Friday, September 4, 2015

Painted Tuscan Millhouse

Two miles from the small Tuscan town of Pontremoli, a large mill, its outbuildings and landowner's house with its small internal chapel form a borgo, or a kind of small village. Known as Mulino de Cavezzana, the house is currently available for summer rental, and is the perfect location from which to explore Pontremoli - known as the gateway to Tuscany - and its charming surroundings.

The cantinas dates as far back as the 14th century, but much of the architectural detail including many painted ornamental ceilings originated in the 1820s. Once owned by the local Diocese and used by the Bishop as a summer residence, it was most likely decorated by itinerant artisans traveling from major cities to the north, such as Genoa. 

The engraved date on the entrance reads 1596

The Ligurian coast (with its world-famous Cinque Terre region) is no more than 100 miles from Pontremoli, and was historically dominated by the Genoan republic. This precluded the development of a localized painterly style so that a kind of florid mannerism prevailed, painted as it was by 2nd Tier artisans for the most part, but that doesn't mean it's without its charm. When the style popular in urban centers spreads to the hinterland, it invariably becomes a filtered mush of folksy brushwork and overwrought forms. But that's also why we love it.

Foreign painters from Germany and Catalonia were employed in the 19th century to decorate Ligurian cathedrals and churches in the Baroque fashion that was all the rage in Genoa, much the same way that the foreigners Rubens and Van Dyke had been called to the region during the 17th century. The dominant local style in Liguria was Baroque in the manner of dominant Genoa, developed as it was under the patronage and expansive influence of the Jesuit style of church and palace architecture. Nearby Pontremoli has beautiful examples of Francesco Natali's ornate ceiling frescos in the Church of Santissima Annunziata, after his more famous Andrea Pozzo. I'll be writing a blog post about this charming little church next.

It's reasonable to assume that the artists, or at least their assistants, would have been employed to decorate the summer residence of a local Bishop.

The ceiling of what is now a small tea room

Charming stencil designs, and loose Italianate faux marbre decorate the walls

The large ceiling in the main living room has been heavily repainted, but retains its charm.

The internal chapel opened directly to the outside,
welcoming visitors with a devotional marble bas relief and small holy water receptacle.


  1. Ohhhhh. Wow... Sometimes there are just no words. For this post, it's ine of those sometimes. I am now a subscriber of your blog posts. I look forward to spending much more time around your web space here...thank you for sharing this intimate look inside. Wow.