Perugia, a real-life postcard
by Margherita Mencarelli
The beauty of Perugia doesn’t come from her majestic monuments or impressive squares, but from the personal experience that is felt by walking through the alleys of her historical centre.
Wandering the city’s streets, it’s possible to end up being in wonderful corners with stunning landscapes that are captured by lots of tourists, arrived in the city exactly for this peculiarity. As an unrepeatable treasure hunt of amazing and unique views, inspiration for paintings by all the ages’ artists.
In the frescoes of the Priori Chapel, a chapel inner the National Gallery of Umbria, it’s portrayed the pictorial cycle of Saint Ludovico da Tolosa and Saint Ercolano lives, by the Perugian artist Benedetto Bonfigli. The episodes of Saint Ercolano’s life, one of the three patrons of Perugia, show a representation of the city in the fifteen century, with the numerous towers not yet destroyed. Even if the landscape it’s different from today, some elements are still recognizable.
The episode La presa di Perugia da parte di Totila [Totila’s siege of Perugia] features the Goti conquer of the city and the martyrdom of Saint Ercolano, whose burial is portrayed on the lower right, just in front of the well identifiable façade of the homonymous church.
The next episode, Prima traslazione del corpo di Sant’Ercolano dalla prima sepoltura alla Basilica di San Pietro [Translation to San Pietro], shows the displacement of the Saint obsequies from the Saint Ercolano church to the Saint Peter cathedral, with a huge procession. In this fresco is possible to see in the foreground, on the right, the red and white façade and the impressive bell tower of the Saint Peter cathedral.
While, on the centre of the background, it’s visible the basilica church of Saint Domenico with his famous stained-glass window and the bell tower, whose upper part was demolished after the Rocca Paolina construction. Another example of a Renaissance representation of Perugia, it’s portrayed in the panel Gonfalone della Giustizia by the most famous Perugian artist, Il Perugino. In this painting, which is now in the National Gallery of Umbria, it’s seen, in the foreground, a view of the Porta Eburnea district, one of the five districts of the historical centre of Perugia, as a beautiful postcard from the sixteen century.
One of the most famous Perugian landmark is the Rocca Paolina. Built by the will of Pope Paolo III Farnese, from whom it takes the name, was erected between 1540 and 1543, as an emblem of the Pope supremacy over the city. After the annexation of Perugia in the kingdom of Italy, it was gradually destroyed, till the small portion visible today. Two little paintings of the Perugian artist Giuseppe Rossi, that are now in the National Gallery of Umbria, show the majesty and the impressiveness of the fortress that, before the demolition, englobed all the southside of the city.
It’s interesting how little it’s remained of the original structure: the Pope Palace, at the top right of the board, it’s today replaced by Piazza Italia, Giardini Carducci and Palazzo della Prefettura. While the so-called Tenaglia [Pincer], at the bottom left, stood in the place where today there is Piazza Partigiani.
The pictorial representation of Perugia’s beauties it’s not an exclusive prerogative of Perugian artists, but it’s seen also in foreign artists or artists that come from other parts of Italy that, after a long-term residence, fell in love with the city and portrayed it in fascinating paintings.
Luigi Marzo is an artist from the area of Salento who, after coming to Perugia to study at the university, had been enchanted by the city, and decided to remain to live there. In the small expressionistic painting called Arco Etrusco, he represents one of the landmarks of the city, the north gate of the Etruscan wall. Marzo chose to portray the Arch focusing not on an accurate and objective representation but expressing through the painting his sensations and emotions over the place illustrated. The result is an intimate and personal artwork. The little painting by the Dutch artist Christian Seebauer, shows a view of Perugia from the Pincetto zone. Comparing the picture to a photograph, the confrontation is surprising. The punctuality ad accuracy with whom the painter has depicted all the details is really remarkable and demonstrates the admiration of Seebauer for the city, grown during his studies at the University for Foreigners of Perugia.
The last suggested painting belongs to Valerio Lombardelli, aka Wallas, an artist from the city of Pesaro. The print, titled Perugia, Quando Scende La Notte, Si Accendono Le Luci E Inizia Lo Spettacolo Dell’amore [Perugia, when the night falls, the lights come on and the show of love begins], represents the most emblematic place of the city, the IV November Square, with the Major Fountain and the staircase of the Priori Palace. The work, part of a series of paintings dedicated to the city, presents the typical characteristics of the artist’s style, with bright and unnatural colours and a light sight despite the starry night. A dual representation, intimate and explosive, that proposes herself as an invitation to visit Perugia.
The illustration of Perugia’s monuments and landscapes doesn’t end with these few examples, there are countless paintings and drawings by more or less famous artists that, every year, engage in the city representation.
A pure and simple act of love, a gratitude gesture to a city that hosted them and made them feel home. In fact, whether it’s writing, music or painting, art is a necessary expression of feelings, and there’s nothing that inspires more than a beautiful view.