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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Lattanzio Gambara

Birth of Christ, 1565, Church of San Faustino in Brescia, Lattanzio Gambara
Today we refer to well-known artists as having careers. That usually means they've studied for years to master one or more aspects of their chosen area of art. They've decided to devote their lives to art. I've written hundreds of biographical pieces having to do with such artists both now and then. They lived for their art. Seldom, if ever, have I come upon at artist who has died for his or her art. It's quiet common for artists to suffer as the result of their creative efforts, but such suffering (despite the stereotype of the "starving artist") is seldom fatal. However several months ago, I came upon the story of an artist who did, actually die painting.
Gloria Celeste, 1566, Saint Stephen's Basilica,
Vimercate, Italy, Lattanzio Gambara
Lattanzio Gambara,
His name was Lattanzio Gambara. He was Italian, born in Brescia, located in the Lombardy section of northern Italy some 58 miles east of Milan. The son of a tailor, Gambara was born about 1530 during the waning days of the High Renaissance, which means he came of age as an artist during what we've come to call the Mannerist era. His training as an apprentice to Giulio Campi in Cremona (a little east of Milan), began when he was a lad of fifteen. Campi and his brothers were painters in a classical style, thus Gambara was saved from the foolishness of Mannerism. At the same time, Campi and his protégé, along with most of the fresco artist in Italy, were heavily influenced by Michelangelo's recently completed Sistine Chapel Last Judg-ment (1541).

Jesus Healing the Sick, Lattanzio Gambara

Study for a Ceiling, 1565-70.
Four years later Gambara returned to Brescia, where he studied under Brescia's most import-ant painter, Girolamo Ro-manino, with whom he later col-laborated, and whose daughter he married in 1556. During the next several years Gambara was kept busy decorating villas, paint-ing altarpieces, and décorating various churches in northern Italy with numerous religious frescoes, consistent with the patron saints of each church. Lattanzio Gam-bara used this drawing (left) as a preparatory study for the ceiling of a monastic church near the Italian town of Cremona. He and an architectural painter received the commission in 1568, but they probably never began the work since the whole ceiling was destroyed in 1573. By 1567, Gambara's reputation was such that he received a commission for what's considered his masterpiece, complet-ed in 1571, the frescoes in the nave of the Cathedral of Parma, in collaboration with Bernardino Gatti (below).

The upper image depicts the left side of the nave.
There are six more panels depicting the life of Christ on the right side.

The Disposition, 1568
Lattanzio Gambara
During his last few years, after the decor-ation of the drum of the cupola of Santa Maria of the Steccata in Parma, Gambara executed various other frescoes for palaces in Brescia and Parma, including a Depos-ition (left) for the church of San Pietro al Po in Cremona. in 1574, while at work on the frescoes of the cupola of S. Lorenzo in Brescia (below) Gambara fell to his death from a scaffolding. He was forty-four years of age.
An interesting note, whether fact or fiction, Irving Stone in his novel, The Agony and the Ecstasy, described a similar incident per-taining to Michelangelo except that in his case the artist's leg became entangled in a rope from scaffolding hoist, which unwound slowly to the floor, allowing him to survive the fall
It was here, Lattanzio Gambara gave his life for his art.
San Lorenzo, Brescia, Italy.


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