In Jesi, a small city in the Marche, there is an extraordinary group of Lorenzo Lotto (1480–1556) paintings in the Pinacoteca Civica. Lotto had many Marchigian patrons and spent a number of years living there, including his final years, from 1549 to 1556. (There are works by Lotto in the following Marche cities and towns: Ancona, Jesi, Loreto, Recanati, Cingoli, Mogliano, and Monte San Giusto. A single ticket, with no expiration date, is available for visits to the museums, and the churches are free.) One of the pictures at Jesi is the Saint Lucy Altarpiece, painted intermittently over a nine year period, and completed in 1532. This predella panel has an interesting detail relating to how works, in this case woodcuts, some of them colored woodcuts, were hung. There is the possibility that some might be engravings, and maybe even drawings (for what can be more personalized than a drawing), but not likely.
The prints, hang laundry or Christmas card style, over the tomb of St. Agatha, and would have been appended there for the sick, who hoped the saint would miraculously cure them of their medical disorders. They could also have been testimonials or tokens of thanks once the ill were cured. Even seeing the panel in the gallery, one can’t make out much about the hanging works, but you can tell there is variation in size, shape, and color between the sheets. Metal votive offerings, strung like beads, are interspersed with the sheets. St. Agatha’s martyrdom involved the severing of her breasts and some of the sheets are breast-like in shape. However irrational it seems, these would have been put their by those suffering from breast ailments, hoping for a miracle.
There are three predella panels beneath the main panel. This is the first, and the story, as with so many saint’s lives, is complicated. It’s painted storyboard style, but without frames. Lucy and her ill mother (living in 4th century Sicily) go to mass where they hear of St. Agatha’s miracles, the mother touches St. Agatha’s tomb in order to stop hemorrhaging, while Lucy sleeps and in her dream receives the message from St. Agatha that her mother will be cured. She then tells her mother that it’s because of Agatha that she was cured, that she is breaking off her engagement and that she is herself becoming a Christian, and will give away her dowry. At the right the two women are giving away Lucy’s riches to the poor.
One can imagine that the woodcuts/works on paper would have been taken down and discarded to make space for the fresh sheets of miracle seekers (just as candles are removed before they burn out in churches, although at a far faster rate). This type of work is, therefore, extremely rare.
The Lottos in Jesi are nominally five. However, since most are multi-part pictures, I was childishly thrilled when in the museum’s two Lotto rooms, to get to a count of eleven: Entombment (1), Annunciation (2), St. Lucy Altarpiece (4), Madonna delle Rose (2), Visitation (2). Here is a link to Lotto pages on the Jesi city website.
The following is for those who would like a seaside vacation and also want to see great works of art. My most recent visit to the Marche, to Jesi, was for just one day. However, last summer I spent a week in Sirolo, a lovely Medieval town right on the Adriatic and just under an hour from Jesi. Sirolo sits on the Monte Conero–the Conero was once an island, before it smashed into the coast, in some distant geologic era. From the town you can walk down steep paths, cut through pine trees and corbezzolo shrubs, to its beautiful beaches. For us the best way of doing things was to visit Ancona (ancient art museum, Romanesque churches, picture gallery with Crivelli, Titian, Lotto), Recanati (Lotto pictures and Leopardi museum), Loreto (Melozzo da Forli, Signorelli, Lotto) until lunch time and then spend the rest of the day on the beach. In the afternoon, the sun moves behind the mountain, shading the beach and then the water. The town’s information bureau, reachable by emailing email@example.com or calling +39 071 9332153 or +39 071 9332065, is very helpful. The bureau is located in the town’s main piazza and offers free internet service. Their website, only in Italian, could maybe use some improvement.
Note on Drawings Collections in the Marche
I have not visited any drawings collections in the Marche. However, from an exhibition catalog of the Dutch drawings mounted by the Biblioteca Reale in Torino, I see that they have a table of organizations that include graphic collections, arranged geographically down the peninsula, noting whether or not these collections have Dutch drawings. This all seems circuitous and backwards (the way I all too often arrive at things), but here are the Marchigian collections they list:
Ascoli Piceno – Pinacoteca Civica
Museo Diocesano Giacomo Boccanegra – Camerino (MC)
Archivio della Santa Casa – Loreto (AN)
Biblioteca Oliveriana – Pesaro
Museo Civico – Pesaro
Biblioteca Comunale – Urbania (PU)
Soprintendenza per il Patrimonio Storico, Artistico ed Etnoantropologico delle Marche – Urbino
Another nugget–none of the above have Dutch drawings.