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Wooden Sculpture in Italy as Sacral Presence

Author(s): John T. Paoletti

Source: Artibus et Historiae, Vol. 13, No. 26 (1992), pp. 85-100
Published by: IRSA s.c.
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Wooden Sculpture in Italy as Sacral Presence

Due to the prodigiousefforts of restorers duringthe past figies which Lorenzothe Magnificenthad made after the Pazzi
twenty years andthe increasingattention paidto wooden sculp- Conspiracy of 1478. According to Vasari, one of these was
ture of the Trecentoand Quattrocentoby museum curators,art placed in Santissima Annunziata,Florence,one in Santa Maria
historians,and historiansof liturgicalandtheatricaltexts, we are degli Angeliat Assisi, andthe thirdinthe Conventof the Chiarito,
at a good moment to assess the meaningand function of these Florence;this last one Lorenzohad clothed with the very gar-
splendidworksinthe context of the religioushistoryof theirown ments he had been wearing at the time of the foiled attempt on
time. Sculpture in wood, although fundamentallydifferent in his life, whereas the Santissima Annunziataeffigy was dressed
function from stone and bronzesculpture,should, however, be in the garments of a proper Florentinecitizen. These figures
viewed together with works in those media which share com- must have provideda curious extension, if not inversion,of the
parable mimetic capabilities, particularlythose free-standing normative meanings attached to commemorativestatues like
pieces in wax, plaster, or terracotta which are pigmented like the English examples just cited, by having as their unspoken
wood to replicatethe subject in as compellinglyrealistica man- epithet "the prince is alive, long live the prince."All the figures
ner as possible. Much of this once pervasive sculpture is now of Lorenzowere destroyed in the political uprisingof 1494, a
lost, in large part because of its fragile nature, but also one damnatiomemoriae indicatingthe effectiveness of the effigy in
should note that, because of its functionalroleinthe culturesfor carrying Lorenzo'spolitical power to a wide audience.2 Such
which it was produced, it was left vulnerableto both normal masks in wax and plaster served more than a commemorative
wear and to politicalattack. function;they were meantto suggest the ever-present,timeless
Death masks in wood, plaster, and wax, such as those of personaof the manorwoman represented,a seamless temporal,
Queen Elizabethof York(1465-1503) [Fig. 1] and of HenryVII social, and politicalorderwhich no cataclysm, not even death it-
(d. 1509) now preserved in Westminster Abbey, are cases in self, could rend.Thiscollapse of time into a realisticimage which
point. Glass eyes, real human hair, and appropriatecostume denies a linearchronologyor discrete events creates a sacralex-
madethese figuresvirtualanimatepresences long afterthe ruler perience which is the very raison d'etre of devotional art. Pre-
had died. We can, by way of comparison,recallthe three wax ef- cisely the same search for the sacral is evident in large-scale


1) ((QueenElizabethof York),WestminsterAbbey, London. 2) Donatello,((Crucifix)),Sta. Croce, Florence.

wooden sculpture, and can be seen most particularlyin those present the torturedhumanbody of Christin a naturalisticman-
endlessly repeated representations of the crucified Christ, ner; even the extravagances of pain depicted in late medieval
figures which must have been requisitesculpturaliconography Germanexamples reproducethe actuality of the horrificevent.
for virtuallyevery majorchurch on the Europeansubcontinent. Particulardetails of wooden crucifixes indicate the desire to
Compendiaof these crucifixes reveal a numberof consis- achieve a compellingverism. Examplessurvive in Franconiaof
tent attributes which are worthy of remark. First, wooden figures of the crucifiedChristwhich were designed to have wigs
crucifixes are almost without exception within the parameters fitted to their smoothly carved skulls.4And some Italianexam-
of what we can safely call life-sized3;there are no Christsof an ples like the Santa Maria Novella Crucifix attributed to
intermediatescale, a fact which may indicatethat actual size is Brunelleschiwere made to have actual draperyloincloths cover
intrinsicto their meaning and function. There are some figures the genital area.5 Inclusionsof real materialslike human hairor
which are considerably largerthan life-sized, but these were cloth indicateattempts to dissolve the boundariesbetween the
placed at a distance from the viewer, normallyhigh above rood fictive and the real.A numberof wood crucifixes, likethe one in
screens, thus diminishingthe appearanceof theirsize considera- Santa Croceattributedto Donatello[Figs.2-3], even have mov-
bly.Wooden crucifixes are-or were-all polychromedso as to able limbs6; the changeable positions of the arms of such


3) Donatello, ((Crucifix)), Santa Croce, Florence (showing corpus removed from the cross).


4) Giovannidi Paolo, (Levitationof an UnknownFranciscanMonk)),privatecollection.

figures allowed them to function along a continuum of the Crucifix in the LibrodiAntonio Billi (c. 1530), describes it as be-
Christological narrative from the Crucifixion to the Lamentation ing "a meza la chiesa." Shortly afterwards Vasari wrote that Tad-
or to depict the ahistorical imago pietatis. Lastly, it must be not- deo Gaddi's fresco of a miracle of St. Francis was on the rood
ed that virtually no life-sized sculptural crucifixes exist in media screen which divided Santa Croce, and that it was painted
other than wood prior to the sixteenth century; the very few ex- "above the crucifix of Donatello,"9 implying that the wooden
ceptions one could cite, such as Donatello's bronze crucifix in crucifix was in the middle of the church as Billihad written and
Padua, are remarkable for what amounted to an aberrant choice also low to the ground. Manetti described the Santa MariaNovel-
of material.7 la Crucifix as "attached to the pillar between the two side
The original placement of the Santa Croce and Santa Maria chapels on the side of the transept toward the old piazza in Santa
Novella crucifixes may help to explain how such sculpture func- Maria Novella."o1 And in the mid-sixteenth century Giovanni
tioned to make possible the sacral experience mentioned above. Battista Gelli described the same crucifix as being "between the
They were originally not intended to be seen the way we see chapels of the Strozzi and the Bardi,"again indicating that it was
them today, that is over altars within chapels.8 This is not sur- not in a discretely enclosed and private family chapel.11
prising since the large size of Renaissance altarpieces filled a In a number of painted depictions of religious ecstasy from
good part of the wall space of chapels, leaving little usable space the Quattrocento, the holy person kneels before what must be
for a life-sized crucifix. The earliest reference to the Santa Croce a polychromed wooden crucifix as in Sassetta's depiction of the


Vision of St. Thomas Aquinas from the Arte della LanaAltarpiece

and Giovanni di Paolo's Levitation of an Unknown Franciscan
Monk [Fig. 4]. Inthese small predellapaintings all distinctions - 1?= -.•I ~ :- ....

between actual and (re)presentedChristdisappear.Differences

inscale between the saintlyfigureandthe crucifixcan be under-
stood as pictorialconventions used to emphasize the central
characterinthe narrativesince the relationshipbetween crucifix
and churchinteriorsuggests that the corpus in each case is life- .
sized. The placement of the crucifixat groundlevel in a support-
!, I
ing base signifying the hill of Golgotha suggests the way in
which many of the life-sized sculpted wooden crucifixes from
the Trecentoand the Quattrocento would originallyhave been
iii '~ -
The obvious Florentineanalogue to these Sienese panels is
Masaccio's Trinity where the donorfiguresarea merestep below
the crucifiedChristand where the cross is placed directlyon the I
floor of the fictive chapel, where it too is supported by a rather
reduced Golgotha. Here the scale of the figures is consistent
throughout. Tellingly,when this fresco was recreated, so to _
speak, in fully dimensionalform for the CardiniChapel in San
Francesco in Pescia (c. 1451; Fig. 5), the crucifixwas placed on .

