A secular decorative scheme from Eighteenth century Ferrara

Written by  Pamela Volpi
Frescoes from Giuseppe Facchinetti and Francesco Pellegrini in the Palazzo Riminaldi.
In December 1708, the records tell us, Francesco Ferrari was struck down by a fever which killed him just while he and his nephew Giovanni Battista were supervising the decoration of a set of rooms in Count Oroboni's palazzo on via della Ghiara (now via XX Settembre). Two rooms on the main floor of the palazzo are still decorated with frescos. In the first, there remain only a few fragments of a frieze featuring a series of medallions framing winged cherubs brandishing swords, sticks and banners.

However, in the second, a small corner room, the frescos cover the entire vault, which appears to be in gilded wood; a central medallion features a winged female figure, possibly Ceres, holding a lighted torch and scattering flowers. The walls are also covered, with vases of flowers in painted niches, three trompe-l'oeil paintings, probably repainted later, and a medallion above the door depicting Solicitude.

A period of training in Ferrari's studio was a compulsory step for Ferrara painters in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. These artists included the famous Girolamo Mengozzi Colonna (Ferrara, 1686 - Verona [?], 17774), who was the preferred companion of Giambattista Tiepolo. Giuseppe Facchinetti (Ferrara, 1694-1777) also learned the art of perspective and ornamentation from Anton Felice Ferrari, the son of Francesco, and undoubtedly exceeded his master in skill, updating his own methods with the most modern techniques from Bologna.

Of the still-extant buildings in Ferrara which still contain frescos in the style of Facchinetti, the Palazzo Riminaldi at via Cairoli 44 contains works which can safely be attributed to him: the perspective and decoration in four rooms on the main floor of the palazzo.

In 1763, on the death of his father Ercole Antonio, Giammaria Riminaldi came to Ferrara to organise the settlement of the inheritance among his three brothers, assuming at the same time responsibility for managing the family estate.
Just before returning to Rome he commissioned his brother Alfonso, in a memorandum in his own hand headed Instructions for Count Alfonso, to supervise the modernisation works to the town house.

The memorandum specified the arrangement of the rooms in his own apartment and the public oratory on the same side of the palazzo, no longer existing. The only decorations that received the prelate's attention were those in the audience chamber.

Facchinetti, expressly appointed, had to choose his own collaborators and his choice fell on the figure painter Francesco Pellegrino (Ferrara, 1707-1799), alongside whom he had worked extensively throughout the preceding decade.

 On 28 January 1944, bombing destroyed the wing of the Palazzo Riminaldi facing the current via Bersaglieri del Po.

However, the rooms in what was known during the 18th century as the "Teatini apartment", overlooking the Teatini Fathers' buildings, survived the bombardment.
On the ceilings of three of these surviving rooms, Pellegrini had painted a few allegorical crudely composed figures in the setting rovided by his collaborator, etched against a uniform sky or reclining against the trompe l'oeil architectural surround.

Facchinetti's decorations are also below his usual high standard of skill and imagination, maybe because of the nature of the commission, which in accordance with Monsignor Riminaldi's Instruction had to be completed in a short time and at limited cost.