This architecture, with its round arches, its
fluted columns and pilasters, is not Gothic at all, but reflects the new
style launched by Filippo Brunelleschi, whose architectural
achievements will occupy us soon. Although it is not certain,
Brunelleschi probably also invented linear, or scientific, perspective,
and The Feast of Herod is seemingly the earliest surviving
example of a picture space constructed by this method. The system is a
geometric procedure for projecting space onto a plane, analogous to the
way the lens of a photographic camera projects a perspective image on
the film. Its central feature is the vanishing point, toward which any
set of parallel lines will seem to converge. If these lines are
perpendicular to the picture plane, their vanishing point will be on the
horizon, corresponding exactly to the position of the beholder's eye.
Brunelleschi's discovery in itself was scientific rather than artistic,
but it immediately became highly important to Early Renaissance artists
because, unlike the perspective practices of the past, it was objective,
precise, and rational. In fact, it soon became an argument for upgrading
the fine arts into the liberal arts.
While empirical methods could also yield striking results, scientific
perspective made it possible now to represent three-dimensional space on
a flat surface in such a way that all the distances remained measurable.
This meant, in turn, that by reversing the procedure the plan could be
derived from the perspective picture of a building. On the other hand,
the scientific implications of the new perspective demanded that it be
consistently applied, a requirement that artists could not always live
up to, for practical as well as aesthetic reasons. Since the method
presupposes that the beholder's eye occupies a fixed point in space, a
perspective picture automatically tells us where we must stand to see it
properly. Thus the artist who knows in advance that his work will be
seen from above or below, rather than at ordinary eye level, ought to
make his perspective construction correspond to these conditions. If,
however, these are so abnormal that he must foreshorten his entire
design to an extreme degree, he may disregard them and assume instead an
ideal beholder, normally located. Such is the case in The Feast of
Herod. Our eye should be on a line perpendicular to the center of
the panel, but in the Baptistery we must crouch low to see it correctly,
as the basin to which our relief is attached is only a few feet high.
574), so beautiful that they were soon dubbed the
"Gates of Paradise," is decorated with ten large reliefs in square
frames (not 28 small panels in
quatrefoil frames, as on the earlier doors). They show the artist's
successful conversion, under the influence of Donatello and the other
pioneers of the new style, to the Early Renaissance point of view. The
only lingering elements of the Gothic style are to be found in the
figures, whose gentle and graceful classicism still reminds us of the
International Style. The hint of spatial depth we saw in The
Sacrifice of Isaac (fig. 508)
has grown in The Story of Jacob and Esau (fig.
575) into a complete
setting for the figures that goes back as far as the eye can reach. We
can imagine the figures leaving the scene, for the deep, continuous
space of this "pictorial relief" in no way depends on their presence.
Ghiberti's spacious hall is a fine example of Early Renaissance
architectural design reflecting the mature art of Brunelleschi. Because
The Story of Jacob and Esau is about a decade later than The
Feast of Herod by Donatello, its perspective construction is more
easy and assured. In the meantime, Brunelleschi's discovery had been
formulated in writing by Leone Battista Alberti, the author of the first
Renaissance treatise on painting and later an important architect in his
GOTHIC ART - SCULPTURE
see also collection:
At the same time that Donatello designed The Feast of Herod, Ghiberti was commissioned to do a second pair of bronze doors
for the Baptistery in Florence. This set (fig.
574. LORENZO GHIBERTI. "Gates of
Paradise," the east doors of the Baptistery of S. Giovanni,
Florence, ń. 1435.
bronze, height 15' (4.57 m)
575. LORENZO GHIBLRT1. The
Story of Jacob and Esau,
panel of the "Gates of Paradise."
Gilt bronze, 31
1/4" (79.5 cm) square. Baptistery of S. Giovanni, Florence
Outside Florence, the only major sculptor at
that time was
Jacopo della Quercia of Siena (c.
1374-1438). Like Ghiberti, he changed his style
from Gothic to Early Renaissance in mid-career, mainly through contact
with Donatello. Had he grown up in Florence, he might have been one of
the great leaders of the new movement from the start, but his forcefully
individual art remained outside the main trend. It had no effect on
Florentine art until the very end of the century, when the young
Michelangelo fell under its spell.
Michelangelo's admiration was aroused by the scenes from Genesis
framing the main portal of the church of S. Petronio in Bologna, among
them The Creation of Adam (fig.
The relief modeling of these panels is
little interest in pictorial depth—but
the figures are daring and profoundly impressive. Adam slowly rising
from the ground, as a statue brought to life might rise from its mold,
recaptures the heroic beauty of a classical athlete. Here the nude body
once again expresses the dignity and power of the individual as it did
in classical antiquity. We sense that Jacopo's Adam has not been
freed from Original Sin. He contains a hint of incipient conflict as he
faces the Lord, and he will surely fall, but in pride of spirit rather
than as a hapless victim of the Evil One.
It is instructive to compare Jacopo's Adam with the work that
probably inspired it, an Adam in Paradise from an Early Christian
ivory diptych (fig. 577).
The latter figure represents a classicizing trend around
400 A.D. (compare fig.
316), a final attempt to preserve
the Greek ideal of physical beauty within a Christian context. Adam
appears as the Perfect Man, divinely appointed to "have dominion
. . . over every living thing,"
but the classic form has already become a formula, a mere shell. The
classical nude entered the tradition of medieval art in this desiccated
The Creation of Adam.
