Italy Romanesque and Gothic Arts Part 7

Italy Romanesque and Gothic Arts Part 7

According to Holidaysort, Arnolfo had in Rome a numerous series of admirers in the Cosmati, who slavishly repeated the learned forms. Instead, in Pisa itself, in Florence and Siena, the art of Giovanni Pisano found free continuation.

Andrea Pisano, the first obscure goldsmith, who soon became famous for the commission he had in 1330 of the first door of the Baptistery of Florence, when he was already old, shows in the bronze bas-reliefs of the door, representing the history of the Baptist, that he had fully assimilated the Gothic style, to be the master of the movement; and it tends to make the story simpler and clearer, reducing the crowd, which filled Giovanni’s bas-reliefs, to a few clearly defined groups, taking care, more than its predecessors, the unity, the connection between the scenes. The proportion of the figures, within the spaces closed by jagged frames of lobes and angles, is correct, in perfect balance; the shapes, elegant and refined in modeling, are turned with goldsmith’s art despite their size: San Giovannino child in the desert, Salomè, with short curly hair and flowing tunic like that of Fra Angelico’s angels, they remain among the most exquisite examples of grace in fourteenth-century sculpture. No sculptor preceded Andrea Pisano in this fundamental reform of the composition; but a painter, Giotto. Proof of this is the beginning of marble bas-reliefs that Giotto himself made for the bell tower of S. Maria del Fiore in Florence, among which theThe art of navigation , with figures of boatmen bent over the oars, eyes fixed on the expanse of the waters, the  Theatrica  with the charioteer studied by the ancient and with panting horses, Agriculture  with the effort of the men who guide the plow and oxen pulling with great force on the hard earth.

It was therefore Andrea Pisano who said the new word in sculpture after that of Giovanni. And he was continued by Andrea Orcagna of Florence (1328-1368), architect, sculptor, painter, poet, who made Andrea’s fomie graver, more constructive, deeper, in the tabernacle of Orsanmichele in Florence (1359), where the realism of the following century is already present. He does not pile up the figures, on the contrary he seems to be afraid of pressing them into the narrow spaces; affirms his tendency to simplify the compositions, to amplify the forms, giving fullness to the faces, breadth to the mantles. The mimicry of the figures is more lively than that of Andrea Pisano: the lips and hands become speaking in the relief with the announcement of death to the Virgin ; the look of the  Solertia, who points his finger to his lips as a sign of silence, is open and lively in contrast to the deep, humble, fearful one of  Virginity . Orcagna is not a restless spirit who always tries new things; he is a hardworking, practical and hardworking teacher. In representing a solemn scene, such as that of the Assumption, he remembered that he was not only a sculptor, but also a mosaicist, to obtain the most vivid and dazzling effects with the background of blue enamel scattered with stars. And with the virtue of an architect he arranged bas-reliefs and mosaics in the tabernacle, admirable for the harmony of the parts, for the noble elegance of the whole, for the majesty assumed by the Gothic style. The angels venerate Mary, playing, singing in ecstasy; and above the pillars of the lantern, along the friezes, on the cusps, the prophets, the patriarchs and the blessed sing praises. Between the glitter of the mosaics, the brightness of the marbles and the splendor of the gold the sacred song rises. The stars twinkle along the twisted columns, in the brocades, in the stoles, in the fringes; the firmament shines on the canopy.

Outside of Florence, Gothicism continues to reign in sculpture, intent on refining the typical forms of Giovanni Pisano. Nino, son of Andrea, limits himself to studying the graceful smile of his Madonnas. He is the main auctioneer of the Pisan style in sculpture, for the diffusion that his statuettes of the Madonna had and also for the construction, in Venice, of the monument to Doge Marco Cornaro.

Giovanni di Balduccio, another Pisan, brought models to the masters of Campione and Como with the monuments of Sarzana and Genoa, and with the ark of Sant’Eustorgio in Milan, from which the other of Sant’Agostino in Pavia derives.

While Giovanni’s Pisan followers conquered the north, his Sienese followers conquered the south of Italy. Tino di Camaino senese works in Pisa, Siena, Florence, Naples, finding his best expression in the bas-reliefs with the life of St. Catherine in St. Clare of this city, where the naive grace of the recommendation makes one forget the superficial structure plastic; Lorenzo Maitani, among the subtle embroidery of the circumvented clusters of vine leaves, carries fragile bas-reliefs from the Old and New Testaments on the front of the Orvieto cathedral; Goro di Gregorio in Messina, Agostino and Agnolo di Ventura, Gano and many others spread the Pisan style throughout Italy when it was already reformed in Florence.

Through the work of Veronese marble workers, and above all of the Venetians Iacobello and Pier Paolo delle Masegne, the second half of the fourteenth century reveals a new, rough and uncomfortable activity, but a sincere researcher of reality; and in Lombardy, through the work of Giovannino de ‘Grassi, painter and illuminator, rather than sculptor, sculpture also intensifies the realistic character, and tends to lead the tortuosity of Gothic ornamentation to paroxysm. Many works dating back to the beginning of the fifteenth century are linked to these fourteenth-century forms, in S. Petronio in Bologna, in the Doge’s Palace in Venice, in the cathedral of Milan, in Naples with the Baboccio, in Florence itself with the retards.

A little later than architecture and sculpture, since the first half of the thirteenth century, Italian painting, which was popular and not courtly painting, presents itself to us with a particular grandeur. The  S. _ Francis by Bonaventura Berlinghieri, who dates back to 1235, has its own perfection. Rigid, hieratic, tormented by asceticism, the image towers over the cases of the saint’s life, painted on the sides: thus the divine overhangs the relativity of human life. And it is no coincidence that what is perhaps the oldest pictorial masterpiece in Italy speaks in the name of St. Francis. Religious life in Italy reached a creative height in the thirteenth century that has never returned. The names of St. Francis and St. Thomas, the very participation of St. Dominic in Italian life, are the most obvious indicators of that religiosity. We felt God, we thought God, we acted in the name of God. God participated in every economic, political, moral, intellectual, artistic act of the life of Italy. The passions, so intense as to leave us astonished, seemed inspired by God, whether they led to battles or directed the brushes. The models might have been Byzantine, but those works that looked like copies, full of a new content of popular religiosity, were independent of the models as works of art. Each one found, beyond the models, his own God.

Italy Romanesque and Gothic Arts 7

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