Printer Friendly

Andrea del Sarto's monsters: the Madonna of the Harpies and human-animal hybrids in the renaissance.

The mysterious monsters who lurk beneath the pedestal of the Virgin in Andrea del Sarto's Madonna of the Harpies have been variously interpreted--as sphinxes and locusts as well as harpies. Simona Cohen argues that they are embodiments of Original Sin, and explains why the artist chose grotesque female figures to depict the idea.

Andrea del Sarto's Madonna and Child with Saints Francis and John the Evangelist (Fig. 1), which is signed on the pedestal and dated 1517, has long had the misleading title of Madonna of the Harpies. This derives from Vasari's description in his Lives of the Artists of 1550. (1) Thirty-three years after the painting was completed and twenty years after the artist's death, Vasari wrote: 'In a panel for the church of the said nuns [of St Francis in via Pentoli], Our Lady is erect and elevated above an eight-sided base, on the corners of which are several harpies that are seated as if adoring the Virgin'. (2) Vasari was frequently oblivious to the iconographic complexities of paintings he described, a failing to which he sometimes admitted but more often concealed, as in this case, beneath his own imprecise and subjective interpretations.


Despite the tenacious title, some modern authors have recognised Vasari's error in identifying the creatures on the Madonna's octagonal pedestal as harpies. In art-historical literature they have been described as harpies, sphinxes or apocalyptic locusts. (3) There has been little consensus regarding their nature or function in del Sarto's painting. The following article will attempt to clarify the function of these eccentric creatures in the iconography of the altarpiece, based on relevant literary and artistic precedents where hybrid creatures are featured in sacred iconography, comparisons in contemporary Italian art, and evidence related to the patronage of a women's monastic community.

Documentation of the painting

>From the contract of 14 May 1515 we know that the altarpiece was commissioned from Andrea del Sarto for the high altar of the monastic church of San Francesco in Florence by a monk of the Minorite order who represented the abbess, Sister Iohannis de Meleto. (4) The contract called for a depiction of the blessed Mary 'semper Virginis' with the child in her arms, flanked by two angels who are crowning her. The crowning angels were replaced by two adoring angels who are hugging the Virgin's legs. On either side should have stood St John the Evangelist and St Bonaventure, but instead of the latter the artist depicted St Francis. Since no mention is made of a pedestal or its decoration, we may presume these to be Andrea's idea. On the upper section of the pedestal, below the signature of the artist, is a cartouche that reads AD SUMMU.

REG[I]NA TRO/NU. DEFER]TUR IN AL/TUM ('The Queen is transported to the supreme throne high above'), words taken from an antiphon for the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin (written about 1300). (5) Under this inscription is the date M.D.XVII.

Vasari's description included 'un fumo di nuvoli trasparenti sopra il casamento' ('A haze of transparent clouds above the architecture'). These clouds, which were no longer visible to the modern viewer, were rediscovered by the restorer Alfio del Serra when he cleaned the painting in 1983. (6) In his biography of Jacopo Sansovino, Vasari described a terracotta model by the sculptor that was used by Del Sarto in designing the figure of Saint John. (7) It has been shown that another of Sansovino's statues, that of St James in the Florentine Duomo, was a prototype for the Virgin, but these statues did not supply a precedent for the painter's pedestal. (8)

Any interpretation of the painting must take into account the damage it has undergone through the centuries and the restorations that have been undertaken (Fig. 2). The earliest restoration was in the 1600s, after the infiltration of water damaged the entire lower section, followed by one in the 1800s (after it was moved to the Uffizi in 1795), and the thorough cleaning and restoration by Del Serra in 1983 in anticipation of the De] Sarto centennial exhibition of 1986. (9) The Madonna of the Harpies was the most damaged of this artist's works during the floods of the Arno in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. (10) At that time the so-called harpy on the right side of the pedestal was almost entirely destroyed; the only traces remaining were the border of the right wing and her upper face. These had already been repainted by the 1600s, presumably based on lines of the original painting or in accordance with the surviving figure on the left. Del Serra did not remove any of the previous restorations but painted over them. We may consequently assume that, despite the severe damage caused to the lower section and subsequent repainting, the original design of the pedestal and its hybrid creatures has been maintained.


