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«L'arte giottesca portata al suo apogeo»: l'Oratorio di San Giorgio nella discussione dei conoscitori (1837-1846)


The Nineteenth-Century rediscovery of the Oratory of S. Giorgio offers the opportunity to question the conservation methods, historical analysis and creative reception of fourteenth-century painting. This essay reconstructs the historical circumstances of the discovery of Altichiero’s frescoes and the consequent discussions among connoisseurs concerning the autography and the cultural value of the same. The protagonists of this scholarly discussion - the German art historian Ernst Förster (1800-1885) and his Italian colleague Pietro Selvatico Estense (1803-1880) - see the Paduan fresco cycle as a model for both modern draughtsmanship and large-scale fresco decoration. This dualistic character of reception, which is both erudite and aesthetic, seems to be due to the relationship that both scholars have with Alexis-François Rio, whose ideas were to significantly influence the production of sacred art in the central decades of the century. For this reason, the scholarly discussions during the 1830s and 1840s are to be considered preliminary moments underpinning the late Nineteenth-Century pictorial decorations in the Basilica of St. Anthony.