Renaissance Dissident
Art History from a Different Perspective

The Masters of the Tanaro

Religious Art in the Province of Cuneo

The fresco of The Crucifixion in the Chapel of San Bernardo, Castelletto Stura, Piedmont.

Art History Tour
The Masters of the Tanaro
Religious Art in the Province of Cuneo

Subject: the 15th century frescoes painted by local artists in the small churches and chapels along the Tanaro and Stura rivers.
Locations: Bastia Mondovì, Niella Tanaro, San Michele and Castelletto Stura.
Duration: around 7 hours, including travel and lunch break.

Price: To be announced for 2024.

The peaceful countryside of the province of Cuneo hides one of Italy’s best-kept artistic secrets. The latter part of the 15th century saw a ‘golden age’ for the creation of frescoes in local churches and chapels in this area, painted by local itinerant artists, who travelled from commission to commission, working for local nobility or the Church. The focus of this tour is a so-far unidentified artist that I have named ‘The Master of the Life of San Fiorenzo’, because of his cycle of frescoes in the church of San Fiorenzo in Bastia Mondovì. I am delighted to say that the Associazione Culturale San Fiorenzo in Bastia Mondovì has extended a particularly warm welcome to Chris Dobson Art History Tours, to allow us to study the frescoes of this important artist. His unmistakable style is also evident in the frescoes in the churches and chapels of Niella Tanaro, San Michele, and Castelletto Stura. But other local artists were active in this region as well.

There are no pretentions to courtly art here. This is simple ‘vernacular’ art for the faithful: either the local Piemontesi, or travellers following the trade route heading south to Mondovì, and on to Liguria. This artist’s frescoes are crammed with figures which are full of energy, that seem to leap from the plaster, and the effect is absolutely charming. They may not have the gravitas of the works of Mantegna or Ghirlandaio, but this is the true, authentic art of Piedmont, and you wont’t find anything like it in any other part of Italy. Whilst it was created when the Renaissance had already been in full-flow in Tuscany for some time, the style is still unashamedly Gothic, and purely Piemontese, sometimes evoking painting styles as far back as the High-Medieval art of the 13th century.

If you take part in this tour, prepare to enter a whole new artistic world...

Group Size: maximum 10 people.
Itinerary: we travel in private chauffeured transport from Fossano to the church of San Fiorenzo in Bastia Mondovì, where we enjoy a guided tour. We then travel on the church of Maria Vergine Assunta in Niella Tanaro. After viewing the frescoes there, we take a break for lunch in a local restaurant. After lunch, we travel on to see the church of La Madonna della Neve. If time permits we shall pause for coffee, but in any case we round off the day by visiting the tiny chapel of San Bernardo in Castelletto Stura. We then return to Fossano.
Meeting Point: Bar Castello, Via Cavour, 31 (on the corner of Piazza Castello), Fossano (unless otherwise arranged).
Departure Time: around 9.30AM (unless otherwise arranged). Return time around 4.30-5.00PM
When is this tour available? This tour is available Tuesday to Sunday, most weeks.
Tour price includes: private chauffeured transport, entry to all churches and chapels, guided tour of the church of San Fiorenzo in Bastia Mondovì. Please note that lunch is not included.

For more information or to make your booking, please get in touch via the Contact page.

The figure of Hector, one of the Nine Worthies in the frecoes in the audience chamber of La Manta Castle. This is also a portrait of Valerano del Vasto.
The figure of Sinope, one of the Nine Heroines in the frecoes in the audience chamber of La Manta Castle.
Fresco of the crucifixion (detail) in the Church of Santa Maria al Castello, La Manta.
Works by the Master of the Life of San Fiorenzo. Photo above: The Crucifixion, in the Chapel of San Bernardo, Castelletto Stura. Photos from left to right/top to bottom: The exterior of the tiny chapel of San Bernardo in Castelletto Stura; The frescoed interior of the Church of San Fiorenzo, Bastia Mondovì, photo: Alexandra Korey; The Resurrection, in the chapel of La Madonna della Neve, San Michele, photo: Associazione San Sebastiano.
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