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Works from Bruno Mantura collection

Tuesday 23 March 2021, 03:00 PM • Rome


Domenico Tojetti

(Rocca di Papa 1807 - San Francisco 1892)

San Carlo gives the Eucharist to the plague victims (sketch for the altarpiece in the parish church of Rocca di Papa), About 1846


€ 1.000 - 1.500


€ 1.536

The price includes buyer's premium


oil on canvas
37.5 x 24.5 cm


T. Basili, Il bel S. Carlo Borromeo del Toietti, in “Castelli Romani”, XXI, 1976, 11, pp. 129-131.

A pupil of the Accademia di San Luca, Domenico Tojetti is part of the circle of purist artists who in the mid-nineteenth century they were active in the great Roman construction sites promoted by the Torlonia family and by the popes Gregory XVI and Pius IX. For the Torlonia family he took part in the decoration of the Apollo Theater in Tor di Nona, the ballroom of the villa on the Nomentana and the Gallery of the destroyed palace in Piazza Venezia. On papal commission he worked on the restoration of the Raphaelesque loggias in the Vatican and, later, in San Paolo fuori le mura and in Sant'Agnese sulla Nomentana. Following the crisis in the decorative painting sector, at the suggestion of his friend Costantino Brumidi, already active in the United States for some time, in 1867 he moved with his family to Guatemala, then moved to Mexico and settled permanently in San Francisco, where he decorated with paintings on canvas and frescoes, churches and private buildings of new construction. The artist also owes several works for the churches of the Castelli Romani, of which he was originally from and with which he had maintained a close relationship. The commission by the inhabitants of Rocca di Papa of the altarpiece depicting San Carlo as he communicates the plague victims of Milan for the parish church dates back to 1845. The resolution of the prior Giacomo Botti, which provided for a payment of 700 scudi, was judged disadvantageous by the territorial control bodies and voluntarily reduced by the artist to 600 scudi [1]. In the council resolution of the Comarca di Rocca di Papa, approved on 23 January 1846, it was established that the execution should take place upon presentation of a sketch, probably to be identified with the work in question, and that the execution should be completed between the end of 1848 and the first two months of 1849. Unforeseen causes, however, slowed down its delivery. The altarpiece was, in fact, finished in the summer of 1854 and put into operation and solemnly inaugurated only on July 14, 1855 in the presence of Cardinal Antonio Cagiano de Azevedo, the Tuscan bishop. Despite the delays it was received with great enthusiasm and celebrated in the volume in verse One hundred modern works of painting and sculpture by Luigi Scalchi [2]. The appreciation was such that lucky holy cards were drawn from it. An article by Niccolò Biaggi gives news of his public exhibition at the artist's studio, held in the summer of 1854, appreciating "the chastity of the drawing, the harmony of the parts with the whole, the truth of the expression, and above all the freshness and transparency of the complexion "[3]. In fact, these are elements that characterize the painting of the students of the Accademia di San Luca, educated in the study of Raphael and seventeenth-century classicism, to which Tojetti refers in addressing this public commission. The artist, aware of the peculiarity of the client linked to his hometown, must have consulted a rich iconographic material relating to the Milanese saint. Listed as one of the major reformers of the post-Tridentine Church, Carlo Borromeo had bravely faced the plague, which struck Milan between 1576 and 1577, bringing comfort and imparting the sacraments to the plague victims. This episode is underlined by the hagiographic texts and treated several times by the artists starting from the canonization of the saint in 1610. A painting, in particular, perhaps known through a reproduction, must have attracted his attention: the San Carlo Borromeo communicates the plague victims (Modena, Galleria Estense) built around 1670-75 by Sebastiano Caula for the church of the saint in Modena. Tojetti reworks the seventeenth-century canvas in a horizontal format, selecting the figures of the saint protected by the processional umbrella and the reclining male figure, replaced in the nineteenth-century painting with a female one. The drama of the scene is reinforced by the calm patience of Carlo Borromeo, of the Franciscan friar on the right, of the altar boys and of the bystanders in prayer which contrasts with the disgust of the gentleman who covers his mouth on the left with horror. With the aim of giving a didactic connotation of the scene in the architectural backdrop, also inspired by the Modenese painting, the Duomo of Milan can be glimpsed.

Teresa Sacchi Lodispoto

[1] T. Basili, Il bel S. Carlo Borromeo del Toietti, in“ Castelli Romani ”, XXI, 1976, 11, pp. 129-131; L. Leoni, Dai Castelli Romani alla California: il pittore Domenico Tojetti (1807-1892), Velletri 2008, p. 13.

[2] L. Scalchi, Cento lavori moderni di pittura e scultura illustrati in versi, Rome, 1855, pp. 120-124.

[3] N. Biaggi, Belle arti, in "The Album", XXI, 1854-55, 42, pp. 331-332.

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