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December 1991

Vol. 133 | No. 1065



Florentine Sculpture under Cover

  • Lorenzo Monaco, Lorenzo Ghiberti and Orsanmichele: Part II

    By Diane Finiello Zervas

    FOR REASONS which remain unknown, but were probably financial, the campaign of filling the arches at Orsan- michele with limestone tracery and stained glass was not resumed until the late 1420s, several years after its western portals had been completed.' Once underway, however, the final embellishments were quickly executed; a series of previously unpublished documents reveal that tracery for two lunettes and five stained glass windows were com- missioned and installed in the oratory during the four years between 1429 and 1432. They included the stonework and glazing for the western arches of the north and south fagades (Fig.2: F-G; 3, 7), and the glazing for Ghiberti's western doors and the central arch on the south facade (Fig.2: E, C). Originally, between eleven and thirteen narrative panels made up a complete stained-glass cycle of the life of Mary, begun in 1410 with cartoons by Lorenzo Monaco; of the later scenes, however, only three survive (Figs. 1, 3 and 4), together with the Instrument-playing angels of the north-west portal (Figs.5-6). The total cost of the stonework and glazing executed between 1429 and 1432, which can be estimated at just over 900 florins, was well above the 620 florins budgeted for four years' worth of oratory decoration, but must have been at least partially subsidised by Arrigo di Leone's patronage of the glass for the western portals.

  • The First Papal Medal: Sources and Meaning

    By Nathan T. Whitman

    IN THE brief span of a dozen years between 1438 and 1450 Pisanello introduced the art of the medal to humanist  clients in such scattered centres as Milan, Mantua, Ferrara, and Naples. It is therefore not surprising that the first example of this new artistic form to emanate from the papal court at Rome appeared in 1455.' A large and comparatively rare cast-bronze piece from the last year of the reign of Nicholas V, it depicts on its obverse the bust of that pontiff in profile, facing left, tonsured, and clothed in an embroidered cope (Fig.7). The accompanying in- scription identifies him not only by his papal name, but also by his baptismal name of Tomas, placed directly below the bust. On the reverse the pope, now wearing a mitre as well as a cope, is seated, facing right, in the stern of a boat designated as Eclesia by the prominent inscription on its side (Fig.8). With his right hand Nicholas clasps the oar that functions as rudder, while with the left he holds a long Latin cross to which is attached a pennon displaying the crossed keys of the papacy. On the prow of the boat can be discerned a large round container from which fire rises; below the vessel a pattern of chased lines signifies the sea. The crowded Latin inscription along the upper edge of the medal records that Nicholas reigned for eight years and twenty days and died on 25th March 1454 (old style). On the lower edge the medallist has placed his own, Latinised name, Andreas Guacialotis.

  • Grimani Patronage in S. Giuseppe di Castello: Veronese, Vittoria and Smeraldi

    By Thomas Martin

    MARINO GRIMANI, 95th Doge of Venice, made the conventual church of S. Giuseppe di Castello one of his favoured sites for patronage, selecting it as the location of his tomb. Traditionally attributed to Scamozzi, this tomb was actually designed by Francesco Smeraldi and built between 1599 and 1604, while Grimani was doge.' The first instance of Grimani's patronage in the church, however, comes from over a decade earlier when he commissioned the redecoration of the choir. The full history of this project can now be set forth with the discovery of the records for it in the Grimani archives.

  • Paul V, Alexander VII, and a Fountain by Nicolò Cordier Rediscovered

    By Jack Freiberg

    VISITORS to the Palazzo del Commendatore of the Ospedale di S. Spirito in Rome are greeted by a charming fountain located directly opposite the entrance (Fig.30). The ensemble is set into the inner wall of the colonnaded courtyard, framed by a pedimented aedicula emerging from a deep niche lined with multicoloured pebble mosaics. A puckish, winged Cupid flanked by dragons stands at the centre of the elaborate water display (Figs.31 and 32). Water gushes from the mouth of a sea creature nestled between Cupid's feet into the upper basin, and then flows through the mouths of three grotesque masks into an equal number of seashells. The descent is completed by thin streams, spat from the mouths of two dragons on the central supporting element and crossing others emitted by a second pair of dragons below the grey marble pilasters of the aedicula. Additional dragons define the capitals of the pilasters, their furled wings shaping the Ionic volutes. At the top, within the open centre of the segmental pediment, yet another dragon appears, accompanied by an eagle in an heraldic configuration which identifies the fountain with Pope Paul V, Borghese (1605-21).

  • The Cleaning of Michelangelo's Taddei tondo

    By John Larson

    THE OPENING of the new Sackler Galleries at the Royal Academy has created exciting spaces not only for temporary exhibitions, but also for some of the sculptures from the Academy's permanent collection, the most important of which is the marble tondo by Michelangelo, generally known as the Taddei tondo (Fig.40).

  • The World, the Book, and Anselm Kiefer

    By Charles W. Haxthausen

    WHEN the cultural history of the cold war configuration unoffici- ally known as West Germay is written - a history that ended with German unification on 3rd October 1990 - a chapter should be devoted to the phenomenon ofAnselm Kiefer. Within the visual arts, it is Kiefer who exemplifies most dramatically West Germany's rise to international prominence. He has been collected abroad on a scale and with a fervour unrivalled by Beuys or by any other post-war German - indeed, it can be said that no previous German artist has enjoyed such international celebrity within his or her own lifetime.