the floorin its own stylized Golgotha,just as we have seen inthe

paintings.12There is a 1470 record of a "crucifisso magno"
placed above a Brunelleschifamily tomb slab in San Marcoin
Florence,perhapsin an arrangementsimilarto the CardiniTomb
in Pescia.13The CardiniChapel suggests one furthermeaning
for the placement of these wooden crucifixes.The realityof the
crucifiedChristwhich the priest saw before him was repeated
in the sacramental presence which he held in his hands, an
iconography comparable to the familiarMass of St. Gregory 5) Cardini Chapel, San Francesco, Pescia.
Entriesin Neridi Bicci's Ricordanzereferdirectlyto this cru-
cifix for the CardiniChapel.OnJune 3, 1458, Nerirecordedthat
he had taken "a dipigniere dal detto Ant[oni]o [Cardini]lo reason, he had not paintedthe mount which was still in his stu-
Crocifisso di relievo [in this case one by Giulianoda Maiano], dio and which he described as being 3/4 of a bracciahigh and
grande piuiche naturale,chol monte e.lla croce e.lla chorona di 1 3/4 braccia"lar[g]ho,"which might mean 1 3/4 bracciawide
spine e.lla santita...."14The document, like others in the Ricor- or perhaps 1 3/4 bracciain diameter.17Inany event it is difficult
danze,15 indicates that the crucifix had as one of its parts a to imaginesuch a monte on an altar,attached to a wallwhere the
monte, a word which meant not only mount but, in contem- monte would be redundant,or in any other place withina liturgi-
poraryusage, also Calvary.Althoughthe extant wooden crucifix cal setting except on the floor of the building,or possibly at a
in Pescia is in accord with the partsmentionedin the document, crowning point on the rood screen.18
none of the other crucifixes which Neri mentioned has been Sculpted images of the crucified Christ, whatever their
identified,thus makinga generalizationthat they were placed on placement, must havebeen powerfulincitementsto devotionfor
the floordifficult,even if they are referredto as "grande."Yetone the worshipper.The Chronicleof Moyenmoutiers(Vosges, c.
furtherreferenceinthe Ricordanzemakes this hypothesis seem 1020) begins: "Apenitentstood in the churchat the entranceto
morethan likely.On December 15, 1470, Neriwrote that he had the choir and contemplatedthe image of the crucified Savior."
sold to Giovanni d'Andrea, a goldsmith, "lo crocifisso di leg- This image of Christwas apparentlyattached somehow to the
niame grande da tenere in chiesa, cholla croce, el monte e cholla roodscreen, eitherat groundlevel (likethe Santa Crocecrucifix)
chorona e 'I titolo di sopra alla croce."16 For some undeclared or over the entrance to the choir through the screen (likethe


rr?•r cerning Himor on what is told accordingto the Gospel stories,

.. feeling yourself present in those places as if the things were
done in yourpresence, as it comes directlyto yoursoul in think-
AO ing of them."20
Indealing with such moments of spiritualimmediacyin the
40' VAL Aftq
historyof art,we tend to cite familiardepictions,such as Giovan-
ni di Paolo's panel of St. Catherineof Siena (1447-49), where
*,, the crucifiedChristin hervision takes the form of what appears
to be a paintedwooden crucifix.But it is the narrativeaspect of
the vision which normallyoccupies ourattention, not the object
seen by the saint.21Nordo we normallyconsider very seriously
the objects which helpto provokevisions as they are narratedin
~ror pious hagiographicaltexts, many of which speak, for example,
1 ??OF "
of "talking"crucifixes.InFraThomasAgniof Lentino'slife of St.
PeterMartyr,the saint, havingbeen falsely accused of admitting
women to his cell, "prayeddevotedly at night in church before
a crucifix"onlyto havethe "Crucifixiimago"speak to him:"And
I, Peter, what did I do wrong that .... I was condemned to the
cross."22 WhetherPeter Martyr,St. John Gaulbert,or St. Fran-
cis of Assisi, hagiographicaccounts indicate that the saint
closed the distance between himself and the livingChristof the
cross throughthe mediationof a paintedor sculpted image.
There are also a number of secular texts and examples
which attest to the powerof these images of the crucifiedChrist
to work wonders in rathermore pedestriancircumstances. Ina
long and unusual passage in his Ricordi, Giovannidi Pagolo
Morellitells of his year-longgriefoverthe death of his son, Alber-
to, and of kneeling before a crucifix on "bare knees" in his
camicia, with nothingon his head and a belt aroundhis neck. Af-
ter prolongedprayerhe fell asleep and dreamed of talkingwith
his deceased son in Paradise, an experience which finally
released himfromhis sorrow.Itis importantto emphasize inthis
secular account that Giovanniat no time in his discursivenarra-
tive confused this dream with any direct experience with the
6) ((SantaChiaraAltarpiece,,, Santa Chiara,Assisi. Almightyor with his son; the dreamwas just a dream.Nonethe-
less the crucifixseems to have been the agent for what must be
read as a liminalexperience.23In GiovanniCambi's Istorie he
tells of three women who, in 1534, saw a crucifixrise up above
painted crucifix depicted in the St. Franciscycle of the upper theirheads with a great clatteringnoise. Whena crowdof people
churchinAssisi or likegenerallyunnoticedVenetiansculpted ex- gathered around,the wounds made by the crown of thorns be-
amples such as the wooden crucifixat Santa MariaGloriosadei gan to spurt bloodwhich was caught in a chalice by the vicarof
Frari).The Chroniclercontinues: "The master who made this the local bishop.24Such tales of piety and credulitycould un-
work was so skilled that even today it moves the hardest of doubtedlybe multipliedmanytimes over.The pointto be made,
heartsto pity and makes people feel that they are witnessing the however,is that objects perceivedas works of art functioned in
death of Christwith theirown eyes."'9 Inthis lightit is also use- their early histories as efficacious agents of the sacral.
fulto recalla passage froma late-thirteenth-centurymanuscript. Likepaintedcrucifixes,even certain paintingssuggest that
The Meditations on the Life of Christ, by an anonymous Francis- the artists and the patrons intended to make a distinction be-
can states: "Thereforeyou ought to know that it is enough to tween the imminent presence of the saint or Christ and the
meditate only on what the Lorddid or on what happened con- subordinatenarrativepanels which depict scenes fromhis or her



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7) Cimabue, ((Great Crucifixion)), San Francesco, Assisi.

life. The Santa Chiara Master, for example, took great care to Madonna del Carmine (c. 1250-60) for Santa Maria Maggiore
depict the figure of St. Clare in the altarpiece for Santa Chiara in where the central icon is raised in actual relief from the main
Assisi (c. 1281-85; Fig. 6) in a fictive architectural tabernacle body of the painting. This format is later developed in poly-
as if she were an actual presence in real space. The rigidity of her chromed wooden statues placed at the center of altarpieces like
iconic representation is an appropriate stylistic device for the Signorelli's Pala Bichi with its figure of St. Christopher by Fran-
devotional image and is distinct from the active figural poses in cesco de Giorgio.26 Other paintings indicate the power of the
the flanking narrative panels. Yet its very rigidity approximates wooden crucifix to be a surrogate reality for the devotional ardor
that of wooden sculpture and is another example of the blurring of the pious. In Cimabue's Great Crucifixion [Fig. 7] at Assisi, St.
of the boundaries between representation and actuality which Francis kneels at the base of the cross before the crucified Christ.
lies at the heart of polychromed wood sculpture.25 With this in Like many other similar images of St. Francis in Trecento paint-
mind it might be useful to remember Coppo di Marcovaldo's ing, Cimabue's fresco depicts that sacral moment suggested by


