IHS monogram ~ Capuchin art

PierGabriele Vangelli GalleryPierGabriele Vangelli Gallery

IHS monogram

Straw, fabric and thread coloured with natural pigments.

Anonymous artisan from the Italian regions of Tuscany and Liguria.

h 81 x 120 cm.

I750 ca.

It is a remarkable example of  Capuchin art. Due to their vow of poverty,  the Capuchins could not use materials of luxury such as gold or silver.

This masterful intertwined monogram of the “Holy Name of Jesus” refers to the theological and devotional use, in Christianity, of the name of Jesus. The reverence and affection with which Christians have regarded the “Holy Name of Jesus” goes back to the earliest days of Christianity. The devotions and venerations also extend to the IHS christogram (a monogram of the “Holy Name”), derived from the Greek word IHSOUS (ΙΗΣΟΥΣ) for Jesus, or referring to Iesus Hominum Salvator, Jesus saviour of mankind, representing the Holy Name. Devotions to the Holy Name of Jesus exist both in Eastern and Western Christianity. The feast day is celebrated either as the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus or as that of Circumcision of Jesus, in various Christian churches. The Gospel of Matthew provides a specific meaning and intention for the name Jesus (as the one who “saves his people from sin”) and indicates that it was selected by Heavenly guidance. For centuries, Christians have invoked the Holy Name, and have believed that there is intrinsic power in the name of Jesus. “In the 15th century, the Franciscan Bernardine of Siena actively promoted the devotion to the Holy Name. At the end of his sermons he usually displayed the trigram IHS on a tablet in gold letters.” (The Jesus Prayer, Lev Gillet, 1987)  “Bernardine would then ask the audience to “adore the Redeemer of mankind”. Given that this practice had an unorthodox air, he was brought before Pope Martin V, who instead of rebuking Bernardine, encouraged the practice and joined a procession for it in Rome.” (Catholic Encyclopedia)

This object was most probably a gift to a high prelate  of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin (for his private chapel) form an unknown friary in Tuscany or Liguria.

It contains many interesting symbols:

Pears – they are a symbol of Pope Sixtus V (13 December 1521 – 27 August 1590), born Felice Peretti di Montalto, pope from 1585 to 1590. He came from the Order of Friars Minor Conventual.

Grapes – they represent Holy Communion and of the “blood shed by Jesus on the cross for the forgiveness of sin”. Grapes are also symbolic of the fruitfulness of the Christian life.

Pomegranates – a motif often found in Christian religious decoration. They are often woven into the fabric of vestments and liturgical hangings or wrought in metalwork. Pomegranates figure in many religious paintings by the likes of Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci, often in the hands of the Virgin Mary or the infant Jesus. The fruit, broken or bursting open, is a symbol of the fullness of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection.

These “straw paintings” are craft objects made by shaping straw into patterns and representational images. It became widespread in the early modern era particularly among minor and  Mendicant orders, due to their vow of poverty.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe writes in his “Italian Journey”
In honour of St. Francis, St. Peter’s Capuchins have splendidly adorned a side altar. There was nothing to be seen of stone but the Corinthian capitals: all the rest seemed to be covered with tasteful but splendid embroidery in the arabesque style; and the effect was as pretty as could be desired. I particularly admired the broad tendrils and foliage, embroidered in gold. Going nearer, I discovered an ingenious deception. All that I had taken for gold was, in fact, straw pressed flat, and glued upon paper, according to some beautiful outlines; while the ground was painted with lively colours. This is done with such variety and tact, that the design, which was probably worked in the convent itself with a material that was worth nothing, must have cost several thousand dollars, if the material had been genuine. It might, on occasion, be advantageously imitated.” (translated by Alexander James William Morrison)

Domenico Del Pino (Genoa, 1793-1851)

A 22953

Domenico Del Pino (Genoa, 1793-1851)

Portrait of the maire of Piedicavallo, about 1810-1814

Watercolour on paper, cm. 48 x 33

(on the letter) “A Monsieur / Monsieur le Maire / de / Piedicavallo”
(below, center) “Dessiné par Dom.que Del Pino”

The amazing watercolour portrait of the maire of Piedicavallo is first-rate work of Domenico Del Pino, artist of undoubted quality on which we have little biographical information.

In the early decades of the nineteenth century Del Pino was part of that lively group of designers and engravers, attracted by the Ligurian Academy of Fine Arts and devoted to the illustration of weekly books and guides that provided site views for a great part of the city of Genoa, giving a fundamental contribution to the creation of the iconographic heritage of the city. In some cases his signature is followed by the words “designer of the Genius of His Majesty”, which gives us an idea of his role in the army as a professional player of military maps and fortified buildings. A large number of albums regarding relevant reliefs and technical designs of military placements in the port of Genoa are attributed to him.

The watercolour prints of the views of Genoa which he executed with the collaboration of engraver Giuseppe Piaggio, brightened up by sketches of various kind, were published in 1818, after the start, in 1816, of the publication in issues of the Pomona italiana of Giorgio Gallesio, a monumental work on fruit trees that Del Pino illustrated in collaboration with a team of artists headed by Alexandre Poiteau.

His involvement in the important publishing adventure, that engaged him until 1832, was obviously due to Niccolò Palmerini, a Florentine engraver, pupil and first biographer of Raffaello Morghen, who took part in 1817 in the Società della Pomona, as co-financier and artistic consultant with the task of ensuring the artistic initiatives of the best naturalistic painters and most skilled engravers of the period.

Regarding the antiquities market, the portrait of Palmerini performed by Del Pino and engraved by Giuseppe Piaggio offers an interesting parallel of the Portrait of the maire of Piedicavallo here exposed, executed in unknown circumstances but surely over a period of years ranging from 1810 to the collapse of Napoleonic regime and the return of the Savoy Family in Piedmont in May 1814.

In the Annuaire Administratif (annual reports) of the Sesia Department for the year 1810, the maire of Piedicavallo, a small mountain village of Valle del Cervo, nowadays almost uninhabited, is in fact documented for the first time. The person in concern is Jean-Baptiste Rosazza, born Giambattista Rosazza Vitale (1777-1848), well-known entrepreneur and builder of fortifications and trenches, activities that can easily place him in connection with the “designer of Genius” Domenico Del Pino. The dating is also confirmed by some signs easily recognizable in the style of that period: the Murat whiskers, cobalt blue frock (royal blue to be exact) with the imperial eagle on the silver buttons, ruff well tied under the neck and the maire’s armband with the French flag.

The attention given to every detail typical of a skilled designer – note for example the wedding band on the finger, the gold circle ear ring and subtle gradations in the colour of the flesh – the sober colouring and precise layout guarantee a greatly formal elegant outcome.

Alessandra Imbellone


PierGabriele Vangelli Gallery


PierGabriele Vangelli Gallery

Head of Menelaus

Between 1700 and 1800

Watercolor on paper

In Greek mythology, Menelaus (Ancient Greek: Μενέλαος, Menelaos) was a king of Mycenaean (pre-Dorian) Sparta, the husband of Helen of Troy, and a central figure in the Trojan War. Prominent in both the Iliad and Odyssey, Menelaus was also popular in Greek vase painting and Greek tragedy.