Identifying the 'harpies'

Harpies are 'foul birds' with the head and breasts of a woman and body and limbs of a vulture. The creatures seated on Del Sarto's pedestal indeed have large wings which replace their arms, but their elongated female bodies are entirely human and their long legs become goat-feet at the ankle and end with hooves. The torso is scantily clothed, accentuating the large breasts. The knees are parted, exposing the pubic area. Overt eroticism and the blatant defiance of contemporary iconographic codes of feminine decorum signify their sinfulness. The heads are raised towards the Madonna and Child with what appear to be expressions of anguish or despair. The eyes are hollow sockets buried in shadow, as are the round gaping mouths. The erotic tension and the spread legs are common in Andrea's childlike angels, but the lost expression and the tortured sensuality were not typical of his art and would reach a peak in that of his highly disturbed pupil Pontormo, who worked with him around 1513-18.

John Shearman claimed 'the animals are not harpies, but sphinxes." (11) According to him, harpies should have female heads, birds' wings and feet and a serpent's tail. The sphinx, however, is part human and part lion, as renaissance artists well knew, which excludes this definition as well. Ingeborg Fraenckel compared Del Sarto's 'harpies' with those on the sacrificial altar in Raphael's tapestry cartoon for Paul at Lystra, as subsequently noted by S.J. Freedberg. (12) There, however, they are lion-footed, which indicates that they ark sphinxes.

According to Antonio Natali's theory, (13) the creatures represent the apocalyptic vision, where locusts with powers like scorpions, emerge from a smoking abyss to torment those who lack the seal of God on their foreheads (Apocalypse 9, 1-11). The author provided no evidence in the way of visual prototypes or comparative imagery to justify this theory. My own examination of the pictorial sources convinced me that there is no iconographic basis for linking Del Sarto's hybrid figures with the apocalyptic creatures. The original text supplies the following description: 'And the shape of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their foreheads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions' (Apocalypse 9, 7-8). The Beatus illustrations of the Apocalypse, which established a visual tradition from the tenth to the thirteenth centuries, were faithful to the textual description and depicted hybrid animals, based on a leonine body with a horse's neck, a horned animal head, strands of human hair and a scorpion's tail. (14) Some variations included the hind legs and wings of the locust or scorpion figures. But I found only one case where there was a suggestion of human facial features. In other words, there was no precedent for depicting the 'locust' with a human physiognomy. Furthermore, I found no relevant innovations in renaissance illustrations of the same text. (15) These conclusions only strengthen my conviction that there can be no relationship between Del Sarto's Madonna and such an isolated apocalyptic theme, taken out of context.

Rudolf Wittkower noted that harpies, sirens and sphinxes in similar positions are rather common in religious imagery of the period. He and other authors have stressed that the function of the creature in Del Sarto's painting was to symbolise paganism superseded by Christianity or simply the triumph of purity over sin. (16) As a theoretical interpretation this might be correct, but such a generalisation does not differentiate between specific forms or contexts and it entirely ignores questions raised by the unique and eccentric iconography. The theories mentioned above were all based upon an identification of the hybrid image. Technically speaking, however, we may conclude that the figures are neither harpies nor sphinxes, and there is no iconographic tradition to support the theory of the apocalyptic locusts. I propose that we first examine the significance of the human-animal hybrid as an expression of attitudes and concepts in late-medieval and renaissance culture and then attempt to analyse the specific physiognomic peculiarities of this figure.

Human-animal hybrids

Joyce Salisbury, in her discussion of 'humans as animals', underlined the assumption that humans feel discomfort with ambiguous creatures, especially those that violate the boundaries between the categories of human and animal. (17) The early-medieval definition of humans by what they were not (animals) altered, she claims, with the metaphoric linking of humans and animals in the twelfth century. Despite the taboos established to protect the boundaries between the two, they exerted a fascination that usually accompanies the forbidden. The concept of hybridisation was related in various ways to abnormal or sinful behaviour. The monstrous conjoining of part human and part animal expressed a threatening dualism or hypocrisy, which found expression in medieval and renaissance literature and art. (18) In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the association of human-animal metaphors and hybrid imagery with conceptions of sin found new artistic expression, notably in Franciscan circles. (19) The late-medieval revival and reinterpretation of the classical myths of metamorphosis, as reflected for example in the popularity of the Ovid Moralise, brought to the fore issues of psychologically linked physical transformations. (20) Moralising interpretations generally explained physical metamorphosis as the external manifestation of the bestial nature within. During the renaissance the increased internalisation of the metamorphosis myths and the popularity of human-animal metaphors in literature and art reflected introspective tendencies of religious experience.