San Marco or an anonymous woodcut of c. 1460 [Fig. 8] il-

" - -- The theatricality of Cimabue's early Franciscan image,
..... meant for the eyes of the monks seated in the choir of San Fran-
cesco, has a counterpart in well-known Quattrocento lamenta-
tion groups in terracotta by artists like Niccol6 dell'Arca and Gui-
do Mazzoni [Fig. 9]. These groups were, like wooden sculpture,
'?-I originally brilliantly polychromed to replicate real figures; they
must, also like wooden sculpture, be seen as figures meant to
"re-present" the original event. Placed on the floor of the church
~d >4~/Y>4
A in the space of the worshipper, again much like the crucifixes,
~PJ \?L~~fA;:'J
the figures of these groups invite one to become a full participant
~7 16,c
J 1j1
4'! ~ 2J in their emotional reaction to the death of Christ, a kind of gueril-
la theater, where the bridge between the event and the viewer
di /~~f l
'' is made by the kneeling donor figure depicted as Joseph of
\. .
A1J Arimathea or the sculptor himself, often depicted as Nicode-
-I a.
mus.29 Like the figure of St. Francis in Cimabue's fresco or the
worshipper in front of a wooden crucifix, the donor or the sculp-
tor is represented as living in the present and in the long-past
historical moment at one and the same time.
A document previously overlooked by art historians sug-
gests how such Lamentation groups might have functioned. On
April 13, 1437, Good Friday, Alfonso I of Naples "fa le funzioni
sacri del Sepolcro (la rapresentacio del vinendres sant) nel
Castello Nuovo di Napoli."30This reference suggests that Alfon-
r _ _ so took part in a liturgical drama of the Deposition and Burial of
Christ, a re-enactment of the original event, and that such liminal
dramas are recalled in the terracotta groups by artists such as
Niccol6 dell'Arca and Guido Mazzoni. Since donor images are
suspected in a number of these terracotta Lamentations, such
portraits represent an invasion of the sacral by the political with
the not surprising presence of the secular rulerat the heart of the
liturgical practice. The ruler's role was sacralized by blurringthe
boundaries between religious ritual and princely pageant in both
8) Anonymous German(?), ((Saint Before a Crucifix)),colored enacted dramas and mimetic sculpture.
woodcut, c. 1460, Kunstmuseum,Basel. The Christ figure of such terracotta Lamentation groups
should remind modern viewers of a sub-set of wooden crucifixes
whose arms are fixed to the shoulders in such a way as to allow
the Moyenmoutiers quotation; Francis does not see a vision but them to be folded down to the sides of the body so that the cor-
miraculously reaches through time to participate in the actual pus could be removed from the cross in a Good Friday re-enact-
history of the Crucifixion. All commemorative relivings of the ment of the Deposition and Lamentation. By 1969, the Tauberts
event are collapsed into the ever-present actuality of the mys- had published an inventory of forty such crucifixes with movable
tery as a fourteenth-century text from a Swiss convent rather arms.31 The Santa Croce crucifix [Figs. 2-3] is one of these
graphically suggests: "... era in preghiera dinnanzi a un'immagine sculptures, as Hans Kauffmann indicated over fifty years ago,32
di Nostro Signore nel Sepolcro ed eccola d'un tratto prendere although its arms fold only part way to its sides to create an icon-
nella sua mano la mano e il piede di Nostro Signore, e sentirli di ic Man of Sorrows rather than the dead Christ of historical nar-
came e di sangue come se veramente un uomo fosse lb sepol- rative.
to."27Such imagery quickly became widespread and apparently The well-known late Dugento Deposition in the cathedral of
universally understood as FraAngelico's fresco of St. Dominic in Volterra perhaps gives an idea of how these wooden crucifixes




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9) Guido Mazzoni,((TheLamentation), Monteoliveto,Naples.

with movablearms might have been used. A document from an with the Santa Crocecrucifix,35derives. Itmay also be the case
Englishordo is also pertinentinsofaras it indicatesthat "Joseph that the pose of the dead Christwith armsextended rigidlyaway
et Nicodemide ligno deponentes Ymaginem,"which they could from the body in late-Dugento and early-TrecentoLamentation
only do, incidentally,if the crucifixwere on or close to the floor paintingsalso reflectsthe awkwardstiffness of the wooden cor-
of the church.33Sculpted examples of this transitionalmoment pus whose arms move only at the shoulderonce released from
in the Passion narrativeare not as numerous as the isolated the cross.36
figure of the crucified Christ,but enough such groups exist to Sandro Sticca has suggested that such liturgicaldramas
suggest that the subject was importantin the devotionallife of movedfromsimpletextual formto actualtheater inthe mid-thir-
the late MiddleAges.34 It may well be fromsuch enacted depic- teenth century,that is, at just the time that the Volterragroup
tions of the Deposition that the Imago Pietatis image, like the was carved.37Interestingly,there are virtuallyno liturgicaldra-
familiarone fromthe Portadella Mandorlasometimes compared mas centered on the actions of crucifixion;plays leadingto the


dramas,figures no less realthan the actors addressingthem.39

Forexample,in 1377 there is a Perugianrecordof expenses for
a Good Fridayprocession with a "deadChrist"whose material
is not specified, and in 1491 there is a recordof the manufacture
of a paintedwax Virginby Benedetto Buglionefor use in a Holy
Saturdayprocession.40 Clearlysculpture was central to cultic
events and served to embody the presence of the person
Comparableexamples of sculpture functioning as a sur-
rogate for the actual figure in some kindof liturgicaldramacan
be seen in other iconographicaltypes. Life-sizedwooden figures
of Christ as a baby are well-known, if not well-liked,images.
Such figures, apparentlyplaced on altarsfor Nativityfeasts, ex-
ist primarilyin the mediumof wood; what few remainin marble
seem to have been detached fromarchitecturalmonuments like
tabernacles.41Wooden figures of Christon a donkey standing
on very simple wheeled carts were used in PalmSunday proces-
sions.42 Morecompellingfigures to our moderneyes are those
from Annunciationgroups, such as that attributedto Mariano
d'AngeloRomanelliin the churchof Santa Chiaradella Marcain
Castelfiorentino,in which the figure of Maryhas real drapery
addedto it and is structuredwith armswhich arejointedto allow
movement-and perhapsalso to holdone of the Gesuinofigures
at a narrativemoment laterin the liturgicalcycle. Inaddition,as
RobertModehas pointedout, an effigy "insimilitudine," perhaps
of some temporarymateriallikewax or clay drapedwith realgar-
ments, was used for a rappresentazioneof an ascension of St.
Bernardinointo Paradisewhich took place in frontof the Palazzo
Pubblicoin Siena in 1450.43
Whateverthe subject matterof wooden sculpture,its func-
tion and adherence to type suggest a numberof ramifications
whose development lies beyond the scope of this study. Yet
some briefindicationof their naturecan be outlined.First,inso-
Santo, Padua.
10) Donatello, <<Crucifix)), faras wooden (andterracottaorwax) sculpturefunctions within
popularreligiousand liturgicalpractice, the style of individual
works within the various iconographicaltypes tends to be as
conservative--and as universal-as those practices within the
moment of the Crucifixionand highlyemotionaldramasdealing wide-rangingterritoriesof the Catholic Church.An important
with the Lamentationabound, but the central event of redemp- corollaryfollows: any attempts to date wood sculpture on the
tion-for whatever reasons (among which must be counted its basis of stylistic comparisonsto other known sculpture,within
staging difficulties)--was apparently left to sculpture to play, an artist's works or to stone or bronzesculpture,is likelyto lead
whether its formwas wood orsome kindof doll-likemannequin. to a real perversionof the historicalfacts.44 Second, insofaras
Ina planctus of the Virginfromthe late MiddleAges, stage direc- the overridingconcern of wooden sculptureis to recreatethe hu-
tions which dictate that St. John pointto Christ("Hiccum mani- man formin ways which make it immediate-as well as in ways
bus extensis ostendat Christum"),makeit abundantlyclearthat which fall within previouslyestablished and functionalconven-
a crucified Christwas at the emotional center of the action.38 tions of iconographicaltype-any overt referencesto a classical
Althoughthe dramatictexts are frustratinglysilent about the (antique)idealizingstylistic vocabularywould be inappropriate
Christfigure, Falvey is most likely correct in suggesting that and thus are largely absent.45 Veracityto nature and conven-
veristicwooden crucifixes playedcentralroles in these liturgical tionalism over time insure the widespread readability-if not


