1st room (from left to right)
- Fra’ Felice da Sambuca “San Felice da Cantalice (S.Felice from Cantalice)” (century XVIII):
Fra’ Felice da Sambuca: Capuchin father. Born in Sicily (in Sambuca di Sicilia, province of Agrigento). From 1754 it was part of the Capuchin Convent of Erice. In 1768 he was sent to Rome where he painted numerous important paintings. In 1777 he was transferred to the Convent of Torricchio (Tuscany) for almost a year, and there he painted many paintings for various churches and convents in Tuscany. After his return to Sicily, he worked for religious environments of the island, leaving many works as an inheritance, especially in the Capuchin Convents of Palermo. In his life, Fra ’Felice di Sambuca always tried to popularize religious painting art.
“S.Felice from Cantalice”: S.Felice from Cantalice (Felice Porri): he lived in the 16th century, he was a Capuchin monk and performed numerous healings of children and miraculously saved the silkworm farms (today he is the protector of silkworm breeders).
- Vincenzo Camuccini “La guarigione della figlia di Giairo (The healing of the daughter of Jairus)” (19th century):
Vincenzo Camuccini born and lived in Rome was the director of the Vatican mosaic factory and director of important museums in Rome.
“The healing of the daughter of Jairus”: the head of the local Synagogue (father of the sick 12-year-old girl) begs Jesus to save her. Jesus enters the house together with three apostles Peter, James and John and pronounces: “Talitha kumi” (Rise! in aramaic) and resurrects the little girl. The little girl comes back to life.
- Fra’ Felice da Sambuca “San Francesco D’Assisi rifiuta il sacerdozio (St. Francis of Assisi refuses the priesthood)” (18th century): painting from Palermo.
Francesco Bernardone (son of Pietro Bernardone, a rich merchant from Assisi) was a young poet, he loved music and dances. The return from the war, however, led him to understand that the world was no longer the same. Being very religious he wanted to join the Church. Nevertheless, he did not share some of the ecclesiastical dogmas. Thus, he decided to refuse the priesthood and to establish the Order of Friars Minor (later the Franciscan Order). This Order is based on depriving oneself of all material goods and leading life in harmony of spirit. To date, St. Francis of Assisi together with St. Catherine of Siena are the main patrons of Italy.
- Unknown author “Deposizione della Croce (Deposition of the Cross)”:
After the crucifixion, Jesus is taken down from the Cross and given to the Mother (Madonna). In this painting there are 2 unknown characters: S. Chiara and S. Francesco who, historically, are placed in much more recent times. However, the author wanted to include them in the painting.
- Unknown author “La vocazione di Saul (The vocation of Saul)” (18th century):
Saul born in Syria, a citizen of Rome, tried to imprison many Christians. Jesus stopped him on the road to Damascus, blinding him with a strong flash of light and questioning him: “Why are you persecuting me?”. The light made Saul blind for 3 days, he was then healed by the head of a small local Christian community. This meeting changed the life of the Pharisee and philosopher Saul who after his baptism became the apostle (Apostle of the Gentiles, or pagans) with the name of Paul of Tarsus.
2nd room (from left to right)
- Unknown Sicilian painter, Portraits in oil on canvas of the apostles (at the top):
From left to right: San Paolo, San Pietro (the first Pope), San Giuda (Giuda Taddeo), San Filippo, San Bartolomeo, San Matteo.
Year: around 1700. They come from the Franciscan Convent of Burgio.
- Luca Giordano (Fapresto) “Nettuno e Coronide (Neptune and Koronis)” (17th century).
Luca Giordano: born in Naples, he lived and worked in Naples, in Rome, Montecassino (Rome), Florence and Spain. His last stop was Naples where the painter worked until the last days. L. Giordano went back to the style of Caravaggio, and, at times, was also inspired by Raphael and Michelangelo. In Montecassino he left numerous frescoes, unfortunately destroyed following the Second World War. In Florence he decorated the ceiling of the hall of the Medici-Riccardi palace. In Spain he painted the frescoes of the Royal Palace of Madrid.
“Neptune and Koronis”. Koronis, a Greek princess with raven wings, desired by many mythological characters (including Neptune, present in the painting) waiting for her love: Apollo.
Style: from Baroque to Rococo.
- Unknown author “Martirio di San Bartolomeo (Martyrdom of San Bartolomeo)” (18th century):
Bartolomeo (Nathanael) was one of the 12 apostles who followed Jesus. His atrocious martyrdom was provoked by the role he played in India and then in Armenia where, with his preaching, he would also convert the king to the Christian faith, attracting however the ire of the pagan priests. St. Bartholomew healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and never accepted the numerous gifts offered to him. In 580 a part of his mortal remains was transferred to Lipari, an island located in the north of Sicily.
