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ITALIAN RENAISSANCE SCULPTURE

John Pope-Hennessy

The Humanist Tomb

Secular Tombs

Donatello and Michelozzo : The Brancacci Tomb. S. Angelo a Nilo, Naples (1424)
- Virtue

Donatello and Michelozzo : The Tomb of Pope John XXIII. Baptistry, Florence
(1427)

Michelozzo : The Aragazzi Tomb. Duomo, Montepulciano (1430s)


- Bartolomeo Aragazzi biding farewell to his family.
- St. Bartholomew.

Bernardo Rossellino : The Bruni Tomb. S. Croce, Florence


- Head of Leonardo Bruni
- Virgin and Child

Desiderio da Settignano : The Marsuppini Tomb. S. Croce, Florence


- Putto with Shield
- Virgin and Child

Mino da Fiesole : The Tomb of Count Hugo of Tuscany. Badia, Florence


- Putto with Shield

Matteo Civitali : The Tomb of Piero da Noceto. Duomo, Lucca

Religious Tombs

Luca della Robbia : The Federighi Tomb. S. Trinita’, Florence

Antonio Rossellino : The Tomb of the Cardinal of Portugal. S. Miniato al Monte,


Florence
- The ceiling of the Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal (Luca della Robbia)
- Virgin and Child (Antonio Rossellino)
- Seated Child (Antonio Rossellino)
- Angel (Antonio Rossellino)

Verrocchio : The Forteguerri Cenotaph. Duomo, Pistoia

Verrocchio : The Medici Monument. S. Lorenzo, Florence (1469)


Bernardo Rossellino : Tomb of Neri Capponi. S. Spirito, Florence

Antonio Polajuollo : Tomb of Pope Sixtus IV. Grotte Vaticane, Rome

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- Head of Pope Sixtus IV
Antonio Polajuollo : Tomb of Pope Innocent VIII. St Peter’s, Rome

Donatello : Tomb slab of Pope Martin V. St. John Lateran, Rome

Pietro Torrigiano : The Monument of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.
Westminster Abbey, London

The Portrait Bust

Mino da Fiesole : Piero de’ Medici. 1453 (Florence, Museo Nazionale)

Mino da Fiesole : Niccolo’ Strozzi, 1454 (carved in Rome)

Mino da Fiesole : The Manfredi bust, Naples

Antonio Rossellino : The Effigy of the Cardinal of Portugal, San Miniato al Monte

Bernardo Rossellino : The Effigy of the physician Giovanni Chellini, San Miniato al
Tedesco, 1460s

Antonio Rossellino : The bust of Giovanni Chellini, 1456. London

Antonio Rossellino : Matteo Palmieri, 1468, Bargello

Benedetto da Majano : Pietro Mellini , Florence, Museo Nazionale

Benedetto da Majano : Filippo Strozzi. Louvre, Paris

Desiderio da Settignano : Bust of a Child. Washington

Desiderio da Settignano : Bust of a Lady. Florence, Museo Nazionale

Antonio Rossellino : Bust of a Lady. Berlin

Francesco Laurana : Isabella of Aragon. Vienna

Verrocchio : Bust of a Lady with the Primroses. Florence, Bargello

Verrocchio : Giuliano de’ Medici. Washington

The Equestrian Monument

Paolo Uccello : Sir John Hawkwood. Duomo, Florence

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*Marcus Aurelius. Campidoglio, Rome. 2nd century A.D

Baroncelli, Niccolo’ III, Ferrara, 1444 (demolished in 1796)

Donatello : The Gattamelata Monument. Piazza del Santo, Padua (1447-53)

Verrocchio : The Colleoni Monument. Campo di SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Venice


(finished by Alessandro Leopardi)

Antonio Pollajuolo : Drawing for the Sforza Monument. New York

Leonardo da Vinci : Studies for the Sforza Monument. London

Leonardo da Vinci : Studies for the Trivulzio Monument. Windsor Castle

The Portrait Bust

The Roman portrait bust – a catalyst of contemporary portraiture


-the self-portrait of Ghiberti on the second bronze door (Florence, Baptistery)
-Donatello’s statues on the Campanile in Florence

Literary accounts of Roman portraiture: Pliny and Lysistratus of Sicyon (the life mask)

There is no proof that Donatello practised portrait sculpture


(although a painted terracotta bust in the Bargello was looked on as a head of Niccolo’ da
Uzano and ascribed to Donatello)

