Christ at the Tribunal of Annas

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Date
Authors
Carlo Antonio Tantardini and Giovanni Battista Bernero
Keyword
Jesus , Capture , Trial , Passion , Annas , High Priest
Abstract
This was the last chapel to be erected atop the Sacro Monte at Varallo. It was constructed between 1737 and 1740 based on the designs of the architect Giovanni Battista Morondi (1700 - 1770). The chapel was funded by the community of Valsesians living in Turin, who seem to have begun planning the project as early as 1704. The twenty figures inside are slightly smaller than life-sized and are made of terracotta. They were modeled by Carlo Antonio Tantardini (1677 - 1748) between 1726 and c. 1740. Tantardini is also called Carlantonio or Antonio Tantardini of Valsassina, to avoid confusion with Antonio Tantardini of Milan, a nineteenth-century sculptor who is more widely known and may be related to this artist. Stefania Stefani Perrone believes that the figures were not installed until 1763, when the sculptor Elia Vincenzo Buzzi (1708 - 1780) was called from Milan for this purpose. Sigismondo Betti (1699 - c. 1783?), a Florentine artist, painted the sculptures and frescoes between 1762 and 1764. Before he was called to Varallo, Betti is believed to have been working at the Palazzo Reale in Turin, where he may have encountered one of the chapel's patrons. Elena de Filippis writes that the figures were gilded by Carlo Anselmo (dates unknown) around this same time (1762 - 1764). The original decorations were completed by 1765, but it appears that the statue of Annas was damaged sometime before 1776, when it was replaced by the current figure. The new sculpture was modeled by Giovanni Battista Bernero (1736 - 1796), who also worked for the Savoy Court at Turin. Antonio Orgiazzi the Elder (1709 - 1788) painted this statue and the chapel's floor in 1799. He also restored the figure of Saint Peter, who kneels with a group of soldiers on the right-hand side of the scene. Further efforts to stabilize and restore elements of the chapel, such as the roof and windows, were carried out in 1998 and between 2001 and 2008. / Varallo was the first Sacro Monte in Northern Italy. The collection of chapels on the hilltop overlooking Varallo was established by Bernardino Caimi (before 1450 - 1499 or 1500) as a way of recreating the sights and experiences of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He organized the chapels according to their Holy Land geography and incorporated architectural details from the pilgrimage churches corresponding to each scene. Caimi chose Varallo to be the site of his New Jerusalem in 1481, he received papal permission to begin collecting donations in 1486, and he is believed to have overseen the project from 1491, when the first chapel was finished, until his death. Different writers have counted each of these dates as the year of the Sacro Monte founding. Many of the early chapels were decorated by Gaudenzio Ferrari (c. 1480 - 1546), who was born nearby and gained a reputation during his lifetime as one of the leading painters in Lombardy. Saint Carlo Borromeo (1538 - 1584) visited the Sacro Monte multiple times while he was Archbishop of Milan (1564 - 1584). Carlo and his contemporaries implemented new policies to clarify Catholic doctrine and structure spiritual practices in Milan after the Council of Trent (1545 - 1563). Carlo Bascapè (1550 - 1615), Saint Carlo's close friend and the Bishop of Novara, personally oversaw a building campaign to reorganize the chapels at Varallo and restructure the pilgrimage experience according to the ideals of the Counter-Reformation. These changes were largely based on designs by Galeazzo Alessi (1512 - 1572), which are collected and preserved in a manuscript called the Libro dei Misteri (1565 - 1569) in Varallo's Biblioteca Civica. Construction continued throughout the first half of the seventeenth-century, led primarily by Giovanni d'Enrico the Younger (c. 1559 - 1644) and his family workshop. Beginning in 1609, d'Enrico also supervised the construction of the new Basilica, which is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin. The Basilica was consecrated in 1649 and the old church, or Chiesa Vecchia, was demolished in 1773, but the Chiesa Nuova was not finished until the façade was added in 1891 - 1896.
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