The panel with S. Francis, together with the panel of S. John the Baptist, once made up the left side of the polyptych executed by Bernardo Zenale for the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception in the church of S. Francis in Cantù. Both panels belong to the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum. In the center of the polyptych was the Madonna and Child with Singing and Music-making Angels, now in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The right hand panels, depicting SS. Stephen and Anthony of Padua, are in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, also in Milan. The complex history of the two panels, originally arched, was compiled for the exhibit, “Zenale e Leonardo” (1982). Both panels underwent a delicate cleaning by Nuccia Comolli Chirici for the recent exhibit dedicated to Vincenzo Foppa (2002) to which was loaned the panel depicting the Umbrian saint. In 2005, the state of conservation of the panel of this panel was re-examined, and maintenance performed, by Carlotta Beccaria to ready it for an exhibit in Japan.

The acquisition of the two panels by the Bagatti Valsecchi brothers took place at an unknown date, presumably around the 1890s. Both paintings are displayed flanking the matrimonial bed of Giuseppe Bagatti Valsecchi and Carolina Borromeo in the Red Room, as originally intended.

The two panels of the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum fall in an intermediate phase of Zenale’s work, between that characterized by a thin and compact way of painting and that characterized by a formal semplification under the influence of Boltraffio and Bramantino, already present in his works at the cusp of the first and second decades of the 16th century. The figure of the frate, in particular, is realized with a rich and turgid pictorial material, and reveals the traces of a confrontation with the new sensibilities of Leonardo for the exploration of nature, while–seen as a whole–the work reveals Zenale’s interest in perspective.


Restorer’s Technical Report (drawn directly from the restoration record of 2005)

After examining the work together with the Milanese Inspector Dott.ssa Isabella Marelli, the extent of the intervention and the materials to use were chosen.

In a preliminary phase, the adherence of the support, preparatory layer and the painted layer was done with fish glue (2%) that allowed the fixing of the small raised areas without having to remove the present varnish. The correct plane of the panel was reached only in certain areas because in many areas the paint is slightly swollen, not because of a detachment, but because the painted surface is slightly corrugated due to a swelling of the preparatory layer e/o the wood grain. In these cases, the flattening of the surface obviously was not possible, but the surface is perfectly adhered, nonetheless.

The removal of surface deposits, such as dust and atmospheric grease, was effected using a fatty emulsion with 0,5 of citrate. The atmospheric surface deposits were removed, and the wood was disinfested. The presence of numerous bug holes attested to the presence of wood-eating bugs making such a disinfestation necessary. It was done with a synthetic pyrethrin dissolved in mineral resin, and applied with a brush and a syringe.

The wood was consolidated with a 3% solution of paraloid. A small fessure was fixed by inserting Araldite.

Out-of-place colors were veiled.

A final satin-finish varnish was sprayed on finely. This intervention noticeably reduced the shininess of the varnish applied during an old restoration even if the thickness of the surface is slightly dishomogenous.

As for the restoration of the frame, the parts having nothing to do with the original were removed, the surface was consolidated, the wood was disinfected using brush and syringe, and metal clamps were used to hold in the panel.

For the restoration record in full, scholars are kindly requested to contact the museum.

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