Moroni and Macaroni

Posted On: 03 Mar 2024 by Damien Matthews

Moroni and Macaroni

Moroni and Macaroni

Spring is thankfully here. To get away for any kind of stretch at all in the preceding two months is a first world privilege. January and February can really (really) drag on. But this privilege I’m more than happy to annually secure. This year, took three weeks off to re-visit Italy. No plan, just whatever way the wind might blow. And it blew well.

At the start, in Milan, wandered into a converted bank with no idea. A very grand nineteenth century bank. Used now as an exhibition space titled, Gallerie d’Italia Milan. And in it, a show that truly impressed. Titled, ‘Moroni and his Land’, it surveyed the works of Giovanni Battista Moroni, an important but reasonably unrecorded Renaissance painter born in 1520. The title a little misleading in translation as its acknowledged that the artist’s best works are his portraits.

Although he really pushed things along, Giorgio Vasari in his ‘Lives of the Artists’ (published 1550) didn’t list him. An extraordinary oversight given they were near exact contemporaries. Various reasons are given, some plausible, some not, but basically Moroni didn’t stretch to Rome, or the other major cities of the time. He worked not far from where he was born for most of his life, undertaking commissions from the local nobility, the burgeoning merchant class and the regional churches. His work is mostly to be found dotted along the ribbon of towns and cities that meander across the boot top of Italy.

It really impressed me that show, so I decided to focus my time on Moroni, wander that ribbon, a la Berenson, where his work can still be found. What an unexpected pleasure. Italy with its fabulous train network made it no burden. And the food. The food the food! Only for all the walking and trekking I would’ve come back two stone heavier.

Leonardo da Vinci put it succinctly when he said, “Most men, the only mark they leave behind is a full latrine”. Not our Moroni, he’s the man. Isn’t it is a great thing, to be able to paint works that are, 500 years later, still kickin’ ass.

And it was my first world privilege to visit them. For which I am very grateful.