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Fermo, Church of Our Lady of Carmel

The Church of Our Lady of Carmel in Fermo was built around the mid 14th century with the name of Santa Maria Novella della Carità (the New Church of Our Lady of Charity). It got its current name in 1491, when the leadership of the community of believers passed into the hands of the Carmelites of the Congregation of Mantua and the church was significantly enlarged. Between 1783 and 1794 the building was renovated and the architect Pietro Augustoni from Como was commissioned for the works. Unfortunately, only a few elements of the original building are left behind the high altar. As we come in through the door an opalescent light strikes the three neoclassical naves, divided harmoniously by round arches and elegant Ionic columns decorated by Luigi Bracalenti in 1934. As well as the painting by Antonio Solario, the Madonna on the throne with child, the church conserves works of high quality such as the Crucifixion above the third altar on the right, painted at the end of the 18th century by Ubaldo Ricci, a distinguished pupil of Carlo Maratta. Another even more notable example is the Adoration of the Shepherds by Giovan Battista Gaulli, known as Il Baciccio, embedded in the baroque pavilion dominating the high altar. After receiving a first training in Genua in the workshop of Luciano Borzone, Baciccio had to move to Rome to escape the dreadful scourge of the plague. Standing out for his interpreting sensitivity, he was noticed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who welcomed him in his entourage. Baciccio’s fame in the Ascoli and Fermo area can be traced in the numerous works that he was commissioned in order to respond to the brand-new taste for the exaltation of feelings and passions through an intense use of light, colours or complex composition patterns, where the figures’ attitudes were emphasised almost melodramatically. It often happened that the prelates in charge of the dioceses commissioned this sort of works to artists of Roman school, that were better at transposing onto canvas such a vivid expressive language. Extraordinary is Gaulli’s ability to transpose a wide range of emotions on the canvas, through extremely expressive gestures, obtained with a suggestive oneiric use of colour and a golden luminosity that is reflected gently on the faces and the theatrical attitudes of the characters. The Adoration of the Shepherds, as many other works by Gaulli, make the observer believe he/she is ravished by a celestial vision that, with an intense mystic transport, directs the glance towards the grace of the Virgin Mary, who shows the child Jesus under the curious and affectionate glance of the winged putti.