The Supper at Emmaus, Riccardo Ferroni

Rome is so full of churches, and so many of them are dedicated to Mary, that it’s easy to go to the wrong one.  We meant to go to Santa Maria del Popolo in the Piazza del Popolo to see the two Caravaggios, The Crucifixion of St Peter and The Conversion of St Paul, but we mistakenly went to Santa Maria dei Miracoli instead and spent fifteen minutes wondering what had happened to the paintings.

There’s a third Santa Maria in the Piazza, Santa Maria di Montesanto, the twin of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, and it has a surprising painting, The Supper at Emmaus, by Riccardo Tommasi Ferroni.

It looks like a conventional Baroque painting until you notice that the boy in the foreground is wearing trainers. Then you notice that Jesus has put the meal on a newspaper. Ferroni painted it in 1982. It’s a rare setting of a biblical story in a quasi-contemporary setting, which interested me because in my narrative ceramics I tried something similar.

Ferroni (1934-2000) was born into an artistic family and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence. Later he moved to Rome. By the end of the 1950s he was recognized as a modern painter in the school of Caravaggio, referring to pictorial forms of the past, in particular Mannerism and the Baroque. He he participated in the Fourth Quadrennial in Rome (1965) and in the Fourth Biennial of Contemporary Art in Paris. In 1982 he was elected to the Accademia di San Luca and exhibited at at the Venice Biennale, where he was involved in an altercation with Antoni Tàpies.

Self-Portrait with Verdi, Riccardo Ferroni

Ferroni was a bold choice for Santa Maria di Montesanto because some of his other paintings were weird, such as his Self-Portrait with Verdi. But in truth Caravaggio, the bad boy of art, made far more disturbing paintings than Ferroni with his mild surrealism.

Caravaggio, Judith Beheading Holofernes

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