I paid a quick visit to the organizers of the upcoming Salon exhibition in Bergamo last week. It looks like the Salon gathering, planned for April 15-20 will be really exciting this year. The Palazzo Moroni in Bergamo Alto as well as the cloisters of San Francesco will house most of the exhibition and the events. I enjoyed taking the funicular then walking through this lovely hill town. The streets are lined with boutiques, charming restaurants and small hotels. I did make an unusual discovery, with the guidance of Lucretia Moroni, this years host for Salon. I visited the church of Santa Grata Inter Vites di Borgo Canale where there are a series of ‘fantasie macabres’, by a well known local painter from the second half of the 18th century, Paolo Vincenzo Bonomini. These are a series of paintings, large size and loosely painted in vibrant colours, depicting living skeletons as the subjects in all the scenes. There are various characters depicted, a bride and groom, a soldier, a woodworker and an artist painting a canvas, for example. This last one is apparently a self portrait of Bonomini.
These paintings fit in to the tradition of ‘memento mori‘ depictions in art, reminding us of our mortality, that death is ever present and could join us at any moment of our lives. In fact many historical depictions of death show skeletons meeting characters from all walks of life and dancing them to the grave. (See examples below) Apparently Bonomini’s series of macabre paintings met with great success in his home town and many local residents laughed as they recognized portraits of themselves.