historical sources allow us to make some evaluations on the time-frame involved in creating the half-dome apse. They also contain interesting references that pave the way for further investigation into local painters and figurative language as a parallel to the project inThe half dome apse in Voghiera. question. The documents also allow us to extrapolate information on the construction events that the building was subject to over the centuries. The half-dome shows an Immaculate Conception with symbols taken from the Laurentian Litany, the Book of Revelation, and the Song of Solomon. This iconographic representation tended towards exaltation of the Virgin Mary through the symbols attributed to her by the Marian cult. It had been a popular theme in European painting for a few centuries, and was widespread in sixteenth-seventeenth century Emilia region art.
What has revealed to be new and unusual is the composition chosen with the trinomial symbol-scroll-angel. No precise reference models have yet been found for this, and it will therefore be the main element focused on by the historical-artistic investigation. The research linked to possible stylistic and cultural influences will be carried out on two parallel paths: on the one hand the classic iconography of the Immaculate Conception related to representation of the symbols linked with the scrolls, and on the other, the more modern depiction of the sacred theatre and the definition of an illusionistic area, rendered by the blue background and the surrounding angels. It is therefore a mixed iconographic model, requiring a twotrack investigation: the traditional subject on the one hand and compositional innovation on the other.

THIRD SECTION On artistic tempera painting in Ferrara in the early sixteen-hundreds: the Voghiera case . By Barbara Ghelfi
The painting that covers the half-dome apse of the church dedicated to the Birth of the Virgin Mary in Voghiera represents one of the rare examples of mural painting, forming part of the Ferrara artistic scene, that can be dated to the beginning of the seventeenth century. In his Descrizione delle pitture e sculture della città di Ferrara [Description of the painting and sculpture of the city of Ferrara], Carlo Brisighella attributes the half-dome of the choir to Bastarolo and Scarsellino's students. However a Another detail of the Immaculate Conception fresco.parochial inventory carried out in 1829 attributes the entire decoration of the half-dome to Carlo Bononi. Following the devolution to the State by the Church, in the changed political – administrative environment resulting from transfer of the court to Modena and the launch of the new government, both the lay and church powers of the city showed that they were able to act independently with respect to the centralised power represented by the Cardinal Legato. Since the court was no longer present, other parties such as the religious orders, the brotherhoods and the city's ruling class commissioned important artistic projects. A band of artists worked on both the modernisation of renaissance masterpieces and the creation of very high quality new works. In order to meet the increasing number of requests by patrons in this fervent atmosphere, a very important master emerged called Scarsellino. Starting from the end of the century, his studio had managed to recruit the leading local artistic talent. Starting from 1605 at least, one of these artists was Carlo Bononi. A close examination of the work at Voghiera allows us to identify the work of more than one artist. In accordance with the styles encountered, we can see that artists belonging to Scarsellino's entourage worked side by side, re-working models prepared by the master. If the figure that holds the Hortus Conclusus [enclosed garden] can be likened to Scarsellino's Santa Barbara (now in Avignon) due to the facial features and drapery style, the characters identified by the inscription Quasi Palma and Plantatio Rosae can certainly be traced to the youthful production of Bononi. We can surmise that this collaboration could have taken place between the second half of the first decade and afterwards.