By Francesco Corsi

Silvestro Pistolesi tells how he was attracted since he was a boy to the beauty of the works of art in the museums he visited with his father, also a painter: "When we went to the countryside he always carried his box full of colors and high sentiment. In my heart I envied him lovingly hoping to be a painter one day. " In fact, in his heart he felt the scent of love for art that when "fills your heart you can no longer do without it. You look for it anywhere at any cost. It takes hold of you and never leaves you free. " The senses are involved in the game of a dance on the ground of imagination that tries to transform itself in a body. His work is actually born from a special sensitivity for the colors of nature that arouses emotions and lead the soul to immerse itself in the freshness of the world, with the simplicity of intuition, but with the metaphysical light of the transfiguration. The pure gaze on the world is joined by the immersion in the mysterious abyss of being, of the mysterium tremendum that is perceived on the threshold of the sacred. Life is cheerfulness , lightness, joy, but it is also full of commitment, task, deep investigation. Life is a journey through the beauty of the breathtaking landscapes that the cosmic color offers us, but even a journey into that interiority which unically allows us to grasp the inspiration of the universe. The theme of wandering is a theme dear to the artist who travels through the centuries entering the stones of the monasteries, in the hiding places of the forests, in the clearings where encounters take place with beings of light, with dreamlike creatures, with angels and demons. In the works a hermit often appears with a lantern to indicate the way, often insidious, not easy to lighten up on the dark paths. The painter tells the human mystery that despite his miseries and insults of the years, mysteriously tries to be pontifex, to trace the possibility of reaching the sky in the earth, observing the trace of the divine in nature and in human life. All his artistic vein is pervaded by this yearning, with a tension that is just as mystical as earthly. Just as St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out the ways from nature to the sacred, so Pistolesi recounts with light veils worthy of Rembrandt, the light that takes the things of the world out of the dark. Between marked shadows and veiled shades of light, the human is told in its ancient path that is constantly contemporary.

His first solo exhibition dates back to 1972 at the Arts Unlimited Gallery in London, where products of a long series of successes are felt: numerous exhibitions follow in Italy and abroad. Indeed, Pistolesi's painting is contemporary, immersed in the shadows of the great masters, in the shadow of the divine in contemporary art as Vittorio Sgarbi would say. It tells the great themes of humanity, from religion, to daily life, to the landscape, to the faces it portrays, capturing the echo of one's soul in each person. Only in silence is there room for an echo that resonates in an imperceptible way, where one catches that "sublime" that an anonymous called "echo of a high feeling". In his paintings, in his frescoes, there is the drama of the lost modern man, like the mad man of Nietzsche who seeks God with the lantern, there is the wayfarer who enters silently in pain, looking for a pure light where it shines bread and wine, to put it with Trakl, a poet dear to Martin Heidegger. The paths stop in the Heideggerian clearing where a mysterious light comes that is not from the sun, but is something more. The light of the Being that mysteriously reaches the heart of man.

The faces he paints are never the fleeting and accidental faces of the people he portrays. In search of the luminous form, he transfigures the faces with a light that does not seem to belong to this world. Light that only those who live in the median dimension between heaven and earth can grasp. With the peace of mind of the clients, who will never be flattened on their contingency or even on their extemporaneous character. Because in every face the master will see that light that whoever looks only on the ground cannot see. He will see the story of a man who intertwines with that of billions of other men who intertwines with that of the divine. In a game of silence where "I know that you know I know" is whispered, to quote the contemporary poet Aura Christi. The whisper that makes no noise, which is not Munch's chilling scream, which is not the explosive color of the Brücke. Rather, it is something like an uneasy composure that tends towards serenity. There is no Platonic Renaissance idealization, there is no full nineteenth-century realism. There is Silvestro Pistolesi, unmistakable.

Pistolesi has been defined by the critic Giovanni Faccenda as "an incomparable painter, portraitist and fresco painter, but also an ambassador of culture, peace and faith''. His work is in fact present in public works, abbeys, villas and churches, not only in Italy but also abroad. We can define him "the painter of the abbeys" for the path he has followed with great success in enhancing important religious buildings. In 1965 he made the canvas of the "Sacred heart" in the nineteenth-century Cathedral of Pontedera. The "Cena in Emmaus" is the first fresco that Silvestro Pistolesi paints at the age of twenty-three in the Sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo dedicated to the Madonna del Buon Consiglio. Also in this church he frescoed "La vecchina", with a surprising realism, which depicts a faithful old woman in the act of entering the church. In the church of San Francesco in Montecatini he creates a series of frescoes where he completes a cycle that begins with the Crucifixion in 1970 and continues with the other frescoes until 1990.

