Hall of Woodland paintings

The “Hall of Woodland paintings” is decorated with frescoes depicting illusionistic sceneries, with landscapes of woods richly inhabited by mixed fauna species. These landscapes are framed at the sides of big tree trunks, that assume the appearance of main architectonic bearing elements, connecting the floor to the paneled ceiling and acting as supports for a false painting of natural beams that seem to protrude from the ceiling itself.

The trees painted in this way, divide the walls into ideal square frames depicting people bathing in the streams, hunters, a quarrel between farmers, and mule tracks, all painted in the background of the hilly and lush landscapes. These landscapes are characterised by the presence of people and water painted in its numerous nature reserve concepts, with streams, small lakes which evidence the human contribution, as in the case of the mills. Within the scene painted in this Hall there are also architectonic elements, among which are castles, religious buildings and rustic houses. They thus draw inspiration from the local landscape, though not without important ideals and references to exotic-oriental cultures. Moreover, there are many hints of flora and fauna of the American continent, with clear political references related to the importance of geographic discoveries achieved by the Spanish crown.
The frescoes are a botanic pastiche with the impossible coexistence of species in nature, but fully justified in the unitary scenic design. The combinations, never grotesque or forced, are in fact represented with delicate composure and harmony. Such an approach reveals to be rich moments of 17th-century culture, long pervaded by intellectual drive and curiosity for “extravagance.” The woodlands theme has, in fact, very complex roots that are found in the typically baroque trends of mimicry, since a wild wood cannot be approved by human rationality and due to this becomes an ideal object to be painted through human artistic ability, within the mansions and noble homes that are likewise expressions of the genius of man and his mastery of static laws.
The presence of scenes of different genre within the naturalistic woodland frames, imposes a differentiated vision of the single elements, imposing a unitary vision so as to grasp the context, and close-ups that allow the admiration of the tiniest details of the painting and narration. This calls for a method for the enjoyment of the frescoes, as was suggested by Andrea Spiriti, which is confirmed in the typically scientific 17th-century post-Galileo concept of a reality always balancing between the heights of the macro-cosmos and the abysses of the micro-cosmos, well exemplified in the two big 17th-century discoveries of the binoculars and the microscope.
Over the last years there has been a succession of iconographic interpretations of the woodlands theme of Cesano, accentuating the different aspects of the scenic compositions and the allegorical meaning they concealed. Among the most interesting hypotheses is the one that analyses the grandiose figurative layout of the mansion, in qualifying Cesano as the «new Eden», the Christian and classical seat of the revival of the golden age.
Also these paintings were attributed to Giovanni Ghisolfi (1623-1683), a Milanese painter who trained in the workshop of Salvator Rosa, and was particularly sensitive to the themes of classical painting of ruins, that proposed the theme of nature.