Art in Umbria

On the traces of Benozzo Gozzoli

In Orvieto, Montefalco and Narni to discover Benozzo Gozzoli's paintings.

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Tourist information and welcome office
Piazza Duomo 24 - 05018 Orvieto
Tourist information and welcome office
Via Cassian Bon, 4 - 05100 Terni
Tourist information and welcome office
Corso Cavour 126 - 06034 Foligno
Benozzo Gozzoli is one of the big protagonists of the Italian Renaissance painting. 

He was born in Florence at around 1420 and was pupil of Lorenzo Ghiberti and Beato Angelico, with whom he collaborated to make different works at the Vatican, for then reaching Umbria, where, together with his master he started to fresco the Saint Brizio's Chapel within the Orvieto's Cathedral. To conclude his work it will be decisive the closing intervention of Luca Signorelli.

In 1450 he was called in Montefalco from Franciscan friars, for whom he decorated the Monastery of Saint Fortunato. Few years later, Fra Jacopo da Montefalco, theologian and preacher, offered him to make the frescos of the Saint Francis' Church about the theme of the identification between Saint Francis and Jesus Christ. Frescos within the church (today a church-museum) were made in 1452 and encase entirely the central apsis. In the apsis' jambs, on the right and the left, two scrolls bear the name of the artist and the committer with this praise "Qualis sit pictor prefectus inspice tector". On the central apsis, the famous cycle of the Saint Francis life's histories, frescos that sanctioned the first extraordinary proof that Benozzo Gozzoli definitely reached the status of independent artist.

To make scenes more understandable by his peers, Benozzo used, whilst painting, references which were contemporaries for his time, such as architectures and characteristic landscapes of his epoch. Histories develop along twelve squares on the walls divided by six small pillars proceeding on the vault's ridges. The episodes of Saint Francis' life are 19 and don't respect intentionally the chronological order of events, since Fra Bonaventura (Saint Francis' biographer) authorized this kind of narration to stimulate a thematic approach to the Saint's life. Episodes end however with Saint Francis in the sky together with five saints belonging to the Order in Glory among angels.

Benozzo Gozzoli's work has been considerably damaged by the 1997's earthquake, but it came back to the ancient splendor thanks to the restoration's works in 2000. La "Madonna della Cintola" is owned by the Vatican Picture-Gallery, but it's useful to remember that the big altarpiece, recently renovated thanks to the Montefalco's administration and exhibited in a temporary on-site exhibition, has been painted exactly in Montefalco.

Another important Benozzo Gozzoli's work is located in Narni and we are talking about "The annunciation". In this painting it is possible to observe the Gabriel Archangel and the Virgin Mary wrapped by the light: in all the painting it is possible to see the unmistakable hand of Benozzo Gozzoli that conveys the divine presence through a delicate game of lights and colors. Today the painting is located inside the Eroli Museum, but it comes from the Dominican Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Narni