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Baptistery Chair in Pisa

Sculpture, 1260

Description of the artwork «Baptistery Chair in Pisa»

Church pulpits, from which itinerant monks-preachers spoke, were widespread in the 13th century. and served as the main place for the application of relief compositions. Rising on seven columns, Niccolò Pisano's pulpit was an entire architectural structure and was visible from all sides, thanks to which the sculptural images that adorned its base and high hexagonal balustrade could be easily seen by worshipers. In the tympans of the arches, images of prophets and evangelists are placed, and statues of virtues are placed above the capitals. The balustrade was filled with marble reliefs with images of the Gospel scenes: "Christmas" together with "Annunciation", "Adoration of the Magi", "Bringing to the Temple", "Crucifixion" and "Last Judgment." step forward. Various symbolic and allegorical images expressing abstract concepts and images of medieval Christianity were found everywhere in Italian sculpture before. What is new is Pisano's different approach to the interpretation of the old religious theme, expressed in a rich and diverse artistic language in its plastic techniques. Realistic and visual, he turned religious abstractions into material concrete images that give an immediate sense of reality and possess great pictorial power. It was in this that Niccolo Pisano broke with the medieval artistic tradition, and on this path of his development, acquaintance with the late Roman plasticity of antique sarcophagi was of decisive importance. In the relief "Adoration of the Magi", the majestic figure of the Madonna resembles the Roman goddess Juno. Calm and stately figures come to the fore; occupying a dominant position in relief, they are distinguished by genuine monumentality. Their postures, types of faces, heavy draperies and breaking folds of their clothes, and finally, the very processing of marble with a chisel and gimlet also indicate the study of late Roman relief. The arrangement of scenes, the division of the relief into compositional fields, the introduction of elements of chiaroscuro, the nature of the linear contour contribute to its picturesque construction. Some allegorical figures above the capitals, such as "Strength", resemble ancient depictions of Hercules. But not all reliefs maintain this monumental manner. The Bringing to the Temple is dominated by the delicate linear rhythm of the composition; in the background are architectural images. In The Last Judgment, one can see the crushing of forms, some exaggerated mobility of figures, nervous tension associated with elements of French Gothic. But the latter does not play any decisive role in the creation of this monument. In the powerful art of Niccolò Pisano, antiquity first spoke with such vitality and power that it was the chair of the Pisa Baptistery that allowed us to speak of the birth of a new artistic era. Having rethought traditional religious images, the master freed them from the spiritualism of medieval ideas and put a person full of dignity and strength in the center of attention. It was these features of Niccolo's work that made him the ideological predecessor of Giotto and other leading masters of the Proto-Renaissance.

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About the artwork

Art form: Sculpture

Style of art: Proto-Renaissance

Materials: Marble

Date of creation: 1260