Saturday, October 6, 2018

Durable and Beautiful Old Scenes in Relief

Baccio Bandinelli
ca. 1548-58
painted and gilded stucco
Victoria & Albert Museum

after Donatello
Madonna and Child
ca. 1435-40
painted and gilded stucco
Victoria & Albert Museum

"The stucco relief of the Virgin and Child was probably cast after a bronze plaquette designed by Donatello.  The decoration was probably painted and gilded by the Florentine artist Paolo di Stefano (also known as Paolo Schiavo).  The relief is likely to have been used as a small shrine in a domestic setting, but it may also have been portable.  The remains of two hinges at either side suggest it once had wings, which could be closed to protect the relief during travel." 

Gérard van Opstal
Marine Scene
ca. 1640
Getty Museum, Los Angeles

"In a tumultuous, windblown scene, five bearded fishermen and six winged putti haul a bursting net of fish aboard their boat.  One in a series of five relief panels portraying marine scenes, this panel was probably created as part of an ensemble for a state or municipal building with a maritime function.  . . .  Although the stomachs of the putti protrude in the voluptuous curves of high relief, the fishermen's larger muscular figures form a lively series of curves in low relief.  . . .  Reinforcing the action, van Opstal carved the alabaster into small planes that constantly shift directions.  These planes break up the surface's solidity and give the work a flickering, watery quality akin to Peter Paul Rubens's effects in paint."  

Vecchietta (Lorenzo di Pietro)
Scourging of Christ
ca. 1460
Victoria & Albert Museum

"The original setting for this relief is not known, but it was perhaps meant for private devotion in the home.  It may have formed part of a series depicting scenes from the Passion, set into the predella of an altarpiece.  The dramatic poses of the flagellators show the sculptor's interest in exploring the human figure from different viewpoints.  The punched decoration of the inner border is unusual for a bronze, being a feature of gold-ground panel painting."  

Guglielmo della Porta
Diana and Callisto
ca. 1553-55
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Galeazzo Mondella (called Moderno)
gilt brass
Harvard Art Museums

Galeazzo Mondella (called Moderno)
Harvard Art Museums

Anonymous sculptor working in England
Christ bearing the Cross
ca. 1400-1425
painted alabaster
Victoria & Albert Museum

Anonymous sculptor working in England
ca. 1450-90
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

"In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, alabaster was a popular sculptural material in England, where it was in plentiful supply.  The soft texture of the stone makes it easy to carve, and the translucent qualities of the surface offer an almost glowing beauty well suited to church decoration.  Panels of carved and painted alabaster were pieced together to create large altar frontals, often showing scenes of the Passion of Christ or the Life of the Virgin.  These altarpieces were made at workshops in Nottingham, in the region where the alabaster was quarried, and could be used in local churches or exported to continental Europe.  This dramatic panel showing the moment of Christ's Resurrection exemplifies the detail and texture that could be achieved by sculptors working in alabaster.  Even very shallow relief can achieve a convincing illusion of depth by depicting overlapping forms.  The soldiers in the foreground are in front of the open tomb, which is in front of other sleeping soldiers."  

Lorenzo Ghiberti
Virgin and Child
ca. 1425-50
painted stucco
Victoria & Albert Museum

Christoph Daniel Schenck
Penitent St Peter
Getty Museum, Los Angeles

George Schweigger
The Three Graces
ca. 1650
Solnhofen limestone
Victoria & Albert Museum

"This composition is a reworking of an early 16th century adaptation of the theme, typical of the northern Renaissance.  Although not directly related to a specific example, it reflects the treatment of similar groups in the prints of Albrecht Dürer.  . . .  Solnhofen stone (from quarries near Solnhofen in Franconia in southern Germany) is similar to marble in color, but soft enough to be easily carved with a knife, while marble requires chisels and a mallet."  

Anonymous sculptor working in China
St Martin and the Beggar
ca. 1590-1610
Victoria & Albert Museum

"This composition is based on a Netherlandish print.  The Chinese carver copied the devotional inscription in Latin from the print (He that hath pity on the poor lendeth unto the Lord, and that which he hath given will He pay him again), but the cursive script underneath, which probably gave the names of the engraver and publisher of the source, were rendered indecipherable on the ivory.  The relief is based on an engraving from the late sixteenth century by the Flemish printmaker and designer Adriaen Collaert, after the Flemish artist Johannes Stradanus."

Antonio Trentanove
ca. 1794
terracotta (detail of relief sketch)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

– quoted texts based on curator's notes from the respective museums