One day between May and June, my dear Friend and Colleague Mariano (Bottoli) phoned me, and after the occasional small talk and worries about Covid keeping us isolated, he vaguely hinted at a project. “Listen, you know that when several people come up with the same ideas, it makes you think! The other day I heard from Paola (Artoni) and we had the same idea. To create a collective work as Ex Voto to the Sanctuary and in Prayer to Our Lady”. He could only tell me a little more about it: involving some artists, each one of them creating a painting that together would have formed a single polyptych. I take some time to reflect, but I am curious. “What are the themes?” I ask. In second place comes Saint Rocco and my light bulb goes on. Saint Rocco, one of my favourite saints, because of his life and because, like Saint Francis, he loved and was loved by animals. “I’m taking a couple of days to decide, but if I accept I’d like to make Saint Rocco!” I eventually accepted! The times were very tight, recovering the same material for everyone, designing the drawings and completing them by the beginning of July. So I immersed myself in the project.
This Shrine has always been on my path, I would say. After finishing the Restoration School, I worked on the restoration of the frescoes in the apse, and then on the restoration of the multi-material sculptures, not to mention that in the last 25 years it has seen me leaning over its churchyard to make ephemeral paintings.
I have picked up the history of the Saints, life, iconography, studying every detail to characterize Saint Rocco, from the type of shell, the clothes, the breed of dog, going from the historical data to the pictorial ones, first of all with the works of Fetti in mind, feeling like the original craftsmen who worked in the Sanctuary and made the historical Ex Voto, which are still preserved in it. My Saint Rocco had to be humble, like his figure, so he bent down beside the faithful dog who brought him bread by stealing it from his master Gottardo.
The group that was created was very stimulating, we would to discuss details, ideas, modifications and processing stages.
In the end came the big day to set up the polyptych. I liked the idea of bringing the ephemeral art of the madonnari inside the Sanctuary, which has always observed them, and the task was not at all simple. But with ingenuity and good will we succeeded, and it was exciting to see all those canvases hoisted one on top of the other to ideally form the structure of the wooden platform on which the historical statues stand, so unique and characteristic of this Sanctuary.
The Madonnari in the heart of Grazie | Ex voto 2020
A project by the Rectorate of the Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin of Grace and the Culture Department of the Municipality of Curtatone
With the contribution of : Tea Spa, Bam Foundation, Mynet, Rotary
Concept and design: Paola Artoni , Paolo Bertelli
Artistic coordination: Mariano Bottoli
We thank: Mgr Marco Busca, Mgr Egidio Caporello, Mgr Giancarlo Manzoli, Don Giovanni Lucchi, Don Stefano Savoia.
Madonnari Masters: Victor Boni, Vera Bugatti, Mariangela Cappa, Liliana Confortini, Fabio Maria Fedele, Gabriele Ferrari, Ketty Grossi, Simona Lanfredi Sofia, Tiberio Mazzocchi, Anna Salvaterra, Valentina Sforzini
Video realization: RPM Media Group
Video project coordination: Alice Sabatini
Project contact person for the Municipality of Curtatone: Andrea Bresciani
Director: Manuel Bressan – Indigo Media
Director of photography: Riccardo Cordioli
Aerial shots: Daniele Pernigo and Manuel Bressan
Original music : Simone Angiuli
Voice over: Marco Veneziani
Preparation : Fausto Salomoni
We would also like to thank: Miriam and Matteo Bresciani, Andrea Bresciani, Romolo Lucadello, Bruno Mariotti and the volunteers of the village of Grazie Valentino Lanzoni and Luca Tortorella.