Fresco at Castello di Masnago

#1
Here is a photo of a fresco in the Castello di Masnago. (Lombardy, first half 15th c.)
I imagine someone must have published this elsewhere, but I found it in the book: "Gli Affreschi Quattrocenteschi Del Castello Di Masnago", Credito Varesino, 1967. (In Italian)

It is notable in that it is a very late example of the International Gothic style, which was quite out of fashion by the 15th century. Yet it is still employed here, perhaps looking back to the glory days of the aristocratic court.

This scene is found on the first floor, among other scenes of people engaged in everyday courtly leisure activities.

The upstairs set is composed of scenes of the vices and virtues. Notable in that these subjects are depicted as everyday people of court, rather than mythical figures of antiquity.

The caption reads: "la partita a tarocchi, già a Masnago, ora a Roma, collezione privata". (The game of tarocchi, already in Masnago, now in Rome, private collection.) The black and white image is captioned as "Tracia dell'affresco con la partita a tarocchi" (Tracing of the fresco of a game of tarocchi)

A footnote within the text says that the color photo illustrates the original painting that has been torn from the wall, and now (1967) resides in a private collection in Rome. The black and white photo shows how much of the original tracing is left on the wall fresco at Masnago.

Think about the Cary sheet when you look at this.

Among other things, I find both the choice of, and the division of subjects interesting, as they are presented in the building.
Also, the use of an almost obsolete art style to depict these subjects. It is a look back, rather than ahead.
And the depiction of ancient subjects within everyday people of court.

The idea of playing cards in a boat-
Perhaps I will return to that on another day.

ETA:
PS- I know there are no trump cards shown in the painting.
PartySm.jpg
TracesSm.jpg
I am not a cannibal.

Re: Fresco at Castello di Masnago

#2
O.P. : "It is notable in that it is a very late example of the International Gothic style, which was quite out of fashion by the 15th century. Yet it is still employed here, perhaps looking back to the glory days of the aristocratic court"

* Late example of Gothic ??? : " t is notable in that it is a very late example of the International Gothic style"

* at 15th century ????????????????????????????????????????

--Please see the art,lines...
These is pure pre-Italy renaissance !
The Universe is like a Mamushka.

Re: Fresco at Castello di Masnago

#3
Superb discovery OP! This image should be contemporary with the more famous "partita a tarocchi" in the Palazzo Borromeo in Milan. The dating of mid-15th century is definitely due to the clothing - particularly the "balzo" headress of the ladies. This puts it square in the 1440s.

The two fresco cycles most pictured from this castle are the Sala degli Svaghi (where ours is) and theSala dei vizi e delle virtù.
http://www.istitutosup-gavirate.it/stud ... iconog.htm

There are so many of these little out of the way towns in Italy with vast iconographic treasures.

It's true that only "pips" are shown, so it is not certainly a tarot - the same is true of Borromeo. But I will happily include it along with Borromeo in my chart showing the early evidence arranged chronologically and geographically.

BTW, the "International Gothic" style actually was actually fashionable everywhere but Florence (more or less) at this time.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Gothic

Thanks VERY much for bringing it to our attention.

Ross
Image

Re: Fresco at Castello di Masnago

#4
A further point to be appreciated -

Secular fresco cycles - those which depict stories not from the bible or hagiographies - are rare, not many have survived. They often show contemporary events or even if not contemporary, the people in them are dressed contemporary and are doing contemporary things. The most famous secular cycle is probably the Hall of the Months in the Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara.

It's in these secular cycles, showing quotidian things, that we can expect to find images of card players (and in illuminations showing contemporary events as well). There is no reason to show card players in a church or a religious cycle, unless somebody thought to put cards in the hands of notorious sinners like the Roman soldiers who played for Jesus' robe (usually shown with dice, but there is a church in Germany that shows cards too, from the 16th century I believe). But in general religious subjects are the wrong place to look for images of card players or images of cards.

