Who is Saint Roch? (San Rocco)
Saint Roch was born in Montpellier in 1295 of a noble family and after studing medicine for a short period, he left all his riches to depart at the age of twenty as a pilgrim for Italy in order to help the plague-stricken at Acquaoendente, Rome, Rimini, Cesena, Forlì and the end at Piacenza, where he fell sick himself; he recovered miraculously with help of a dog who took bread to him in the forest. He returned to Montpellier bus was not recognised by his family and he died in jail in 1327 aged only thirty-two. His deeeds and goodness earned him veneration in France immediately and he was called upon as protector against the pestilence which was raging through Europe. His cult was particulary felt in Venice, where his body was brought in 1485 and laid to rest in the church of the Archbrotherhood of Scuola Grande of Saint Roch in 1520. After the great plague in 1576 he was proclaimed co-patron of the city and his Church became a place of piligrimage every year for the Doge and the Nobles besides crowds of believers. Even nowdays, the 16th ot August festivity in celebrated solemnly and a canopy called "Tendon del Doge" in erected in Campo San Rocco between the Church and the Scuola.
Titian, St Mark Enthroned with Saints o "Tiziano fotografo", c. 1510
Oil on canvas, 230 x 149 cm
Santa Maria della Salute, Venice (in the sacristy, entrance 3 euro)
This painting, one of Titian's youthful works, was probably created either during or shortly after the horrific outbreak of the plague in 1510 for the church of Santo Spirito in Isola to celebrate the end of the plague. (It is now in the sacristy of the Santa Maria della Salute.) Here the four saints who are traditionally invoked for protection from the plague - Saints Cosmas and Damian to the left, Roch and Sebastian to the right - are placed in pairs on each side of the altar where saint Mark, patron saint of Venice, is seated.
The altarpiece reflects the influence of Giovanni Bellini. However, the figure of St Mark is inspired by the enthroned monarch in Sebastiano del Piombo's Judgment of Solomon, while St Sebastian on the right derives from the same saint on a series of organ shutters painted by Sebastiano for the Venetian church of San Bartolomeo di Rialto.
A new stylistic direction is evident in the way Titian paints the four standing saints. They have a classical nobility of form and a hieratic air which points to the influence of Bellini. On the other hand, the saints on the left - certainly portraits - are given a very realistic sense of individuality which is in strong contrast with the almost Giorgionesque reserve of the figures to the right.
This altarpiece is a brilliantly coloured, luminous work. An unusual feature is the cloud that casts its shadow over the face of St Mark.
The saints have a classical nobility of form and a hieratic air which point to the influence of Bellini.
Titian, St Mark Enthroned with Saints (detail) Sts Roch and Sebastian being on the right side
Oil on canvas
Santa Maria della Salute, Venice
Photocredit and text: Web Gallery of Art
E do la parola in italiano a Walter Fano:
La pala realizzata da Tiziano per la chiesa di Santo Spirito in Isola a Venezia, è un ex voto per una grave epidemia di peste che colpì la città nel 1510, facendo un gran numero di vittime. Questo spiega la presenza simultanea, oltre a San Marco, di quattro santi che la tradizione considera apotropaici. San Rocco, in abiti da pellegrino indica con la mano destra la piaga della peste sulla sua coscia. Un bellissimo San Sebastiano, trafitto da una freccia, volge lo sguardo assorto verso l'esterno. La presenza dei santi Cosma e Damiano, medici e protettori dei medici, intende legare scienza e fede nella lotto contro la temuta epidemia.
Ma Walter, per carità, cosa vuol dire apotropaici?