The earliest surviving Renaissance portrait bust:


MINO DA FIESOLE, Piero de’ Medici, 1453 (Florence, Museo Nazionale)
Important for what it aspires to be rather than for what it is: a repristinated Roman bust
The head – its most classical feature
The sleeve and surcoat – unclassical
The heavy jaw – reproduced in other busts > Niccolo’ Strozzi, by far the finest Mino’s
portraits

*The anonymity of Roman busts and the individuality in the Renaissance:


most male portrait busts in the 15th century are inscribed beneath, on a classical cartellino,
with the name of the sitter, the name of the artist and the date
MINO DA FIESOLE, Niccolo’ Strozzi, 1454 (carved in Rome)

In Rome, Mino must have extended his experience of antique portrait sculpture and this
red him to experiment with busts like the Diotisalvi Neroni in the Louvre (the sitter is
dressed in a kind of toga) and the Giovanni de’ Medici in the Bargello (classical armour
is substituted for contemporary dress)
*towards the individualization of the features

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MINO DA FIESOLE, The Manfredi bust, Naples

The reintroduction of the classical lifecast in Florence


-an extension of the death mask
-in sculpture, above all in sepulchral monuments, the death mask had long had a major
role to play:
the importance of verisimilitude in posthumous portraits

ANTONIO ROSSELLINO, The Effigy of the Cardinal of Portugal, San Miniato al


Monte
(carved from a death mask and from a cast of the Cardinal’s hands)

*The life mask as an aesthetic device, which resulted from a new conception of the
purpose of the portrait bust:
a manifestation of humanist art – a humanist sepulchral monument

BERNARDO ROSSELLINO, The Effigy of the physician Giovanni Chellini, San


Miniato al Tedesco, 1460s
(a death-mask employed)

ANTONIO ROSSELLINO, The bust of Giovanni Chellini, 1456


(made from a lifecast)
-the only subject in the entire 15th century whose features are also recorded this way
-the features rendered in great detail and the ears shown pressed back against the head (as
they would have been in a wax)
*the extraordinary concern with the surface texture of the face (in contrast with the busts
of Mino da Fiesole)
-the veins on the temple, the furrows on the forehead, the wrinkles at the corners of the
eyes
Carved in a blotchy brownish marble – the brown stains accentuate the parchment – like
textures of the skin < Roman busts of the type of a head in the Museo delle Terme
*A sense of character – the humorous eyes and benign, rather cynical smile
-an interpretative element, for the first time in the portrait busts:
Rossellino’s aim was to supply not merely a topographical survey (a relief map of his
sitter’s features), but an image of the whole man: a record, but a record
transcendentalized
*with the Chellini’s bust renaissance portraiture acquires a third dimension – a new
weight and thoughtfulness
(the Renaissance attitude to human personality)

Alberti, De Statua :
the differences between one human being and the next (speaking of statuary)
- the aim of sculpture is verisimilitude, and since human beings differed from one
another, it followed that the sculptor must aim at representing a specific man – an
individual (an image not of a man in general, but of a man, be he utterly
unknown)
*the probability that some form of theory underpins the portrait bust

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Pico della Mirandola – De Hominis Dignitate

The Chellini bust shows the body as well – organized in rather a peculiar way:
-the arms cut off slightly above the elbows
-the weight of the two shoulders is balanced on a centre marked down the back and front
*the presence of the central line, which establishes that the head is turned a little to the
right – all of the great Florentine portrait busts are organized in this fashion

ANTONIO ROSSELLINO, Matteo Palmieri, 1468, Bargello


The only other fully authenticated portrait bust by Rossellino, that of the statesman and
poet Palmieri, who was a distinguished Latinist > his bust was assimilated to a Latin
portrait type
A.Rossellino – “the Rembrandt of sculptured portraiture”
The hair – remarkable for its plasticity < the hair of the two angels on the monument of
the Cardinal of Portugal

BENEDETTO DA MAJANO, Pietro Mellini,1474


*One of the most accomplished marble sculptures of the Quattrocento (but his work lacks
the adventurousness and empiricism which stamps the sculpture of the middle of the
century)
The same devotion to the dress as to the head, but the main fascination rests in the
handling of the features : the surface, covered with a pattern of little runnels that recalls
the flattened reliefs of Donatello and Desiderio da Settignano, is treated with
consummate mastery, and is inspired by a wealth of human feeling and rich compassion
– Majano’s portrait style was taken over by his associate Ghirlandaio in a celebrated
painting in the Louvre

