Art Collecting and Ferrara

Written by  Lucio Scardino
The latest books in the series.
The Fondo sul collezionismo ferrarese is not a series in the canonical sense of the term: the books produced so far have been presented in different formats by different publishers, but they are all serious studies of Ferrara's cultural heritage, its dispersion and its albeit partial rediscovery. The first two books (the catalogue of the exhibition La leggenda del collezionismo and Quadri da stimarsi) were published in 1996.

A book with direct links to the latter publication is Inventari d'arte. Documenti su 10 quadrerie ferraresi del XIX secolo, a carefully researched work on ten collections in the period spanning Napoleonic rule and the first World War. The suppression of churches and monasteries brought hundreds of paintings on to the market, which made it possible to put together some important collections such as the Barbi Cinti (a good 585 works) and the Nagliati.

At the end of the Restoration period (during which the Saroli Lombardi collection was assembled), we come to the Unification of Italy: leading figures of the post unification bourgeoisie were men such as the industrious Antonio Santini and Giuseppe Cavalieri, who assembled remarkable art collections later broken up during the first fifteen years of the Twentieth century. One of their contemporaries was the painter Enea Vendeghini, who put together a collection of pictures made up of Gothic-Renaissance works that were small in size but of great artistic value, some of which he purchased from the Barbi Cinti heirs and from Girolamo Scutellari.
The book deals in depth with these episodes in art collecting and gives hitherto unpublished inventories and manuscripts regarding the collections, as well as papers, expertises and reports that help to reveal the history of the collections and that of the diaspora of Ferrara's cultural heritage. The book does not include two renowned collections, the Costabili and the Sacrati Strozzi, for whom separate monographic studies are planned.

Emanuele Mattaliano, who died in 1991, was working on the Costabili collection and had traced many of the pictures from it with the idea of compiling a catalogue raisonnée. His meritorious research, although unfinished, had already produced some remarkable results; the publication will constitute an extremely useful inventory for the reconstruction of a collection of almost legendary proportions and quality.

The reconstruction of the collection put together by the marquis Massimiliano Strozzi Sacrati will be made possible by publishing family documents, diaries, and inventories now in the State Archives in Florence; in fact work is already in progress in this direction. In the meantime the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio has published a study, edited by Barbara Tortora and Carlo Vietti, called I Sacrati Strozzi a Ferrara.
In the summer of 1997 the Fondazione also published an edition of an important manuscript: Guida per la città e i borghi di Ferrara in cinque giornate by Giuseppe Antenore Scalabrini. This is a book that investigates the collecting phenomenon at the source, so to speak. In fact Scalabrini wrote his text between 1775 and 1770, that is before the despoliation of the city's churches began. The information provided by this Eighteenth century scholar regarding altar-pieces and church decorations will facilitate the task of drawing up the genealogy of the works of art.

A publication of directly scholastic origin is Sant'Andrea: Splendori, decadenza e scomparsa. Dall'oblio alla memoria, still in the process of being printed. The book springs from a research project carried out by the pupils of class II F of the Dante Alighieri secondary school, which was built about thirty years ago in the area once occupied by the ancient church of Sant'Andrea.

Co-ordinated by teachers Fiorella Longhini and Luisa Giacometti, the pupils investigated the history of the church, of which some ruins remain, and reconstructed its collection of pictures, which included works by Dosso, Garofalo, Panetti, Coltellini, Bastarolo, Scarsellino, and Bononi, today dispersed among various museums and private collections.
One single, emblematic example: the panels with Santa Lucia and Sant'Apollonia by Coltellini went from the church to the Barbi Cinti collection and thence to the Santini and finally to the Cavalieri collection. Today they are lost.