TOMASO DA MODENA BIOGRAPHY
Tomaso Barisini, known as Tomaso da Modena, was born in Modena between 1325 and 1326 and was an active painter in northern Italy between 1350 and 1375, particularly in Modena and Bologna.
It is assumed that his artistic technique was conceived under the influence of Vitale from Bologna and Simone Martini like other artists who had worked on the paintings of San Petronio in Bologna.
There is little information about his artistic activity before 1352: there are some works in Emilian Museums, in particular an altar decoration in Bologna and a Fresco in Modena, then relocated to the Church of Sant’Agostino.
In 1352 he was commissioned by the Dominicans, to represent the history and glory of their Order in the Chapter House of the convent of San Niccolò. With this collection of portraits, the painter depicts the most illustrious members of the congregation: from Domenico di Guzman to Thomas Aquinas.
This work is essential and a turning point, not only for the artist’s style, but for the whole Venetian and Po area, immediately involved in the visual effectiveness of portraits that conceal a careful psychological analysis of each character. In the church, Tomaso also frescoes a Saint Jerome in his studio and a triptych with San Romualdo, Sant’Agnes and the Baptist.
Shortly after, between 1356 and 1357, he paints the Stories of Saint Ursula in the homonymous apse chapel of the destroyed church of Santa Margherita. The nature of the tale, along with the choice of a mythical theme loaded of meaning for courtly culture, suggests the clients were the Gaudenti Knights, an aristocratic religious-military order very present in Treviso in the second half of the 14th century.
Other works attributed to him in the Treviso area are: “Madonna and Saints” in the Church of San Francesco, two paintings located on a column of the Church of San Niccolò and “Madonna with Child” in the Church of Santa Lucia.
In 1358 his presence is documented in Modena: the cycle of frescoes of the Chapel Gonzaga in the Church of San Francesco in Mantua are attributed to him.
In these brilliant and turbulent stories, Tomaso’s artistic character is enhanced: a total lack of interest in the definition of space is opposed to a plastic and emotional attachment to the matter of things, the spaces that radiate from the bodies and the tensions that the tale arouses. Tomaso’s is an art that explains the reality of events far from iconic conventions.