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  • Giovanni da Capestrano: Iconografia di un predicatore osservante dalle origini alla canonizzazione (1456-1690) by Luca Pezzuto
  • Bert Roest
Luca Pezzuto, Giovanni da Capestrano: Iconografia di un predicatore osservante dalle origini alla canonizzazione (1456-1690), con una presentazione di Chiara Frugoni e tre saggi di Stefano Boero, Carlotta Brodavan e Daniele Solvi, Horti Hesperidum. Monografie, 3. Rome: UniversItalia, 2016. Pages 536. Illustrations. ISBN: 9788865077955.

The initial conception this work, in fact a combination of a large repertory and image catalogue, an introduction into the iconographic depiction of the Observant friar Giovanni of Capestrano, and additional contributions on the life of Giovanni, the controversies surrounding him, and his hagiographic representation prior to his canonization in 1690, apparently lies with Luca Pezzuto's visit of the Museo Nazionale d'Abruzzo as a young graduate student. Impressed by the painting Beato Giovanni da Capestrano e quattro miracoli della sua vita, he decided to write his doctoral thesis on this particular visual representation, and subsequently embarked on the ambitious project to gather and properly document all images ever made of the friar. This volume is a major product of this massive undertaking, for which Luca Pezzuto was able to enlist the support of a large number of additional specialists. Hence, the work includes three independent essays and a short appendix essay by others that provide important contextual information, and draws on the labor of more than 20 scholars and students who were willing to produce 43 individual catalogue entries for the images presented in the volume's 'Atlante iconografico'.

After a short presentation by Chiara Frugoni, herself a specialist of Observant hagiography well situated to evaluate the importance of this endeavor, the work opens with a short premise, and an introduction by Luca Pezzuto himself. The latter motivates his engagement with the iconographic representation of Giovanni of Capestrano, explains concisely the nature of the contextual essays by other specialists and elucidates the nature of the work in question as a scholarly instrument: On the one hand it provides a repertory of all known depictions of Giovanni prior to his canonization, and on the other hand it presents a selection of 43 artistic products in greater detail, chosen either for reasons of iconographic innovation, or for their historical-artistic importance.

Following his introduction, Luca Pezzuto provides a brief status quaestionis concerning the scholarship devoted to the representation of Giovanni of Capestrano ('Lo Stato degli studi', pp. 13-19). It alludes [End Page 547] to the iconographic presence of Capestrano in the Capistranus Triumphans of Amandus Hermann (1700), as well as to the images included and discussed in the historical works of several important twentieth-century scholars, such as Aniceto Chiappini and Johannes Hofer. The first specific iconographical study properly speaking, limited to the Abruzzo region, was done by Ottokar Bonmann. This was followed by a series of iconographic entries for the Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographie (1974) and Saints in Italian Art (1952-1985) by Engelbert Kirschbaum and John Kaftal and Fabio Bisogni, respectively. In the 1980s and 1990s, Bisogni, as well as Botorovic, Ferdinando Bologna, Roberto Rusconi, and others provided some additional contributions. Yet most of these were limited to specific regions and time periods, and by no means covered all relevant images or iconographic problems. Only after 2010 a substantial increase in iconographic studies occurred, by scholars such as Jan Klipa, Bohumil Samek, Jan Chlibec, Vittorio Casale and Marta Vittorini. Yet it is clear that the present work is a substantial addition, both with regard to geographical and chronological scope, and with regard to the far more systematic tracing of dominant iconographic themes.

A first contextual essay is provided by Stefano Boero's 'Giovanni da Capestrano: Un medaglione biografico' (pp. 21-44). It amounts to a very handy and bibliographically up-to-date introduction to the life, activities, writings and scholarly evaluation of Giovanni of Capestrano. It elucidates Giovanni's choice for the regular Observance, his collaboration with Bernardino of Siena, Giovanni's actions on behalf of the autonomy of the Franciscan Observant branch, in the context of which should also be placed his promotional activities for Bernardino's canonization, Giovanni's inquisitorial tasks, the mission to the Germanic and Slavic world...


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