No less significant for the rediscovery of the human-animal hybrid was the renaissance of classical antiquity in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Hybrid creatures, such as sphinxes, harpies, sirens, griffons and centaurs, carved on Roman sarcophagi, candelabras, altars and temple friezes, were a direct source of artistic inspiration. Renewed interest in classical literary sources, and their translation and diffusion through the medium of the printing press, facilitated a direct approach to the mythical hybrid creatures, unmediated by centuries of medieval interpretation. A new ambivalence resulted. The sphinx, for example (literally 'strangler' in Greek), was the malicious female demon of the Oedipus legend, who posed a riddle to trap and destroy her male victims. She was also associated in antiquity with both wisdom and ignorance, as well as with the mysteries of religion. (21) Probably because of her association with Athena-Minerva as the goddess of wisdom, the sphinx was appropriated for the throne of the Madonna in her symbolic role as Sedes Sapientiae ('the throne of wisdom') by renaissance sculptors, such as Donatello (Sant'Antonio, Padua) and Agostino di Duccio (marble relief, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). (22)

The renaissance sphinx, however, was basically ambivalent and, following its association with the myth of the riddle, continued to represent both wisdom and ignorance. (23) Mantegna depicted two female sphinxes in an allegory of Virtue and Vice, known as Virtus Combusta (about 1490-1500), as part of the spherical base supporting a nude, obese female who represents Ignorance and Fortune combined (Fig. 3). (24) Alciati, in his Emblemata liber (Augsburg, 1531), made the sphinx, with a girl's face and torso, bird's feathers and lion's claws, the very personification of Ignorance (Fig. 4). (25) He listed the causes of this vice as frivolity, promiscuity and pride, vices that were traditionally assigned to the female nature in general. In 1559 Paolo Giovio, in his Dialogo dell'imprese militari ed amorose, created an emblem of the sphinx with the motto Incerta animi decreta resolvet ('She resolves uncertain decrees of the soul'), based on the saying by Erasmus of Rotterdam, "Sphingis aenigmata dissolvit' ('He solves the enigmas of the sphinx'). (26)


The harpy (harpia), whose name was derived from the Greek word arpazo, 'to seize', was a monstrous female demon of insatiable hunger, known as temptress, seductress and tormenter of victims. (27) These human-headed birds punished the blind seer Phineus because of his hubris. In the early church the harpy, like the siren, became an image of the harlot. (28) In the later medieval period it conveyed a moralisation that was still current in German literature of the fifteenth Century. (29) According to a legend, harpies, which have human faces bur no human virtues, kill the first people they meet. Later they come to a pond and see there not only their own reflections, but also those of the people they have slain. Stricken with remorse, they weep for the rest of their lives. This moralisation was conveyed by two un-classical looking harpies, one male and the other female, in Lucas Cranach's St Jerome in Penitence (1525, Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, Innsbruck). (30) Thus the monstrous seizer of antiquity was appropriated as a Christian image of seduction and then of penitence and remorse. Concurrently, however, the 'brutte Arpie' reappeared as tormenting female monsters in Dante's Inferno (canto XIII, 10-12 and 90-102) and their demonic classical identity was revived by the Italian renaissance.

It should be emphasised that most of the hybrid creatures discussed above were characterised as feminine and personified aspects of bestiality, inhumanity and inferiority', which were ingrained in gender perception. The threat of female sexuality to the male victim is reasserted as a leitmotif in legends of the sphinx, the harpy, the siren, and various conflations thereof, from classical antiquity until the renaissance. I suggest that these connotations, reiterated and readapted in the context of Marian doctrine and female monasticism, are the key to Andrea del Sarto's altarpiece.

The Franciscans and Marian iconography

Del Sarto's altarpiece was commissioned for the church of a Franciscan convent. We have noted that the contract for the painting originally called for the image of the Franciscan theologian St Bonaventure (1221-74), who served as the second general of this Order, and that the artist replaced him with St Francis as one of the saints flanking the Madonna. To what extent is Franciscan patronage reflected in the iconography? Can we find evidence in Franciscan sources for the kind of gender perceptions discussed above? And how does the hybrid creature relate to the Marian theme of the altarpiece.