efficacy-of the type. Third, within specific iconographical

types, wood exists as the exclusive medium of representation.
The conservatism of style predicated on functional need
and type, used in the wooden sculpture of the Quattrocento,
does pertain to one very intriguing aspect of Donatello's work
outside this medium. The bronze crucifix in the Santo in Padua
[Fig. 10] is documented to Donatello and datable to 1444-47
by payment records. Comparison of this work with a wooden
crucifix from the little church of San Francesco at Bosco ai Fra-
ti [Fig. 11]46 helps to focus the issue. Cosimo de' Medici be-
gan restoration of the chapel sometime after 1421,47 in part
because it served his villa at Caffagiolo. He ultimately commis-
sioned Fra Angelico to make the altarpiece for the building and
it is assumed that his patronage extends to the Bosco ai Frati
crucifix as well. The work has been attributed to Donatello
solely on the basis of other connections between the sculptor
and Cosimo, particularly during the decade between 1434 and
1443 when Donatello was involved with the decoration of the
Old Sacristy. At any rate, given the history of the restorations
at Bosco ai Frati, it does seem likely that the wooden crucifix
was carved before Donatello went to Padua in
may have been the sculptor-and that it is close in time to the
Padua sculpture.48
Comparison of the bronze crucifix in Padua and the wooden
crucifix at Bosco ai Frati reveals that the sculptor (or sculptors)
chose the same physical types for the body, the same placement
and modeling of the legs, the same degree of detail in the genital
area (although the Paduan figure is now discreetly covered by a
seventeenth-century loincloth), and the same rectangular con-
figuration of the torso from the shoulders to the hips. Vasari said,
when talking about wood sculpture, that one does not see the
same "carnositb e morbidezza" that one sees in bronze; that is
the case here, although some of the muscular tenseness and
definition in the Paduan crucifix is due more to the way that light 11) Donatello (attributed), ((Crucifix)), San Francesco, Bosco ai
plays over the reflective surface of the bronze than to its actual Frati.
form, an effect which probably lies behind Vasari's statement.
And, although one might note differences--such as the more
classicizing patterned hair of the Paduan figure, the more sharply it the more obvious classicizing stylistics of the bronzemedium
articulated distinctions between individual muscular forms in known from antiquity and from civic sculpture of the earlier
the Paduan Christ and the more expressionistically rendered de- years of the Quattrocento.50
tails of the bloody stripes allowed by the polychromy in the Butbronzewas utterlyinappropriateat this time for interior
Bosco ai Fratifigure - by and large the similarities between these liturgicaldecoration.Withthe notableexception of Arnolfo'sSt.
two works are more striking than their differences. If we assume Peter in Rome, there are no examples of life-sized figures in
that the Bosco ai Frati piece also had stucco or plaster additions bronzeas interiordevotionalimages untilDonatellomadethe Pa-
to the hair, then the comparison might be even more compel- duan crucifix and subsequently the figures for the high altar of
ling.49 In the Paduan crucifix, Donatello seems to cross the the Santo. Donatello'stranslationof the conventions of wooden
traditional stylistic boundaries between wood and bronze sculp- sculptureinto bronzeplaces the Paduancrucifixoutside the dis-
ture. He has turned into bronze the stylistics of realism central course both of the history of bronze sculpture and of the history
to works carved in wood, essentially without superimposing on of liturgical decoration. It is bronze but, polychromy aside, it


looks like wood, sharing the same realistic or naturalistic con- that contemporaries of Donatello understood the relationship
ventions cultivated by carvers of wood.51 Thus it is perhaps not between medium and message very clearly, something we must
surprising that, with the exception of non-Florentine sources learn to do as well if we are to comprehend both Donatello's
such as Bartolomeo Fazio and Marcantonio Michiel,52 there is sculpture and his genius.
no mention of the bronze sculpture at the Santo in near contem- Donatello's innovations in bronze sculpture in Padua and
porary sources. Antonio Billirefers to the marble PietMon the al- Siena occasioned only very limited response either from writers
tar,53 and Vasari mentions the reliefs54--obviously appropriate or from other artists.56 Although bronze was important in civic
for bronze-and the marble Pieth. Perhaps these writers were and commemorative commissions, it never became a widely
merely uninformed. But perhaps their omissions are an indica- used medium for devotional imagery, in part perhaps because of
tion that Donatello had trespassed boundaries established by its costliness, but more likely because as a medium it was inap-
medium, as he was to do again in 1457 with the bronze St. John propriate for this function insofar as it lacked that verisimilitude
for the cathedral of Siena which subsequently lay in storage for which could transport the viewer into sacral time. In short it was
so many years.55 Such faint historical echoes seem to indicate art and not reality.

The ideas in this article were first presented at the 24th International been a leader among modern historians writing about wooden sculp-
Congress on MedievalStudies at Kalamazooin May 1989 in what was ture; see Lascultura lignea senese, Milan-Florence,1951; Lascultura
intendedmerelyas a briefforayintothe issues particularto wooden and lignea italiana dal Xll//al XVIsecolo, Milan, 1961. DeborahStrom has
terracottasculpture.A much revised version of that paperwas readat recently given a fuller discussion of wooden sculpture in Tuscany in
the annualmeetings of the CollegeArtAssociation in New YorkCityin her Studies in Quattrocento Tuscan Wooden Sculpture, Ann Arbor,
February1990. My thinking has benefited from the advice and as- 1981. For wooden crucifixes in particular see G. de Francovich,
sistance of many, among whom I would like particularlyto thank Carla "L'Originee la diffusione del Crocifisso gotico doloroso," Kunst-
Antonaccio, ClarkMaines,Anita Moskowitz, Peter Parshall,Amy Van- geschichtliches Jahrbuch der Bibliotheca Herziana 2 (1938), pp.
dersall, Timothy Verdon, and Paul Watson. Kathleen Falvey and 143-261; M. Lisner, Holzkruzifixein Florenz und in der Toskana,
ElizabethParkerwere especially generous in sharing with me their Munich, 1970 (ItalienischeForschungen,I111.4). The fundamentalarti-
magisterialcommandof Italianliturgicaldramaand confraternalritual. cle on wooden crucifixeswith movablearmsis G. &J. Taubert's"Mittel-
PhilipFoster read an earlierdraftof this paperand providedme with a alterlicheKruzifixemit schwenkbarenArmen. EinBeitragzur Verwen-
detailedand helpfulcritiquewhich broughtnew clarityto my ideas and dung von Bildwerkenin der Liturgie," Zeitschriftdes Deutschen Vereins
for this I am enormously grateful. I hope eventually to develop the fir Kunstwissenschaft 23 (1969), pp. 79-121.
materialdiscussed hereinto a muchlargerstudy of wood andterracotta Forinsights into wooden (and wax) funeraryeffigies see W. H. St.
sculptureduringthe fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. John Hope,"Onthe FuneralEffigiesof the Kingsand Queens of England,
1 The bibliographypertinentto sculpture in wood is lengthy; the with Special Referenceto Those in the Abbey Churchof Westminster,"
most importantworks dealing with Italianart follow. Enzo Carlihas Archaeologia60 (1907), pp. 517-65. Forsculpturein wax see G. Masi,


