Ascension

Abstract
The construction of this chapel was finished in 1664 and funded by Andrea Cetti of Lenno, a village just north of Ossuccio overlooking Lake Como. He had worked in Germany for a number of years and earned his fortune in the service of the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I as the chief officer of the imperial mint. Cetti was also the patron of Chapels Nine and Ten at Ossuccio. As at those chapels, Cetti's coat of arms is displayed on the front of the chapel, underneath the porch. The terracotta sculptures were modeled by Agostino Silva between 1663 and 1664, for which he received a total of 2,440 Lire. Giovanni Paolo Recchi (1605 - 1685), a painter from Como, also completed the frescoes in this chapel in 1665. Records of the payments to both Silva and Recchi are preserved in the Sanctuary's archives and were first published by Piera Gatta Papavassiliou. Giovanni Paolo and his brother Giovanni Battista Recchi (active 1600 - 1675) also painted the frescoes in Chapels Eight and Nine at Varese between 1648 and 1654, which may have been where they first met Agostino Silva. These frescoes in this chapel at Ossuccio, and perhaps the sculptures too, were restored by conservators sometime in 2012 - 2013 (Papavassiliou says "recently" in her 2013 book, without giving a specific date). Agostino's Ascension at Ossuccio is closely related to his father's composition of the same scene in Chapel Twelve at Varese (1632). The Virgin Mary, flanked by two female companions, kneels directly across from the viewer at the center of the composition. Above her, Christ ascends to heaven surrounded by a host of angels. The twelve disciples are gathered around her on the sloping ground of the chapel creating a circle that seems to be completed by the viewer's presence. Both the chapel and the figures at Ossuccio are smaller than those at Varese, but Agostino's group is less compact than that of his father; both the disciples and the angels in Francesco's scene are arranged in tightly packed lines. Agostino's disciples are staggered and more spread out. His angels also seem more active; many lean forward and seem to rush up toward Christ or down to the disciples. Illusionistic architecture occupies most of the painted surface at Ossuccio. Hilly forests are visible through elaborate painted arches behind the kneeling women and on both of the chapel's lateral walls. The corner walls on either side of the central scene have frescoes that depict painted doors that closely resemble the real door in the wall to the viewer's left. However, the painted doors are set into an illusionistic architectural framework, whereas the real door is surrounded by a fresco of a rustic stone frame and painted tree trunks. This play of real and imagined architecture emphasizes the artist's skill. The frescoes do not seem to recreate the landscape surrounding the chapel in order to unify interior and exterior space as those in Varese's Ascension chapel do. / The Sacro Monte of Ossuccio is dedicated to the fifteen mysteries of the rosary, and many of its chapels closely resemble those at the Sacro Monte of Varese (built 1605 - 1699), which is dedicated to the same subject. Agostino Silva (1628 - 1706), an artist from nearby Ticino, designed most of the scenes at Ossuccio. He was also active at the Sacro Monte sopra Varese, where the majority of chapels had been decorated by his father, Francesco Silva (1568 - 1641). The early history of this Sacro Monte remains unclear: some sources suggest that work began as early as 1623, but it is clear from the records of pastoral visits discovered by Daniele Pescamora that none of the chapels were built before July of 1644. Traditionally, many modern scholars have followed Santino Langé, who believed that Francesco had modeled the sculptures in the first three chapels at Ossuccio and Agostino had only taken charge of the project after his father's death in 1641. However, the pastoral records cited above preclude Francesco's involvement entirely and suggest that most of the scenes were decorated from the sixteen-sixties onward, when Agostino was active on the mountain (he was first documented at Ossuccio in 1663). The end of the devotional path is marked by the sanctuary of the Madonna del Soccorso, which was built in the first quarter of the sixteenth century and houses the final scene in the rosary sequence. Modern scholars date the miraculous image of the Madonna and Child for which the Sanctuary is named to the 14th century. Most of the statues of the Virgin that are venerated in the sanctuaries at the Italian Sacri Monti are made of wood, but Ossuccio's titular image is carved in white marble and embellished with gold accents. The existing sanctuary is believed to occupy the site of a pre-Christian temple to the Roman goddess Ceres. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the religious complex was overseen by Third Order Franciscans. Just as Bernardino Caimi had directed the construction of the Sacro Monte at Varallo, the project at Ossuccio was led by Brother Timothy Snider from c. 1643 until his death in 1682. Unlike Caimi, however, Snider seems to have designed the chapels and arranged the devotional path himself. All the chapels have likely been cleaned and restored multiple times since they were finished. Silvestro Marmori's conservation efforts in 1935 were particularly extensive and are well-documented by Pescamora (2004).
External DOI