In his Life of St Francis Bonaventure described how his predecessor had transformed the bestial in wild creatures. (31) His animal miracles were in the same tradition as those of the early Christian saints whose sanctity was marked by such powers. While communication with the animal world presented no obstacle to his mystical strivings, contact with women was deemed treacherous. St Francis commanded the friars to avoid contacts with women, 'which have led many to a fall'. (32) He claimed that it is as easy for one who has much contact with women, unless he be a man of the most proven virtue, to avoid contamination from them as to walk in fire and not to burn one's feet. And he warned: 'Out of too much self confidence one is less on guard against the enemy, and if the devil can claim as his own even one hair from a man, he will soon make it grow into a beam." (33) In The Soul's Journey into God, Bonaventure wrote that we are 'deformed by sin and reformed by grace ... whoever wishes to ascend to God must first avoid sin, which deforms our nature'. (34) The Franciscan Alexander de Hales, who had taught St Bonaventure in Paris, claimed that monstrous men were human because such deformity could only result from sin and only humans could sin. (35)

I would like to underline the connection between the iconography of Del Sarto's Madonna altarpiece and that of the theme of the Immaculate Conception. Throughout the centuries, the Franciscan Order promoted the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which sought to absolve the Virgin of Original Sin, supposedly transmitted to her by St Anne. (36) The Feast of the Conception was officially accepted by the Franciscans at the Council of the Order in 1263. A late-thirteenth-century treatise attributed to the Franciscan Ramon Lull proclaims 'beatae Virginis Mariae sine labe conceptae' ('Blessed Virgin Mary spotlessly conceived'). Although the Dominicans rejected the concept, the Immaculist Franciscans persisted in the debate, and the doctrine was officially proclaimed in the council of Basel in 1439 and recognised by Pope Innocent viii in 1491. The cult of the Immaculate Conception was propagated primarily in Spain from the late fifteenth century on, and it was there in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries that the iconography took on its definitive form, as the vision of the Apocalyptic Woman standing, with or without the child in her arms, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head (Apocalypse, XII, 1). In some versions of this iconography the standing Virgin tramples a large dragon, symbol of her triumph over sin. Prior to the late sixteenth century the Apocalyptic Woman was accepted as an image of the Virgin of the Assumption. The inscription on Del Sarto's pedestal, as we recall, is taken from an antiphon for the Feast of the Assumption.

In Italy in the early 1500s the theme of the Immaculate Conception had nor yet taken on a conventional artistic form and was still depicted in various ways. A Franciscan altarpiece of 1504 by Marco Melone, identified by Shearman as Immaculist, shows the Madonna enthroned on a high base ornamented with two sphinxes, and crowned by angels. (37) A glazed terracotta altarpiece of the Immaculate Conception by Giovanni della Robbia (S Lucchese, 1514/15) provides valuable evidence of Franciscan Immaculist iconography in Tuscany precisely at the time of Andrea del Sarto's Franciscan commission (Figs. 5 and 6). (38) At the centre is St Anne, flanked on the left by St Francis and on the right by St Anthony of Padua, presenting the immaculate infant Mary. She is standing on a pedestal adorned with two well endowed sphinxes (Fig. 6), whose wings flank a cartouche bearing the inscription 'Qui elucidant me vitam eternam haberunt' ('Those who elucidate me will have eternal life').


The predella reliefs depict narratives from the legends of Saints Francis, Bonaventure, Louis of Toulouse and Anthony of Padua. St Ambrose and St Augustine appear in roundels above. Inscriptions on scrolls held by the various saints all relate to the immaculacy Of the Virgin and her power to redeem from sin. The quotation "Tota Pulcra es amica mea et macula no(n) est in te' ('Thou art all fair, my love, there is no spot in thee'; Song of Solomon, IV, 7) was a standard verse applied to Immaculist iconography in the fifteenth century and is suitably presented here by King Solomon, who stands above the entablature. Opposite is King David, who presents the quotation "Queretur pecata illus no(n) invenietur" ('Seek out his wickedness till thou find none'; Psalms, x, 15). Although the central figure is St Anne, she is comparable to Del Sarto's Madonna in that she is standing with the child on a pedestal that is decorated with female hybrid creatures, which frame a ritual inscription in a cartouche. Both altarpieces contain references to the Virgin as Queen of Heaven; Della Robbia quotes the appellation 'alt(issima) regina' ('Most sublime queen'), which is echoed in Del Sarto's 'Ad summum Regina tronum defertur in altum', and St Francis is depicted on the left side of the Virgin in both. It is my contention that the hybrid creatures in Del Sarto's painting fulfil the same function as the references to Original Sin in Della Robbia's altar.