BENEDETTO DA MAJANO, Filippo Strozzi


The only other bust signed by Majano, and the sole Renaissance portrait bust for which a
model survives (the terracotta model in Berlin - an ageing man with head held forwards
and turned slightly to the right, and eyes half closed and gazing down), but the final bust
differs from its model, being ennobled and refined, and without any diminution of its
purely naturalistic features :
the head – vigorous and erect, the eyes – looking boldly outwards in full face, the back –
which is perhaps the crowning beauty of the bust – is resolved in a linear pattern

DESIDERIO DA SETTIGNANO, Bust of a Child, Washington


- a play of movement in the cheeks
*Child portraiture < Roman child portrait busts (reliefs or putti)
+ the demand for busts of the young St. John and the Child Christ
(although not all the busts of the Child Christ and the young St. John produced about this
time were portraits – on many of them, the concept of portraiture / of modelling the head
from the features of an individual child, left no mark at all,
BUT in at least two cases we can argue with confidence that this was the procedure
employed, and both of them are by Desiderio da Settignano, and are in Washington)

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There is no female portrait bust in the entire fifteenth century which bears its sculptor’s
name or is attested by any document
Almost all of them which survived are ascribed to Desiderio da Settignano – but in the
case of only one can Desiderio’s authorship be demonstrated

DESIDERIO DA SETTIGNANO, Bust of a Lady, Museo Nazionale, Florence


(executed at about the same time as the supporting angels on the Altar of the Sacrament)
Softness – the head is treated in terms of surface modelling as though in wax; the hair
merges with the forehead, the mouth is depicted in arrested movement , and the sleeves
beneath are resolved in two contrasting patterns of soft fold
as in all Desiderio’s sculptures, we are conscious of surface properties rather than of the
organic structure under the design :

The whole conception differs fundamentally from that of the putative bust of Marietta
Strozzi in Berlin ( ANTONIO ROSSELLINO, Bust of a Lady), which is more prosaic,
and is composed of statements, not of hints or innuendos (each feature is given its true
plastic value and is not merely inscribed on the surface of the head : the folds in the
sleeves are more recessive, details like the juncture and lacing of the bodice are more
sharply defined, the mouth and eyelids are deeply carved, the hair is undercut and at the
sides stands free of the sculp) – the design of the whole bust is established more firmly
(like in the angels on A. Rossellino’s tomb of the Cardinal of Portugal)

“Unlike the male portraits, the female portrait busts are relatively little influenced by
antiquity. For the fifteenth-century Roman busts of women seem to have had no
immediacy, and though the making of female portrait busts represented a return to
antique practice, there is nothing about the busts themselves that is specifically classical.
Where the male portrait busts are strongly realistic, the features in the female busts are
smoothed out till they reflect what is almost an ideal type. Never do we find a record of
those minute details of physiognomy on which the effect of the male busts depends.
Where the female busts link up most closely with male busts of the type of the Palmieri
is in the symmetrical planning of the lower part, from which the column of the neck and
head rises with wonderful felicity.”

FRANCESCO LAURANA, Isabella of Aragon (?), Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna


- a contemporary of Rossellino, carving in Naples at about this time
The form (static and impassive) due to the stylistic preconceptions of the sculptor –
between geometry and portraiture :
court art, which representational aim is deliberately restricted, so that the head is
approximated to its nearest geometrical equivalent and the dress beneath is sterotyped
(at one time his busts were looked on as a form of posthumous (!) official portraiture)
-just as Agostino di Duccio in his reliefs at Rimini treats the heads of his figures
schematically
A painted surface
The defective naturalism of the forms

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*Painted portraiture in Florence in the fifteenth century was dominated by the profile
portrait, and initially fidelity to the profile also affected the portrait bust
- In Rossellino’s Giovanni Chellini the view in full-face is of secondary importance
compared with the views from the two sides
- Only with Antonio Rossellino’s bust of a lady in Berlin is the difficulty of
reconciling the three views of the head and equating their importance largely
overcome
- Rossellino’s bust of Matteo Palmieri : even a head which seems at first sight
solid and three-dimensional, excellent as is the frontal view, it is the profile
through which the character is most graphically expressed

