Frescoes in the Oratory of St Cecilia, San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna
by Francesco Francia

The fresco cycle in the Oratory of St Cecilia consists of ten scenes from the legend of Saints Cecilia and Valerian, located on the north (scenes 1-5) and south (scenes 6-10) walls of the Oratory, which is connected by a passageway to the church of San Domenico Maggiore. The cycle, resembling a continuous frieze, is very different from the sort of painting normally found in parish churches. It bears a greater resemblance to the suites of canvases produced for Venetian oratories and assembly rooms.

The ten horizontal panels, each filled with life-size figures in the foreground, create the impression of a continuous pictorial narrative, one that is structured but not actually interrupted by the framing pilasters. The continuous background landscapes incorporate scenes from the legend of St Cecilia, a large part of which involves the conversions and martyrdoms of her husband Valerian and his brother Tiburtius. Also depicted are the Roman official Maximus, another convert, and Pope Urban I as the saints' protectors, who are soon afterward martyred themselves.

The predominant character of the cycle completely reflects the styles of the two masters who set the tone for the Bolognese school in around 1500, namely Lorenzo Costa the Elder and Francesco Francia. They must be regarded as the ones who devised the St Cecilia cycle, which was ultimately realized by collaborators whose names can no longer be determined with the exception of two panels with the signature of Amico Aspertini. The fact that the first pictures on each wall are by Francia would indicate that he was the supervisor of the project.

Three pairs of scenes were executed by Francesco Francia, Lorenzo Costa the Elder, and Amico Aspertini, respectively. The authors of the two other pairs are not known, here we present the reproductions of these scenes among the works by Francesco Francia.

The scenes of the cycle are the following:

Scene 1: Marriage of Cecilia and Valerian (Francesco Francia)

Scene 2: Valerian with Pope Urban (Lorenzo Costa the Elder)

Scene 3: Valerian is Baptized (unknown, displayed in Francesco Francia's section)

Scene 4: Coronation of Cecilia and Valerian (unknown, displayed in Francesco Francia's section)

Scene 5: Martyrdom of Valerian and Tiburtius (Amico Aspertini)

Scene 6: Burial of Valerian and Tiburtius (Amico Aspertini)

Scene 7: Cecilia Disputing with Almachius (unknown, displayed in Francesco Francia's section)

Scene 8: Martyrdom of St Cecilia (unknown, displayed in Francesco Francia's section)

Scene 9: Cecilia Gives away Her Possessions (Lorenzo Costa the Elder)

Scene 10: Burial of St Cecilia (Francesco Francia)

Preview Picture Data Info
View of the Oratory
1504-06
Fresco
Oratory of St Cecilia, San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna


View of the Oratory
1504-06
Fresco
Oratory of St Cecilia, San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna


Legend of Sts Cecilia and Valerian, Scene 1
1504-06
Fresco
Oratory of St Cecilia, San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna


Legend of Sts Cecilia and Valerian, Scene 3
1504-06
Fresco
Oratory of St Cecilia, San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna


Legend of Sts Cecilia and Valerian, Scene 4
1504-06
Fresco
Oratory of St Cecilia, San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna


Legend of Sts Cecilia and Valerian, Scene 7
1504-06
Fresco
Oratory of St Cecilia, San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna


Legend of Sts Cecilia and Valerian, Scene 8
1504-06
Fresco
Oratory of St Cecilia, San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna


Legend of Sts Cecilia and Valerian, Scene 10
1504-06
Fresco
Oratory of St Cecilia, San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna





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