Maccagno con Pino e Veddasca - Saturday, 20 July 2024

T The Exhibits

Bernardino Luini: A return

Bernardino Luini: A return
A rare Madonna del latte / The Virgin Nurses the Child (1512-15) to celebrate the Luini ‘myth’

The exhibition celebrates and retraces, around the important painting Madonna del Latte (courtesy Romigioli Antichità, Legnano), the myth of Bernardino Luini focussing on the painter’s deep connection with his home territory. Almost fifty years ago, in 1975, the town of Luino – then believed to be his birthplace - dedicated to him the remarkable exhibition The Sacred and the Profane in the Paintings of Bernardino Luini. In 1993 however, more than forty years ago, studies by Vittorio Pini and Grazioso Sironi based on careful research were able to retrace the painter's provenance to Dumenza (on the hills above the Civico Museo 'Parisi Valle') and his family of origin (Scappi or Scapi). They also reconstructed the modest economic status of the family and Bernardino himself: greengrocers who ran a stall in Piazza Duomo in Milan.
The Madonna del Latte is presented for the first time in a museum after its return to Italy. Thanks to the technical-stylistic analysis of Pietro C. Marani (one of Luini's greatest experts), it can be dated between 1512 and 1515. The painting well expresses the ‘very human and refined universe’ that the painter was developing in those years in easel painting around the theme of the Madonna and Child. The subject is rendered with the unique ‘brilliant and precious painting technique’ (Quattrini) that would guarantee his work growing and long-lasting fame. Indeed, “no Lombard painter has ever been loved as much as Luini, and from the time of their production until the middle of the 20th century, Luini's Madonnas were objects of veneration. How many generations prayed in front of those images and found comfort in that expressive balance, apparently natural, but in reality achieved through 'long study'" (Agosti, Stoppa).
The Luini 'myth' has been fuelled over the centuries, and the rare signatures at the foot of the works - BERNARDINUS LOVINUS, in Como Cathedral, in 1517-18 – encouraged suppositions about his possible birth in Luino or the surrounding area. Already at the beginning of the 17th century, the Milanese historian Paolo Morigia associated the painter with the Luini family of Luino despite of its very different, noble background. At that time, Cardinal Federico Borromeo was realising the idea of a library/museum in Milan open to the public (today the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana).including works by, among others, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian and his beloved Luini
In the 19th century, the Luini-cult reached its zenith. Stendhal in 1828 and Balzac in 1838 were enchanted by the frescoes in the Saronno Sanctuary. In 1862, John Ruskin copied some of the saints in S. Maurizio at the Monastero Maggiore in Milan, thereby supplying a blueprint for the nascent Pre-Raphaelite period; and he found Luini 'ten times greater than Leonardo'. The same frescoes inspired Gustave Moreau to a much more disturbing imagery in 1858. The international diffusion of Luini's works through elegant prints contributed to the artistic development of that century. Luini enchanted with his Madonnas, but also with the enigmatic, hieratic Transport of the Body of Saint Catherine frescoed in the villa 'La Pelucca' near Milan. Among his admirers was also Proust: in 1919 he compared the profile of Swann, the protagonist of the cycle of the Search for Lost Time, to the head of a 'charmant Roi Mage' by Luini, probably seen in the Louvre.
The antiquarian market was flourishing: in 1859 Queen Victoria tried in vain to buy the monumental polyptych preserved in the basilica of Legnano (1523-25). It is one of Luini's masterpieces fortunately documented in the exhibition by an unpublished Angel Musician on panel (c. 1540), modelled on the angel at the feet of the Madonna. It would soon become an autonomous subject: such was the fame the polyptych had gained right after its completion.
In the meantime, numerous studies and monographs were published and Luini’s possible birth in Luino became a hopeful aspiration: in 1862-65, the house of his presumed birth was identified in the old town (here in a watercolour from the Musei Civici di Varese). In the 20th century, a project, only partly realised, was launched for a monument to the painter in the town centre.

Maccagno, Civico Museo Parisi Valle 23 marzo 2024 – 30 giugno 2024

Organization and Coordination:
Civico Museo “Parisi-Valle”

Scientific Collaboration:
Gabriella Badi, Federico Crimi

Romigioli Antichità, Legnano

Big-Broker Insurance Group

Comune di Dumenza (VA)
Comune di Luino (VA)
Comune di Gambarogno (Canton Ticino, CH)

Poster (click to enlarge)



Immagini della mostra (click per ingrandire)


Progetto scientifico

Per informazioni: + 39 0332 561202
Civico Museo “Parisi Valle”
Via Leopoldo Gianpaolo 1
21061 Maccagno con Pino e Veddasca (Va).

Opening time

15.00 - 19.00
Saturday and Sunday:
10.00 - 12.00 / 15.00 - 19.00

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Civico Museo Parisi Valle
via Leopoldo Giampaolo 1
21061 Maccagno con Pino e Veddasca
tel. +039 0332 561202

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