Giovanni Antonio Sogliani 1492 – 1544

According to VASARI in his famous Lives of the Artists Sogliani was an apprentice to Lorenzo di Credi for more than 20 years – this would seem an incredible length of study by any standards, but it might explain why his work is not better known in his own right?

Personally I was very excited when I visited the large Refectory in what was the Monastery of  San Marco to check whom they had painted to keep the Monks company during their meals, to find that there was his rather original take on The Last Supper .

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Sogliani has painted portraits of the Dominican Monks themselves – and placed them as the donors and the disciples . as shown below, in his 1536 fresco painting of Provvidenza dei Domenicani. St. Dominic and his Friars fed by Angels.

Imagine the excitement for a modest monk to find his face established in perpetuity on the wall of the room that was to be his restaurant for the rest of his life…. although the table is bare at the moment – hopefully those graceful angels are bringing at least bread and wine?

The novice Monk carrying a water jug on the left of the painting is also most likely to be the artist himself as under Renaissance convention only artists and donors could eyeball their audience.

It also suggests that Sogliano, like many artists in a time of limited availability of models and no Wikipedia, was prepared to find, borrow and amend images from other artists – in this case I see a strong resemblance between Sogliani’s St John standing with grieving mother Mary below Christ’s cross and that of Andrea del Sarto in his Last Supper –

which was also reinterpreted by Alessandro Allori in his version of the Last Supper in the Cenacolo of the Monastery of the Carmine Church – with a few more symbolic fruits and nuts!

However the point of this Blog is to show that originally Sogliani had an even more ambitious plan for  the far wall of the Refectory.

His initial design layout is also on display in a cabinet at the end of the room – together with some detailed sketches of the faces of some of the Monks – and it is a very different concept.

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I think would have been an interesting alternative – the miracle of the ever increasing 5 barley loaves and 2 small fishes – but I can also imagine that most of the Monks preferred to sit amongst themselves – however hard they were working on the “denial of self”.

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Also to be found in the rooms around the Cloister of Museo San Marco in Florence is Fra Beato Angelico‘s gigantic fresco of the Crucifixion of Jesus with the two thieves – one saved and one damned – and many of the best recognised Saints of Florence – including Patron Saint St John the Baptist, Medici favourites San Lorenzo and Syrian Medics Cosmas and Damian , plus Saints Mark, Jerome, Francis and naturally in a Dominican Monastery – St Dominic, St Thomas Aquinas and  St Peter Martyr.

  

If you have any time to spare I highly recommend a visit to all the rooms off the Cloisters – it is too easy to follow the signs to go upstairs to the Monks dormitories and miss some of these examples of exceptional Renaissance art  – including as last but not least – the painting restored by AWAF – Advancing Women Artists in 2004 – The Lamentation with Saints, shown from a feminine perspective as painted by Nun Plautilla Nelli 

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