A hybrid creature, comparable to that of Del Sarto, is located under the throne of a seated Madonna drawn by Giovanni Mansueti in Venice during the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century (Fig. 7). (39) Unlike the elegant sphinxes that adorn the Virgin's sedes sapientiae (throne of wisdom), this crouching figure of uncertain gender appears to be a satyr with horns and goat-legs. Like the goat legged females on Del Sarto's pedestal the figure seems to convey despair. In contemporary Italian paintings of the Madonna del Soccorso (Madonna of Succour), similar satyr-like creatures, combining a human torso with goat-legs and horns, represented the devilish powers of evil that are vanquished by the Virgin.


Before the mid sixteenth century an innovative Italian version of the Immaculate Conception included a winged hybrid monster that represented Original Sin. Giorgio Vasari's Allegory of the Immaculate Conception (about 1543) shows the Virgin as Queen of Heaven with one foot on the head of a winged monster that is, in fact, the serpent of the Garden of Eden with a human torso (Fig. 8). (40) Below lie the contorted bodies of Adam and Eve and the early sinners entwined in the branches of the dead tree from which the Virgin ascends to bestow her grace. The message borne by angels says QUOS EVAE CULPA DAMNAT/ MARIAE GRATIA SOLVIT ('Those condemned by the sin of Eve are saved by the grace of Mary'). The human animal monster, as the traditional signifier of sin and inhumanity, reflects the internalisation of the myth of the Fall of Man. We read that it was the single-handed 'sin of Eve' by which humanity was condemned.


We might note one more aspect of Franciscan iconography that is relevant to the Del Sarto altarpiece before summarising the significance of the so called 'harpies' on the pedestal. As noted above, crowning angels that were specified in the contract were replaced by adoring angels that caress the legs of the Virgin. Expressions of ecstatic, unmediated emotional identification with a sacred figure were common in the art of the mendicant orders in general and in that of the Franciscans in particular. In a later version of the Immaculate Conception, by the Spaniard Vicente Carducho (1631, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest), St Francis is depicted in adoration, embracing the trunk of the tree that supports the Virgin and Child and nearby is the serpent, depicted to signify Original Sin. (41)

Iconography for nuns

It has been demonstrated that the iconography of the Del Sarto altarpiece reflects Franciscan doctrine and artistic conventions. The identification of the Franciscan theme of the Immaculate Conception may be further supported by the depiction of St John the Evangelist holding the book in which he had supposedly described his vision of the Apocalyptic Woman. Although specific elements of that vision are not depicted here, the source was already used at that time to prove that Mary was conceived in the mind of God.

This theme had special relevance for monastic women, who took the vows of chastity and undertook the asceticism of the cloister in the desire for redemption from Original Sin. The burden of guilt and intense preoccupation with penance was not unrelated to misogynist conceptions, which many nuns assimilated. (42) Asceticism and enclaustration were designed to control those seductive and contaminating traits inherent in all females. But even monastic women, after taking the vows of chastity, obedience and poverty, could not he cleansed of the stigma of Eve. (43) Thomas of Celano, in his legends of St Francis, related that when he heard a friar call the nuns sisters, the saint claimed 'God has taken away our wives, and now the devil gives us Sisters'. (44) The Virgin Mary, because of her sex, virginal purity and redemption of another woman (Eve), was conceived as the saviour of women in general and as the advocate of consecrated women in particular. (45)

We have seen that the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception was depicted in the sixteenth century in a standing and elevated position, frequently trampling a hybrid monster. It should be noted that female saints, venerated by nuns and other female members of mendicant religious orders, were generally depicted in the same manner--as standing figures, elevated on platforms above their kneeling adherents, and trampling a monster. Such paintings were commissioned by convents. The altarpiece of the Blessed Osanna Andreasi, probably painted for a Dominican convent by Francesco Bonsignori (about 1519), follows this pattern (Fig. 9). The fact that Del Sarto's Virgin is standing like a statue (and was actually patterned on one), and is placed upon a pedestal as well as a platform, emphasises this aspect of ritual veneration. This is not the seated Madonna of the Sacra Conversazione but a cult figure, and it remains for us to imagine the community of Franciscan nuns kneeling before the transcendental image on their high altar to pray for redemption.


