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«Questo misto di profano e di sacro»: The Studiolo Oratorio of Torrechiara


Timothy McCall


In one corner of the Camera d’Oro of Torrechiara castle (south of Parma), the room’s gold and azurite frescoes and polychrome tiles are conspicuously interrupted by the remnants of a study: intarsia panels and terra verde frescoes representing four uomini famosi. This essay examines and reconstructs the format and iconography of Torrechiara’s studiolo and evaluates the space’s juxtaposition of monochrome materiality with the exceedingly magnificent and resplendent surfaces of the larger room. I place the study within the context of Pier Maria Rossi’s art patronage and intellectual activity. A generally ignored document identifying Torrechiara’s «studiolo oratorio», moreover, allows us both to attribute the green-ground frescoes to the Lombard painter Francesco Tacconi and to conceptualize the space as both sacred and profane. By exploring princely studiolo cultures and typologies, and investigating courtly conceptions of privacy, secrecy, and revelation, we can appreciate the dynamic operations of concealment, display, and privilege activated by experiences of Torrechiara’s studiolo oratorio.