The church and convent della Calza, with a Last Supper by Franciabigio

Just inside the ancient gate of Porta Romano, lies a simple church and attached convent (in Italy, convent can mean monastery or convent or both) dating to the 13th century. An almost unknown (relatively speaking, at least, to the hordes of tourists who descend on Florence every year) masterpiece of  Renaissance paintings is housed here: a beautiful cenacolo, or a painting of The Last Supper. Florence is so fortunately rich in these frescoed depictions of that fateful dinner.

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The church dedicated to San Giovanni Battista, in Piazza della Calza, was founded as a hospital in 1362.  There were once many oratories, hospitals and shelters for pilgrims and travelers along the present via Senese and via Romana. These were major roads leading to Florence.

At the end of the 14th century, the convent was established by the Gerosolimitan nuns. They commissioned Franciabigio to paint The Last Supper in 1514 in their refectory. Unfortunately, the sisters soon had to leave the hospital, during the 1529 siege of Florence.

The nuns were replaced in 1531 by Jesuati friars (not Jesuits) who changed the dedication of the church from Hospital of Saint John the Baptist  to San Giusto. They  used the hospital as a charity for children, an ecclesiastic boarding-house, and eventually as a seminary. The church and the convent became known by the name “della calza” (sock) which was a name derived from the long white hoods that the monks wore over their left shoulders. The hood was shaped like a sock and the name stuck.

The picture below is not authentically one of the della calza habits, but it shows the shape of the hood and how it was worn.

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From this nickname of “the sock” came the name of the church, the convent, and even the square.

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The true hidden gem kept inside is the Cenacolo by Franciabigio, still preserved in the ancient refectory.

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Mother Superior Antonia de’ Medici entrusted Francesco di Cristofano, called Franciabigio (1482-1525), to portray a specific scene, during the Last Supper, just after Christ says: “Truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

Franciabigio thus knowing, deep sadness in the countenance of Christ. Judas, the only figure on the outer side of the table, reacts strongly to the words of Jesus: his sudden movement causes his wooden stool to tip over. All around the table, the expressions of the Apostles register various states of confusion.

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One can notice each reaction and recognize each Apostle because the artist added their names, painted along the strip which runs above their heads. The painter added here the date A(nno) S(alutis) MDXIIII (A.D. 1514) and his signature, through a twisted shortened monogram (FRAC).

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On the painted floor, you can even distinguish the name of the Mother Superior Antonia (SVORA AN), marked on the lower left side, under the table, between the second and third Apostle.

Franciabigio carefully fashioned magnificient details; along the fine linen tablecloth you see ceramic jugs, breadrolls, glasses with red wine, and sliced watermelon. Some of the jugs feature the typical Medici coat-of-arms (the one with the red spheres) referring to Mother Superior Antonia and the Red Cross of the Order of Knights of Malta to whom the nuns originally belonged.

Giorgio Vasari describes (Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects) how Franciabigio “was very keen on studies of perspective” and human anatomy. We see that throughout and especially in the accurate position of the wooden shutters painted along the wall.

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A fascinating contrast is given by the dark green wall and the light of the crystal clear sky in the background, where the painter depicted the old Florentine town walls (the destroyed gate of San Pier Gattolino).

For the Jubilee in 2000, the fresco was restored.

Just a quick word about the Church of San Giovanni Battista della Calza:

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My quick walk through the church introduced me to this arresting sculpture near the entrance to the small church.

I was alone in the church and had free rein to poke around.  In a small room off the church itself I noticed an amazing della Robbia fountain.  You never know what treasures you will happen upon in this fascinating city.

And, finally, I can’t leave this post without mentioning that, depict the austerity of this church, some major paintings were once a part of the church.  They are now in the Uffizi:

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Ginevra Cantofoli, who are you?

On a recent visit to Padova, I was arrested by some paintings in the Museo Civici, both done by Ginevra Cantofoli.  I vowed to write a post on this intriguing painter, and here it is.  It isn’t much…I hope someday to add more.

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All I can add right now is this info from Wiki:

Ginevra Cantofoli
Born 1618

Bologna, Italy
Died 1672 (aged 53–54)
Nationality Italian
Known for Painting
Movement Baroque

Ginevra Cantofoli (1618–1672) was an Italian painter. She was active in the Baroque period.

Scena Allegorica. Date unknown.

Cantofoli was born in Bologna, Italy in 1618.

Cantfoli received her training as an artist from Elisabetta Sirani in Bologna. She painted works for several churches. These works included a Last Supper for the Church of San Procolo, a St. Thomas of Villanova for San Giacomo Maggiore, and a St. Apollonia for the Church of La Morte.

