In England, art exhibitions at that time were already intend

Written by  Enrico Peverada
The San Paolo monastery in the mid-sixteenth century, Michelangelo, and Cosmè Tura.
A notarial document recently came to light, relating to the bequest of two important works of art to the New Library of the San Paolo monastery in Ferrara, in around the mid-sixteenth century.

The bequest was made by Brother Vittorio, an organist and descendant of the prestigious aristocratic Avogari family. From the fourteenth century the family was allied with the d'Este family; their estates were close to the Castle where they exercised patronage over the Church of San Giuliano.

In 1547 the San Paolo library was considered "new" after considerable works undertaken in 1543; on the 20th of November in the following year, he had signed a contract with the painters Francesco Valides, Giovanni Battista Tartaglia and Marco Preudi to whom the job of painting the new library was entrusted, the completion of which was forecast for 1545. This date also appears on a plaque marking the work done on the library building. It was a relatively widespread practice for libraries to become refined repositories for works of art, as well as for curiosa and old junk. Such was the destiny of Brother Vittorio's legacy.

And so we come to two pieces highlighted in the deed of gift, along with the name of the artists: Michelangelo's Laocoonte and Cosmè's La Carità (Charity).
As far as I am aware, no painting or sculpture with such a theme by Michelangelo has survived. It is well known that the famous marble sculpture known as the Laocoön Group was discovered beneath the ruins of the Baths of Titus in Rome in 1506.
At the request of Pope Julius II, the artist, along with the architect Giuliano da Sangallo, travelled to examine the statues; he also reputedly began to work on an arm that would complete the figure of Laocoön, which was however left unfinished. The object must have been a small bronze, given its mention after the medals and therefore, also compares with the other small objects that appear on the list.

The small bronze reproduction of the original marble was quickly and widely produced. In 1517 the Milanese sculptor Antonio Elia made a small bronze exemplar of the statue, described in a letter to Alfonso I of Este as "the best ever made"; it predates the small bronze statue in the Bargello Museum in Florence and was created after that in Brescia's Civic Museum of Art and History and also after Michael Hal's New York exemplar of 1533 or 1540. In short, the proliferation of reproduction, along with the renown of Michelangelo, who was still alive, could have tempted the good Brother Vittorio to attribute Michelangelo as its creator. But could it have been that Michelangelo perhaps also dabbled in such reproductions. In particular, this could be seen insinuated in a letter from Sebastiano del Piombo to Michelangelo himself on the 3rd of July 1520.

There is no doubt that Cosmè's La Carità with the three cherubs is none other than the depiction of the muse Terpsichore by Cosmè Tura - which has also been dubiously attributed to Angelo Maccagnino, to Cosmè Tura and a collaborator - who had all already adorned Leonello Este's salon in Belfiore with the other muses, and which is now kept in Milan's Poldi Pezzoli Museum.
Scholars have examined the painting and agree that the transformation of the muse Terpsichore from the goddess of dance to a representation of the third theological virtue occurred in the late 18th century. The restoration in 1987 has eliminated the attributions which had been made about her robes indicating virtue. These elements alone would, albeit circumspectly, date the painting back to an earlier period. At this point it would be legitimate to ask oneself if whether, having occurred in the 16th century, they would have found space on Tura's canvas to indicate the name of the new figure.

The definite naming of this painting as Carità was made from the 17th century - prescinding the 16th century document - this would however have dissuaded recent scholars from seeing this painting as one of a series depicting the seasons of which this would be Winter, and therefore having it moved around to several locations: the Court of the Inqusition and the vestry in St. Girolamo. In the mid 19th century it arrived from Ferrara though the polymath antiquarian Filippo Pasini, to Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli's collection, maintaining the name Carità, which continued from the 16th century right up to the last century.

Certainly the route taken by this painting, which once languished in Belfiore's salon, deserves to be entirely re-examined, should this ever be possible. However, one thing of which we can be certain is that, in the mid-sixteenth century, La Carità/Terpsichore certainly passed through the cell of Brother Vittorio, in the Carmelite monastery of San Paolo.

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