"Laceroplastica in Firenzenei secoli XV-XVIe la famigliaBenintendi," able eyes andsome even with provisionsfor allowingbloodto flow from
Rivistad'arte 9 (1916), pp. 134-43; the premierwork on this subject is the side of the corpus. By 1978 theirlist hadapparentlyreached68 such
J. von Schlosser's "Geschichteder Portritbildnerei in Wachs,"Jahrbuch crucifixes;see Haastrup,"MedievalProps,"p. 146. Ina subsequent pub-
der KunsthistorischenSammlungendes AllerhochstenKaiserhauses29 lication,Johannes Taubertreturnedto the issue of crucifixeswith mova-
(1911),pp. 171-258. An importantrecent exhibitioncatalogue for wood ble arms as partof a largerstudy on wooden sculptureand its restora-
sculpture is Scultura Dipinta. Maestri di Legname e Pittori a Siena tion;see FarbigeSkulpturen: Bedeutung,Fassung,Restaurierung, Munich,
1250- 1450, Florence,1987. 1978, esp. pp. 38-50. Hisis both the most succinct and the most com-
For a wide-ranging,thorough, and provocativetreatment of the prehensivetreatmentof the topic of wooden crucifixes and their place
functioning of images within the society see now D. Freedberg,The in the liturgy.Inadditionto crucifixes,Italianwooden statues of the An-
Powerof Images, Chicago, 1989; Freedbergdiscusses the specific im- nunciateVirginalso havemovablearms;see SculturaDipinta...,pp.56-60
agery of the Crucifixion(pp. 286-94) about which this paper is con- for a figurewith an inscribeddate of 1321 inthe Museo Nazionaledi San
cerned,althoughhe does not concern himselfwith the actualplacement Matteo,Pisa, and pp. 86-88 for an Annunciationgroupin Santa Chiara
of the sculpturewithinthe church.See also H. Belting,Das Bildundsein dellaMarca,Castelfiorentino. S. Corbin,LaDepositionLiturgique du Christ
PublikumimMittelalter:FormundFunktionfriiherBildtafelnderPassion, au VendrediSaint,Paris-Lisbon,1960, pp. 115-116, mentionsa liturgical
Berlin,1981; now translatedas The Image and Its Publicin the Middle dramaknownfrommusicaltexts from Florencein the fifteenth century
Ages, New Rochelle(N.Y.),1990. Foran importantstudy of a sub-set of whose directionsindicatethat a corpuswas removedfromthe cross and
this materialsee U. Haastrup,"MedievalPropsin the LiturgicalDrama," carriedin procession along with a consecrated host to a place of burial
Hafnia(CopenhagenPapersinthe Historyof Art) 11(1987), pp. 133-70; inthe church.D.Carl,"DieKruzifixedes TaddeoCurradiin der Kircheder
Haastrup'sworkis particularlyuseful as a compendiumof Scandinavian SS. Concezionezu Florenz," Mitteilungendes Kunsthistorischen Institutes
examples which parallelthe sculpturalform and function of Italianand in Florenz28 (1984), p. 398, gives a documentfor 1574 which indicates
Germanfigures. that such ritualpracticeswere still followedat that date: "ognivolta che
2 G. Vasari,Le Vitede'pid eccellentipittori,scultoried architettori, dettacompagnia[dellaSS. Concezione]o altrilo [ilcrocifissogrande]voles-
ed. G. Milanesi,Florence,1906, III,pp. 373-74; these votive portraits si rimovereper occasione di cappelle, che si possa sempre ove piacera
were broughtinto the modernliteratureon this subject by A. Warburg alla nostracompagniaporleet fare la sepolturanel mezzo dellachiesa."
"Bildniskunstund FlorentinischesB1irgertum," Gesammelte Schriften, 7 See note 56.
vol. I, Berlin-Leipzig,
1932, p. 99. Lorenzo'sdeath mask still exists, hav- 8 Thereare recordsof wooden crucifixeson altars,but theirlackof
ing survivedboth the 1494 and the 1527 attacks on Mediciimageryin precisionabout size lead me to believethat they were very small;see G.
Florence.Although most likelyfortuitous, it is worth noting that royal Poggi,et al., "LaCompagniadel Bigallo,"Rivistad'arte2 (1904), p. 234,
corpses in Englandwere embalmed in wax-impregnatedcloth (Hope, fora paymentto Lapodi Franciescho"perunacrociecol piedistallodipin-
"FuneraryEffigies,"pp. 528-29) andthat as earlyas 1327 forthe funer- ta per tenere in su I'altare...."
al of EdwardVIIthe royalcoffin carrieda wooden effigy of the king(ibi- 9 AntonioBilli,IILibrodiAntonio Billi,ed. C. Frey.Berlin,1892, pp.
dem, p. 530). 40-41. Vasari-Milanesi, Vite,I,p. 573; in his lifeof Donatello,Vasarisays
3 Fordiscussion of the medievalnotion of the size of Christsee G. that the crucifixwas "a lato della storia di TaddeoGaddi"(ibidem,II,p.
Uzielli,"L'Orazione della Misuradi Cristo,"Archiviostorico italiano 27 398). Sometime probablyduringthe mid-sixteenthcentury renovation
(1901),pp. 334-45, essentially taken fromthe same author'sLemisure of Sta. Croce,the crucifixwas movedto the BarbigiaChapel;when this
linearimedioevalie l'effigiedi Cristo,Florence,1899, pp. 9-10; he cites chapel was ceded to the Guidaccifamilyin the 1570s, the crucifixwas
two Florentinemanuscripts,one fromthe fourteenthand one fromthe again moved (c. 1572), this time to the LodovicoBardiChapel.See M.
fifteenth century, each of which includes a diagrammaticmeasure of B. Hall,Renovationand Counter-Reformation. Vasariand Duke Cosimo
1/16of what the authorsthought was the lengthof Christ'sbody,which in Sta MariaNovellaand Sta Croce 1565- 1577, Oxford,1979, p. 145.
in the first instance measured 1.744 meters and in the second 1.60 10 A. Manetti, TheLifeof Brunelleschi,ed. H. Saalman,University
meters. See also note 13. Park:PennsylvaniaState UniversityPress, 1970, p.40. Giventhe tendency
4 F.Joubert, "Stylizationet Verisme:Leparadoxed'un Groupede to date this sculptureearly in the century by recent writers(H.W. Jan-
ChristsFranconiensdu XV6mesi6cle,"Zeitschriftfar Kunstgeschichte son, TheSculptureof Donatello,Princeton,1957, as c. 1412andD.Strom,
51 (1988), pp. 513-23. Similarsmooth craniaalso appearin a Rhenish Studies in QuattrocentoTuscanWoodenSculpture,p. 187, as 1420-25),
wooden statue of a Madonnaand Childsuggesting a widespreaduse of it might be useful to note that the Crucifixmay not have been given to
such wigs; see I. Futterer,Gotische Bildwerkeder Deutschen Schweiz, Sta. MariaNovellauntil1443, as a documentaryreferencefromthe Libro
1230- 1240, Augsburg, 1930, p. 168, plates 30-32. Schlosser, "Ge- di Lapi-Radda,fol. 119, seems to indicate:"1443-Crocifisso posto da
schichte der Portritbildnerei," pp. 193-94, cites a document in which Filippodi Ser BrunellescoinChiesa";see S. Orlandi,NecrologiodiS. Mar-
detailsof the makingof the funeraryeffigy of FrancisIby FrancoisClouet ia Novella, Florence,1955, p. 578.
includes the purchase of hairand of glue for adheringit. 11The referenceby GiovanniBattistaGelliis found in H.W.Janson,
5 Otherexamples in which the corpus is completely nude,thereby Donatelo, pp. 7-8. A document from 1412 indicatessuch a placement
suggesting the additionsof an actual fabricloincloth,exist in crucifixes on a wall with an imprecisereferenceto an altar:"Romigidi NeriMalifici
madeforSS. AnnunziataandSan Niccol6oltr'Arnoin Florence,San Fran- dono...unocrocifisso grandeel qualee appicchatoapresso all'altaredella
cesco at Bosco ai Frati,S. Mariaa Ripain Empoli,and Sto. Spiritoin Flor- detta chapellain una faccia di murodipintadi nero...nell'anno1412 a di
ence (now in the Casa Buonarroti).The DonatelloCrucifixin bronzein d'ottobre";see J. Mesnil,"LaCompagniadi Gesi Pellegrino," Rivistad'arte
Sant'Antonioin Paduawas also made with a completely nude body; it 2 (1904), p. 69. A wooden crucifix,probablyfromthe earlysixteenthcen-
is now drapedwith a seventeenth-centurybronzeloincloth. tury,in a side chapel of the parishchurchof the Assunta in Settignano
6 Fora compendiumof these crucifixes with movablearms and a now still approximatessuch a placement.
discussion of theirhistorysee G. &J. Taubert,"Mittelalterliche Kruzifixe." 12 Forthe CardiniChapelin Pesciasee G. Morolli,"OrtodossieAlber-
Inthis articlethe Taubertscatalogue 40 such crucifixes,some with mov- tiane nella 'Brunelleschiana'Cappella dei Cardinia Pescia,"Atti del


