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Walls and Scaffolds: Pictorial and Dramatic Passion Cycles in the Duchy of Savoy Véronique Plesch The Duchy of Savoy in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries offers interesting—and mainly unexplored—opportunities for the study of the relations between late-medieval dramatic and pictorial narrative cycles. At that time the Duchy, extending from the lake of Neuchâtel to the Mediterranean and from the Saône to the Po rivers, controlled the entire western Alps, and witnessed a remarkable flowering of pictorial decoration of churches. Particularly popular were extensive cycles of the life of Christ and of saints.1 Religious theater thrived as well: Jacques Chocheyras remarked that the territory corresponding to the present day départements of Savoie and Haute-Savoie "is without doubt one of the regions of the French linguistic domain in which the persistence of this [theatrical] tradition is the most spirited and the longest."2 The present article will focus on the links between mid- to late-fifteenth-century religious theater and the pictorial Passion cycle on the nave walls of the pilgrimage sanctuary of NotreDame des Fontaines, outside of La Brigue, located some eighty kilometers north-east of Nice. The cycle was completed in 1492 by Giovanni Canavesio, an artist and priest from Pinerolo in Piedmont who was active in the last quarter of the fifteenth century in the southern part of the Duchy.3 Rather than tracing influences from theater to paintings and from paintings to theater, my aim here is to explore the common features which appear in both art forms—of content as well as of form—and to consider the ways in which they interacted. A careful study of Canavesio's Passion iconography will reveal intimate links with fifteenth-century Piedmontese cycles such as those in the chapel of the castle of La Manta (completed before 1435) and in San Fiorenzo at Bastia Mondovi (1472), suggesting that Canavesio received his training in Piedmont before 252 Véronique Plesch253 moving south to Liguria and the Pays Niçois. Canavesio's art is also related to such works stylistically, as it is to paintings by two artists who were active at the beginning of the century, Giacomo Jaquerio, often regarded as the founding father of an independent Piedmontese school of painting, and Giovanni Bertrami from Pinerolo.4 Piedmont also provides us with a fundamental textual parallel to Canavesio's iconography, the Passione di Revello.5 The play derives its name from a Petizione, addressed to Revello's officials, at the beginning of the only extant manuscript .6 Revello is some forty kilometers southwest of Turin and, significantly for us, only thirty kilometers south of Canavesio's town of Pinerolo. Furthermore, the manuscript bears an explicit date of 1490, which is only two years before the completion of La Brigue's cycle. Although written in Tuscan,7 the Passione belongs to the tradition of French cyclical plays, such as the Passions by Arnoul Gréban and Jean Michel.8 Hence in this study I will be referring to the French tradition rather than to the Italian.9 The issue of the relations between pictorial and dramatic representations , and in particular of the direction of influences, has engendered much discussion. But today, almost a century after Emile Male's first writings on the subject,10 the prevailing view is that theater and visual arts should be viewed as parallel expressions ." Hence the aim of this paper will be to study pictorial and dramatic cycles outside ofa philological tracing ofinfluences and sources. It is nevertheless worth mentioning that Revello enters into a complex dialogue with contemporary painting. If some of the motifs present at La Brigue can be considered inspired by the drama—or by the theatrical tradition to which Revello belongs—the Passione, in turn, shares elements with earlier Piedmontese paintings. This is the case with the Sibyls and their prophecies, which appear at the beginning of the play and which are found in several cycles in the Saluzzo-Revello area. In many of these pictorial ensembles, the Sibyls hold scrolls with inscriptions which are echoed in the text of the Passione.12 I Content. Notre-Dame's Passion cycle opens with the...


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