Why then are the hybrids females? Because female hybrids traditionally represented and personified treacherous aspects of female sexuality and seduction, which is precisely the connotation they bear here. It is interesting to compare this with an Assumption that was painted by Del Sarto in the 1520s for the wealthy Florentine merchant Bartolomeo Panciatichi (Fig. 10). There too a pseudo classical hybrid is symbolically pictured as a monumental relief in the lower section of the painting. A powerful vertical axis emphasises the contrast between the terrestrial below and the celestial above. The figure on the empty sarcophagus of the Madonna, however, is a muscular male herm, half human and half stone; he has no arms and his feet are tied by a rope--signifying the terrestrial shackles of sensual existence that Michelangelo in his poetry called the 'career terreno' ('the earthly prison').(46) The fact that a male hybrid was an apt expression of the human condition here, as in most comparable contexts, further highlights the gender implications of the sinful female creatures and the misogynistic message they conveyed to their female spectators.


We may assume that Del Sarto conceived of eight identical figures on the corners of the octagonal pedestal. Besides the two frontal figures there are two additional ones partially visible in profile. These eight creatures are not simply replacements for the monster trampled by Mary. One can only speculate on their multiplication and the meaning of their number. Sixteenth century penitential books, which played an enormous part in popularising the concept of the cardinal sins through sermons and penance, continued to list eight sins rather than seven. (47) Perhaps the number eight has a cosmic significance, signifying the proliferation of sin in the terrestrial domain below as opposed to the Immaculate Virgin's Assumption in the celestial realm above.

Images of Eroticism and Fertility

The specific physical characteristics of the hybrid creatures on the pedestal do not entirely conform to any of the classically derived images that were discussed above. The fact that they were a capricious and eclectic variant created by the artist should not surprise us. This period ushered in the flowering of so-called grotesque ornamentation, where erotic hybrids abounded in uninhibited decorative fantasies. The sphinx, the harpy, the satyr, the centaur, and flee variations thereof, multiplied in sculpture, painting and prints. It is significant that Del Sarto, in his frescoes in the Chiostro del Scalzo (around 1507-15 and 1521-22), did not reproduce the so called 'harpy' image when he framed stories of the Baptist with grotesque motifs on illusionary pilasters. But painted decorations on sixteenth century Italian maiolica, particularly on objects created for feminine consumption, further illustrate its iconographic associations.

A contemporary childbirth plate, for example, depicts a nude woman in a birth position, with spread legs that become transformed into goat-feet and sprout wings (Figs. 11 and 12). The similarity of this to Del Sarto's figure raises the question of the childbirth theme (a propos Original Sin) as a possible connotation there. A double-bodied female sphinx with goat-feet painted on an albarello (apothecary jar) also appears related to the theme of female fertility and may have contained a relevant herb or medication (Fig. 13). By the second half of the sixteenth century, many of the female hybrids painted on maiolica products, especially those of the Urbino school, followed the type shown on Del Sarto's pedestal. One such example can be seen on a flask, where the winged female hybrid, with spread goat-legs, is suggestively positioned above an erotic scene (Fig. 14). As this female hybrid was transformed into a pseudo-classical image of erotic fantasy, her sinful connotations were sublimated under the veil of poetic licence.


(1) G. Vasari, Le vite de' piu eccelenti architetti, pittori, et scultori, Firenze, 1550, edited by L. Bellosi and A. Rossi, Torino, 1986, p. 745; Milanesi, Firenze, 1568, edited by G. Milanesi, Firenze, 1878-85, vol. v, p 20.

(2) 'in una tavola per la chiesa di dette monache [di S Francesco in via Pentolini], la Nostra Donna ritta e rilevata sopra una base di otto faccie: in sulie cantonate della quale sono elcune arpie che seggono quasi adorando la vergine', in ibid. (my translation).

(3) The harpy identification was repeated by I. Fraenckel. Andrea del Sarto, Strasbourg, 1935, p. 216; S. Freedberg, Andrea del Sarto, 2 vols., Cambridge. Mass., 1963. vol. II, pp. 74-78 and R. Wittkower, Born Under Saturn, New York, 1963, pp. 290-91. They were discussed as sphinxes by d Shearman. Andrea del Sarto, Oxford, 1965, 2 vols., vol. L, pp. 47-51. The locust theory was first presented by A. Natali in 'L'angelo del sesto sigillo e 'l'altro amico del sposo', Gli Uffizi, Studi e Ricerche, 1984, pp. 46-54 and then in idem, Andrea del Sarto, Milan, 1998, pp. 83-87.

(4) The contract of 1515 was published by Freedberg, op. cit. vol. II, pp. 74-78 and Shearman. vol. II, pp. 391-92.

