Late Gothic & Early Renaissance

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Late Gothic & Early Renaissance

Nanni di Banco
Agostino Di Duccio
Bertoldo di Giovanni
Mino da Fiesole

Desiderio da Settignano
Andrea Bregno
Pietro Lombardo
Antonio Lombardo
Tullio Lombardo
Giovanni Antonio Amadeo
Francesco di Giorgio Martini
Benedetto da Maiano
Luca Della Robbia
Andrea della Robbia

Bernardo Rossellino
Antonio Rossellino
Antonio del Pollaiuolo
Niccolò dell’Arca
Andrea del Verrocchio

Bernardo Rossellino, (born c. 1409, Settignano, Republic of Florence [Italy]—died Sept. 23, 1464, Florence), influential early Italian Renaissance architect and sculptor.

Rossellino was trained by Filippo Brunelleschi and was influenced by Luca della Robbia and Lorenzo Ghiberti. His style exhibited a moderate classicism, as observed in an early tabernacle (1449, Sant’Egidio, Florence). Rossellino’s masterpiece, the tomb of Leonardo Bruni (1444–50) in Santa Croce, Florence, was executed for that eminent chancellor and inaugurated a new type of sepulchral monument that ranks with the greatest achievements of early Renaissance sculpture. The work, establishing a fine balance between sculpture and architecture, figure and decoration, became the prototypical wall monument of its time. Other significant works include the tomb of Orlando de’ Medici (1456–57) in Santissima Annunziata, Florence, and the Tomb of the Blessed Villana delle Botte (1451–52) in Santa Maria Novella, Florence.

As an architect, Rossellino worked for Pope Nicholas V, who employed him (1451–53) on the building of St. Peter’s in Rome, for which he designed the apse, and for Pope Pius II. From his uncompleted reconstruction of Pienza, the pope’s native city (renamed from Corsignano), the cathedral and the Piccolomini Palace (1460–63) are two of his most celebrated works. Although the extent of Rossellino’s contribution to the project’s design has not been fully determined, he was closely associated with this monument of Renaissance urban planning.

Encyclopædia Britannica


The oldest of these, Bernardo Rossellino (1409-1464), seems to have begun as a sculptor and architect in Arezzo. He established himself in Florence about 1436, but received no commissions of real consequence until some eight years later, when he was entrusted with the Tomb of Leonardo Bruni. This great humanist and statesman had played a vital part in the city's affairs ever since the beginning of the century. When he died in 1444, he received a grand funeral "in the manner of the ancients." His monument was probably ordered by the city government of Florence. Since Bruni had been born in Arezzo, his native town also wished to honor him and may have helped to secure the commission for Bernardo because of his earlier activity there. (One wonders, however, what chance Bernardo would have had if Donatello had been available.)

Although the Bruni monument is not the earliest Renaissance tomb, nor even the earliest large-scale tomb of a humanist, it can claim to be the first memorial that fully expresses the spirit of the new era. Echoes of Bruni's funeral all'antica are everywhere. The deceased reclines on a bier supported by Roman eagles, his head wreathed in laurel and his hands enfolding a volume (presumably his own History of Florence, rather than a prayer book). The monument is a fitting tribute to the man who, more than any other, had helped to establish the new historical perspective of the Florentine Early Renaissance. On the classically severe sarcophagus, two winged genii display an inscription very different from those on medieval tombs. Instead of recording the name, rank, and age of the deceased and the date of his death, it refers only to his timeless accomplishments: "At Leonardo's passing, history grieves, eloquence is mute, and it is said that the Muses, Greek and Latin alike, cannot hold back their tears." The religious aspect of the tomb is confined to the lunette, where the Madonna is adored by angels.

The entire monument may thus be viewed as an attempt to reconcile two contrasting attitudes toward death: the retrospective, commemorative outlook of the ancients. and the Christian concern with afterlife and salvation. Bernardo's design is admirably suited to such a program, balancing architecture and sculpture within a compact, self-contained framework. Its dominant motif, the two pilasters supporting a round arch resting on a strongly accented architrave, suggests Alberti, who employed it repeatedly. It is derived from the doorway to the Pantheon, which accounts for its use in church portals such as that of S. Andrea in Mantua. While Bernardo may have adopted it for the Bruni tomb on purely aesthetic grounds, it is possible that he also meant to convey a symbolic meaning: the deceased on his bier, pausing at the gateway between one life and the next. Perhaps he even wanted us to associate the motif with the Pantheon, the "temple of the immortals" for pagans and Christians alike. (Once dedicated to all the gods of the Roman world, it had been rededicated to all the martyrs when it became a church, and in the High Renaissance it was to receive the remains of yet another breed of immortals: such famous artists as Raphael.)