- Pietro Novelli “Madonna che porge il Bambino a San Bernardo frate cistercense (Madonna offering the Child to Saint Bernard, a Cistercian friar)” (17th century):
Pietro Novelli, born in Monreale (Sicily), was a painter and architect (appointed architect of the kingdom), and is considered one of the most important artists of the seventeenth century in Sicily. His style is influenced by the Caravaggio school, the Flemish painter Antoon van Dyck, Genoese painters and Renaissance painters. He died in combat in Palermo, during the period in which he was civil and military engineer of the Kingdom. He left numerous paintings found in Italy (especially in Sicily, but also in Naples and Rome) and abroad (Spain, Budapest, France, Geneva, Malibu, Germany, Vienna, Malta).
“Madonna offering the Child to Saint Bernard, Cistercian friar”: Saint Bernard of Clairvaux – one of the most faithful supporters of Christ and the Virgin Mother, born in France in 1090. He founded the order of the Cistercians in France (Cîteaux).
The painting describes a beautiful and miraculous moment in the life of Saint Bernard: during his long journey of popularizing the religion, Saint Bernard more than once found himself in difficulty in front of non-believers. And once, a miracle occurs: he sees the Madonna with Child who, preparing for breastfeeding, asked Saint Bernard to hold Jesus in his arms, giving him direct witness of the Truth: Jesus is human and was immaculately conceived. After that, Maria encouraged the friar by telling him not to fear and to continue on his path.
3rd room (from left to right)
In this room civil weddings are celebrated and, often, it is the seat of press conferences, conventions and other important events and manifestations.
- The works of Fra’ Felice da Sambuca (18th century):
St. Benedict of Nursia: 480-547, founder of the Order of St. Benedict;
San Pietro Nolasco: 12th-13th centuries, France – Spain, founder of the Order of Santa Maria della Misericordia (of the Mercedari);
St. John of God: 1495 Portugal-1550 Spain;
San Filippo Neri: 1515-1595, “second apostle of Rome”, founder of the Oratory (including the seat of the Collegio dei Filippini in Agrigento);
San Gaetano da Thiene: 1480-1547, Italy, founder of the Order of Regular Theatine Clerics.
Style: popular, almost caricatured tones.
- Giuseppe Crestadoro “Gloria di San Pietro (Glory of St. Peter)” (year 1789):
Giuseppe Crestadoro: 1711-1808, Italy (Sicily). He worked on the frescoes in the church of Messina and restored many others in Sicily and Calabria. He left numerous paintings and frescoes in Sicily. Some of his works, unfortunately, were lost following the Messina earthquake.
“Glory of St. Peter”: Jesus gives the keys of Heaven to Peter (the first Pope), papal primacy, on which all papal authority is based.
- Fra’ Felice da Sambuca “Morte dell’empio (cattiva morte) (Death of the wicked (bad death))” (18th century):
God shoots a long arrow on the sinner; you can see the symbols of sin: a snake wrapping a sack with money as a symbol of greed, monstrous figures, a woman in the mirror as a symbol of passionate love and human vanity.
- Guglielmo Walsgart (uncertain data) “Martirio di Sant’Orsola (o di Sant’Agata) (Martyrdom of Sant’Orsola (or Sant’Agata))” (17th century):
Guglielmo Walsgart: Flemish (Belgian) painter worked in Palermo from 1612 – 1666. There is a doubt about the author: some sources indicate this name (or Geronimo Gerardi, the Italianized version of the name), while others indicate another Flemish painter, that is Antoon van Dyck (1599-1641) active for a period in Italy.
Sant’Orsola (daughter of a French sovereign, secretly consecrated to God) was killed with an arrow by Attila for refusing to marry him.
- Fra’ Felice da Sambuca “Morte del giusto (buona morte) Death of the just (happy death)” (18th century):
Divine light is directed on the dead with a serene expression that is surrounded by priests, saints and soldiers.
- Fra’ Fedele da San Biagio “Nascita di Maria (Birth of Mary)” (18th century):
Fra’ Fedele da San Biagio: Capuchin painter from San Biagio Platani. He studied in the archiepiscopal seminary of Agrigento. He was formed artistically in Sicily (learning from the Sicilian painter Olivio Sozzi) and in Rome.
He painted some canvases for the Capuchin convent in Palermo. He left numerous paintings (about 156 large altarpieces and 3000 works of different sizes) in the Capuchin monasteries of western Sicily, although the number could be much higher, because due to the modest characteristics of the Franciscans he did not sign or date his works (reason why his fame did not reach high levels). He had the merit of receiving the title of “Provincial Father of merit” from Pope Pius VI.
Author: Ekaterina Vasileva with the support of Angela Pullara.
Review: Emmanuele D’Urso