Edited by Luca Fiorentino

Prolific fresco painters, in particular demand for their excellent organisation of large work sites in the most important Lombard monasteries, Flemish artists constitute a case study and an important turning point for painting at the turn of the 16th century.

Giovanni Mauro was fourteen years younger than Giovanni Battista della Rovere, but collaborated with his brother for many years: for example, on the large paintings in Milan depicting Stories of the Life and Miracles of San Carlo (1602-1603), the important works portraying Stories of Francis at Sacro Monte di Orta (1607- 1608), Stories of the Cistercians in the Milanese abbey of Chiaravalle (1613-1616) and the large Chiari canvases.

These vast works, in which “the simplification of the story, the instructive intent and the pursuit of dramatic effects” (as Simonetta Coppa correctly noted) are exemplary of their style between the late 16th and early 17th centuries1. Their drawing is equally well-known, but in this sphere they are distinguished by very different conceptions: Giovan Battista with his delicate, lezioso, sophisticated lines, still very much tied to 16th century ideas, and Giovanni Mauro more modern and painterly, with more monumental compositions of figures, receptive to the new ideas of the Cerano-Morazzone-Procaccini trio2.

The large drawing presented here offers an excellent sample of Giovanni Mauro’s individual style, very similar to that of Morazzone, although expressed in a patently Lombard key with strong chiaroscuros. The coloured paper creates a colour field that emphasises the technical characteristics of the drawing, executed first in pen with the subsequent addition of dark watercolour washes and, lastly, broad brushstrokes of heightened white bodycolour to lend luminosity to the entire scene.

Giovanni Mauro’s drawing technique is often interpreted as painterly, with its extensive use of the brush in chiaroscuros, and these sheets can thus be compared with often very small and monochromatic paintings intended as models for the presentation of large projects.

1 On the lives of the two brothers see: Leonardo Caviglioli, ad vocem Giovan Battista e Giovan Mauro della Rovere in Dizionario Bibliografico degli italiani, Vol. 37, pp. 340-347;

For the citation in the text see:

Simonetta Coppa, Pittura della realtà e pittura di illustrazione nel Seicento lombardo: il caso dei Fiamminghini, in Il gran teatro del Barocco. I Fiamminghini e i Trionfi dei Santi Faustino e Giovita, catalogue form the exhibition in Brescia, Museo Diocesano, February 6-April 4, 2010, curator Giuseppe Fusari, Roccafranca (Brescia), 2010, p. 20.

2 On both brothers’ drawings see:

Giulio Bora, I disegni di figura, in Il Seicento lombardo. Catalogo dei disegni, libri, stampe, Milan, 1973, nn. 148- 154;

I grandi disegni italiani del ‘600 lombardo all’Ambrosiana, ed. Marco Valsecchi, Cinisello Balsamo (Milan), 1975, nn. 62-67;

I disegni del Codice Resta, critical catalogue entries by Giulio Bora, Cinisello Balsamo (Milan), 1976, nn. 94-95;

Ugo Ruggeri, Disegni lombardi, Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia, Milan, 1982, catalogue entries 92-95 pp. 106-109.

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