Convegnosu AndreaCavalcantidetto "ilBuggiano,"BuggianoCastello, in Sto. Spirito(p. 397, note 2); a seventeenth-centuryinventoryof SS.
1979, pp.47-60. Referencesto sculptedcrucifixesraisedhighabovethe Concezione lists "1 Crocifissodi legno, che stava gi6 sopra il ciboriodi
viewer come from much later, which may merely be an accident of TaddeoCurradi" (p.401). Documentsof 1577 listpaymentsfor"unacroce
documentaryremains.Parenthetically,we might recallherethat Vasari, per I'altaremaggiore,"but referto the corpus as "crocifissino"(p. 399,
inhis Introduction to the artsof Architecture,PaintingandSculpture,states document VIII),indicatingthat the workwas a very small altarcross of
thatinorderto makeperfectwoodensculpturethe carvermustfirstfashion a quitedifferentnaturefromthe life-sizedcrucifixesbeingconsideredhere.
models in wax or terracotta (Vasari-Milanesi,Vite, p. 166). Thus the 19 This passage is quoted by J. Burckhardtin The Altarpiece in
progressfromdesignto executionof woodensculptureapparentlyparallels Renaissance Italy, Cambridge,1988, p. 22.
that of stone sculpture.The earliest Italianrepresentationof a crucifix 20Meditationson the Lifeof Christ,ed. I.Ragusa,R.B.Green,Prince-
placedon the ground(inthis case apparentlybeforethe sculptorhimself) ton, 1961, p. 387.
is a reliefdated 1311fromthe pulpitof the cathedralof Benevento;see 21 Over40 years ago, MillardMeiss in his Paintingin Florenceand
G. de Francovich,"L'Origine e la diffusionedel Crocifissogotico doloro- SienaaftertheBlackDeath,Princeton,1951,demonstratedthatSt. Cather-
so,"KunstgeschichtlichesJahrbuchder BibliothecaHerziana2 (1938), ine of Siena's visions were dependent upon paintedimages which she
pp. 225-26. hadseen; this is the only extensive treatmentof this issue which Iknow.
13 "Unasepolturamsive avellumpositumin ecclesia Sancti See also Belting,TheImageandits Public.Ican't resist mentioninga cu-
ferepositumsub crucifissomagnodicteecclesie...";H.Teubner,"SanMar- riouspredellapanel,TheVisionof St. Augustine(TheArtInstituteof Chica-
co in Florenz:Umbautenvor 1500. EinBeitragzum Werkdes Micheloz- go), fromthe PlacidiAltarpieceby Matteode Giovanniinwhichthe appa-
zo,"Mitteilungendes KunsthistorischenInstitutesin Florenz23 (1979), ritionsin St. Augustine'svision of the eremeticalsaints, John the Baptist
p. 262, doc. VI, 2. and Jerome, look for all the world like carved representationsof those
14N. di Bicci,LeRicordanze(10 Marzo 1453-24 Aprile 1475) ed. saints.
BrunoSanti, Pisa, 1976, p. 94. Itis not clearwhat Nerimeant by "grande 22 VitaScriptaper Thomamde Lentinocoaevum, Ord.Praed.postea
piOche naturale"since the corpus in Pesciais not noticeablylargerthan Patriarcham Hierosoloymitanum inActaSanctorum,12, Paris-Rome, 1866,
life-sized.As noted above (note 3), there is still some uncertaintyabout pp. 696-97.
what wouldconstitute "life-sized"forthis period,especiallysince actual 23 Giovannidi Pagolo Morelli,"Ricordi"(1393-1421) in Mercanti
body height was somewhat shorterthan it is today.Inactualfact Neri's Scrittori,ed. V. Branca,Milan,1986, pp. 303-24.
descriptivecommentmaybe accurate,butwe shouldbuildsome latitude 24G. Cambi,"Istoriedi GiovanniCambi"inDeliziedegliEruditiTosca-
into our readingof the term life-sizedwhich will allow for the distance ni, vol. 23, Florence,1786, p. 138-39. Cambi,incidentally,describes
of the viewerfromthe crucifix.ThusDonatello'sSantaCrocecrucifixmay the crownof thorns in a mannersuggesting a realcrownon a sculptural
replicateactualhumansize forthe periodsince viewers couldapparently form. There is also a story of the nun Maechtilddie Rittrinwho, while
get veryclose to it, whereasthe Pesciacrucifixis somewhatlargerto com- meditatingbefore a stone figureof the dead Christ,touched the hands
pensate for its recessed position in the chapel. andfeet of the statue onlyto feel that they were flesh;see W.H. Forsyth,
15Ilbidem,p. 163, no. 322; p. 192, no. 382; for a smalldevotionalcru- TheEntombmentof Christ:FrenchSculpturesof the Fifteenthand Six-
cifix see pp. 300-01, no. 569. teenth Centuries,Cambridge,1970, p. 17.
16Ilbidem,pp. 360-61, no. 677. 25 Iwould liketo thankJeryldene M. Woodfor her insights into the
17 Ibidem, p. 361. Sta. ChiaraAltarpiecewhichshe discussed at the 1989 International Con-
18Placementof sculpturalcrucifixeson roodscreens does not seem gress on MedievalStudies in Kalamazooand for providingme with an il-
to have occurredin central Italy,althoughit must be admittedthat evi- lustrationof this painting;herfocus on this altarpieceled to my own in-
dence is slight. ExamplesfromGermany,such as the wooden Crucifixion terpretationin the text (forwhich she should not be held responsible).
fromHalberstadt(c. 1220), from France,such as Suger's great cross at 26See M. Ingendaay,"Rekonstruktionsversuch der'PalaBichi'in San
Saint Denis, andfromnorthernItaly,such as the figuresin the cathedral AgostinoinSiena,"Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen InstitutesinFlorenz
of Torcelloand in the churchof Santa MariaGloriosadei Frariin Venice, 23 (1979), pp. 109-26.
suggest such placement had wider currencyin the north. See also the 27E.Castelnuovo,ed., ImagoLignea:sculturelignee nel Trentinodal
Chronicleof Moyenmoutierscited inthe textbelow. One well-knownex- XIIIalXV/secolo, Trent,1989, p. 16;Castelnuovounfortunatelydoes not
tant Italianexamplefrom1394 (atopthe roodscreeninSan MarcobyJaco- identifythe text, notingmerelythat it comes froma "monasterofemminile
po di MarcoBenato)differsfromthe woodenexamplesdiscussed not only della zona del lago di Costanza."
in mediumbut in its smallerthan life-sizedscale as well. 28MaryMagdalenealso frequentlyappearedat the foot of the cross;
ElizabethC. Parkerhas mentionedthe placementof the Altarof the the relationshipbetween the iconographyof the Magdalenand of St.
Crossinfrontof the roodscreeninherdiscussionof the settingsforDeposi- Francishas yet to be determined,but it is not unreasonableto suspect
tio dramaswhich mightexplainthe placementof the Santa Crocecruci- that the Franciscanimageryreusedalreadyextant penitentialMagdalen
fix and also the placementof crucifixesat the centralcrowningpointof formulae.The image of a contemporaryembracingthe cross replicates,
roodscreens inthe sites mentionedabove;see her TheDescent fromthe of course, the liturgicalpracticeof the late MiddleAges and the Renais-
"Depositio"Drama,New York-
Cross:Its Relationto the Extra-Liturgical sance, a ritualdevotion which continues to our own day. Bartolommeo
London,1978, p. 134. The issue of the placementof the crucifixin con- del Corazzarecords,for example,the entirepapalcourt participatingin
junctionwith an altarbecomes morecomplicatedinthe sixteenth centu- such a practice:
ry,perhapsas a resultof changes occasioned by the Councilof Trent.D.
Carl,"DieKruzifixedes TaddeoCurradiin der Kircheder SS. Concezione A'di 14,VenerdiSanto,lamattina,ilsanto Padrevennein SantaMaria
zu Florenz,"Mitteilungendes KunsthistorischenInstitutesin Florenz28 Novellaall'altaremaggiore,e parossi,e disse I'uffiziodella Croce,e
(1984), pp. 394-401, has publisheda numberof documents which list scopersela, come & di consueto fare;poi la pose a pie dell'altare,e
crucifixesattachedto ciboria:in 1575 Bacciodi Filippodi Bacciod'Agno- and6a sedereinsu lasedia,e fecesi scalzaree and6con grandedivozi-
lo repaired"ilnostro crocifixograndesopra I'arcoallo altaremaggiore" one a baciare la Croce e inginocchiossi 3 volte: poi andarono