(5) The antiphon was composed by Jacopo Gaetani de' Stefaneschi, the patron of Giotto in the Cappella Arena, Padua and is listed in U. Chevalier, Repertorium Hymnologicum, Catalogue dos Chantes. Hymnes, Proses, Sequences, Tropes en Usage dans L'eglise Latine, 6 vols., Louvain, 1892-1919, vol. IV, p. 7, no. 34948, The wording there is: 'Ad summi regina thronum defertur in altum. Angelicis Assumptio Beatae Mariae'. Another version of the text is quoted by Freedberg. pp. cit., vol. II, p. 78

(6) Alfio Del Serra. 'Relazione tecnica sul restauro della Madonna delle arpie di Andrea del Sarto', Gli Uffizi, Studi e Ricerche, 1984. pp. 55-59.

(7) Vasari, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1568), vol. VII. p. 488.

(8) Natali, op. cit. in n. 3 above (1998), pp. 86-87.

(9) For a review of the restorations, see Del Serra, op. cit. The brief review of the restorations presented here is based on a personal communication from Mr Del Serra, to whom I am indebted for his kind explanations.

(10) See A. Conti, 'Quadri Alluvionati 1333, 1557, 1966', in Patagone, vol. XIX, no. 2, 1988, pp. 3-27, especially p. 13.

(11) Shearman, op. cit., vol. I, p. 48.

(12) Fraenckel, op. cit., p. 216, no. 48 and Freedberg, op. cit., vol. II, p. 75.

(13) See Natali, op. cit. in n. 3 above (1998), p. 84.

(14) See J, Williams, The illustrated Beatus, A Corpus of the Illustrations of the Commentary on the Apocalypse, 5 vols., London 1994. For examples of the 'locust' depiction, see the following illustrations: Silos Beatus, vol. I, fig. 33; Urgell Beatus, vol. II, fig. 41; Escorial Beatus, vol. II, fig. 183; Osma Beatus, vol. IV, fig. 33; Turin Beatus, vol. IV, fig.155. Only the Escorial illumination shows a suggestion of human facial features. See also J. Williams and B.A. Shailor. A Spanish Apocalypse: The Morgan Beatus Manuscript, New York, 1991, p. 88 and fol.142v.

(15) Among the renaissance Apocalypse illustrations, see 14 woodcuts by Durer, the Wittenberg Bible of 1522, a series Of engravings by Jean de Tournes of 1556 and 24 plates issued by Jean Duvet in 1561. See descriptions in M.R. James. The Apocalypse in Art, London, 1931.

(16) This was suggested by Vasari, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1550), p. 745 and was repeated by Fraenckel, op, cit., p. 216 and Wittkower, op. cit., p. 291.

(17) J. Salisbury, The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages, New York and London. 1994, especially chapter 5, pp. 137-66.

(18) See W.J. Travis, 'Of Sirens and Onocentaurs: A Romanesque Apocalypse at Montceaux- L'Etoile', Artibus et historiae, no. 45, 2002, pp. 29-52.

(19) See S. Cohen, 'Titian's London Allegory and the three beasts of his salve oscura', Renaissance Studies, vol. XIV, no, 1, 2000, pp. 46-69, especially pp. 5,3-56.

(20) See C. Lord, Some Ovidian Themes in Italian Renaissance Art, Phd Dissertation, Columbia University, Ann Arbor, 1969; also H. Waiter and H.J. Horn (eds.), Die Rezeption der Metormophosen des Ovid in der Neuzeit: Der Antike Mythos In Text und Bild, (International Symposium, Hamburg, 1991), Berlin, 1995.

(21) On aspects of the sphinx in antiquity, see S. Haseen, The Great Sphinx and its Secrets, Cairo, 1953.

(22) See L. Goldsheider, Donatello, London, 1941. pp. 31-32, figs. 90-94; H.W. Janson, The Sculpture of Donatello, Princeton, 1963, pp. 184-85 and plate 82 and M. Greenhalgh, Donatello and His Sources, London, 1982, pp. 148-56, figs. 97-100. Greenhalgh elaborates on the question of the sphinx and sphinx-throne in ancient and medieval art. The throne of Antonio Lombardo's Madonna in the Cappella Zen, San Marco, Venice, is an interesting variant, where the bodies of hybrid females on the arm-rest are transformed into floral motifs rather than lions. See N. Ruse and W. Wolters, The Art of Renaissance Venice, Chicago and London, 1990, plate 12.

