Ludovico Mazzanti (Rome 1686 – Viterbo 1775)
Ludovico Mazzanti, a student of Giovan Battista Gaulli (known as Baciccio 1639-1709), worked mostly in Orvieto , where his family originated, as well as in Viterbo, Perugia, Città di Castello and Naples.
The altar piece was very dark when it was recently found in the storage deposits of the Bishop’s Palace where it had probably been put after the serious destruction many Viterbo churches suffered in the Second World War. The painting is stylistically and chronologically close to another altar piece “Santa Lucia prays to the Virgin for the souls in Purgatory” painted for the Bussi chapel in the Cathedral ( May 9th, 1733). The subject of the altar piece is the arrival on the Marche coast of the Holy House with the Virgin and Child seated upon it.
Note the backlighting and the use of diagonals, the strength with which the figures are coordinated, lightened by the luminosity of the shadows and the colored reflections that pass over the forms, of the pearly flesh tones and the grace of the 1700s which echo the methods learned from Paolo de Matteis(1662-1728) during his Neapolitan stay in 1733. The same formula of the Madonna and Bambino can be found with a few variants in a small canvas of the Gaddi collection in Orvieto where the figures are half busts while the group of central figures is the counterpart of that in the Viterbo Cathedral. A major rigor in the drapery dates the painting to a later time, close to the oval in the Lemme Collection in Ariccia’s Palazzo Chigi, thus probably the 1760s-70s, the moment that Santucci notes a “stiffness of the forms” in his work.
Article by Giannino Tiziani, extract from the exhibition catalogue “Immagini della Vergine”