2014 Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, New York
IAS-Sponsored Session

Italian Sculpture, a Social History: the Practice of the Craft from Nicola Pisano to Michelangelo

Hilton, Regent
Saturday, March 29, 2014, 8:30-10:00am

Organizer and chair: Brendan Cassidy, University of St Andrews


Peter Dent, University of Bristol
"'No empty work': Giovanni Pisano and the Status of Sculpture"

On the basis of the inscriptions on the Pistoia and Pisa pulpits and the documentary records of his time as master of works at Siena and Pisa, Giovanni Pisano is often seen as a protomodern artist — temperamental, competitive, and sensitive about his status. The interpretation of the evidence remains contentious. The inscriptions, in particular, are carefully crafted statements shaped more by literary convention than biographical circumstance. I propose to reconsider this material within broader contexts: the relative professional standing of sculpture alongside other art forms, comparable verbal statements of authorship in late medieval culture, and works of art themselves as nonverbal expressions of artistic status. In conclusion, I will consider to what extent Giovanni Pisano anticipates the self-conscious fashioning of an artistic identity that recent scholarship has uncovered in the works of fifteenth-century sculptors, above all, Donatello.

Johannes Röll, Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte
"Collaboration or Competition? Sculptors in Late Fifteenth-Century Rome"

In fifteenth-century Rome the sculptor Giovanni Dalmata collaborated with Mino da Fiesole and Andrea Bregno. Each developed his own individual style and technique. I will investigate two main issues: first, the ways in which the three sculptors worked together and how their collaboration may have been driven by patrons’ demands; and second, the relationship between the time and effort the sculptors invested in their work (and hence the quality and detail of the resulting sculpture) and the status of the patron and location in which the work would be seen. Dalmata, who worked in marble, stone, and possibly also bronze, dedicated different levels of attention to his works, taking less care when working outside Rome. I will examine the role of the market in these developments, and of the patrons, who presumably took pride in having two or more prominent sculptors on their payroll.

Lynn Catterson, Columbia University
"Supplying Demand: Economic Considerations in the Production of Sculpture in Quattrocento Florence"

In fifteenth-century Florence, material and production costs for sculptors were significantly higher than for painters. Much has been written about demand and the taste of the patron as reflected in the projects they commissioned. Issues regarding supply have been examined less often. To control costs sculptors chose materials and production processes that increased profit margins and reduced the involvement of the master’s hand. While personal passion and competition are among the factors normally seen to engender innovation, there was also concern for the cost effectiveness of production. And this in turn stimulated the desire for, and evolution of, new technologies and, by the end of the Quattrocento, a keen appreciation of the need for branding and marketing the objects of supply. Drawing on Ghiberti, Donatello, Luca della Robbia, and Michelangelo as examples, this paper will examine the ways in which sculptors successfully negotiated the emergent art-as-commodity market.

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