Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Giovanni Francesco Rustici (c 1494-1554)
Italian renaissance sculptor. A terracotta relief by Rustici, Noli me tangere, glazed by Giovanni dellaa Robbia, can be found at the Bargello in Florence. But his work is more importantly connected with the marble groups above the doors at the Baptistery in Florence. His Preaching of the Baptist and Francesco Danti's Beheading of the Baptist define the context of this world famous landmark.
The work was commisioned in 1506 to replace a trecento sculpture of the same subject by Tino das Camaino. Rustici, of noble birth, was considered by his contemporaries as one of the major sculptors in Tuscany. During the commission Rustici and Leonardo da Vinci shared a house so it is natural that the older man's influence should be felt, although his exact role in the work is unknown.In the group each statue has its own pedestal and is separated by a column. However, St John (in center abd shown here), the patron saint of the city and building, is emphasized by his central placement and the poses and gazes of the flanking figures, rather like a triptych in the round. Rustici has them looking down to engage with the viewers below. In the Pharisee, whose huge hand clutches his beard, Rustici's surface treatment is decorative, almost an enlargement of Ghiberti's. It is really the bald Levite that departs from the slighter, idealized figures of the Quattrocento. His powerful arms resemble those of Michelangelo's figures on the Sistine ceiling and the bulges and rolls on his forehead extend Verrocchio's expressive anatomy and reflect Leonardo da Vinci's studies of the grotesque. The groups intensity recalls Donatello.
So far it has been impossible to date beginnings of the Baptistery, one of the oldest architectural monuments of the city. At one time thought to have been a pagan temple dedicated to Mars, modern research tends to date its origins to the fourth century. Its geometrical decoration in green and white Prato marble results from a happy combination of Paleochristian and Romanesque architecture of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries. The exterior with its three-arched facades punctuated by pedimented windows and small series of three arches corresponds exactly to the interior articulation; this is accentuated by the marble decoration. The basreliefs and sculptures around the external doors are among the most important created in Tuscany. Their gilded bronze doors are by Andrea Pisano (present south door: 1336) and Lorenzo Ghiberti (north and east doors: 1427 and 1452). The latter is the famous "Gates of Paradise", one of the greatest achievements in Western sculpture uniting late Gothic rhythmic elegance with the newly learned classical language. The original has been removed for restoration and there is a copy in its place. Inside, apart from the inlaid pavement of the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, are the wonderful large apse and vault mosaics on a gold background which were executed between 1266 and the beginning of the fourteenth century. The artists were Bizantine, trained from Venice, who worked with the more vigorous Tuscans like Meliore, Coppo di Marcovaldo and above all Cimabue (recorder 1272-1302), Giotto's master. Other works of sculpture here include the tomb of John XXIII, the anti-Pope who died in Florence in 1426. This was designed by Donatello and Michelozzo and the striking wooden Magdalen by Donatello from it is now in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo. As a result of the restoration carried out after the damage of the 1996 flood, the gold highlights on this figure were revealed. - Malaspina Biography
Books from Alibris: Florentine Sculpture