che si prova davanti alla figura e all'opera di Michele Pacher nasce da un insieme di
perplessità, quasi da un alone di mistero di natura biografica e anche artistica. Non
sappiamo esattamente quando sia nato, né dove (le enciclopedie si tengono sul prudente e
dicono: forse a Novacella, Bressanone, 1435 circa; morto a Salisburgo, 1498); conosciamo i
suoi ispiratori, ma non i suoi maestri, intendendo quelli della "bottega" che
per tradizione consolidata deve aver frequentato; siamo in dubbio se classificarlo come
pittore o scultore-intagliatore, se ci chiediamo - oziosamente - a quale espressione
artistica andassero le sue preferenze e quale fosse considerata "mestiere". A
volte la sua pittura associa momenti alti a qualche refuso e imprevedibili
semplificazioni, tanto che la critica si è interrogata lungamente sui confini tra opera
autografa e apporti di allievi e aiuti. Per finire, la letteratura su Pacher offre un tale
ventaglio di datazioni discordi, di ipotesi disparate sulle scuole ispiratrici, e di
valutazioni complessive, da far venire le vertigini. Un soggetto difficile, allora: meglio
considerarlo un "grande isolato" e ammirare la sua opera.
Graz, Joanneum Museum. The Bull of
St.Luke from an internal portal of St.Thomas Becket
The emotion that one experience in front of the figure and works of Michele Pacher stems from perplexities, almost a halo of the mystery of a biographical and artisitic nature. We do not know exactly when he was born nor where ( encyclopaedias tend to be prudent, stating Novacella, Bressanone, in about 1435 for his birth and Saltzburg, in 1498 for his death. We know what inspired him but not the names of his masters, intending the "studio" which traditionally he was supposed to have frequented. We are in doubt as to whether to classify him as a painter or sculptor/engraver, if one casually asks oneself, to what artistic expression he belonged and what he considered his job. His painting sometimes links moments of euphoria to refusal and simplification, so much so that critics have for long been interrogated on the boundary between a signed work and the contribution of students and helpers. Finally, the literature about Pacher offers such a wide range of varying information, disparate hypotheses on the schools of inspiration and complex valuation, enough to make one dizzy. A difficult subject,then, much better to consider him a " great independent" and admire his works of art.
The exact date of his birth is of relative importance; there are documents which prove his presence and activity at different periods of time and in certain places, the places (Val Pusteria, Alto Adige) where he lived are of relevance because they make Pacher a border artist, the traits of a link between a far off culture and a sometimes overlapping one between that of Veneto-Padova with the works of Giovanni Bellini, Paolo Uccello, Mantegna and Donatello with the realistic tendencies of the schools of Vienna and Saltzburg and the Flemish painters. His stay in Padova, with visits to Venice, however, was an influence on his painting, where one finds the enthusiasm for the architectual flights of Mantegna, the use of light as a protagonist in the painting following the style of Lippi, the love of detail and the audacity of chromatic contrasts.
In one of his "early" works, the Altar of St. Thomas Becket, dated between 1460 and 1465 ( one critic places the date at 1475 and another, to facilitate things, at the end of the century) from which ony two tablets found in Graz, innovations are evident in respect to generally "German" genres: the bull symbolising the evangelist Luca, in an internal altar portal, it is placed in a practically new position, just a glimpse. The animal is portrayed realistically, even if seen diagonally so that the hooves are rather short and the ears "strange". Look closely at the book between the animal's hooves, with no writing, only the lines of what could possibly be the outline of the binder are also visible on the edges of the closed pages and observing the surrounding grass, a botanical student could not have drawn the plants and flowers in front of the book better, as well as the salvia to the left. The pointed arrow leaves under the bull's right hoof seem to be excessively geometric, almost a moment of exhaustion on the part of the artist, but they are signs of bearbind ,evidently not yet fully developed. Moments of "evident descriptive pleasure", as one critic wrote. It is almost as if Michele Pacher has isolated, in each of his works, moments of private relaxation ,perhaps leaving out other details such as the bull's ear.