MAIRA valley
(prov. Cuneo)
Piemonte - Italy


Master Painter

A Flemish man's adventure
in Piemonte

by Adele Rovereto

Taken from:
Piemonte pages
magazine of art, culture, information and tourism
n7 April 99 - Priuli & Verlucca, Editori

polyptych by Hans Clemer in the parish church of Celle Macra

Elva's Master Painter"
A Flemish man's adventure in Piemonte

by Adele Rovereto

The rich artistic scene of Piemonte shows some unusual masterpieces, witnessing the presence of different cultural influences. In fact, along the centuries, many artists of different nationalities, Italian but quite frequently French or Flemish, came in Piemonte, attracted by the patronage due to local needs or to the action of the Savoy court, giving birth to remarkable art-works. "Elva's Master Painter" has to be classified among these artists who, coming from abroad, belong now to our artistic history.
Hans Clemer, according to an identification made twenty years ago, is the name of the artist often described as Elva's Master Painter because of the frescos enriching Elva's parish church. Not only he worked in this town, some beautiful works are to be found in the whole Marquisade of Saluzzo, with subjects ranging from religion to historic-mithology. His artistic path underlines a wide culture and the influence of Gian Martino Spanzotti, a little older than Hans Clemer, of the school of Ferrara, of Piero della Francesca and of catalan painters.
The scheme of the "Madonna della Misericordia" in Casa Cavassa, Saluzzo, follows provencal models but with the originality of bright colors (gold on the background and on Mary's dress); his way of reading the lessons of masters of the past is clear in the force of his drawing and in his realism: Saint Peter is represented as a common man, simple and hurted, called to a difficult and important task. The angels crowning the Lady herself, with her golden hair and pale face, remind somehow Spanzotti's technique (the triptic in Galleria Sabauda of Torino); Margherita di Foix, Marquis of Saluzzo's wife, is depicted here as common believer, with her son Michele Antonio.
Dome of Saluzzo: the wonderful "Polittico" was made to remind the 24th July 1494, day in which Charles VIII of France decorated Ludovico II of Saluzzo with "Saint Michael's Order". The "Polittico" should belong to the years 1498-1500, when the cathedral, at the time still in construction, allowed the celebration of the mass. Saint Chiaffredo and Costanzo, protectors of the Marquisade, appear there in the elegance of Renaissance gentlemen. The flemish artist didn't work just for the court, even the noble men and the Church asked him to express his talents. Onto two walls, in the Church courtyard, Clemer made "David's Stories", showing his strong language, careful in the realistic description of faces and clothes. Really impressive are "The labours of Hercules", made grisaille, decorating the first floor balcon of Casa Cavassa. The skill and maturity expressed here are far from the ones of Elva's works, significantly in the way of interpretating the landscape and in the study of characters; the influence of a more opened environment and the original re-interpretation of different solutions leave their mark on the last works. But Clemer's fame is linked to his masterpieces in Elva, seen that the study of his artistic evolution started there. The cycle "Histories of the Lady and of Christ's childhood", ending with the magnificent "Crucifixion", is still marked by the influence of Nice-provencal schemes (dating these masterpieces at the end of XV - beginning of XVI centuries), lightned by bright colours. Some other aspects suggest a good knowledge of Spanzotti's artistic language, as said before (a good exemple is the aspect of Mary in "Christ's childhood").
The "Crucifixion" is a small masterpiece, with great pathos and suffering. Christ and the two thieves stand over the crowd, heroic exemples of good and evil: the bad thief looks to the earth, to underline his belief in materiality, while the good one looks at the sky, at the Heaven he's destined to. Christ, between them, keep his arms opened to embrace both good and evil, but with his head tilted to the side of the good.

Taken from:
Pagine del Piemonte
periodico di arte, cultura, informazione e turismo
n7 Aprile 99 - Priuli & Verlucca, Editori
English Translation by

Suggested pages

- LA PARROCCHIALE - Elva's Parish Church
- LE ABITAZIONI - Elva's houses
- A SPASS PER LOU VIOL - A trip walking in Elva

valle Maira