BEMBO, Giovan Francesco
(b. ca. 1480, Cremona, d. ca. 1543)

Adoration of the Magi and Presentation in the Temple

Cathedral, Cremona

The early decades of the sixteenth century in Cremona were some of the most turbulent in its political history. In these years of constantly changing foreign rulers, the local leaders of Cremona pursued an elaborate project of decoration with remarkable consistency. From 1506 to 1522 the community had the chancel and nave of the twelve-century cathedral frescoed. By continuing the decoration through all the changes in government, the community represented its own identity; it was an act of local self-assertion.

The decoration was begun in the semi-dome vault of the apse in 1506. Boccaccio Boccaccino depicted, following a time-honoured scheme, the Epiphany of God in the Last Days (Christ in Majesty) as the principal and culminating image within the church space. Later, in 1514 Boccaccino received the commission to begin a fresco cycle of the life of Mary and Christ on the walls of the nave. They begin on the left wall, running from the façade to the apse and then on the right wall from the apse back to the façade. The left wall is dedicated to Mary and Christ's childhood; the right to the Passion.

Boccaccino painted the scenes above the first four arches of the nave. While he was working on the frescoes above the third and fourth arches, Giovan Francesco Bembo had been active above the fifth arch since 1515. The compositions of his Adoration of the Magi and Presentation in the Temple draw on Dürer's woodcuts on the same themes. He competed with his northern model in the earthy details Physiognomies are exaggerated; dogs trot out. He applies quotidian, harsh effects.

Bembo was not awarded another commission in Cremona Cathedral, the fresco cycle was continued by the Cremonese artist Altobello Melone.

View all images of the fresco decoration in Cremona Cathedral by various artists.