Madonna della Pappa, Guido Mazzoni, Duomo di Modena

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Terracotta art in Bologna and Modena

Updated on 14 November 2022 From Bologna Welcome

Terracotta is perhaps the most-debated and most widely used material over time among master modelers in Bologna and Modena. Originally underappreciated because of its perishability compared to other materials and often in use in the devotional sphere, and therefore very much linked to popular culture, it was later reevaluated for its ability to portray the most intense human feelings. 

Bologna's flagship is Niccolò dell'Arca's Lamentation Over the Dead Christ, in the Church of Santa Maria della Vita, a life-size sculptural group paralyzing the beholder's eye. The great poet Gabriele D'Annunzio once called it the "Stone Scream", perfectly describing the intensity of the grief over human loss.

Another interpretation of the same work, yet in contrast to Niccolò Dall'Arca, bears the signature of Alfonso Lombardi, who downplays the anguished tones of the scene by depicting grief in a somewhat more tempered manner. The work is located in St. Peter's Cathedral and has for years been subject to studies on its real attribution because of Lombardi's different interpretation given to the famous sculptural group Transito della Vergine, housed inside the Oratory of Santa Maria della Vergine in the city centre.

In terms of realism, the 15th century Modenese artist Guido Mazzoni portrays his subjects in their full physicality, as is evident in two of his masterpieces, the Lamentation over the Dead Christ inside the Church of San Giovanni Battista and the Madonna della Pappa conserved in the Cathedral of Modena

Antonio Begarelli, on the other hand, favoured a more rational and harmonious representation of beauty that could convey universal emotions. His works Madonna di Piazza in the Hall of Sacred Art within Modena's Civic Museum and The Lamentation over the Dead Christ in the Church of Sant'Agostino, as well as the Deposition in the Church of San Francesco and the several sculptures in the Abbey of San Pietro in Modena, fill the beholder with wonder.

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