Sunday, 18 June 2017

Vasari's Lives of the Artists Chapter V: Jacopo della Quercia.

I haven't been keeping up with my artists! The last post I did on artists from Vasari's Lives of the Artists was a month ago (and it does not feel that long!) so today I'd like to catch up a little. I have three artists to blog about, and for ease they'll each get a separate post; hopefully I'll put up all the posts today. Here's the first:

The Life of Jacopo della Quercia, Sienese Sculptor
[c. 1374 - 1438]
Jacopo was in fact the son of Master Piero di Filippo from La Quercia, a place in the Sienese countryside, and he was the first sculptor after Andrea Pisano, Orcagna, and the others discussed above, who, by working at sculpture with greater care and dilifence, began to show that it was possible to come even closer to Nature, and he was also the first to give other sculptors the courage and hope that they would be able, in some ways, to equal Nature.
Jacopo della Quercia is the first sculptor I've come across in my abridged edition of Vasari's Lives of the Artists and the first artist of the 15th Century. Vasari begins by writing of Jacopo's first sculpture, a memorial statue of Gionanni d'Azzo Ubaldini, a captain of the Sienese army. In doing this, Vasari writes that Jacopo "discovered something which had never before been done - a way of constructing the framework for the horse and the figure of the rider out of pieces of wood and flat planks nailed together, tied up with straw and tow, then bound very tightly together with ropes, and finally covered with a layer of clay mixed with a cement composed of linen cloth, paste, and glue". The effect is that of marble and, as Vasari suggests, this method which became popular is the invention of Jacopo.

Vasari then describes how Jacopo left Siena for Lucca, and then to Florence and Bologna, creating memorial statues, and, in "the German manner" decorating church doors, carving pillars, and creating a nativity scene. He returned to Siena where he wished to create "something that would honour his memory", and there he created a great fountain which can still be seen today - the fountain in the Piazza del Campo in Siena. The chapter concludes, telling of Jacopo's "talent, goodness, and kindness", how, at his death, he was mourned by the whole city, and -
... to tell the truth, he was the most fortunate that his great skill was recognised in his native city, for it rarely occurs that men of ability are universally loved and honoured in their native lands.
I haven't managed to find a great many good pictures of Jacopo's works, but here is a small selection of pictures of the Piazza del Campo in Siena:

Piazza del Campo of Siena [more images here].

Piazza del Campo of Siena [more images here].

Piazza del Campo of Siena [more images here].

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