IN COLLABORATION WITH:
PIETRO DA MARANO ( Piero Nan da Maran)
The beautiful bezel carved by Andriolo de’ Santi deserves a careful observation. The bas-relief (bassorilievo) is commissioned in 1346 by Pietro da Marano, better known with the name of Piero Nan da Maran (the village of Marano Vicentino). Piero is represented with the typical hoodie of the repetant, kneeling next to the Virgin with Child and the Saints Francesco and Lorenzo. He is a remarkable and mysterious character and this is the only effigy we have of him: short in stature, a dwarf precisely, he is the esteemed counselor of Cangrande della Scala (almost a secret agent). Interested in magic and astrology, he gets rich as an usurer. For this very reason, he donates the carved bezel as a symbol of his regret. A few years ago, an apocryphal document is discovered. In it, we can read about Pietro da Marano with Dante and some members of the family Visconti from Milan, while they’re performing necromancy to kill pope Giovanni XXII of Avignon. The misterious performance probably happened between 1318 and 1320, right close to the death of the Poet. Reality or invention? This is one of the many mystery stories about Dante and his Poem: in fact, he is the only one who got out of Inferno, so he is often considered a master of dark magic.
Moreover, Alessandro Barbero and Marco Santangata have recently analyzed the document more in depth:
“While Dante was in Ravenna, his name was heard in Avignon, in terrifing circumstances. At that time, witchcraft obsession was spreading among the western Christian community. A cleric from Milan, Bartolomeo Cagnolati, declared that Marco Visconti called him for his competence in necromancy. Supposedly, Visconti showed to the cleric a little silver statue with the name of Giovanni XXII, the pope they needed to eliminate. Later Visconti asked for him again, to bring the little statue to an other necromancer in Verona, Pietro Nan, the dwarf Pietro da Marano, faithful counselor of Cangrande.” After some difficult events, “Visconti asked him to try once again and added that magistrum Dante Aleguiro de Florencia was coming from Piacenza after his call.”
Alessandro Barbero: Dante, 2020
“Pietro was a peculiar person: small and thin, freckled and red-haired, he observed people with burning, haunted eyes. He was friend with nobody, but everybody respected, almost feared him. Known as a healer, there were rumors about his involvement in the dark magic and Cangrande may have used him for some unspeakable tasks.”
“Unfortunately also Nani surrended after many efforts. That assignement went beyond his strength and a magician with great powers was needed.
So this is the reason why you (Dante Alighieri) are here.
He felt anger rising: me magician, me necromancer… I would treat with devils? I would learn dark magic?”
Marco Santagata: L’ultima magia. Dante 1321