Italy Romanesque and Gothic Arts Part 2

Italy Romanesque and Gothic Arts Part 2

The two masters spread their art in Emilia, Lombardy and Veneto: in Nonantola, in the door of the abbey church, in Ferrara and in Cremona, in the cathedral; in Piacenza, and in San Benedetto Po San Benedetto di Polirone, in the large church founded by the Countess Matilde; in Parma, in the porch of the cathedral; in Verona, in the cathedral and in San Zeno, Nicolò carrying out the primitive composite images with ever greater fire and momentum, culminating in the vital tangles of the capitals of San Zeno.

After the two master promoters of the great Romanesque movement in northern Italy, a guild of architects and stonecutters rises, which goes to Trentino and establishes itself in the cathedral of Trento and in Dalmatia in the cathedral of Traù. Frequent exchanges are noted between this Romanesque art and the flourishing art in Provence during the century. XII, so that a homogeneous current – but not devoid of very evident special characteristics – joins northern Italy to the south of France, reaching Dalmatia to the east and reaching Tuscany, Lucca, Volterra, Massa Marittima.

According to Aceinland, the development of Lombard-Romanesque art, creator of pictorial effects through complex distribution of shadows and lights, accelerated towards the middle of the thirteenth century, when the Veronese quarries were exercised. Then came Antelami, crown of the Lombard movement (1178-1233). A few years after the strong sculptor of the wharf of the cathedral of Modena had cut his acrobatic caryatids in the marble, with powerful plastic synthesis, Antelami appears to us for the first time in a bas-relief of the cathedral of Parma, the Crucifixion, distinguishing himself from the massifs Lombard precursors for the elongated figurines, rigid stems within garments with filiform folds: a fine illuminator seems to succeed the grandiose models. But his art explains its faculties only later, in the Baptistery of Parma, a clear octagonal construction, where the color effect is obtained with a graduated succession of shadows and lights in regular uniform areas; the massive gravity of the Romanesque piers is attenuated in the slender columns that support the thin entablatures; the Romanesque arches under the cornice are designed with the grace of lace; and the French-style pinnacle bell towers add momentum to the corners of the building. The regular fretwork succeeds the fantastic combinations of light and shadow: the spirit of Gothic art begins to be felt in the growing subtlety of the shapes and in the dominion given to the principle of verticality. More severe than ever is the slavery of antelamic statuary to architectural forms; and the same refined virtuosity that the sculptor explains by working, in the frieze of an overdoor, the light robes of Salome, it is found in the drapes with concentric folds falling from the capitals, under sinuous abacuses. Refined, elegant in the slender figures of the friezes, an easy popular narrator of biblical legends, Antelami dresses the angels encased in niches above the main door, wooden and powerful like the prophets outside the cathedral of Fidenza as priestly majesty. The sculptor gives classical nobility to the forms of the queen of Sheba, transparent by soft veils, to the archangels inside the baptistery, a fire of attitudes and gaze. The poem of human redemption is explained in the building guarded by solemn angels and clairvoyant prophets. Let the infernal dragon open his throat, let the beasts, the errors, the vices around the source of grace: they will be dispelled by the God who subdued every power of evil; inside the Baptistery is the washing of the soul, regeneration, salvation: the dragon that threatened the root of the tree of life is defeated, pierced by the angels who circle the sacred place like heavenly guards. With the last work of Antelami, the statue of Oldrado da Tresseno in Milan, reappears in a Palazzo del Popolo, on the front of a public square – after many centuries from the monument of Theodoric in Ravenna – the equestrian statue, the heroic monument for excellence, transfigured by the thinness of timid and gentle forms, by the silky rustle of clothes.

While Antelami, in Parma, in Fidenza, in Vercelli, in Milan, spreads its delicate and slender sculptures, often dressed in fine polychrome, the Venetians, who first tried to recall the Christian forms of the early days (columns of the ciborium of San Marco, sarcophagi of the cloister of the Saint in Padua), create the great arch of the months and the angels in the cruise of San Marco, combining the antelamic forms with the refinement of the Byzantines. Romanesque art then adorned the doors of the cathedral dressed in oriental gold with a magnificence never seen before. Not the minute and poor leaves of Antelami, not geometric divisions, but an intertwining of luxuriant foliage, animals, human figures, a complex of knots, vital in every curve, in every winding of line, forms a sculptural frame to them: Byzantine embroidery lends its sumptuous fabric to the images reinforced by the Romanesque structure. Large marble lyres, composed of branches and rolled leaves, adorned with clusters of grapes, with heavy and magnificent pendants, close in the melodic curves episodes of animal fights: and leaves, trunks, beasts, are worked with the finesse proper to marble inlay more than marble sculpture. Elsewhere there are children playing at chasing each other in labyrinths of intertwined trunks, and various scenes within circles: life engulfs itself in a luxuriant vegetation of leaves and branches. Modeled with exquisite refinement of lines are the figures of the months, now intent on work, like the beautiful fowler from whose hands the birds escape in throbbing clusters, now seated in golden thrones, like August sleeping in the heat of the sun. Torpid volutes of stork’s necks around precious amphorae, coils of entwined branches, twisted calligraphic folds, finesse of chiseled features, make the monumental arch, like the priestly angels of the cruise, the sculptural masterpieces of the Venetian cathedral. Venice, which by imitating the refined works of Byzantium aimed at the decorative splendor, composed, around the time of Nicholas of Apulia, with the reliefs of the portal of St. Mark, almost a preface to a book of hours or missal, reminding the people of God lord of time and life.

Italy Romanesque and Gothic Arts 1

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