The sculptural style of the Bruni tomb is not easy to define, since its components vary a good deal in quality. Broadly speaking, it reflects the classicism of Ghiberti and Luca della Robbia; echoes of Donatello are few and indirect. By the same token, we do not yet have a clear conception of Bernardo's style as a sculptor. He surely employed assistants here, as he did in his subsequent commissions. During the later 1440s, his workshop was the only training ground for ambitious young marble sculptors, such as his very gifted younger brother Antonio and other members of the same generation. Their share in Bernardo's sculptural projects is hard to identify, however, for their personalities were not distinct until they began to work independently. In any event, all the tombs, tabernacles, and the reliefs of the Madonna produced by the younger artists between 1450 and 1480 have a common ancestor in the Bruni monument, whatever other elements we may discern in them.

Bernardo Rossellino. Tomb of Leonardo Bruni. с. 1445-50. Marble, height 20' (6.1 m to top of arch). Sta. Croce. Florence

Bernardo Rossellino.
Tondo from the Tomb of Leonardo Bruni. 1444-47. Marble.
Santa Croce, Florence

Bernardo Rossellino. The David of the Casa Martelli
c. 1461-79
Marble, height 165 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Bernardo Rossellino. Cathedral and Palazzo Piccolomini
Piazza Pio II, Pienza

Bernardo Rossellino. Bishop's Palace
Piazza Pio II, Pienza

Bernardo Rossellino. Courtyard
Palazzo Piccolomini, Pienza



Since Bernardo Rossellino and his artistic descendants concentrated their efforts on sculptural ensembles of the kind we have labeled church furniture, freestanding statues are (with one or two possible exceptions) absent from their works. They produced only one form of large-scale sculpture in the round that was not intended for an architectural context: the marble portrait bust. The great Roman tradition of realistic portrait sculpture, we recall, had died out in late antiquity. Its revival was long credited to Donatello (who certainly knew and admired Roman portraits, as we saw in discussing the Zuccone), but the earliest examples we know all date from the 1450s, and none is by him. It seems far more likely, therefore, that the Renaissance portrait bust originated among the younger marble sculptors from the circle of Bernardo Rossellino.

Antonio Rossellino. Giovanni Chellini. 1456. Marble, height 20" (50.7 cm). Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The attractive example shown was carved in 1456 by Bernardo's brother, Antonio Rossellino (1427-1479). It represents a highly esteemed Florentine physician, Giovanni Chellini, whose personality, at once sardonic and kindly, has been observed with extraordinary precision. Comparing it with Roman heads, we cannot say the resemblance to them is striking. In fact, these Roman busts, however realistic they may seem at first, all look idealized in some respect (not always physically) beside our Florentine doctor, who radiates an individuality far beyond any attained in ancient times. He is linked to his Roman predecessors only by the idea of portrait sculpture in the round as an effective and enduring substitute for the sitter's real presence. Stylistically, the ancestry of Antonio's bust is to be found among the heads of effigies, such as that of Leonardo Bruni, for it was in tomb sculpture that realistic portraiture had first been revived, often with the aid of death masks. Although our piece was carved during the sitter's lifetime, its insistence on documenting every wrinkle makes it look like a death-mask portrait suddenly brought to life. Fortunately, Antonio Rossellino did not permit this preoccupation with the details of facial topography to diminish his concern with the sitter's qualities as a human being.


Antonio Rossellino

Antonio Rossellino, (born 1427, Settignano, Florence [Italy]—died c. 1479, republic of Florence), notable and prolific Italian Renaissance sculptor who was the youngest brother of the architect and sculptor Bernardo Rossellino.

Antonio was presumably trained by Bernardo, whom he assisted on numerous commissions; the tomb of Neri Capponi (after 1457) is an important work by the brothers. Antonio was a master of portraiture, as is shown by the busts of Giovanni Chellini (1456) and Matteo Palmieri (1468). Probably working from life masks, he carved detailed surfaces and achieved extremely realistic likenesses.

Antonio Rossellino’s greatest work is the Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal in San Miniato al Monte, outside Florence, which is an elaborate and decorative combination of architecture and figurative sculpture. He worked in the traditions established by his brother and Desiderio da Settignano, and as his style evolved, Rossellino’s figures developed strong form and intense characterization. His subtle carvings and reliefs generated a calm, gentle sentiment, and he is known for many works of the Madonna, a recurrent Renaissance theme (e.g., Madonna and Child, 1478). Other works include the Shrine of the Blessed Marcolino da Forlì (1458) and the monument of Filippo Lazzari (1464).

Encyclopædia Britannica

Antonio Rossellino. The Virgin and Child , 1460s
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia


Antonio Rossellino.
The Young Saint John the Baptist. c. 1470. Marble, height 35 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington
Antonio Rossellino. Portrait Bust of a Lady. 1460-70. Marble, height: 53 cm. Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Antonio Rossellino. Matteo Palmieri

Marble, height: 53,3 cm
Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

Antonio Rossellino. Tomb of the Cardinal of Portugal

White and coloured marble with traces of polychromy and gold, height: 400 cm
San Miniato al Monte, Florence

Antonio Rossellino. Tomb of the Cardinal of Portugal (detail)

White and coloured marble
San Miniato al Monte, Florence