Istrian stone, 99 x 92 cm (with frame). San Petronio, Bologna
577. Adam in Paradise,
detail of an ivory diptych,
ń. 400 A.D.
del Bargello, Florence
Whenever we meet the unclothed body, from
1400, we may be sure that it is derived, directly
or indirectly, from a classical source, no matter how unlikely this may
seem (as in fig. 397). We
may also be sure, except for a few special cases, that such nudity has a
moral significance, whether negative (Adam and Eve, or sinners in Hell)
or positive (the nudity of the Christ of the Passion, of saints being
martyred or mortifying the flesh, of Fortitude in the guise of
Hercules). Finally, medieval nudes, even the most accomplished, are
devoid of that sensual appeal that we take for granted in every nude of
classical antiquity. It was purposely avoided rather than unattainable,
for to the medieval mind the physical beauty of the ancient "idols,"
especially nude statues, embodied the insidious attraction of paganism.
The fifteenth century rediscovered the sensuous beauty of the
unclothed body, but by way of two separate paths. The Adam and
Eve of Jan van Eyck (fig. 544),
like the nudes of Bosch (fig.
553), have no precedent in either ancient or
medieval art. Indeed, they are not "nude,"
These are people whose normal state is to be dressed but
who, for specific reasons, appear stripped of their clothing. Jacopo's
Adam, on the other hand, is clearly nude, in the full classical
Jacopo della Quercia
Jacopo della Quercia, (born c. 1374, Siena
[Italy]—died Oct. 20, 1438, Bologna, Papal States), one of
the most original Italian sculptors of the early 15th
century. His innovative work influenced Italian artists such
as Francesco di Giorgio, Niccolò dell’Arca, and
Jacopo della Quercia came from a family of
craftsman; his father, Piero d’Angelo, was also a sculptor,
and his brother Priamo was a painter. In 1401 he
participated in the competition for the bronze doors of the
baptistery in Florence, which was won by Lorenzo Ghiberti.
About 1406 Jacopo carved the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto in
the Cathedral of Lucca. The effigy and sarcophagus alone
survive. In 1408, at Ferrara, he made the statue of the
Virgin and Child, which still exists in the Museo dell’Opera
del Duomo, and a year later he received the commission for
the Fonte Gaia in the Piazza del Campo at Siena, now
replaced by a copy; the original is in the loggia of the
town hall. The scheme of this celebrated and highly original
fountain seems to have been repeatedly modified, the most
effective work being done between 1414 and 1419. At the same
time, Jacopo was working on the statue of an apostle for the
exterior of the cathedral at Lucca, the Trenta altar for the
Church of San Frediano in Lucca, and tomb slabs for Lorenzo
Trenta and his wife.
In 1417 he undertook the creation of two
gilt bronze reliefs for the baptismal font in San Giovanni
in Siena. Being a dilatory artist, he completed only the
Zacharias in the Temple, the second being assigned to
Donatello. Jacopo’s main work is the sculpture around the
portal of San Petronio at Bologna. The 10 scenes from
Genesis, including The Creation of Eve, 5 scenes from the
early life of Christ, the reliefs of prophets, and the
statues of the Virgin and Child with Saints Petronius and
Ambrose give a sense of depth often seen in the paintings of
In 1435 Jacopo was appointed
superintending architect of Siena Cathedral, for which he
was employed on the decoration (unfinished) of the Cappella
Casini. His innovative sculptural style found no immediate
followers in Siena, Bologna, or Lucca, but it later became a
profound influence on Michelangelo.
DELLA QUERCIA. Left side
of the Fonte Gaia (Fountain of Joy), piazza del Campo, Siena. ,
with Creation of Adam.
DELLA QUERCIA. Middle
section of the Fonte Gaia (Fountain of Joy), piazza del Campo,
DELLA QUERCIA. Right side
of the Fonte Gaia (Fountain of Joy), piazza del Campo, Siena.
DELLA QUERCIA. Panel of
the Fonte Gaia (Fountain of Joy)
DELLA QUERCIA. Acca
Larentia. 1414-19. Marble, height: 162 cm. Palazzo Pubblico, Siena
Rhea Sylvia. 1414-19
Marble, height: 160 cm
Palazzo Pubblico, Siena
DELLA QUERCIA. Hope.
1414-19. Marble. Palazzo Pubblico, Siena
DELLA QUERCIA. Virtue.
1414-19. Marble, height: 135 cm. Palazzo Pubblico, Siena
Annunciation: the Angel. 1421-26. Painted wood, height: 175 cm.
Collegiata, San Gimignano
Annunciation: the Virgin. 1421-26. Painted wood, height: 175 cm.
Collegiata, San Gimignano
DELLA QUERCIA. Baptismal
font. c. 1417. Marble, gilded bronze, and cloured enamel. Baptistry,
DELLA QUERCIA. Zacharias
in the Temple. 1428-30. Gilt bronze relief, 60 x 60 cm cm. Baptistry,
DELLA QUERCIA. Madonna (Silvestri
Marble, height: 210 cm. Cathedral, Ferrara
DELLA QUERCIA. Madonna of
dated to c. 1400, in the National Gallery of Art
DELLA QUERCIA. Madonna col