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“Dal bello al bellissimo” (From beauty to artistic grandeur)

The Document of the Month of November 2018

Processing phases of the Pogliaghi Door

The heritage preserved at the Photographic Archive of Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo contains several pictures that have been conceived as working tools. Indeed, many of them were attached to reports of the Veneranda Fabbrica’s Administration to visually document the status of works and of renovations sponsored by the institution. We find a significant example in the iconographic material related to the five doors of the façade, produced between the mid-1800s and the mid-1900s.

The creation of the central door of the Duomo was long and complex. Already in 1847 Giacomo Mellerio left a legacy in favour of Veneranda Fabbrica for the restoration of the door. In 1891 artist Lodovico Pogliaghi delivered the terracotta scale model that is currently exhibited at Museo del Duomo. In 1894 Pogliaghi easily presented the final project for the central door.

The photograph provided here is a small albumin print assembled on cardboard (10x11 cm) that documents the subsequent project phase, precisely it is a picture of the chalk scale model of the doors.

The picture was preserved along with the report of the Fabbrica’s Architect Paolo Cesa Bianchi (28 March 1900/ AD LD C8 F1) on the visit to the Pogliaghi workshop to see the new scale models of the door, which the architect considered very positively: “I experienced a great joy that I cannot express in words, and it suffices to write about it. I could barely turn my eyes to compare the scagliola panels of the awarded project, and there were almost no terms of comparison because they had progressed from beauty to artistic grandeur”. A note at the end of the text mentions the photograph’s function as a document: “Description of the doors in the stories that individually form their present day scale model = see the photograph”.

An additional element of interest is the fact that, in the picture, Pogliaghi’s doors are inserted in a door that complies with the project by Giuseppe Brentano. Indeed, the neo-Gothic façade with which Brentano won the competition for the 1888 restoration proposed a considerably splayed central door with shutters divided by a pillar with shelf. However, this project was abandoned soon after 1900 when Veneranda Fabbrica decided to preserve the 16th century door by Pellegrino Tibaldi.

For the exhibition that celebrates Lucio Fontana’s work, Veneranda Fabbrica offers the possibility of exploring a detailed history of the doors of the Duomo, starting from the extensive legacy of documents and photos preserved in the Archive. The magnificent halls of the library present the final construction phase of the Duomo, namely the doors, starting from their iconographic project and presenting the proposals of artists, the search for bronze and the city’s involvement in the great inaugural ceremonies.