tutti i Cardinaliche erano 17, poivescovi, e altriprelatie signori,am- coloredleathergarmentforChristwith leggingsof flesh-coloredleather,"
basciatoridi piuiSignorie;poi si comunic6 e lesse la Messa, dissesi which suggests that a realactor playedthe role in a costume meant to
la pistola e 'I passio; e il vangelio disselo un Cardinale. indicatea naked body.
40 CanizioPizzonipublishedthe document from the Confraternith
See "DiarioFiorentinodi Bartolommeodi Michele del CorazzaAnni dell'Annunziatain Perugiain "LaConfraternithdell'Annunziatain Peru-
1405-1438," ArchivioStorico Italiano,ser. V (14), 1894, p. 260. gia,"I/MovimentodeiDisciplinati,p. 152; R.G. Mather,"Nuovidocumenti
29 G. Hersey, Alfonso II and the Artistic Renewal of robbiani," L'arte22 (1919),p. 107. Recentpracticesin penitentialproces-
1485- 1495, New Haven,1969, pp. 121-24, discusses GuidoMazzoni's event;E.Monaci
sions also used sculptureas a centralfocus of the liturgical
Lamentationin Naplesand the figurehe calls Nicodemusas a portraitof ("Appuntiperla storiadel teatroitaliano:Uffizidrammaticidei disciplina-
Alfonso II;see also T.Verdon,TheArt of GuidoMazzoni,New York-Lon- ti dell'Umbria,"Rivistadi filologiaromanza1 [1872], p. 242, note 2) men-
don, 1978, pp.79-81 fora discussion of portraitfiguresinthis groupand tioned a contemporaryGoodFridayprocession in Piperno(Campania)in
passim for portraitsin other Lamentationgroups by Mazzoni.N. Gram- which the corpuswas removedfroma cross, placedon a bier,andcarried
maccini,"Lad6plorationde Niccol6dell'Arca,"Revuede I'art62 (1983), to a tombtemporarilymadefroman altar.Onecaveat must be noted here:
pp.21-34, exploresthis questioneven morefully;he positsa portraitfigure the term"corpus"is used in documentarysources for both the eucharis-
of GiovanniIIBentivogliointhe LamentationforS. MariadellaVitain Bolo- tic host and for a fictive body of Christ;it is not always possible to tell
gna and reviews the earliersuggestions that ErcoleI d'Este appearsas which of the two meanings is intended.
Joseph of Arimatheain GuidoMazzoni'sgroupin Sta. Mariadelle Rose 41An earlydiscussion of the Gesuinofigures(includingexamplesin
in Ferraraand Alfonso IIof Aragonas Joseph in Guido'sLamentationin stucco andterracotta)was UrsulaSchlegel's purelyformalconsideration
Naples. A numberof the Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimatheafigures in "TheChristChildas DevotionalImagein MedievalItalianSculpture:
which are partsof the FrenchEntombmentgroupsdiscussed by Forsyth A Contribution to AmbrogioLorenzetti Studies,"TheArtBulletin52 (1970),
(TheEntombmentof Christ)seem also to haveparticularized physicalfea- pp. 1-10; see also GiovanniPrevitali'scommentson this articlein "II'Bam-
tures andmay well also be portraits.Forcomments which mightprovoke binGesi' come 'immagineDevozionale'nellasculturaitalianadelTrecento,"
a full-scalediscussion of the figureof Nicodemusas a portraitof the ar- Paragoneno. 249 (1970), pp.31-40. C.van Hulst,"Lastoriadelladivozi-
tist see G. DunphyMurphy,"OnceMore,MichelangeloandNicodemism," one a Ges' Bambinonelle immaginiplastiche isolate,"Antonianum19
TheArt Bulletin71 (1989), p. 693. (1944), pp.35-54, hadearlierprovideda wide rangeof criticalexamples
30 Corbin,LaDeposition Liturgique,p. 257. of Gesuino figures;this articledeserves to be better known. Henkvan
31 G. & S. Taubert,MittelalterlicheKruzifixe. Os has writtenabout an anomalousPaduanexampleof a paintingused
32 H. Kauffmann,Donatello, Berlin,1935, 200, n. 44; H. W.Jan- in place of one of these sculpted figures in "TheMadonnaand the Mys-
son, Donatello, p. 9, reintroducedthis fact into the ongoing discussion tery Play,"Simiolus5 (1971),pp.5-19. The most importantworkon these
of the crucifix. BabyChristfiguresnow is ChristianeKlapisch-Zuber's "HolyDolls:Play
33 Corbin,LaDepositionLiturgique,p. 189; the ordo, from Barking, and Pietyin Florencein the Quattrocento,"Women,Family,and Ritualin
also says that "deferantCrucem ad magnam altare ubique in specie RenaissanceItaly,Chicago,1985, pp.310-29. Neridi Biccimentionsthe
Joseph...,"indicatingthat the ceremony took place at the high altarat manufactureandpaintingof one of these figuresin hisRicordanze(p. 193)
least in this instance. Corbinalso providesappendices of documented anda 1386 inventoryof the Confraternith dei Disciplinatidi San Domeni-
depositions from all across Europe;for Italysee pp. 257-59. co in Perugialists a "Giesuino"(E.Monaci,"Appuntiperlastoriadelteatro
34Some extantfragments,such as the Courajodcrucifixdatedto the italiano,"p. 259).
twelfth century (inthe Louvre),suggest in theirasymmetricaltreatment 42 Forsuch figures see E. Lipsmeyer,"Jahreslaufbrauchtum," Volk-
of the torso with a loweredrightarmthat they were once partsof Deposi- skunst 1 (1989), pp. 50-58.
tiongroupsandnot independentcrucifixes.Thissuggests thatsuch Depo- 43R. L.Mode,"SanBernardinoin Glory,"TheArtBulletin55 (1973),
sition groups were morenumerousthan the few extant examples might p. 59.
initiallyindicate. 44The recentlydiscoveredinscriptionon the Virginof the Annunci-
35 Contemporarypaintedexamples of such imagerywould include ation in the Museo Nazionaledi San Matteo in Pisa datingthe statue to
FraAngelico's fresco at San Marco. 1321 andthe documentaryevidenceof paymentswhichallowsus to date
36 I wish to thank my colleague, ClarkMaines,for this observation. Jacopo dellaQuercia'sAnnunciationgroupin San Gimignanoto 1421-26
37 S. Sticca, The LatinPassion Play, Albany,1970, p. 150. providea test case for stylistic conservatism over time. Comparisonof
38These directionsarefroma PlanctusMariaenow inthe MuseoAr- the two figuresof Maryshows that they closely approximateone another
cheologico of Cividale;see iIMovimentodeiDisciplinatinelSettimoCen- in pose and draperystyle. A Morelliancomparisonof the two provides
tenariodal suo inizio, publishedas a special volume of Deputazionedi a distinctionof hands, but hardlysuggests that the two pieces differin
StoriaPatriaperl'Umbria,Appendiceal Bollettino,no. 9, Perugia,1962, date by 100 years.Whatwe see inQuercia'sVirginis a continuityof figural
p. 19. T.Verdon,GuidoMazzoni,pp.21 -24, has also mentionedthe con- forms imitatinga venerable model in virtualdisregardof the stylistic
nectionof depositionsandlamentationsto HolyWeekliturgiesanddramas. predilectionsnotablein others of his works.See SculturaDipinta.Maes-
39 K.Falvey,ScripturalPlaysfromPerugia,unpublishedPh.D.disser- tridi Legnamee Pittoria Siena 1250- 1450, for the Pisa figureand pp.
tation, State Universityof New Yorkat Stony Brook,1974, p. 111,where 156-57 for the Querciafigure.
she says that the "deadChristwas not an actorbut ratheran emblematic 45 The Quercesquefigures of the Virginand Childand FourSaints,
representation similar to [a] completely articulated wooden figure...."She formerlyon the altarof San Martinoand now in the Museo dell'Opera
also mentions an inventory from 1386 from the Confraternity of St. Do- del Duomo,providea case in point. These figuresare not life-sized,nor
minic in Perugia which lists among other items for a passion play "two do theirdraperiesseek to imitatecontemporarycostume; thus they are
Thieves" which she suggests might have been articulated wood or stuffed giltinimitationof bronzegiltsculptureratherthantakingon the polychromy
figures. She also cautions against too narrow a reading of the Christ figure of normalwood sculpture.Thereis, one must note, still a great deal of
as sculpture (pp. 111-12), since in this same inventory are listed "a flesh- uncertaintyabout these figures. Modernrestorationhas yet to be done


