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

By 1450 the great civic campaign of art patronage came to an end, and Florentine artists had to depend mainly on private commissions. This put the sculptors at a disadvantage because of the high costs involved in their work. Since the monumental tasks were few, they concentrated on works of moderate size and price for individual patrons, such as bronze statuettes. The collecting of sculpture, widely practiced in ancient times, had ceased during the Middle Ages. The taste of those who could afford to collect for personal pleasurekings and feudal lordsran to gems, jewelry, goldsmith's work, illuminated manuscripts, and precious fabrics. The habit was reestablished in fifteenth-century Italy as part of the "revival of antiquity." Humanists and artists first collected ancient sculpture, especially small bronzes, which were numerous and of convenient size. Before long, contemporary artists began to cater to the spreading vogue, with portrait busts and small bronzes of their own "in the manner of the ancients."

A particularly fine piece of this kind is Hercules and Antaeus) by Antonio del Pollaiuolo (1431-1498), who represents a sculptural style very different from that of the marble carvers we discussed above. Trained as a goldsmith and metalworker, probably in the Ghiberti workshop, he was deeply impressed by the late styles of Donatello and Castagno, as well as by ancient art. From these sources, he evolved the distinctive manner that appears in our statuette. To create a free-standing group of two figures in violent struggle, even on a small scale, was a daring idea in itself. Even more astonishing is the way Pollaiuolo has endowed his composition with a centrifugal impulse. Limbs seem to radiate in every direction from a common center, and we see the full complexity of their movements only when we examine the statuette from all sides. Despite its strenuous action, the group is in perfect balance. To stress the central axis, Pollaiuolo in effect grafted the upper part of Antaeus onto the lower part of his adversary.

There is no precedent for this design among earlier statuary groups of any size, ancient or Renaissance. The artist has simply given a third dimension to a composition from the field of drawing or painting. He himself was a painter and engraver as well as a bronze sculptor, and we know that about
1465 he did a large picture of Hercules and Antaeus, now lost, for the Medici, who also owned our statuette.

Antonio del Pollaiuolo. Hercules and Antaeus.
с. 1475. Bronze, height 18" (45.8 cm, with base). Museo Nazionale del Bareello, Florence

Antonio del Pollaiuolo. Hercules. 1470s. Bronze, height 44 cm. Frick Collection, New York

Few of his paintings have survived, and only a single engraving, the battle of the Ten Naked Men. This print, however, is of great importance, since it represents Pollaiuolo's most elaborate pictorial design. Its subject, undoubtedly a classical one, has not yet been convincingly identified, but that matter is not so significant. The primary purpose of the engraving obviously was to display Pollaiuolo's mastery of the nude body in action. About 1465-70, when the print must have been produced, this was still a novel problem, and Pollaiuolo contributed more than any other master to its solution. An interest in movement, coupled with slender proportions and an emphasis on outline rather than on modeling, had been seen in Castagno's David, which in these respects is clearly the progenitor of the Ten Naked Men. Pollaiuolo also drew upon the action poses he found in certain types of Greek vases. But he realized that a full understanding of bodily movement demands a detailed knowledge of anatomy, down to the last muscle and sinew. These ten naked men, in fact, have an oddly "flayed" appearance, as if their skin had been stripped off to reveal the play of muscles underneath, and so, to a somewhat lesser degree, do the two figures of our statuette. Equally novel are their facial expressions, as strained as the bodily movements. We have already encountered contorted features in the work of Donatello and Masaccio. But the anguish they convey is inner and does not arise from or accompany the extreme physical action of Pollaiuolo's struggling nudes.

Antonio del PollaiuoloBattle of the Ten Naked Men.
с. 1465—70. Engraving, 38.3 x 59 cm.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Antonio del Pollaiuolo. Monument of Sixtus IV. 1484-93. Bronze, length 445 cm. Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican

Antonio del Pollaiuolo. Monument of Sixtus IV. 1484-93. Bronze, length 445 cm. Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican

Antonio del Pollaiuolo. Monument of Sixtus IV,
(detail). Perspective

Antonio del Pollaiuolo. Monument of Sixtus IV,
(detail). Philosophy

Antonio del Pollaiuolo. Tomb of Pope Innocent VIII. 1492-98. Gilded bronze, height: 549 cm. Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican

Antonio del Pollaiuolo.
Tomb of Pope Innocent VIII (detail)


Apollo and Daphne
Tempera on wood, 30 x 20 cm
National Gallery, London

David Victorious
c. 1472
Poplar panel, 46 x 35 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Hercules and Antaeus
c. 1478
Tempera on wood, 16 x 9 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Hercules and the Hydra
c. 1475
Tempera on wood, 17 x 12 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Martyrdom of St Sebastian
Panel, 292 x 2023 cm
National Gallery, London

Altarpiece of the Sts Vincent, James, and Eustace
Tempera on wood, 172 x 179 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence


Tobias and the Angel
Galleria Sabauda, Turin

Portrait of a Young Woman
Oil and tempera on poplar panel, 53 x 37 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Portrait of a Lady
Oil and tempera on panel, 48 x 35 cm
Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan

Saint Jerome
Palazzo Pitti, Florence.