The most important creator of sacred art representations,
and with this we mean the scenes set within chapels and integrated with architectures, paintings and sculptures, surely was Gaudenzio
Ferrari of Valduggia (about 1475 - 1546). Painter, sculptor, architect and musician too, he had probably already began to work for Varallo’s
Sacred Mount before 1499, when the founder/inventor, father Bernardino Caimi, died, but he realized his main works – the Crucifixion and
the Adoration of the Magi – after 1520, during his full artistic maturity. These works in fact represent his best art and they are
also known as masterpieces of the early XVI century italian art. Gaudenzio’s intuition, then diffusely imitated, was to propose scenic
sets with life-size statues where faithfuls, just like in medieval holy representations, could directly participate to the action and feel
active part of it.
For each Sacred Mount, the elaborated planning was made with the help of many artists of any kind and specialization which worked under
the direction of founding fathers, local communities and ecclestiastic authorities.
While the Varallo’s Sacred Mount project had been completed within two centuries with the help of many great masters, among
which – just to remind some of the most important - Tabacchetti, Prestinari, Morazzone, Giovanni and Antonio d’Enrico called “il Tanzio”,
other Sacred Mounts construction period had been instead relatively shorter. Other complexes are also particularly interesting for the
activity of remarkable artists which had, at that time, a preminent role in respect to others considered minor or complementary.
In the first period, the artists who left the mark of their genius on the Sacred Mount of Orta, dedicated to Saint Francis, were:
the sculptor Cristoforo Prestinari, the painters Giovanni Mauro and Giovanni Battista della Rovere, called the Fiamminghini, together
with Giovanni d’Enrico, who had already worked in Varallo; in Crea, almost coeval with Giovanni d’Enrico, the flemish sculptor Jean
Wespin, called “il Tabacchetti”, worked in many chapels – extraordinary is the one of the Coronation of Mary – to which he dedicated
himself for more than ten years, even with the help of his brother Nicolas.
In Varese, the architectural invention of Bernasconi was completed
by the work of the tireless Francesco Silva, a Ticinese sculptor of Morbio Inferiore who, between 1604 and 1623, realized the most part of
the statues needful for scenes settings; in Oropa again Giovanni d’Enrico of Valsesia, with the help of his school and since its foundation
in 1620, realized within two decades the main and most beautiful scenes of the Life of Mary.
The Sacred Mount in Ossuccio, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, Madonna del Soccorso, was realized only thanks to the intervention of
the sculptor Agostino Silva, son of Francesco, who worked with continuity from 1663 to 1688, while in Ghiffa we still ignore the identity
of the statues author of this Sacred Mount dedicated to the Holy Trinity.
In Domodossola, Dionigi Bussola, a sculptor of Milan, realized the first Calvary scenes; in Belmonte, that is a more recent example
of the above-mentioned complexes, the work of painters integrated with sculptors one, most of them unknown, still reached appraisable
levels, but sculptural-pictorial scenes haven’t the same extraordinary dramatic force as the previous centuries great masters.