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Gaudenzio Ferrari

Painter, Sculptor (male) and Draughtsman

ca. 1475 / 1478 in Valduggia
1546 in Milan

2 Works by Gaudenzio Ferrari


Gaudenzio Ferrari came from a family of artists to which the somewhat older Eusebio and the younger Defendente Ferrari also belonged. He was probably born in the second half of the 1470s in Valduggia in the Piedmont. Little is known of his artistic beginnings; his supposed training under Gian Stefano Scotto cannot be documented, for there are no assuredly identifiable works by the latter. The presumably earliest works attributed to Gaudenzio on the basis of their style reveal the influence of the painting of the Lombards Bramantino and Zenale. The painter is first securely documented in the year 1508 in Vercelli, when he received a commission for a polyptych from that city's Brotherhood of St Anne, Eusebio Ferrari vouching for him as a guarantor. Four panels from that large altarpiece, with scenes from the life of St Anne, a depiction of God the Father, and an Annunciation, are preserved in the Galleria Sabauda in Turin and the National Gallery in London. Gaudenzio set up his workshop in Vercelli for the next three decades. In 1511 he produced a polyptych for the Collegiata S. Maria in Arona, and between 1514 and 1521 another for S. Gaudenzio in Novara. By 1513 he had painted a fresco cycle on the Passion in S. Maria delle Grazie in Varallo, whose depictions are extremely expressive and exceptionally realistic in their details. This is true to an even greater degree of Gaudenzio's works for the Sacro Monte in Vatallo, where he began working in 1517 and around 1522 and 1536 painted the chapels with the Crucifixion and the Adoration of the Kings. Here he combined fresco painting and polychromed clay sculpture, creating highly expressive figural tableaux. At the same time, between 1520 and 1526, Gaudenzio worked on the painting and gilding of a large wooden altarpiece delivered by Giovanni Angelo del Mayno to the Mary shrine in Morbegno. Between 1529 and 1532, the artist worked in S. Cristoforo in Vercelli, where he finished not only an altarpiece, but also frescoes with scenes from the life of the Virgin, the story of Mary Magdalene, and a monumental Crucifixion. These works alone presuppose a large number of assistants, which has led to both attribution and dating problems. Beginning in the early 1530s, Gaudenzio Ferrari repeatedly worked for Lombard patrons. In 1534-36 he produced the fresco decor in the cupola of S. Maria delle Grazie in Saronno, near Milan, whose angelic musicians are among the artist's best-known works. In 1539 at the latest he moved to Milan, where he continued to operate a major workshop up to his death. Its productivity is attested to in part by a large number of surviving cartoons, which also served to further disseminate his pictorial inventions. In 1545 he produced the frescoes with depictions from the lives of the Virgin and St Anne, formerly in Milan's church of S. Maria della Pace and now in the Brera. The late work in Milan increasingly exhibits Mannerist features.

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