Sight, Sound, and Silence at the Oratorio of San Bernardino in Clusone


Recently, Chiara Frugoni has reiterated this lauda-fresco relationship, also briefly mentioning that the disciplini might have gathered in front of the Triumph of Death and Dance of Deathmural to read and recite “Io sono per nome chiamata morte.”8 Building on these observations, my contribution in this article is to specifically explore the performative ways in which the Bianchi could have interacted with the images on the façade of their oratory while reciting the lauda “Io sono per nome chiamata morte” aloud. My in-depth analysis of several passages from this vernacular poem confirms that the narrative in the fresco was modeled on the content of this text. I argue that, by incorporating and engaging with images that  foreground  the  senses  of  sight  and  hearing,  the  iconography  of  the  Clusone  fresco  becomes  a  multi-sensory  meditation on “Io son per nome chiamata morte.” In particular, I posit that the conversation between Death and the disciplino,  as  conveyed  in  this  lauda,  is  primarily  envisioned  in  the  representation of Mors triumphans standing on the uncovered sarcophagus  at  the  top  of  the  fresco.  Death  in  triumph  not  only defiantly faces its onlookers—the Bianchi—by establishing eye contact with them but it also opens its jaw in a sign of speech. The words pronounced by Death, reported on two of  the  four  scrolls  at  the  top  of  the  Clusone  painting,  correspond to those voiced by the personification of Death in “Io son per some chiamata morte.” I thus suggest that these verses inscribed in the fresco would have functioned as a memory prompt for each disciplino, who, in turn, would have recalled and recited  aloud  the  other  lines  from  the  same  lauda,  thus  activating a dialogue with Death.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Angelica Verduci


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