and would indicate,among other things, whether the gildingis original a "humble"medium.Thecriticaltext which provokedthis suggestion and
to the figures. which mentions wax, plasterof Paris,and clay-although not wood--is
46 The Bosco ai Fraticrucifix entered the (debatable) works of fromPetrarch'sDe remediisutriusquefortunae;see the Physickeagainst
Donatelloonlyin 1962 when AlessandroParronchi discoveredit ina base- Fortune.London,1579 in facsimileeditionedited by B.G. Kohl,Delman,
mentstorageareaof the church;see A. Parronchi, "IICrocifissodel Bosco," N.Y.,1980, p. 60.
ScrittidiStoriadell'Artein onoredi MarioSalmi,vol. II,Rome,1962, pp. 52 Forthe pertinentquotationsfrom Fazio,c. 1457, and Michiel,c.
233-62. 1520, see Janson, Donatello, p. 167.
47 Forthe restorationof the churchat Bosco ai Fratisee H. Sieben- 53 Billi,Libro,pp. 42-43.
huner& L.H. Heydenreich,"DieKlosterkircheS. Francescoal Bosco im 54 Vasari-Milanesi,Vite, II,p. 411.
Mugello,"Mitteilungendes KunsthistorischenInstitutes in Florenz 5 55 In 1467 the St. John was still in an unspecified"ridottodi sotto"
(1939-40), pp. 183-96, 387-401. inthe Sienese Opera,althoughby 1480 it was inthe sacristy of the Duo-
48 Fora discussion of the attributionsof this crucifixsee Donatello mo; see V. Herzner,"Donatello in Siena," Mitteilungendes Kunst-
e i Suoi, eds. A. Phipps Darr,G. Bonsanti, Florence-Detroit,1986, pp. historischenInstitutesin Florenz15 (1971),p. 185. Twopracticalreasons
174-75. maybe suggested forthe long-termstorageof the statue which hadbeen
49 Given such similaritiesit is tempting to say that a sculptor of deliveredto Sienain 1457: the statue was stillincomplete,lackingits right
Donatello'sabilitieswouldhardlyhaveimitatedthe style of anothermaster arm;the chapel or locationfor which the statue was intendedwas yet
andthat,therefore,bothcrucifixesmustbe bythe same hand.Butof course to be finished.Neitherof these probabilitiescan erasethe possibilityraised
there is no hardevidence for such an assertion. inthe text that the formalpropertiesof the bronzestatue madeit visually
50 This appropriationcan be seen even more clearlyif we compare ambiguous at the time of its delivery.
the PaduanChristwithone fromthe churchof San Niccol6oltr'Arnowhich 56 The outstandingexample of a commission for bronzesculpture
Lisner(Holzkruzifixe,pp. 65-66) has attributedto Michelozzo.The two similarto Donatello'sworkfor the PaduanSanto is Niccol6 Baroncelli's
formscould hardlybe closer. Itis truethat realismand idealismareover- bronzesculptureof a Crucifix,a Virginand St. John and SS. Georgeand
lappingandoftentimesinseparableaspects of antiquesculptureandthat Maureliusfor the cathedralof Ferrara.The groupwas commissionedas
Donatello'sabsorptionof this aesthetic was complete.Yetone must also an ensemble for an iconostasis by Lionellod'Este in 1450; it was com-
be awareof otherconventionsinthe historyof sculptureattachedto medi- pletedin 1456 by GiovanniBaroncelliand Domenicodi ParisafterBaron-
umandto specific iconographieswhich Donatelloandhis patronswould celli's death in 1453. The projectwas apparentlya direct imitationof
surely have known and which would have exertedtheirown functional Donatello'sworkinPadua.Theovertonesof princelypowerandciviccom-
power into his creative process. petitiveness implicitin this commission both removethe sculpturefrom
51PeterParshallhas suggested (incorrespondence)a furtherreason the discourseof traditionalCrucifixionimageryandsupportthe supposi-
forthe use of wood for certainsculpture,namelythat it was considered tion that bronze-not wood -was the mediumfor civic commissions.