EVOLUTION OF SCULPTURE
Antonio Rossellino (1427-79)
One of the most highly respected sculptors of the Renaissance in Florence, Antonio Rossellino (also known as Antonio Gamberelli) was highly prolific, and continued the tradition of Luca della Robbia in emphasizing the naturalness and humanity of the Madonna and Child. Best known for his portrait skills, he created numerous marble portrait busts, working mainly from life masks. His most famous works were created for the Burial Chapel of the Cardinal Prince Jacopo of Portugal (1460-73) in S. Miniato al Monte, Florence.
Born in Florence in 1427, Rossellino came from a family of fine artists. He learned the art of sculpture from his older brother, the architect and sculptor Bernardo Rossellino (1409-64). He assisted his brother on numerous commissions during the Italian Renaissance including a portrait on the tomb of Neril Cappoini (1457). Both brothers shared similiarites of style with Donatello (1386-1466) and Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455) - the two leaders of early Renaissance sculpture - although they never achieved the same level of genius.
BEST WORKS OF SCULPTURE
In 1458 Rossellino created his first major work, a funeral monument of Beato Marcolino (Blackfriar Church, now a museum, Forli). This was followed by a monument of Cardinal Jacopo of Portugal in the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte, Florence (1461-67). He created a beautiful portrait bust of Matteo Palmieri, a famous Florentine humanist in 1468. Rossellino carved detailed surfaces into his bust which gave them a sensitive, realistic likeness. The popularity of his work grew, and the commissions continued to arrive - he carved busts and statutes for private patrons and the Church.
Decoration of The Burial Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal
By 1460 Antonio Rossellino had established his own workshop, and with the help of his apprentices, he helped to decorate the burial Chapel of Cardinal Jacopo of Portugal (San Miniato al Monte, Florence). The funerary chapel was commissioned by the Royal family, in honour of Prince James who died suddenly at the age of 25.
This elaborate undertaking was a collaboration of efforts involving the architect Antonio Manetti (a pupil of Brunelleschi), three painters - Alesso Baldovinetti, Antonio and Piero del Pollaiuolo; Rossellino's three brothers who were all sculptors; and Bernardo, Giovanni, and Luca della Robbia; as well as a host of other craftsmen. Despite the diversity of people involved, the art work at the chapel looks surprisingly unified. Antonio Rossellino, with the help of his brother Bernardo designed the tomb. The altar with frescoed angels was the work of Pollaiuolo. The lunettes and spandrels were decorated by Baldovinetti and Luca della Robbia enamelled the terracotta dome above. The chapel was completed in 1473.
Madonna Marble Reliefs
As Rossellino developed his artistic skills, his figures developed an intense characterisation and stronger form. He created numerous versions of the Madonna, a popular and re-occuring theme during the Renaissance period. An example of this is a marble relief sculpture of the Madonna and Child (mid 1400's) now housed at the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. Other reliefs of the Madonna and Child can be found in the Via della Spada, Florence, the Bode-Museum, Berlin and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, although his most famous sculpture in this idiom is probably the Altman Madonna in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. His Madonna reliefs are generally richly decorated and deeply contoured. Typical of painters of this time, attention is paid to details, the fringe of the robes, the haloes and strands of hair; and the figures are delicately hightlighted with touches of gilding.
Marble Busts in Public Collections
Giovanni Chellini (1456, Victoria and Albert Museum, London ). A marble bust. In the 15th century death-masks were made specifically to create portrait busts, but this was modified by mid-century to include the life-masks. Chellini was physician to the sculptor Donatello, and his tomb contained an effigy based on a death-mask. However, Chellini is the only quattrocento subject that we know who had a death mask and life mask portrait created. Rossellino captured the wisdom of this respected man of healing, a thoughtful character study surpassing most Roman busts.
Matteo Palmieri (1468, Museo Nazionale
del Bargello, Florence)
Portrait Bust of a Lady (1460-70, Staatliche Museen, Berlin). Marble bust originally attributed to the sculptor Desiderio da Settignano.
The Young Saint John the Baptist (c.1470, National Gallery of Art, Washington). Marble bust.
Rossellino died in 1479, a respected and significant artist. The renowned writer and art historian Giorgio Vasari (1511-74) included a biography of Rossellino in his famous book - "Lives of the Artists" (1550) - his review of the painters and sculptors of the Italian Renaissance.
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