Vincenzo Foppa. Saint John the Baptist and Saint Stephen
27 September 2022 / 05 February 2023
While the Banner of Orzinuovi is temporarily hosted in the exhibition that the Orcean city has planned to celebrate its memory, Room II of the Pinacoteca hosts alongside its masterpieces these two tables of the BPER collection, They are also attributable to the more mature phase of the painter and therefore to a Brescia origin.
Comune di Brescia, Fondazione Brescia Musei, Alleanza Cultura, BPER Banca
The two tables representing Saint John the Baptist and Saint Stephen are elements of a dismembered polyptych whose identity has not yet been recognized and of which they seem to be the only surviving testimony. The first panel, originally placed to the left of the central element, which may have been a Madonna and Child, depicts Saint John the Baptist with the usual rustic tunic and a red mantle placed on his shoulders, resting on an arm. With his left hand he holds a slender and long cross that he himself points to as a sign of the coming of Christ, as well as viaticum to his next and violent end. The other panel, already placed to the right of the main one, shows the protomartyr Stephen, recognizable for the rich dalmatic woven of gold and silk over the white tunic, which holds in its hands the book of the Gospel and the palm of martyrdom. According to the legend of the saint, Stephen suffered martyrdom by stoning, and therefore is recognizable for the stones that are normally associated as a specific attribute, here visible one on the head and one on the shoulder. Both saints are depicted outdoors, against the background of a Po landscape that had to connect and unify all the tables of the polyptych. The particular chromatic timbre of the greyish incarnations and the essentiality of the figures are elements of style that lead to a very late dating of these two panels in Foppa’s production, to be placed around 1510, suggesting useful comparisons with the so-called Pala dei Mercanti (1505-1510) and with the Banner of Orzinuovi (1514).
The two paintings are to be read as a prelude to the gentle shyness and melancholy of the figures of Moretto.