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In memory of Berenice

Written by  Giovanni Sassu

A silent protagonist of the cultural life of Ferrara

 Berenice Giovannucci Vigi passed away on March 16th this year. Emilian history of art scholar and teacher at the Dosso Dossi school, for the last thirty years Bernice has been an important figure in the cultural life of Ferrara. Who had the good fortune to know her could not help but be struck by her extraordinary energy, her irrepressible desire to get things done, by the urgency of sharing her passion and love for art.

Born in Bologna in August 1947, where she graduated in 1974, she arrived in Fer- rara the following year, when she married her beloved husband Vittorio. As previously mentioned, the professional life of Berenice shifted between two levels that often intersected: her work as a teacher of history of art and that of an art historian.

Berenice devoted her passion and determination to both areas, convinced that the pri- mary function of the art historian was to communicate and make beauty known to others, to preserve the historical and artistic heritage of our country, to convey the emotions that great masterpieces give us and, at the same time, to rediscover and relive experiences of works or lives of artists that were less highly considered.

She dealt with subjects that had often been forgotten, rediscovering little-known or obscure topics. In painting she gave preference to investigating aspects of sacred art from the seven- teenth and eighteenth centuries, tracing the history of painting of the Este churches after the devolution. Mention must be made of her more renowned studies on figurative art in Emilia, like those of Giuseppe Antonio Ghedini, on the iconography of the crucified Christ in seventeenth century Ferrara, on Rosary art in Emilia, Guercino and Cento and the painter from Cento, Marco Zoppo. Her valuable research into the landscape artist from Lombardy, Giuseppe Zola, was greatly appreciated. Her other passion was 'miniatura' art, first rediscovering the importance of the artist Jacopo Filippo d'Argenta in an essay written in 1983, subsequently published in the well-known magazine «La Bibliofilia».

Sculpture from Ferrara was another of her great loves, on which she wrote the book Scultura e scultori a Ferrara: 1598 - 1796, published in 2004 with the support of the Fondazione Carife.

But it is with the Cathedral and its ancient history, conserved in the Museum, that the name of Berenice Giovannucci Vigi is linked in two ways. She wrote a guide to the Cathedral, but it was the Cathedral Museum that was the focus of her unremit- ting academic research. For nearly two decades she represent- ed its historical memory, and was the supreme connoisseur. She fought strenuously for its appraisal and, for more than ten years, assumed the role of tireless animator of its cultural activities. A long-standing love that blossomed from when she was a girl, prompting her, freshly graduated, to prepare an introductory book on the masterpieces of the Museum. This work became the text in the first modern guide to this institution. In 1989 she published the first scientific catalogue of the Cathedral Museum, a volume that has enabled generations of scholars to approach the magnificent 'fearfulness' of San Giorgio e il drago by Tura, the naturalism of Maestro dei Mesi, Karcher's hagiographic tapestries featuring St. Maurilius and St. George, the powerful grace of the Madonna della Melagrana by Jacopo della Quercia.

Berenice dedicated her life to the Cathedral Museum. Confirmed by the fact that her last effort was to promote, implement and complete the new scientific catalogue of the collections.

For this, her last labour, she not only wanted established scholars at her side but also young researchers, convinced that science and history can only move forward through dialogue and comparison with new generations.