Christ at the Column (or The Flagellation)
Giovanni Battista da Corbetta
Flagellation , Jesus , Column , Soldiers , Trial , Passion
This wooden sculpture of Christ at the Column was made for the scene of the Flagellation at the Sacro Monte di Varallo, which is currently housed in Chapel Thirty. The chapel that originally housed this scene was built along the inside of the boundary wall. It was built in the middle of the sixteenth century, according to Stefania Stefani Perrone, and would have been on the viewer's left as they arrived at the Sacro Monte through the old entrance, which is located in the north-west corner of the site near the current site of Chapel Thirteen (The Temptation of Christ in the Desert). The Flagellation scene was moved to a new building called Pilate's Palace around 1610 and the old chapel was demolished in 1898. This sculpture was carved by Giovanni Battista da Corbetta (c. 1501 - 1589), who was commissioned to make seven sculptures for the Sacro Monte in the mid Cinquecento. He had already finished one of the figures by August of 1548, but continued work on some of the other sculptures until 1559. Francesco Sessali praised this sculpture specifically in his guidebook because it had been "given [a great] resemblance to real life by the sculptor" ("...da scultor dotto simigliato al vero"). The first image of the Flagellation scene, which was published in Govanni Giacomo Ferrari's Brevi considerazioni Sopra i Misteri del Sacro Monte di Varallo (1611), faithfully depicts this sculpture and two guards from Giovanni Battista's original group. Galeazzo Alessi's proposal for the new Casa di Pilato in the Libro dei Misteri (1565 - 1569) also seems to illustrate Giovanni Battista da Corbetta's three sculptures. The two guards from this group are still housed in Chapel Thirty, where they were installed circa 1610 at the request of Bishop Carlo Bascapè. Around the same time, Giovanni d'Enrico modeled four additional guards and a new figure of Christ for the scene. These sculptures were finished in 1617 and are made of terracotta. The wooden Christ probably remained in the old chapel for many years, perhaps until 1889, when it was donated to the Pinacoteca by Cristoforo Bussi (1828 - 1911), a sculptor from Varallo and a professor at the local art school, the Scuola Barolo. This figure is made from least three pieces of wood; there are joins visible in each of Jesus's elbows when the work is viewed from behind. The central portion of the figure is hollowed out from Christ's shoulders roughly to the hem of his loincloth. There is a large loss along the inside of his left thigh. The layer of pigment that survives on the back of the figure reveals that his body was covered in densely painted striations to demonstrate the effects of the Flagellation. The lash marks on d'Enrico's figure are much less bloody by comparison. This sculpture is roughly life-sized and was originally adorned with a head of real hair, which has since been lost. / 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.