So we should appreciate the rarity of this image that One Potato found - I know of only a handful of others in the 15th century - the Palazzo Borromeo, the Roccabianca frescoes (see Kaplan II, p. 7 for a b/w image - it is now in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan), Issogne Castle in the Val d'Aosta (the set of people 2nd from the right are drinking, and one is holding what looks to be a pack of cards - I'll have to scan you a better image than Kaplan II, p. 3). Besides these fresco cycles, to which we can now add the Sala degli Svaghi in Masnago, there are a couple of painted porcelain plates from Ferrara, a few illuminations and woodcuts. After printing began in earnest in the late 15th century, of course woodcuts multiply.
Image

Re: Fresco at Castello di Masnago

#6
Thank you OnePotato. This fresco is exceptional and the other frescos in the castle seem very interesting too. It's a pity that the playing cards fresco has been sold to a private and is now in Rome :( We Italians have never been very smart in managing our historical beauties.


About the boat, from google maps it is clear that the castle is in a region full of lakes (near Varese)
http://maps.google.it/maps?f=q&source=s ... 6&t=k&z=10
So I would think that the boat is sailing on the lake and that the players are not properly travelling, but just looking for fresh air on the lake during a summer day :)
Everything is very charming.
It seems that the castle has a collection of contemporary art on display. I think I will go and have a look ;)

Marco

Re: Fresco at Castello di Masnago

#7
Thank you Ross for the additional info.
I had a feeling that since it had been removed to a private collection some time ago, it might not be as well known.

From the dustjacket summary of the book, Gli Affreschi Quattrocenteschi Del Castello Di Masnago:
"...Towards the middle of the (15th) century, the international Gothic style was fading, but just because it was "in extremis" aristocratic taste, unmindful of passing time, celebrated its last triumphs. The frescoes of Monza and those in the Palazzo Borromeo in Milan bear witness to the survival of this taste in which a still vital, exquisite decorative refinement compensates for the empty exhibition of a wild luxury and an ever narrowing sphere of vague sentiments."

And from the website: (Translated by babelfish. If someone knows Italian, please feel free to clean it up, especially toward the end.)
"...Above all the taste to reproduce faithfully dressed and hairdos, objects and ornament, to the point that these it frescoes of Masnago - thus rare for their “profane” topic - are for us an extraordinary testimony of the fashion and the short life of a Lombardic small (court) in the first half of the 1400's, where time has been stopped, and where the beautiful fables can still live again. In both it knows to them acknowledges them the style of shops late-gotiche, unaware of of the innovations humanistic and already rinascimentali, and neighbors instead to that “international” pittorico language that tied the (Po?) courts to those boeme it resists, them French to those renane...."

"...oprattutto il gusto di riprodurre fedelmente vestiti e acconciature, oggetti e ornamenti, al punto che questi affreschi di Masnago - così rari per il loro tema "profano" - sono per noi una straordinaria testimonianza della moda e della vita di una piccola corte lombarda nella prima metà del Quattrocento, dove il tempo si è fermato, e dove le favole belle possono ancora rivivere. In entrambe le sale si riconosce lo stile di botteghe tardo-gotiche, ignare delle innovazioni umanistico e già rinascimentali, e vicine invece a quel linguaggio pittorico "internazionale" che legava le corti padane a quelle boeme, le regge francesi a quelle renane..."
I am not a cannibal.

Re: Fresco at Castello di Masnago

#8
Hi Marco.

Yes, it is unfortunate that it is not still viewable in its original home, but we should still be happy that it survives at all!

The leisurely boatride idea is very interesting.
It's not a journey from Point A to Point B that is depicted,
but rather a circular journey from Point A to...... Point A!
(Rather like a game of cards.)

I am wondering what the guy in the back of the boat is pointing at.
Could the right side of the compostition be missing?
marco wrote:Thank you OnePotato. This fresco is exceptional and the other frescos in the castle seem very interesting too. It's a pity that the playing cards fresco has been sold to a private and is now in Rome :( We Italians have never been very smart in managing our historical beauties.


About the boat, from google maps it is clear that the castle is in a region full of lakes (near Varese)
http://maps.google.it/maps?f=q&source=s ... 6&t=k&z=10
So I would think that the boat is sailing on the lake and that the players are not properly travelling, but just looking for fresh air on the lake during a summer day :)
Everything is very charming.
It seems that the castle has a collection of contemporary art on display. I think I will go and have a look ;)

Marco
I am not a cannibal.

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