Have you visited the Grande Museo del Duomo di Milano recently? As you may have noticed, "The Dispute with Jesus and the Doctors in the Temple of Jerusalem", the masterpiece by Jacopo Rebusti, known as Tintoretto, dating from the first half of the 16th century and part of the collection of Cardinal Cesare Monti, is missing. The canvas, a painting that was a crucial moment in Tintoretto's professional journey and in that of Italian and European Mannerism, has flown to the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Foundation Corboud in Cologne for the "Tintoretto. A star was born" exhibit, which celebrates the 500th anniversary of the artists birth and will be open to the public until 28 January 2018.
Momentarily taking the place of the renowned Dispute, is the altarpiece depicting the Martyrdom of Saint Thecla, by Aurelio Luini, previously preserved in the capitular sacristy of the Duomo di Milano, but originally intended for the altar dedicated to Saint Thecla, designed in 1573 by Pellegrino Tibaldi and located in the Cathedral's northern transept.
The first to mention the Martyrdom of Saint Thecla was Paolo Morigia who named it “among the rare paintings worthy of immortality”. Between the second half of the 17th century and the first half of the 18th, the catalogue registered its original location and its authorship. On 19 July 1754 the Veneranda Fabbrica's deputies appointed Carlo Beretta to replace the altarpiece with the “bas-relief of the martyrdom of Saint Thecla to be placed in the altar dedicated to said saint in the aforementioned Duomo” and on 21 April 1762 Ersilio del Majno, rector of the Fabbrica, suggested selling it together with other paintings, but fortunately it was not purchased.
Edoardo Arslan, the first to publish a black and white reproduction, called it “a truly remarkable example of Lombardian Mannerism”. According to him, the style of the Martyrdom could be distanced from that of the artist's contemporaries for its all-new attention to facial and gestural expressiveness, which was a prelude to a new 17th century Lombardian style.
Aurelio depicts Saint Thecla, the worship of whom is deeply rooted in Milanese tradition, as guilty of not wanting to give up her chastity, kneeling and surrounded by ferocious beasts, at the centre of a narrow arena with numerous spectators looking on from above.Her hand at her heart, her red eyes looking to the heavens, and her left arm open to show the wild beasts which, in seeking to be ferocious, seem to bear almost human expressions.The other focal point aside from the martyrdom of the saint, is the wingless angel standing out among the clouds, ready to deliver the crown of martyrdom and the palm frond.
Giulio Bora was the only one to correctly date the creation of the canvas as 1592. The canvas was restored by Carlotta Beccaria on occasion of the “Bernardino Luini and his sons” exhibit in Palazzo Reale in 2014.
Come take a closer look at in the Museo del Duomo, everyday Tuesday through Sunday, 10am to 6pm.