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The Cagli Media Project
Institute for Education
in International Media
Andrew Ciofalo, Director

Story by Aziza Jackson

Almost 250 years after his death, the spirit of artist Gaetano Lapis lives on in his hometown of Cagli, Italy. With a school and street named after him and his artwork adorning the city’s churches, Lapis remains a monumental figure here.

“It is not true that Lapis has been forgotten,” said Alberto Mazzachera, an art historian and vice mayor of Cagli. In 2009, the Bureau of Arts in Cagli and the Region of Le Marche will stage the biggest-ever retrospective of Lapis’ work, with shows scheduled in both Cagli and Rome.

Lapis was born in Cagli in 1706 and died in Rome in 1773. He went to Rome to study painting, but remained tightly connected to Cagli, where he left 30 paintings, mostly in churches.

In the early 1990s many of his works in Cagli were restored – cleaned and re-framed by experts. Lapis’ work The Death of Saint Andrew Avellino, painted in 1758, embellishes the altar of the second chapel in the Basilica Catredale. There is also a mural of his in nearby St. Chiara. Not all his paintings are religious however; his Birth of Venus is a major non-religious work.

Rome in the 1700s was the art capital of the world. Mazzachera contends that of all the art sponsored there in the mid-18th century, Lapis’ was the most innovative. Lapis studied under Sebastiano Conca, becoming one of the most outstanding students of the Naples-born master relocated to the “Eternal City.”

Lapis was known for his precision, vibrant colors and composition. He was drawn toward classicist painting, especially while doing commissions in Rome for notable people.

According to Mazzachera, he was the leading artist among those whose style was between Baroque and Neo-Classic. “Lapis started a movement toward a new and different style,” said the vice mayor.

Even so, stunning oil paintings and captivating frescoes remain vivid in the minds of only a few Cagli residents. Some feel his work has been ignored or forgotten.

“I am one of not many people who know the story of Gaetano Lapis,” said Francesco Carnali, a young man who lives in the house where Lapis spent most of his childhood. The house, which was owned by Carnali’s grandparents for more than 50 years, has been familiar to him from childhood. Lapis’ old room still contains beautiful frescoes on the ceiling, the same works Lapis looked upon and from which he drew inspiration.

Among Lapis’s students who later gained renown was Antonio Cavallucci, a notable painter of the late Baroque period who went on to gain admittance into several distinguished societies.

The life of Gaetano Lapis

Reopened in the 1990s after years of restoration work, the Teatro Comunale di Cagli continues to pay homage to Lapis. His bas relief portrait adorns the second level balconies along with those of other distinguished Cagliesi including sculptor Elpidio Finale and musician Michelangelo Gamberini.

“We have started the process of discovery, and in time the crowning of his work will be shining,” said Mazzachera.

Video by Debbie Schallock
Photos by Mary Schell
Web Design by Laura Treadway