The Roman fashion house of the Sorelle Fontana

The Sorelle Fontana fashion house was founded in Rome in 1943 by three sisters and Italian designers: Zoe Fontana (1911-1979), Micol Fontana (1913-2015) and Giovanna Fontana (1915-2004).  I recently posted about their designs for Rita Hayworth in The Barefoot Contessa (1954).

There’s a fair amount of information available in the public sphere online, including on Youtube.

https://youtu.be/GPqq6UZy4B8

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=sorelle+fontana

https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/sorelle-fontana-dressing-the-stars-fondazione-micol-fontana/7AKCMfe6fhxiIQ?hl=en

 

 

 

The actual atelier is featured in  Luciano Emmer’s film Le ragazze di Piazza di Spagna. The film was shot in the Sorelle Fontana’s atelier near Piazza di Spagna in Rome.

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Above: Lucia Bosè and Zoe Fontana in Le ragazze di Piazza di Spagna. 

 

 

Below: Anita Ekberg, testimonial of first perfume “Glory by Fontana” with Zoe Fontana.

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Below: Raquel Welch, female costar in Eduardo De Filippo’s movie Spara forte più forte, wears Sorelle Fontana designs.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinecittà

Rita Hayworth in The Barefoot Contessa; gowns by Sorelle Fontana

In 1954, the film The Barefoot Contessa was released, starring Rita Hayworth and Humphrey Bogart.  I just watched the film on Amazon.it and loved it just for the settings and costumes.  The fashion house of the Sorelle Fontana provided the gorgeous costumes worn by Hayworth and some of the other characters.

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The Sorelle Fontana fashion house was founded in Rome in 1943 by three sisters and Italian designers: Zoe Fontana (1911-1979), Micol Fontana (1913-2015) and Giovanna Fontana (1915-2004).  I’ll be posting strictly about the fashion house soon.

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The Barefoot Contessa is considered one of director/producer Mankiewicz’s most glamorous “Hollywood” films, but it was produced out of Cinecittà Studios in Rome, Italy. The exterior scenes were shot at Tivoli (the olive grove), Sanremo, and Portofino. The film’s Italian production was part of the “Hollywood on the Tiber” phenomenon.

 

The Saturday Review called Ava Gardner “one of the most breathtaking creatures on earth.”  It is hard to disagree.

 

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I took a bunch of screen shots of the film to illustrate this post. The pictures aren’t great, but the costumes are.

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Mary Shelley in Florence

Mary Shelley, wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley and author of Frankenstein, wrote of Brunelleschi’s Gates of Paradise in Florence: “Let us turn to the gates of the Battistero, worthy of Paradise. Here we view all that man can achieve of beautiful in sculpture, when his conceptions rise to the height of grace, majesty, and simplicity. Look at these, and a certain feeling of exalted delight will enter at your eyes and penetrate your heart.”

Jones, Ted. Florence and Tuscany: A Literary Guide for Travellers (The I.B.Tauris Literary Guides for Travellers) (pp. 24-25). I.B.Tauris. Kindle Edition.

Celebrating women art patrons: Tōfukumon’in, Empress Consort of Japan

Tōfukumon’in (1607–1678)
Empress Consort of Japan

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Following more than a century of civil war in Japan, Empress Tōfukumon’in played a pivotal role in shaping culture and aesthetic tastes in the peaceful Edo period. Tōfukumon’in used her endowment from Tokugawa leadership to rebuild prominent Kyoto temples and collect art by her era’s leading artisans. She dabbled in creative endeavors herself, writing poetry and experimenting with calligraphy, and she was particularly interested in fashion and textiles.

Together with her husband, Gomizunoo, Tōfukumon’in fostered more direct relationships between the imperial family and artisans. The empress collected pottery by famed ceramicist Nonomura Ninsei, paintings by Tosa Mitsunobu, and works by other prominent artists and workshops of the day, like Tawaraya Sōtsatu and the Kano and Tosa schools. Her chambers featured artworks that mingled classical styles with contemporary scenes featuring warrior figures and commoners.

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Among her most notable commissions are six painted screens by court painter Tosa Mitsuoki that together comprise Flowering Cherry and Autumn Maples with Poem Slips (1654–81). Against the golden silk backdrop, the artist rendered slips of medieval poetry dangling from finely wrought leaves. The work merges Tōfukumon’in’s interests in literature and painting, and also represents the royal couple’s quest for cultural influence in an era when the feudal shogunate increasingly wrestled control from the imperial family.