Chapter 17: The Achievements of the Emilian Scagliolists.

 
Introduction.  Emilia Romagna began producing scagliola in the first half of the seventeenth century, and continued to do so for the next hundred and fifty years.  The area’s principal  Maestri are known by name, and many of the works attributed to them survive.
 

The way scagliola manufacture was organised in the region was very different to that of Munich.  Instead of a state monopoly under the strict control of a royal court, independent makers and workshops competed with one another for commissions.  The Italian scagliolists tended to be of higher socio-economic standing than their German counterparts, coming from educated bourgeois and occasionally aristocratic backgrounds; this, and the fact that several of them belonged to religious orders, placed them beyond the type of state control that restricted the activities of the Munich scagliola workers. 

The Italians worked principally on church commissions paid for by wealthy individuals, confraternities, and religious orders.  The speciality of the Emilian workshops was the inlaid scagliola paliotto or altar front, the earliest examples of which began to appear in the middle of the seventeenth century.  This was a fresh departure for the material and it proved highly successful.  The local scagliolists were prolific in its manufacture, developing new designs and techniques which subsequently spread throughout northern and central Italy.

Each area produced altar pieces in recognisably different styles, though there was considerable overlap and repetition between the various makers.  The same widely-circulated prints of religious images were used as models for pictorial work, and the same decorative templates were reused and passed from generation to generation.  Many paliotti are unsigned, and it is often impossible to identify their makers.
     In the case of Carpi, there are three identifiable generations, each becoming increasingly sophisticated in the use of pictorial imagery:

Inlaid paliotto c. 1650.  Annibale Griffoni, Church of San Nicolo, Carpi.
(First generation).

Inlaid paliotto 1691, signed and dated by Giovan Marco Barzelli,  Abbey of San Pietro, Modena.
(Second generation).

Inlaid paliotto c. 1720s.  Giovanni Pozzuoli, Church of San Nicolo, Carpi.
(Third generation)

Secular works were also produced, though far fewer of these have survived.  They took the form of inlaid tabletops and pictorial panels (often devotional), many of which have disappeared into private collections or been lost or destroyed.  Some are only known through documentary evidence or hearsay.

Detail of inlaid scagliola tabletop in the Palazzo Ducale, Mantua.  (Probably from Carpi, 2nd half of the 17th Century.) 

The grand architectural schemes of the Munich Residence were echoed in miniature in the elaborate altar surrounds, balustrades and handrails that decorated some of the larger churches of Emilia Romagna (see next chapter), but there are no examples of the use of scagliola for large-scale palace architecture.  The ruling d’Este family had lost Ferrara to the Papal States in 1597 and their estates had been reduced to the two duchies of Modena, to which Carpi and Reggio belonged.  The d’Este appear to have found no use for scagliola apart from as a potential source of tax revenue*.  They made no attempt to encourage  the development of the technique nor add to its prestige by bringing it under royal protection (as had happened in Bavaria, and would happen again in Florence).

*Neumann, on evidence from the 19th century scholar and historian Paolo Guaitoli, believed that the Carpi scagliolists were organised in a guild by 1645. This was the year in which they were required to start paying a tax of 50 Lire per annum, as is shown by a letter of from the scagliolist Annibale Griffoni to the Duke of Modena which requested to have the tax removed.  The request was made again in a letter of 1674.

Next/Chapter 18.  The Carpi Masters – First Generation.

Chapter 17: The Achievements of the Emilian Scagliolists.

 
Introduction.  Emilia Romagna began producing scagliola in the first half of the seventeenth century, and continued to do so for the next hundred and fifty years.  The area’s principal  Maestri are known by name, and many of the works attributed to them survive.
 

The way scagliola manufacture was organised in the region was very different to that of Munich.  Instead of a state monopoly under the strict control of a royal court, independent makers and workshops competed with one another for commissions.  The Italian scagliolists tended to be of higher socio-economic standing than their German counterparts, coming from educated bourgeois and occasionally aristocratic backgrounds; this, and the fact that several of them belonged to religious orders, placed them beyond the type of state control that restricted the activities of the Munich scagliola workers. 

The Italians worked principally on church commissions paid for by wealthy individuals, confraternities, and religious orders.  The speciality of the Emilian workshops was the inlaid scagliola paliotto or altar front, the earliest examples of which began to appear in the middle of the seventeenth century.  This was a fresh departure for the material and it proved highly successful.  The local scagliolists were prolific in its manufacture, developing new designs and techniques which subsequently spread throughout northern and central Italy.

Each area produced altar pieces in recognisably different styles, though there was considerable overlap and repetition between the various makers.  The same widely-circulated prints of religious images were used as models for pictorial work, and the same decorative templates were reused and passed from generation to generation.  Many paliotti are unsigned, and it is often impossible to identify their makers.
     In the case of Carpi, there are three identifiable generations, each becoming increasingly sophisticated in the use of pictorial imagery:

Inlaid paliotto c. 1650.  Annibale Griffoni, Church of San Nicolo, Carpi.
(First generation).

Inlaid paliotto 1691, signed and dated by Giovan Marco Barzelli,  Abbey of San Pietro, Modena.
(Second generation).

Inlaid paliotto c. 1720s.  Giovanni Pozzuoli, Church of San Nicolo, Carpi.
(Third generation)

Secular works were also produced, though far fewer of these have survived.  They took the form of inlaid tabletops and pictorial panels (often devotional), many of which have disappeared into private collections or been lost or destroyed.  Some are only known through documentary evidence or hearsay.

Detail of inlaid scagliola tabletop in the Palazzo Ducale, Mantua.  (Probably from Carpi, 2nd half of the 17th Century.) 

The grand architectural schemes of the Munich Residence were echoed in miniature in the elaborate altar surrounds, balustrades and handrails that decorated some of the larger churches of Emilia Romagna, but there are no examples of the use of scagliola for large-scale palace architecture.  The ruling d’Este family had lost Ferrara to the Papal States in 1597 and their estates had been reduced to the two duchies of Modena, to which Carpi and Reggio belonged.  The d’Este appear to have found no use for scagliola apart from as a potential source of tax revenue*.  They made no attempt to encourage  the development of the technique nor add to its prestige by bringing it under royal protection (as had happened in Bavaria, and would happen again in Florence).

*Neumann, on evidence from the 19th century scholar and historian Paolo Guaitoli, believed that the Carpi scagliolists were organised in a guild by 1645. This was the year in which they were required to start paying a tax of 50 Lire per annum, as is shown by a letter of from the scagliolist Annibale Griffoni to the Duke of Modena which requested to have the tax removed.  The request was made again in a letter of 1674.

Next/Chapter 18.  The Carpi Masters – First Generation.