The Chapel of St. Felice and St. Fortunato

The Chapel of St. Felice and St. Fortunato with paintings by Nicolò Bambini, Angelo Trevisani, Gaspare Diziani, G. B. Cignaroli, and friar Massimo from Verona (1728 -1737)

The chapel represents the most important section of painting in the cathedral collected in a sort of precious casket. Between 1728 and 1737, at the request of Bishop Soffietti decoration of the chapel dedicated to the Patron Saints of the city, already enriched by a central altar by the young architect Longhena was begun. The Bishop proposed the execution of two paintings telling the story of the Martyrs, beginning with their capture, through their various tortures until their final decapitation. Works were commissioned by various podestàs, or mayors, of Chioggia during a period of nine years. The result is a pictorial cycle of particular importance for the quality of the six canvases painted by various artists of the Venetian School, which show various episodes from the suffering of the Martyrs who appear as two Roman soldiers. Tradition however depicts the Saints as two merchants from Aquileia via Vicenza, an important maritime commercial centre of the Upper Adriatic. During the Dioclezian persecution (303 – 305), surprised by the imperial guard as they prayed in a wood, the saints were taken before the political and religious authorities where they embraced the Christian Faith and renounced their paganism. The cycle of canvases depicts the various tortures endured by the saints and up until recently the excellent workmanship on some was attributed to artists of the calibre of Tiepolo, Piazzetta and Luca Giordano. Recent research by Sponza however indicates that “The Torture by Beating” to be by Nicolò Bambini; “the Torture by Stretching and Burning” and “Torture by Boiling Oil” to be by Angelo Trevisani; “the Torture of the Broken Jaws” and “The Torture by Razors” by Gaspare Diziani and “The Decapitation” by G.B. Cignaroli. This cycle of works is excellent in its compositional harmony, always intense and effective, in its careful study of proportion and perfection in perspective. Perhaps for its luminosity and clearness of composition the last scene, “The Decapitation” by the Veronese Cignaroli, is the most satisfying. A vigorous composition built around an unusually low point of perspective which exalts a dramatic foreground image, imbuing it with pathos and intense mystic light.


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