The rather unambitious female portraits of the fifties and sixties developed into the
masterly portraits produced by Antonio Pollajuolo (the classicist) about 1470, where the
profile view appears for the first time as one aspect of an image which is fully three-
dimensional

Verrochio (the anti-classicist) and a new type of portrait sculpture


- just as he evolved the unclassical Forteguerri monument from the classicizing
monuments of the middle of the century, just as he intruded the unclassical Christ
and St. Thomas into the classical company of the statues on Or San Michele, so
he transformed the portrait bust
*A new conception of the bust as a unit in space with an exact spatial reference defined
by the receding planes of hands, breasts, and head.

VERROCCHIO, Bust of the Lady with the Primroses. Bargello, Florence


The first bust in which the hands are shown
The style tendency of which the inclusion of the hands forms part :
the back is once more centralized, but the front, though the centre is marked by a button
on the throat, is a denial of centrality: the head looks out and slightly upwards to the left,
the hands are placed irregularly on the breast, and the diaphanous dress falls from the
shoulders in folds on which no artificial unity has been imposed

*The profile bust of Desiderio was developed by Antonio Rossellino into a bust in which
the front and side views coexist, and Verrocchio in turn developed this into a sculptured
portrait in which all views were fused in a continuous whole.

Verrocchio, after Donatello, was the fifteenth-century Florentine sculptor with the
strongest feeling for plasticity, and this led him to substitute for the mid-century
conception of the portrait bust as a self-consistent unit, a new conception of the bust as a
unit in space with an exact spatial reference defined by the receding planes of hands,
breasts, and head.

VERROCCHIO, Giuliano de’ Medici, Washington

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This bust traces its descent from the early Medici portraits of Mino da Fiesole (Piero de’
Medici)rather than from those of Rossellino
It is conceived rhetorically, like the Colleoni statue – an expression of great lifelikeness
- a portrait type in which character is sketched not by the particularized rendering
of physiognomical detail, but through an intuitive sense for characteristics of
deportmentand expression
(the implicit principles of portraiture that were to culminate in the succeeding century in
Vittoria’ portrait busts)

The Equestrian Monument

Antonio Pollajuolo : Drawing for the Sforza Monument. New York


Leonardo da Vinci : Studies for the Sforza Monument. London
Leonardo da Vinci : Studies for the Trivulzio Monument. Windsor Castle

The revival of the classical art form of the equestrian monument – together with the
reintroduction of the life-size bronze statue in the fifteenth century
The tradition of trecento (especially in North Italy) :
- equestrian figures on tombs, in stone or marble
- riding figures in stucco or cement (in Verona in the early fifteenth century)
- a wooden equestrian statue in Venice (incorporated in the Savelli monument in
the Frari)
- in Tuscany : Jacopo della Quercia, and Agnolo Gaddi (a statue of Piero Farnese,
1390) *the impermanence of wooden equestrian statues

Paolo Uccello : Sir John Hawkwood. Duomo, Florence (in fresco), comm. in 1436
*John Hawkwood was the fellow condottiere of Piero Farnese
An ideal monument : a platform raised on consoles, with a sarcophagus on it, supported
by marble blocks, and an equestrian figure on the lid of the sarcophagus
The familiarity with the antique bronze horses (1st century A.D.) from Piazza di San
Marco in Venice
(as a young man Uccello had been employed in Venice on the mosaics of St. Mark’s)

Other antique equestrian statues which were rated high in the fifteenth century :
*Marcus Aurelius. Campidoglio, Rome. 2nd century A.D
*Regisole – an Antonine monument on a column outside the Cathedral at Pavia
(mentioned in Leonardo’s Codex Atlanticus)

The first Renaissance equivalent for these antique monuments – an equestrian statue
erected by Lionello d’Este to his predecessor Niccolo’ III in Ferrara in 1444
Baroncelli : Niccolo’ III, Ferrara, 1444 (demolished in 1796)
*‘il cavallo’ (‘Niccolo’ del cavallo’ and ‘Volto del cavallo’ ) – the terms as the popular
expression of a learned preoccupation, for, the humane figure apart, the horse was the
canonical subject of Renaissance artists (Alberti, De Equo Animante)
+ the rendering of the horse had the same close attention as the rendering of the human
form in the Renaissance art

