The only bibliographical information so far known above this painter is reported in the text of Ferraironi
which we report here in full:
«... Since that terrible seventeenth century that on the ancient monuments has passed as the infernal storm that never remains has raged
also on our humble church of S. Bernardino.
And all his beautiful paintings disappeared one day under the mask of lime. It was the unhealthy taste of the times.
The bishops, in some way to give proof of their consideration for the sanctuaries under their jurisdiction,
ordered from time to time (and perhaps even on the occasion of some epidemic) that the buildings intended for worship be given a coat of white paint.
And it is enough to consult the acts of the Sacred Visits of many dioceses to find almost on every page the all too often fatal phrase
'mandat dealbari' , that is it orders that (the church) is whitewashed.
It is still told, and the fact is handed down from generation to generation by old local priests, that when it was ordered
from the bishop of Albenga to cover with white the aforesaid paintings, the order had to be valid also for those of the church said
of Montata, near the Molini, where those beautiful paintings, still preserved in good condition, would also say of Canavesio
if they did not prevent it and the date (1435) and the name (Antonius de Montis Regalis, i.e. of Mondovì) which can be read below.
But the order of the bishop met resistance from the most authoritative people of the Molini place, and then the Prelate
who was in Sacra Visita, ordered that the boxes be raised immediately to whitewash the walls of the church;
and he wanted to witness this operation in person.
Since he then had to leave suddenly for Albenga, those of Molini would have immediately demolished the scaffolding,
and the work begun would no longer be continued.
And this is why, in the aforementioned church of Molini, the paintings of the apse would not have suffered the same fate
of those that are still covered with a layer of white lime ".
The fortunate circumstance of the Bishop's urgent call to Albenga allowed the work of the master Antonio da Mondovì
to come down to us.
We must also recognize that the behavior of the inhabitants of Molini di Triora, given the mentality of the time,
and the lack of sensitivity for gothic (barbaric) art, is even more deserving and worthy of praise.
And today we have to think that the great baroque altar in gilded wood, certainly eighteenth-century, which still hides from view
the great painting, had been raised by citizens to defend the precious testimony from further dangers of destruction.
This is confirmed by the fact that Alizeri's careful research, in his book already mentioned in the note (22) of 1870,
does not bear the name of Antonio.
The view of the wall behind the altar had also escaped two other attentive researchers: Edward and Margaret Berry (26) who in the
their valuable guide, which in the English edition bears the date 1931, do not speak about it, but note instead the figures of the Evangelists
and of the founders of religious orders in the medallions of the ogival vault of the Presbytery, which also now
cannot be completely retracted because of a large cross planted in front of the altar..
The important news that we find in the Berry Guide is the following:
"Above a side altar on the left is a wooden painting, representing St. Anne, with the Virgin on her lap,
and the Child in his mother's arms...".
Today we have to write "was" because we have no more news of this painting.
This iconography is important because we will find it at the church of the Madonnetta at Diano Castello and
in the chapel of S. Bernardo delle Forche in Mondovì.
Only in 1918, as it results from a publication of 1927 "Molini di Triora and its Sanctuary" by Abbot Allaria,
during the study of the medallions of the vault, they noticed the existence of the fresco on the wall, because the altar is far away from the altar
about 90 centimeters.
The above mentioned article, after an enthusiastic description of the painting ends with these words:
«It was also found that the walls of the two sides down to the ground are covered with paint, although whitewashed.
So are the arches of the church and the pediment above the apse of the high altar».
Few news is had on the church of the Madonna della Montata, which houses the paintings of master Antonio.
Today it has become a cemetery church, it stands on the hill that dominates the houses of Molini di Triora, and can be reached by walking through
a steep stony road.
Despite the rehashes in later periods, it clearly shows its medieval origin.
The great cycle of frescoes covered all the walls of the presbytery, the triumphal arch, the naves and perhaps even the vault,
if this one was not trussed like the one in S. Fiorenzo.
The side walls of the presbytery perhaps still hide the paintings under the shawl, but the aisles and the vault, modified,
will hardly be able to return the complete cycle to us.
The presence at the bottom of the Argentina Valley, which is so important in the medieval art of Western Liguria,
by Antonio da Monteregale, gives the figure of this artist charm and prestige.
The communication roads for the alpine passes closely connected the two regions: from Mondovì, for the ancient salt road,
that through the Ellero Valley went up to the Saline Pass, reached Monesi and the hills of Garlenda, Garezzo and Collardente.
we descended into the Ligurian valleys of the rivers Argentina and Nervia; or through the high Tanaro Valley, from Garessio we descended to Albenga
or for Colle del S. Bernardo, Erli, Zuccarello, or for Ormea, Col di Nava, Pornassio, Pieve di Teco, Ranzo.
From Pieve di Teco through the hill of S. Bartolomeo you could go down to Imperia or the Argentina Valley through the hill of S. Bernardo del Conio,
Carpasio and Montaldo.
Raineri wanted to briefly remember these itineraries because on these very streets and in these places there are still testimonials
Gothic art of the xv century of our regions.
Returning to the importance of the Argentina Valley in the xv century, just remember the centers of Taggia with its Cathedral and
the Dominican Convent; Badalucco with the church of S. Maria della Teglia; the old church of S. Giorgio in Montaldo,
where according to Campini (18) would be born in 1443 the painter Ludovico Brea,
who gave so much lustre to what was called "Ligurian-Nice Art", but that Raineri would include in the wider form
of the "Art of the Maritime Alps"; Andagna and Triora where in the parish church you can admire the work of the Sienese Taddeo di Bartolo
and where, much after Master Antonio, Canavesio will paint the Chapel of St. Bernardino.
The first observation that we can make spontaneously is the one that Antonio from Mondovì, to be called to paint
the great cycle of frescoes in the church of La Montata, young as it was, must have already been an affirmed
and valid artist in his land.
It is therefore true for this artist what will be read in Lobera's dissertation (27) about the painter Segurano Cigna,
which will be very near to the manners of master Antonio:
«... redolet artem Segurani Cigna pictoris Vicensis ea tempestate (1454) nominis nequaquam obscuri...».
We have no news, neither bibliographical nor historical on this artist, who we will call for brevity master Antonio,
Raineri has tried to reconstruct some excerpts from his life or rather from his work,
starting from the great wall of the church of Montà.
Since he dates and signs his work one day in November of 1435, his formation must have been realized
in the first decades of 1400, and certainly in that "mondovì school", and of which he was perhaps one of the first and valid initiators.
At that time the powerful Diocese of Mondovì shows a luxuriant flowering of art, ranging from the miniature, executed in the Chartreuse
and in the Convents (Casotto, Chiusa Pesio, Pogliola), to the wood engraving that we find with illustrative function in the
flourishing art of printing.
For the existence of an artistic center in Mondovì in addition to the already mentioned names of Raimondo and Luigi d'Embruno, we find around
in the middle of the xv century a discreet list of names that we have already reported in the list of painters: Giacomo and Angelo Vincenzo from Ceva,
Frater Henricus, Segurano Cigna, Sirio from Sale Langhe, Giovanni de Aimo, and Giovanni Mazzucco.
Examining in this way the work of Master Antonio, we find it almost contemporary with Jaquerio, and therefore Raineri thinks both
initially drew on the same sources and then developed them in a fairly similar way in different areas,
the first one in the North and the second one in the South, adapting them to the environments and acquiring different manners, while following a single trend
of inspirations and themes that we have already described in detail.