(23) On aspects of the sphinx in high renaissance literature and art, see L. Piovano, 'La Sphinge di Valerio Saluzzo della Manta: Un manoscritto illustrato della Biblioteca Reele di Torino per Margherita di Valois', Bolletino di Cuneo, nos.102-103, 1990, pp. 5-24.

(24) See R. Lightbown, Mantegna, Oxford, 1986, pp. 485-86 and figs. 222 and 239A and B.

(25) M.A. De Angelis, Gli emblemi di Andrea Alciato nella edizione Steyner del 1531: Fonti e Simbologie, Salerno, 1984, pp. 190-93.

(26) P. Giovio, Dialogo dell'imprese militari ed amorose, 1559, edited by M.L. Doglio, Rome, 1978, pp. 15 and 142.

(27) It is interesting to note that in Sanskrit the word grahi (from graha --'to seize') denoted a female spirit who seized men and caused death and diseases, and grabha was'one who seizes'--a demon causing diseases, while grahaka was a hawk or falcon (ie. a rapacious bird),

(28) See D. Hassig, 'The Harlot: The Siren', in eadem, Medieval Bestiaries, Cambridge, 1995, chapter 10, pp. 104-15.

(29) See H, Friedmann, A Bestiary for Saint Jerome, Washington DC, 1980, pp. 128-29.

(30) Ibid., pp. 222-23 and figs. 94-101.

(31) See Major and Minor Life of St Francis with Excerpts from other Works, translated from the Latin by B. Fahy, Chicago, 1973; Bonaventure, The Soul's Journey into God. The Tree of Life. The Life of St Francis, translated by E. Cousins, New York, 1978, p. 177; and A. Linzey and T. Began, Animals and Christianity: A Book of Readings, New York, 1988.

(32) Bonaventure, op. cit., p. 221.

(33) Ibid.

(34) Ibid., pp. 62-63.

(35) Alexander de Hales, Summa Theolegia. vol. III, Secunda Pars, Secundi Libri, Florence, 1930.

(36) For this theme in history and art, see A.M. Lepicier, L'Immaculee Conception dens l'Art et L'Iconographie, Linage, 1956; N. Mayberry, 'The Controversy over the Immaculate Conception in Medieval and Renaissance Art, Literature and Society', Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, vol. XXI, no. 2, 1991, pp. 207-24 and S.L. Stratton, The Immaculate Conception in Spanish Art, Cambridge, 1994.

(37) Shearman, op. cit., vol. I, p. 49 and note 1.

(38) See A. Marquand, Luca della Robbia. Giovanni della Robbia, New York, 1972, pp. 81-82.

(39) This drawing was reproduced in F. Heinemann, Bellini e i Belliniani, Venice, 1962, p. 633 as ex collection, Amsterdam. Present location is unknown to me.

(40) See J. Dunkerton, S. Foister and N. Penny, Durer to Veronase: Sixteenth Century Painting in the National Gallery, New Haven and London, 1999, pp. 32-35.

(41) Stratton, op. cit., p. 20, fig, 9. This was the main canvas for the altarpiece of the Conception in the church of San Gil, Madrid.

(42) On conceptions of Original Sin in relation to consecrated women, see A Dunlop, 'Flesh and the Feminine: Early Renaissance Images of the Madonna with Eve and her Feet', Oxford Art Journal, vol. XXV, no. 2, 2002, pp. 127-48

(43) See JM. Wood, Women, Art and Spirituality the Poor Clares of Modern Italy, Cambridge 1996, especially pp 22-24.

(44) Ibid. p. 23.

(45) Dunlop, pp cit., p. 145.

(46) See for example 'per ritomar la donde venne for a,/l'immortal forma al tuo carcer terreno/venne com'angel di pieta si pieno che sana ogn'intelletto e I mondo onora' (In order to return to where it came from, the immortal form came down to your earthly prison like an angel so full of compassion that it heals every mind and honours the world) translated by J.M. Saslow, The Poetry of Michelangelo, New Haven and London, 1991, p, 238.

(47) See H.W. Bloomfield. The Seven Deadly Sins, East Lansing, MI, 1967, p. 99.

Simona Cohen is a senior lecturer specialising in Italian renaissance art in the Department of Art History, Tel-Aviv University, Israel.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Apollo Magazine Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:artists
Author:Cohen, Simona
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Previous Article:A newly discovered Elizabethan pocket sundial: Helen Turner describes a remarkable scientific instrument unearthed in a Lincolnshire field, Signed...
Next Article:Levitan and the silver birch.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters