1645 | 1648
Francesco Gessi (1588 – 1649), The Miraculous fishing, Jesus driving the mercants from the temple, 1645 - 1648. Size ca 450 x 350 cm. each. The former is signed below, right ‘FRAN. GES. FE. 1645.’ and the latter ‘FRAN. GES. FE. 1648.’. Bologna, church of San Girolamo della Certosa, nave.
These two works epitomize the final style chosen by the artist, who died one year after completing the second painting. A more expressive and excited vein replaces the quiet compositions of his early works, where he had employed delicate and fluid colorings. Jesus Driving the Merchants from the Temple shows the influence of painters from the Veneto and from Rome, while The Miraculous Fishing combines references to French Classicist painting in its composition and to Neapolitan painting in its darker and earthy tones. The former canvas reveals the artist’s difficulty in portraying scenes with a large number of characters and an elaborate compositional structure, as required by the painting commissioned to him for the Certosa.
The restoration | These two paintings were the most critically preserved of the whole cycle. Through restoration, the Laboratorio degli Angeli consolidated the painted surface and revealed the artist’s extremely elaborate performing style. As a matter of fact, ancient chronicles describe the painter as constantly changing his mind and repainting before delivering the final work – and the large canvases he produced for the Certosa are a clear example of such a habit. Brushing colors was a long and painstaking process, as the paint had been spread in several layers (as many as four) thus resulting in an overall extremely fragile pictorial texture. The architectural background in Jesus Driving the Merchants from the Temple was almost completely illegible to the point that the sculptural decorations in it were no longer discernible. Over the centuries the falling off of sections of the final painting spread by the artist unveiled several sizable afterthoughts throughout the canvas – the Miraculous Fishing even shows that the painter covered a palm tree with a different tree.
Francesco Gessi (1588 – 1649) | The artist’s early masters were Giovanni Battista Cremonini, then Denys Calvaert; finally, towards 1615, he was working in Guido Reni’s studio. His maturation process is witnessed by several works on religious themes that he completed for Bolognese churches. Gessi’s style changed according to the commission he received. If this happened while he was working in Reni’s studio he was perfectly able to imitate the latter’s style; otherwise, when he himself was directly entrusted with a commission he painted following a more restless and bizarre vein and, as he grew older, with thicker and shaded colors. He worked under Guido Reni’s direct control at the frescoes in the Duomo at Ravenna and traveled with him to Naples in 1621 to work at the ornamental paintings of the Treasure Chapel in the Duomo, but the chapel never saw the light. Gessi’s style further evolved as Simone Cantarini, from Pesaro, joined Guido Reni’s studio and, unlike other pupils, soon stood out with his own very personal painting manner, which was openly critical of Reni’s style.