Lucio Fontana’s work for Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano began in 1936 when he was assigned the creation of the statue of San Protaso (St. Protasius) for an internal pillar of the Cathedral. Then, in November 1950 the Fabbrica invited him to participate in the competition organised for the Fifth Door with the theme Origins and Events of the Duomo. For the first phase of the competition Fontana created a small-scale chalk model of the Door (1951), which has been lost. Museo del Duomo preserves the bronze fusion of this model (1971-1972): it presents thirteen high relief decorations that are only connected by their layout on the smooth surface and by their similar dimensions.
“A creative imagination that would not accept rigid rules.”
The figures seem to surface and rise without acquiring a definite shape. The background surface, which is both matt and bright, creates a space, an indefinite contrast of light and dark. The figures stand out against it with determination, as if moved by inner strength. The artist has a preference for extremely simplified scenes that are not overcrowded with figures or details because strong reliefs create shadows that enrich and fill the images with immaterial elements. The suggestions dictated by plastic vitality, by contrasts and by extroflected torsions, seems to recall a Gothic influence.
From a formal standpoint, the Six Lombard popes depicted in the architrave’s panel is a perfect example of Fontana’s plastic concept: matter surfaces from the smooth background to expand and invade space in a movement of torsion, effectively embossed with projecting material that seems to “echo a sudden gesture that might be a gust of wind” (Fallani, Mariani, Mascherpa 1974).
The Artistic Committee of the Fabbrica spoke of “vibrant strength that seems to make an effort to release itself from matter”, and of a result that is deemed, “excessively synthetic even in its details”. However, the model was considered one of the best presented at the competition and was, therefore, displayed at the 19th Triennale exhibition in Milan in 1951.
In 1952, after he created another scale model, the Committee assigned Fontana the first prize jointly with Luciano Minguzzi, who was finally chosen by the Fabbrica to produce the Fifth Door, which was inaugurated on 6 January 1965.
Today, fifty years after Lucio Fontana’s death, with the restoration of the last chalk scale model of the Fifth Door, which was stored in the Marble Workers’ Site and has never been displayed, Fabbrica del Duomo offers a tribute to the overwhelming artist who skilfully found unlimited forms of dialogue with the Infinite, spanning slits on canvas, forms of light and the convergence of matter and abstraction, etc.
The exhibition L’arte novissima. Lucio Fontana per il Duomo di Milano 1936 – 1956 will be held in the Gian Galeazzo Hall, in the exhibition circuit of the Museo del Duomo, on 27 October-27 January 2019.
Open for visits from Thursday to Tuesday, from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm, the exhibition does not require a surcharge on the 3.00 euro ticket for the Museo.
There will be detailed studies on the artist as a result of the many activities sponsored by Veneranda Fabbrica, such as the special guided visits on Saturday, 27 October: “Lucio Fontana e gli anni del dopoguerra in Duomo” (Lucio Fontana and the Post-War Years at the Duomo), and on Sunday, 28 October, for families and children: “Toc, toc, chi è Lucio Fontana?”. (Knock, Knock, Who is Lucio Fontana)