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Donatello : The Gattamelata Monument. Piazza del Santo, Padua (1447-53)
The earliest surviving bronze equestrian monument (produced concurrently with
Donatello’s High Altar of Sant’ Antonio at Padua)
*Erasmo da Narni (Gattamelata), Captain-General of the Republic of Venice, who died of
a stroke at Padua in 1443
The familiarity with the horses on St. Mark’s in Venice and with the Marcus Aurelius in
Rome
Not an academic synthesis of antique elements – the stocky, vigorous forms of the horse
at Padua introduce a new realism into the equestrian monument

The figure mounted on the horse also has a contemporary significance – it was central to
Donatello’s conception that the riding warrior should review his unseen troops with the
same directness with which the marble Prophets on the Campanile harangued the Crowds
below; the individual features of the head are not rendered literally (as they would have
been in Roman art), but are subjected to distortions

*The specific placing of the statue – determined by considerations of effect, so that


entering the square from the north, it advances towards us, and entering from the west its
menacing profile stands out against the sky

The statue stands on a plynth a little under eight metres high, bearing on the front the
inscription OPUS DONATELLI. FLO. On the sides of the plynth are marble reliefs of
lamenting putti with military trophies (now replaced by copies). The site occupied by the
monument was formerly the cemetery of the Santo, and it has been suggested that it was
initially planned as a tomb , since the documents relating to the base refer to the pilaster
of the place of burial of Gattamelata. According to certain authors, whose arguments are
against this view and against the Christian interpretation of its imagery, the only clear cut
element of mortuary significance is the mausoleum doors on the base, which are related
to those in the upper section of the Brancacci monument and derive from the same class
of classical sarcophagus.
There can, however, be no doubt that the death of Gattamelata was seized upon, by
humanist circles in Padua or Venice or by the sculptor itself, as an occasion for producing
a contemporary equivalent for a classical equestrian monument. That it was viewed in
this light in the fifteenth century is suggested by a poem of about 1455 ironically
contrasting Gattamelata with Scipio, Cato and other Roman heroes who were not
commemorated by equestrian monuments, by a passage in Filarete’s Trattato
d’Architettura, in which the statue is used as an example of the hazards of employing
classical costume.

Verrocchio : The Colleoni Monument. Campo di SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Venice


Erected thirty years after Donatello's Gattamelata
*Bartolommeo Colleoni (d. 1475), unlike Gattamelata, was of noble birth, coming from
the neighbourhood of Bergamo , and being financially one of the most successful military
leaders of his time (in his will Colleoni bequeathed /ostaviti u nasledstvo, zavestati/ part
of his personal fortune to the Venetian Signoria, but with the proviso /uslov/ that the

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Signoria should commission a statue of their benefactor seated on a bronze horse, and
that this should be set up in the Piazza San Marco to his eternal memory (it was finally
placed in the Campo SS. Giovanni e Paolo near the Scuola di San Marco)

Once more, as with all fifteenth-century equestrian monuments, the emphasis rested not
on the rider but the horse
When Verrochio died in 1488, the monument has not been cast, and after abortive
negotiations with Verrocchio's heir, the painter Lorenzo di Credi, the casting was
entrusted in 1490 to a Venetian bronze-founder, Alessandro Leopardi (whose confident
signature can be read on the girth of Verrocchio's horse :
ALEXANDER.LEOPARDUS.V.F.OPUS)
In the Colleoni monument we are confronted not with a finished work of art, but with the
ideas of a great artist as they were realized by another hand
mane = griva, cupava kosa
muzzle = njuska, brnjica
The sense of implied movement (Marcus Aurelius) : the thin supports, one fore-leg held
free, the rear legs posed in such a way as to suggest that it was capable of a sudden
forward impetus and not merely of a slow advance
The visual effect of a great weight of bronze or marble raised on a seemingly inadequate
support : in the Colleoni monument this led Verrochio to modify the ratio between rider
and horse, and to substitute for the relatively small figure of the Gattamelata a larger
figure of greater weight
A preference for figures turned on their own axis (like the St. Thomas in the group of
Christ and St. Thomas on Or San Michele and the fountain figure of the Putto with the
Fish) – where Donatello disposes the shoulders of his rider on a single plane, Verrocchio
advances the left shoulder and retracts the right : this rhetorical device acounts for the
liveliness of the whole image and divorces it from classical originals (anti-classicism)

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