Italy Romanesque and Gothic Arts Part 3

Italy Romanesque and Gothic Arts Part 3

In Tuscany a whole series of marble architects seem to have inherited and kept intact over the centuries the classicism of forms, manifested in the Florentine Baptistery, in the cathedrals of San Miniato al Monte, of Empoli, of Fiesole, with triangular pediments and geometric marble coverings; classrooms divided into a triple nave by full-center arches, columns surmounted by Corinthian capitals, domination, in the architectural structure, of horizontal and vertical planes; floor decoration translated according to the classical order, in the still ancient technique of opus sectile .

In the Romanesque age the spirit of Rome was opposed first to Lombardism, then to Gothicism. To the multiple effects of light and shadow, implemented through the complicated arrangement of masses in the Romanesque cathedrals of northern Italy, Rome opposed its classical tradition. The color, the sparkle of gems and gold, a passion of the Middle Ages, continues to fascinate the Roman marble workers: the marbles shine with stars and roses; cathedrals appear vivid mosaic carpets that the south of Italy had learned to weave from the ruling Arabs. But both the mosaic decoration, rich and dazzling, as the sculptural decoration, where the classical motifs intertwine with the Romanesque motifs, are an integral part of the architecture, underlining its shapes, perfecting its meter. The tiles make up geometric ornaments, the colors are reduced to a few repeated notes: porphyry and serpentir10 are recessed, cut into discs and squares, within the mosaic carpet. Sumptuous apparators, the Cosmati are first and foremost builders: they subtly balance the masses of their buildings, they use the ornamentation to complete the effect of the architectural lines. In the cloister of S. Giovanni in Laterano, the point of arrival of the Prearnolfian cosmatesque art, the twenty-five arches,  divided into five orders on each side of the quadriporticus, make up, resting on a high stylobate, adorned with transenna; the bands and creasing of the arches, the thin striae of the arches, preludate Renaissance forms. leaning on a high stylobate, it adorns a barrier; the bands and creasing of the arches, the thin striae of the arches, preluding to forms of the Renaissance. leaning on a high stylobate, it adorns a barrier; the bands and creasing of the arches, the thin striae of the arches, preludate Renaissance forms.

According to Elaineqho, the door of the church of S. Tommaso in Formis, between the wide and extended cornices, is drawn with grandiloquent Roman amplitude, and on the frame the ashlars, arranged in halo rays within the arch, form only august ornament. More complex shapes appear in the portal of S. Antonio in Rome, where the system of columns and pillars, supporting the large concentric arches, divided into strips, limited by sharp cornices, creates events of intense and distinct lights and shadows. A second system of small columns and short pillars supported by the Egyptian sphinx, a motif repeated by the Cosmati, for example, in S. Giovanni in Laterano, repeats the chiaroscuro events above, breaking the edges of the smooth front of the arch: the entablature has for only a frieze is written, as in the noblest buildings of the Tuscan Renaissance.

Pietro and Nicolò di Rainerio placed their signatures above the door and the window of the church of S. Maria di Castello in Tarquinia, one of the oldest and at one time one of the most classic constructions of this medieval Roman art, which loves metric pauses, the regular ornaments, the flat drafting of the frames. In large areas, these extend around the fine golden door from the lunette, expanding its proportions, giving it an appearance of solemn and peaceful majesty, of sober splendor.

A search for grandeur – more rare than is believed in this classical art of spirit, balanced, preferring flat surfaces, on which to spread the shining notes of the mosaic – is evident in the sublime triumphal arch, which rises from the low portico of the cathedral of Civita Castellana, extended in width, closed between the wide base of degrees and the entablature adorned with a fine geometric border of rectangles and mosaic discs, a favorite of Roman wall paintings, a jeweled belt that accentuates the Cosmatesque modesty of proportions of the Ionic loggia, in comparison with the arch supported by pillars and crowned by a classic pediment.

A splendid example of mosaic decoration applied to Cosmatesque architecture are the two doors in the atrium of the cathedral of Civita Castellana, the work of the marble workers Lorenzo and Iacopo. The main door opens, jeweled with shining areas, under a regal halo of arches, which, starting from pillars and columns, draw a vast halo in degrees around the sparkling lunette of colored stones. Soft flowery mosaic belts border the jambs: wider, they spread a polychrome carpet along the pulvini, to descend, between ribbons of white marble, on the frames of the entablature, and thus tie the door, thin, refined with shapes, to the degrees of its expanses frames, to the sovereign majesty of the arches. And the domination of the surrounding gray enlivens the splendor of the polychrome tesserae and the white ribbons that trace along the jambs, on the dense varied fabric of the backgrounds, large geometric designs of rectangles and discs. Radiant center of the halo that surrounds the door, the half rose introduces a new element of a rare color in Cosmatesque art: the fretwork.

Italy Romanesque and Gothic Arts 3

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