You may recall I began the description of this trip with the observation I made mistakes and there were surprises – but more “Unplanned Encounters” than “Disappointing Misses.” In the column marked “Disappointing Miss” with regards to Judith, I would have to place the side trip to Turin. BUT …
… the side trip to Bergamo was an “Unplanned Encounter” of immense proportions!! My original destination in Bergamo was Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in which two Judith’s reside. Bergamo is a charming city, composed of the 16th century Città alta (Upper city) and the 19th-20th century Città bassa (Lower city). Santa Maria Maggiore is in the Upper City, reached by funicular or bus on a road that rings the outer walls — then by foot on the sharply sloping, twisting streets within. At the top of one such street is the church, which can be easily missed since it is not free-standing but appears to be in a row of dwellings.
The interior of the church is quite dim, and on the day of my visit, one-third of the interior was cordoned off to accommodate a “cherry-picker” that was used to perform maintenance. With the dimness and the recesses and the cherry-picker, it was only with the assistance of someone from the book shop that I was able to find the two artworks I was seeking. This search was assisted by a book of the artwork within the Basilica with descriptions and photographs — because in this case, a picture was truly worth a thousand words in an unfamiliar language.
The first artwork I sought was a painting by Gian Paolo Cavagna, located above the left choir stalls. There is no access to the stalls and the painting is displayed very high, such that the available angle for viewing is so awkward and dark that photographs were nearly impossible to obtain. At least I now know where it is!
The second work of art was a wooden inlay by Lorenzo Lotto. Although this inlay is displayed behind the front rail of the choir stalls – low to the ground and easy access for photographs, I found it is only on display on Sundays.
That’s right: on weekdays the panel is flipped over the reveal this:
And you probably you guessed right again. I was not visiting the church on a Sunday. Which could have been counted as a “Disappointing Miss” except …
Without prior planning and by total coincidence, upon arrival in Bergamo I was greeted by posters announcing the traveling exhibit of Palma il Vecchio at the Academia Carrera. And can you imagine my elation to discover on the exhibit website that it contained his portrait of Judith!!? The one who J. Allyn Rosser declared was “the only Judith I’ve ever seen who could single-handedly have hacked through a man’s neck is that of Jacopo Palma the Elder— now there’s a woman with some heft!” No photography allowed but it was a spectacular opportunity to experience a detailed exhibit of his work — and to stand before one of the most beautiful depictions of my namesake for as long as I liked. Definitely an “Unplanned Encounter” of immense proportions!!