Prev / Next

Works from Bruno Mantura collection

Tuesday 23 March 2021, 03:00 PM • Rome


Francesco Diofebi

(Narni 1781 - Roma 1851)

Interior view of the lower church of the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi, About 1825


€ 2.000 - 3.000


€ 9.510

The price includes buyer's premium


oil on canvas
64 x 51 cm


Foligno, Museum of Palazzo Trinci, 2006-2007.


Arte in Umbria nell'Ottocento, catalog of the exhibition edited by F. F. Mancini and C. Zappia, Milan, Cinisello Balsamo, 23 September 2006 - 7 January 2007, p. 81 (repr.);
L. Moreschini, Francesco Diofebi (1781-1851). Un pittore a Roma nella comunità artistica internazionale, Rome 2012, p. 42 fig. 30, 44, 118.

Presented in 2006 by Maria Teresa Caracciolo and Bruno Mantura in the exhibition Art in Umbria in the nineteenth century as a work by an anonymous painter close to François-Marius Granet, the canvas, unsigned, was later attributed by Laura Moreschini to Francesco Diofebi. Depicting a religious function inside the chapel of Sant'Antonio da Padova in the lower church of the Assisi basilica, the painting in fact presents all the characteristics found in the Umbrian artist's production.

Arrived in Rome in 1800, Diofebi was formed in the climate of Capitoline neoclassicism between the studio of Vincenzo Ferreri, that of Gaspare Landi and, subsequently, that of Vincenzo Camuccini. Right from the start, however, he turned not in the direction of history painting but towards local folklore, the interiors of private residences and the interiors of churches with scenes of devotion, these subjects much in demand especially by foreign aristocrats visiting Rome. In depicting the interiors of sacred places, his main referent is François-Marius Granet with the two paintings made in 1821 dedicated to the lower basilica of Assisi - one kept at the Granet Museum in Aix-en-Provence and the other, larger, in the Louvre after being successfully exhibited at the Salon of 1822 - that Diofebi may have seen in the artist's Roman studio. The works of Granet, who had based his popularity above all on the interiors of churches and cloisters, in which the memory of the masters of the Dutch seventeenth century combined with the romantic sensitivity towards medieval architecture, the art of primitives, the expression of religious sentiments had also had great resonance in Italy, generating a renewed attention for the Franciscan basilica. Along the lines of Granet's works, in this view Diofebi organizes the scene on several perspective planes following a central focal axis, with the opening of the chapel of Sant'Antonio in the rooms behind the right aisle up to the altar of the back wall, according to a pattern that is also found, for example, in the Interior of the basilica of San Lorenzo outside the walls (1943, Philadelphia, Levinsohon Collection). Peculiar to Diofebi is the attention with which the gothic structure and the internal decoration are rendered, the palette set on light tones, as well as the synthetic definition of the figures, which, as in Granet, appear small compared to the vast enlargement of the nave. Typical of the artist is also the play of light and shadows to define the succession of spaces, with the beam of natural light that enters from the left, lights up the candles and the officiant's robe and floods the frescoes on the opposite wall, and, finally, the choice of depicting a secondary aspect of the sacred building: therefore not the frescoes by Giotto, but, in contrast to the neoclassical and purist taste of the time, the seventeenth-century decoration by Cesare Sermei (clearly recognizable, on the opposite wall, is the fresco depicting the Miracle of the mule).

Sabrina Spinazzè