Glory of the Virgin of Bortolini

Glory of the Virgin of Bortolini
Glory of the Virgin of Bortolini

If there is an emblematic element of 18th century painting, it is the architectural trompe l'oeil or “quadratura”. In other words, the ability to paint a perspective in a built space giving the feeling that it is a much larger place than it really is, and even that it is open to the outside or that it gives the optical sensation of a different from the real one.


Paintings by Bortoloni of the Sanctuary of Vicoforte

It is true that trompe l'oeil (or eye trickery) effects had been invented long before. In fact there are wonderful precedents like the Farnese Gallery by Carracci or the painting of Paradise by Lanfranco. But it is at the end of the baroque period when these compositions will become a trend that conceived architecture and painting as one more element of the final scenery.

The examples are many. Here we bring you this painting made by Mattia Bortoloni at the Sanctuary of Vicaforte, in the region of Piedmont in northern Italy, between the years 175 and 1748. A painting for which he had the collaboration of Giuseppe Galli da Bibiena, who specialized precisely in painting the illusory architecture of this type of compositions. While Bortoloni is the author of the groups of figures that seem to fly over the space of the sanctuary and that represent the scene of theGlory of the Virgin.

Without a doubt, the set has an evident scenographic character. In addition to the fact that it is of undoubted quality, since the daring perspective with which the entire scene is generated and its movement is magnificent. It is certainly one of the Italian examples of “quadratura” with the greatest virtuosity.

Constructively, the dome is smooth, except for the circular oculi at its base. However, it seems to us that it is a coffered dome, but these are painted. Without forgetting that the chosen perspective gives us the sensation of a much higher dome than it really is. And not only that, but it seems to us that it has been broken open so that we can see the sky. All this thanks to an incredible foreshortening but that optically generates a real vision.

That is the wonderful background in which different groups of figures are framed as if suspended in the air. They are strategically distributed at different points of the elliptical dome. Some groups that always radiate dynamism and movement.

And we see the entire architectural space bathed in a golden light, the most appropriate for a scene of glorification. Since the entire iconographic program is conceived to represent the Glory of the Virgin, which is the center of all the action.

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