Perugia’s Stained Glass Splendor
In Perugia, artistic treasures are innumerable.
You’ll certainly want to include in your explorations, the splendid Renaissance masterpieces of Perugino in the frescoed Collegio del Cambio (Money-changers Guild),….
……the medieval cathedral, backdropping the 13th-century Great Fountain,….
These monuments are all linked to a perugino stained-glass master, Francesco Moretti (1833- 1917) and his nephew, Lodovico Caselli (1859-1922)
You’ll note the Moretti-and-Caselli tie to the Papal fortress as soon as you arrive at the Studio Moretti Caselli: the entry is right across from the papal fortress.
A sign to the left of the door announces entry to a museo laboratorio specializing in stained glass creation and restoration:
Inside, artisans carry on the tradition of stained glass in a former palazzo of the Baglioni family, vociferous opponents of Pope Paul III, the Farnese pope who mandated the despised salt tax (1540).
The Pope ordered destruction of most of the Baglioni homes and his massive fortress was constructed over the ruins…
…but the 15th-century palace of Guido Baglioni did escape destruction.
In the late 19th-century, Moretti bought the building – which had also been used as a Carabinieri (Italian military police) barracks previously – and restored the edifice, creating his studio on the lower floors and family lodgings above.
In that same year, Moretti had also started work on restoration of the 15th-century stained glass window splendor of the 13th-century church of San Domenico in his own Perugia, concluding his work there in 1879:
Paola and Giorgio guided me through the multiple rooms of the Studio Moretti Caselli. Paola showed me shelves of ancient pigments..
….where the chemistry books consulted by Moretti flanked some of the shelves lined with bottles and jars of colors:
More than one area of the Studio is dedicated to the abundant archives:
A tour through the studio also takes in the ancient kilns for firing as well as numerous glass-working tools.
Surrounding preparatory drawings for stained glass works, numerous plaster molds of body parts hang on the walls, essential for creating perspective and realistic detail in the glass works, Paola explained.
John the Baptist (a painting for an Arezzo stained glass commission – now lost) stared at me, many of the hands above him seeming to point at him:
Other plaster forms are displayed above some of the many awards received by Moretti and Caselli:
One of the largest and most splendid rooms is the grandiose painted salone (reception room):
Cartoons (or full-scale drawings) of completed creations line many walls,….
….including that of the room called “la stanza della Regina” (“the Queen’s room”), where a queen reigns: Queen Margherita di Savoia. The drawings face the Queen, seeming to me to offer her homage.
As they showed me the Francesco Moretti stained glass masterpiece of the Queen, Paola and Giorgio recounted the history of this stunning work which Moretti had made to evidence that stained glass excellence must certainly not be considered “un’arte minore.”
The oil paintings of Moretti in preparation for his Regina astound: one can perceive the glimmer of light on the jewels,…
…..the soft silky opulent feel of the gown and the intricacies of the gown’s lacework trim depicted in another painting:
Above the Regina Margherita Moretti masterpiece (declared so by the artist himself), the stained glass window intended for the skylight of Palazzo Cesaroni in Piazza Italia spreads out. The striding griffin – symbol of Perugia – takes center stage on a bright red background:
I asked Paola why the skylight stained glass was here in their studio and not in place: “Because Francesco Moretti did not respect the deadline requested,” she told me.
Behind the hanging stained glass on the left, the bright colors of the Incoronazione della Vergine illuminate that corner of the “Queen’s Room.”
Inspired by Perugino’s painting (1502- 1504) of the same theme…
….Moretti’s “Coronation of the Virgin” was show at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1867.
The Studio Moretti Caselli conserves the preparatory drawings of Moretti:
Near the Moretti Regina paintings stands a Nativity stained glass, a recent work of Maddalena Fiorenza, now carrying on the family artisan tradition:
Also on display is Maddalena’s vetrata of the Umbria landscape, inspired by Perugino’s Renaissance paintings and frescoes, depicting the Umbrian landscape with muted delicate colors:
A contemporary work is displayed between Maddalena’s Umbria landscape stained glass and the face of Jesus which is part of an imposing work created by Rosa and Cecilia Caselli, her great-aunts:
This face of Jesus, cracked during firing…
…as Paola explained to me, pointing to the crack:
Rosa and Cecilia Caselli had to re-create the face as Jesus was to be the central figure in the 40 sq. meters of splendor they made for the Forest Lawn Great Mausoleum in Glendale, California (1925-1930): Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper”….