He then made " Dinner in Emmaus" in the refectory of the Abbey Monastery of Montecassino in 1993 and, over the years, the tables in the third chapel of the left aisle of the Abbey, "Saint Paul who writes the letters", "Saint Peter in prison ", and the altarpiece" The meeting between Saint Peter and Saint Paul ", created in 2010. He creates frescoes in the Sanctuary of La Verna and the cycle of twenty lunettes at the Abbey of Vallombrosa, dedicated to the life of Saint John Gualberto, founder of the Vallombrosan Congregation.


The cycle of frescoes in the Church of the Transfiguration identifies the Master's most impressive work. The effort required also for the preparation is indeed considerable. In the Florence studio, an overall sketch is made and then the drawings of each individual character both in full figure and with details (face, hands etc.). When all the preparatory studies are ready, the Maestro goes to the place and begins the actual fresco first with the dusting of the overall cardboard which, once pierced, is dirtied with colored powder and beaten directly on the wall to draw a overall track. Then, day by day, the cut is decided which is nothing more than the piece of plaster called veil on which it will be painted directly with natural pigments that are incorporated into the wall itself. This large pictorial cycle consists of 13 panels (measuring 390 x 270 cm each) for each nave which alternately depict scenes from the life of Jesus and scenes from the Blessed. Below these and above the columns there are 12 sails also frescoed depicting biblical characters.

Among the portraits, that of Prof. Cooley of Houston, of Cardinal Stickler (librarian of the Vatican), and above all that of the Holy Father John Paul II. His skills as a refined draftsman emerge in the pencil and sanguine; the exclusivity of the tempera fat technique is the most peculiar and prestigious legacy of Maestro Annigoni (who in turn was able to obtain those extraordinary effects of "veiling" also found in the works of Pistolesi, using an ancient Renaissance recipe that he himself had rediscovered) together with the frescoes, a technique as fascinating as it was complex, and privileged by him.

Silvestro Pistolesi was a pupil of the great master Pietro Annigoni. An unsurpassed experience. He began attending the Studio at eighteen years after the Academy and other private schools. He remembers his tribute to the School of Signorina Nerina Simi, daughter of Filadelfo, a painter of great importance between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But above all, it recalls the severity of Maestro Annigoni, to follow whom a perfect combination of patience and passion was necessary. Painting with him meant sacrifice, continuous labor limae, because if it is true that the vocation to art is innate, it is equally and even more true that the result can be achieved with a lot of exercise. With the patience and painstaking dedication worthy of a medieval monk, Pistolesi has reached the level that we can see, even without the need to be specialists. Annigoni called his painter to be "tireless". On the other hand, when the fire of passion is lit, it is necessary to continually give it a chance to flare up, but also to feed it correctly, blow it in the right way and put the right wood in it so that it can last and make the flame more alive, more and more beautiful. Deep humanity is the element that unites the two Masters. Pistolesi nostalgically recounts Annigoni's attention to every smallest being in the world, even to the tragedy that could have occurred in the wind-blown nest in the heart of a cypress. Or the emotion for the sunset, when for example they were returning from Lake Massacciuccoli. Annigoni felt like Pistolesi the passing of time, the passing of life like a river. He was often absorbed and lost in his own thoughts. By nature he tended not to express them directly, but then he noted in his diary that he kept every emotion aroused by tenderness for the little things in the world, as well as for the big ones. Annigoni's influence in painting is undeniable, but more than having been determined by a simple technical acquisition, it seems to have sprung from a shared feeling for life. Pietro Annigoni was a romantic painter for his feelings and for his vision of the world, but his painting, like Pistolesi's, reaches a reach of a universality that avoids any schematism. A giant in the history of art, whose greatness was worthily shared by Silvestro Pistolesi, not as his epigone, but as his friend and soul mate in a common feeling.

The best way to conclude this brief presentation of the work of Silvestro Pistolesi, it seems to me is that of listening to the words of the Master, who spontaneously invites us to immerse ourself in the world of painting, where horizons let us enjoy sunsets at the time of a new dawn , which with effort and commitment, we enjoy to get back to work. “The techniques are all fascinating because they allow you to express your feelings. Of course, to become master of them, it takes time, years and then there is never a limit. Always something new is discovered. Sometimes casually. Often for large compositions I prefer fat tempera. Colors made in the studio with various components, from pigments to oils and mastics. This technique allows you a refined work without time limits. You can work on it for months and keep the freshness of the moment. I would say that he must prepare for an extreme sacrifice, where his intellectual and manual calvary is not lacking. He must be able to deal with difficulties patiently. It is the patience of the long time that will bear fruit ... if there are! We need a preparation of great introspection, meditation, suffering and leaps of hope, to believe in yourself and to fight with yourself. There will never be battles with one's self. Humility and a great love! Appreciating a work of art depends on the interiority of the observer, on the cultural preparation, on knowing how to read the historical context with humility and respect for the work we find before us ".