Showing posts with label Andrea Pisano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Andrea Pisano. Show all posts

28 August 2018

Elisabetta Sirani – artist

Sudden death of talented young woman shocked Bologna

A self-portrait by Elisabetta Sirani
A self-portrait by Elisabetta Sirani
The brilliant Baroque painter and printmaker Elisabetta Sirani died in unexplained circumstances at the age of 27 on this day in 1665 in Bologna.

The body of the artist was carried to the Chapel of the Rosary in the Basilica of San Domenico in Bologna to be mourned, not just by her family, but by an entire community as she was loved and respected as an important female painter.

Elisabetta has been described as beautiful, focused and selfless and she became a symbol of the progressive city of Bologna, where the creativity of women was encouraged and they were able to express themselves through art and music.

Elisabetta’s father, Giovanni Andrea Sirani, was himself an artist and she was trained in his studio, although contemporary writers have recorded that he was reluctant to teach her to paint in the Bolognese style, as established by artists in the city in the 16th and 17th centuries as a way to distinguish themselves from the artists of Florence and Rome.

But Elisabetta acquired the technique anyway and became one of the most renowned painters in Bologna , overshadowing her father. He had been a pupil of the highly regarded Bolognese painter Guido Reni, who had died in 1642, and many local people considered Elisabetta to be a female reincarnation of him.

Sirani's beautiful painting Sant'Antonio da Padova in adorazione del bambino
Sirani's beautiful painting Sant'Antonio da
Padova in adorazione del bambino
When she was just 16 her father became incapacitated by gout and so Elisabetta began running his workshop and became the breadwinner for the whole family.

She never married, despite being described as attractive, lively and warm-hearted. Some people believed that her father prevented her from marrying.

When Elisabetta died suddenly on 28 August 1665 in Bologna her death was treated as suspicious and a servant, Lucia Tolomelli, was charged with poisoning the artist. She was put on trial but Elisabetta’s father later withdrew the charges.

Modern thinking, based on the descriptions recorded of her symptoms, is that she probably died of peritonitis after suffering a ruptured peptic ulcer.

Elisabetta was given an elaborate funeral that included an enormous catafalque - a kind of moving platform - containing a life-sized sculpture of her and she was buried in the same tomb as Guido Reni.

During her brief career she had produced more than 200 paintings, 15 etchings and hundreds of drawings. She painted many religious subjects but was also an accomplished portrait painter and was much mourned by the women of Bologna who had sat for her.

She established an academy for women painters in Bologna and trained many artists at what was the first school in Europe for women painters that was outside a convent.

Her 1663 painting Virgin and Child is now in the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington . In 1994 it was selected by the United States Postal Service for their Christmas holiday stamp series.

The Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna houses a number  of paintings by Elisabetta Sirani
The Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna houses a number
of paintings by Elisabetta Sirani
Travel tip:

You can see paintings by Elisabetta Sirani in The Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna in Complesso di Sant’Ignazio in Via Belle Arti, a gallery close to Due Torri, the two towers that have become symbols of Bologna . One of the most beautiful paintings on show is Sant’Antonio da Padova in adorazione del bambino, which shows the saint kneeling at the baby’s feet. Also on display is her striking painting of Santa Maria Maddalena, which shows the saint bare-breasted and holding a crucifix.

Guido Reni's ceiling The Glory of San Domenico is a feature of the basilica
Guido Reni's ceiling The Glory of San
is a feature of the basilica
Travel tip:

Elisabetta Sirani is buried with the artist Guido Reni in the Rosary Chapel of the 13th century Basilica of San Domenico in Piazza San Domenico. The church is close to the Archiginnasio, once the main building of the University of Bologna . Behind the red-brick fa├žade of the church, which was added as recently as 1910, lies a treasure house of art including works by Pisano, Michelangelo, Iacopo da Bologna and Guido Reni. In the Rosary Chapel, the most important work is the Mystery of the Rosary, a group of paintings worked on by Lodovico Carracci, Bartolomeo Cesi, Denis Calvaert, Lavinia Fontana, Guido Reni and Domenichino.

More reading:

The Bolognese master Guercino

How the Bolognese painter Annibale Carracci influenced art in Rome

Why Domenichino is seen as the Raphael of the Bolognese School

Also on this day:

1909: The birth of Bicycle Thieves actor Lamberto Maggiorani

1938: The birth of journalist and TV talk show host Maurizio Costanzo


1 December 2017

Lorenzo Ghiberti – sculptor

Goldsmith renowned for 'Gates of Paradise'

The baptistry doors known as 'The Gates of Paradise'
The baptistry doors known as
'The Gates of Paradise' 
Sculptor, goldsmith and architect Lorenzo Ghiberti died on this day in 1455 in Florence.

