Study Of Art – Sculpture In The Fifteenth Century

Jacopo della Quercia. 1371-1438.

Jacopo, named from the castello of La Quercia near Siena, came first into notice through an equestrian effigy which he made of wood, covered with cloth and stucco, for the funeral of a Sienese citizen. In 1401 he competed for the Baptistery doors in Florence, and was mentioned as third in excellence. During civic trouble in Siena he went to Lucca, where he made the tomb of Ilaria del Caretto, his most beautiful work. His native city had in 1409 commissioned him to make an ornamental fountain, the Fonte Gaia, in the square of the Palazzo Pubblico. He did not complete it until 1419, under penalty of a heavy fine, but so acceptably that payment for it was increased and he was afterwards known as Jacopo della Fonte. He designed the font for the Baptistery, and spent the later years of his life on the decoration of the great portal of S. Petronio in Bologna. Several lesser sculptors of Siena studied and worked under him, but his true follower was Michelangelo. As M. Reymond says, ” Jacopo had but one pupil, and for him he had to wait a century.”


Greek Funeral Art compared with that of Christian times. Balcarres, 185—224; Powers, Greek Art; Blashfield (Vasari’s Lives), II, 118—119.

The Enjoyment of Sculpture. Freeman, 3—35.


No. 408. Tomb of Darla del Caretto.

No. 409. Head of Ilaria.

Cathedral, Lucca.

Ilaria del Caretto was the wife of Paolo Guinigi, ruling spirit of Lucca for a number of years. Their palace still stands. (See Series G.) The tomb was made in 1413. It was removed from its place and almost destroyed when the Guinigi were overthrown in 1429.

The cupids with garlands are reminiscent of Roman sarcophagi. The fine working of the stone, the graceful lines of the drapery, especially the beauty, refinement, and tranquillity of the face, the repose of the entire monument, make it one of the masterpieces of sculpture of all time.

Read Ruskin, Modern Painters, II, ch. 7.

No. 410. Madonna with Saints.

Architrave and lunette.

No. 411. Adam and Eve laboring.

Panel from door frame.

Portal, S. Petronio, Bologna.

These statues and bas-reliefs in marble were executed in 1430-1438, the work being still unfinished at the artist’s death. They have suffered much from time and exposure. The scenes in the architrave are from the Birth of Christ. On either side of the door are stories from Genesis. The saints are Petronius with the church, and Ambrosius.

Notice the heavy draperies and their effect upon the figure of the seated Madonna. Study the design of the bas-relief, the spirit in which the story is told. Notice the lowness of the relief, yet the emphasis upon the strong frame and muscular development.

No. 412. Allegorical Figure. Cathedral Museum, Siena.

One of the figures from the dismantled Fonte Gaia, now replaced by a modern copy. It consisted of a three-sided marble balustrade, with niches in which were seated the Madonna and seven Virtues, while the water gushed from the mouths of animals into the basin.

Note resemblances with the figure of the Madonna, 410; the dignity and reserve of character, the physical strength and vigor. The ample draperies emphasize the sense of repose and stability. Cf. Michelangelo’s Pietà, C 444.

No. 413. Font.

No. 414. Vision of Zacharias : panel.

S. Giovanni, Siena.

The font was designed by Jacopo, and the upper portion is largely his work, 1425-1432. Of the six bronze reliefs of the lower portion only one, 414, is by him. Ghiberti made two and Donatello one. Cf. 427, 436.

Study the balance of architecture and sculpture in the design of the font; the Renaissance decoration. Notice the suggestion of an older architecture in the panel. The interest is here centered upon the main theme; study by what means. Compare Ghirlandajo’s picture, 198. Note the dignity and virility of the figures.

No. 415. Font. Cathedral Siena.

This font is of interest as showing Jacopo della Quercia’s influence on a succeeding generation. It is by his pupil Antonio Federighi, ca. 1420-1490.

Compare in structure and decoration with 413.

The art of Jacopo della Quercia is in striking contrast to the work of the painters of Siena. There is no trace in his virile art of the religious sentimentality nor of the decorative beauty which characterizes Sienese painting.