In 1977, the first Territory Manual of the Umbria Region was issued, an ambitious project that aimed at describing the tangible and intangible heritage of the entire region. It was dedicated to the Valnerina [valley of the Nera river]. The same area of Italy is again back in the limelight these days due to the violent earthquake that destroyed it.
That volume described a huge amount of little-known material. But just flipping through the pages it was evident some had a surprising quality.
Back then, Giovanni Previtali was studying his “Umbria to the left of the Tiber.” He started from the openings on the smaller Roberto Longhi’s topics. He summed up unknown critical figures like the Master of Santa Caterina Gualino or the Master of the Visso Cross. Enrico Castelnuovo and Carlo Ginzburg, on the Einaudi treatise in art history, studied the relationship between center and periphery and took the Valnerina as an example of a bridge and laboratory region for a specific and unique artistic language.
There was then a particular enthusiasm in studying the valleys at the foot of Monte Vettore, rich in an extraordinary heritage in terms of quantity and sometimes quality. Today this is likely to be no more. The collapse of the San Benedetto Basilica in Norcia is the most telling sign of a disaster that could have unimaginable dimensions. One wonders whether the altarpieces of the church will be recoverable, or even the Filippo Napoletano or the little Michelangelo Carducci, the Mannerist painter son of the Roman experience and last heir to a dynasty of Norcia artists, the Sparapane, who worked there at least since mid-fifteenth century.