Fra' Semplice da Verona - inv. 355
This work is linked to Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane (recto) and Saint Roch (verso) (inv. 356).
These two canvases are painted on both sides; the backs came to light during restoration in 1995, which, as well as restoring the brilliant colours, confirmed the attribution to the painter friar Semplice da Verona.
Saint Roch, leaning against a parapet, with his garments open to show his pestilential sore and the faithful dog that brought him bread during his exile, was found on the back of Christ absorbed in prayer and comforted by an angel on the Mount of Olives. Instead, an elegant Saint Sebastian, bound to a tree and pierced by arrows during his martyrdom, was hidden on the back of the suffering Christ bearing the cross on the road to Golgotha, flogged by a Roman soldier. Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and The Road to Calvary are initialled “fra Semplice cappuccino” and “Fra Semplice cappuccino fecit”, while Saint Roch and Saint Sebastian are inscribed with more mysterious letters.
Not much is known about the Capuchin painter: born probably in Verona at about the end of the 1580s, he most likely came into contact with works by the Veronese painters Alessandro Turchi, Pasquale Ottino and Marcantonio Bassetti.
Originally the paintings hung in the Capuchin convent of Fontevivo, near Parma, and would have been mounted as shutters closing off two openings between the presbytery and the choir. The stories of Christ were displayed towards the public, while Saint Roch and Saint Sebastian, often presented together as protectors against the plague, were displayed towards the friars.