…and mille grazie to the Studio Moretti Caselli for this photo of the sisters in preparatory work for their Last Supper:
The face of Judas took many attempts, cracking multiple times, Paola and Giorgio told me.
As she pointed out the cracks on a Judas head, Paola told me with a smile, “Aunt Rosa sometimes said the image cracked five times, and sometimes she said six times..”
Due to the necessary – and highly risky! – transportation of the individual pieces of the “Last Supper” by ship, assemblage of the glass pieces took place on site. Alas, Rosa and Cecilia never saw their masterpiece installed.
After reading about stained glass masters, Francesco Moretti and the Caselli family, I stopped in the Basilica di Santa Chiara on a recent walk with my little grandson, Milo.
I wanted to introduce him to the Caselli sisters: their stained glass windows reign in the apse and also on the side walls.
We were quite a distance from the apse stained glass windows but allowed closer proximity to the Caselli vetrate in the Chapel of St. Agnes on the left flank of the nave although the door was locked as the chapel is only open for confessions.
I tried a photograph of the Caselli sisters’ stained glass through the grill work, in any case:
Paola’s husband, Giorgio, told me that this last work in stained glass for the Basilica di Santa Chiara created by Rosa and Cecilia (1931) was done with an unusual choice of colors.
The windows on of the Basilica transept are also theirs. I wish a photographer had accompanied me to do justice to the Caselli vetrate.
Their father, Lodovico, together with Francesco Moretti, created the stained glass window (1898-1911) which adorns the apse of the 16th-century Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli (Assisi) – just meters away from the place where San Francesco died October 3, 1226.
In 1923, Cecilia and Rosa Caselli depicted St. Elizabeth of Hungary – patron saint of the Franciscan Tertiaries – in a stained glass window in Assisi’s 13th-century Lower Basilica of St. Francis (the image designed by their father, Lodovico Caselli):
Other stained glass windows depicting St.Francis and St. Clare – also designed by Lodovico Caselli – were made by his daughters, Rosa and Cecilia, for the Lower Basilica.
Since my visit to the Studio Moretti Caselli, I have realized that my Umbria guided tours – strongly centered on historic architecture and famed frescoes and paintings – must now expand to include other artistic masterpieces: the Moretti Caselli stained glass splendors adorning so many significant Umbrian architectural treasures.
Such as the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence in the Perugia cathedral dedicated to the Saint by Lodovico Caselli (1917). Caselli’s preparatory drawing is conserved in the Studio Moretti Caselli:
….and I remember seeing that drawing in the studio:
Francesco Moretti’s Nativity (1874) is in Perugia’s cathedral, also (and the Studio conserves the preparatory drawing):
The drawing is near plaster molds in the studio and I remember being struck by the figure of the shepherd kneeling in the foreground: for me, such a contemporary personage….
Various Rosa and Cecilia Caselli stained glass windows are also in the Perugia cathedral.
My next Orvieto tour also must include the stained glass masterpieces created by Francesco Moretti (1886-1891) – as well as the fresco splendors in the Duomo:
And the Studio Moretti Caselli must certainly be a stop now on my Perugia tours.
(Mille grazie to Paola and Giorgio for sharing the wonders with me. Thanks, too, to the Studio Moretti Caselli for use of some of your photos).
See the video of my visit to the Studio Moretti Caselli
Read about a Perugino masterpiece in Perugia
Read about – and see! – the 16th century Perugia papal fortress, Rocca Paolina
Read about the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Assisi) where a Moretti Caselli stained glass is in the apse
Read about my 2016 group tour of Umbria with visit to Perugia