Part of his legacy were the magnificent doors he created for the Baptistery of the Florence Duomo that have become known as the Gates of Paradise.

Ghiberti had become a man of learning, living up to the image of the early 15th century artist as a student of antiquity, who was investigative, ambitious and highly creative.

His Commentaries - I Commentarii - which he started to write in 1447, include judgements on the great contemporary and 14th century masters as well as his scientific theories on optics and anatomy, revealing the scope of his artistic and practical experimentation.

Ghiberti was born in 1378 in Pelago near Florence and was trained as a goldsmith by Bartolo di Michele, whom his mother had married in 1406 but had lived with for some time previously.  Ghiberti took his name from his mother’s first husband, Cione Ghiberti, although he later claimed that Di Michele was his real father.

He moved to Pesaro in 1400 to fulfil a painting commission from the city's ruler, Sigismondo Malatesta, but returned to Florence when he heard about a competition that had been set up to find someone to make a pair of bronze doors for the Baptistery of the cathedral.  

Detail from Ghiberti's second set of doors to the baptistery, which depicts scenes from the life of Joseph
Detail from Ghiberti's second set of doors to the baptistery,
which depicts scenes from the life of Joseph
Ghiberti’s design won and the contract was signed for him to produce the doors in Di Michele’s workshop.  He began the project in 1407 and it would take him until 1424 to complete. He actually created two sets of doors; the first, for the Baptistery, depicted scenes from the New Testament, the second, with ten square panels and deemed to be superior to the first, scenes from the Old Testament.

It was Michelangelo who suggested they were of such quality they would be worthy of being chosen as the Gates of Paradise.  The painter and art historian Giorgio Vasari declared then to be “undeniably perfect in every way”.

Although, it was the doors that established Ghiberti’s reputation he took other commissions, including gilded bronze statues of St John the Baptist for niches of the Orsanmichele church in Florence and the Arte di Calimala (Wool Merchants' Guild) and one of St. Matthew for the Arte di Cambio (Bankers' Guild). He  also produced a bronze figure of St. Stephen for the Arte della Lana (Wool Manufacturers' Guild).

He also wrote what is considered to be the first autobiography of an artist, which formed part of I Commentarii. 

I Commentarii has come to be regarded as one of the most important sources of information about the Renaissance and the art of the period.

Ghiberti was an influential figure in many ways.  Among the artists who worked in his studios as they were making their way in the world included Donatello, Masolino di Panichale, Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi, Paolo Uccello, and Antonio Pollaiuolo.

He married Marsilia, the 16-year-old daughter of Bartolomeo di Luca, a wool carder. They had two sons – Tommaso, who was born in 1417, and Vittorio born the following year – who both joined Ghiberti in his business, Vittorio taking over the workshop after his father’s death.

The market square in Pelago
The market square in Pelago
Travel tip:

Pelago, a small town in Tuscany about 20km (12 miles) east of Florence, was developed by the Etruscans on the site of a settlement thought to date back to the Paleolithic period. It grew around a castle built in the 11th century in an area rich in castles, usually built on the top of a hill.  At the foot of Pelago Castle is a marketplace and a number of palaces once owned by wealthy noblemen.  The church of San Clemente, which originates in the 12th century and now contains a museum, can be found within the castle walls.

Florence's Duomo is one of the most familiar sights in Italy
Florence's Duomo is one of the most familiar sights in Italy
Travel tip:

The Florence Duomo - the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore - with its enormous dome by Filippo Brunelleschi and campanile by Giotto, is one of Italy's most recognisable and most photographed sights, towering above the city and the dominant feature of almost every cityscape. From groundbreaking to consecration, the project took 140 years to complete and involved a series of architects. Arnolfo di Cambio, who also designed the church of Santa Croce and the Palazzo Vecchio was the original architect engaged and it was to his template, essentially, that the others worked.  When he died in 1410, 14 years after the first stone was laid, he was succeeded by Giotto, who himself died in 1337, after which his assistant Andrea Pisano took up the project.  Pisano died in 1348, as the Black Death swept Europe, and a succession of architects followed, culminating in Brunelleschi, who won a competition - against Ghiberti, as it happens - to build the dome, which remains the largest brick-built dome ever constructed.