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Margaret Haines, ed. Santa Maria del Fiore: The Cathedral and Its Sculpture.

(Villa I Tatti Series, 18.) Fiesole: Edizione Cadmo, 2001. 161 illus. + 318 pp. $42.50. ISBN: 88-7923-246-0.

As a part of the celebration of the seventh centenary of the cathedral of Florence, an International Symposium on the cathedral and its sculpture was convened in June of 1997 at Villa I Tatti. This important volume constitutes the Acts of this symposium. Its fifteen essays, seven in Italian, are organized into four sections: "The Choice of Sculpture," "The Meaning of Sculpture," "The Making of Sculpture," and "Transformations" with introductions respectively by Kathleen Weil-Garris Brandt, Timothy Verdon, Margaret Haines, and Arthur Rosenaur.

While given coherence by their common focus on the cathedral, a variety of problems of iconography, attribution, reconstruction, civic and ducal patronage, and context are considered in these essays. All of the authors effectively employ traditional methodologies appropriate to their subjects. The first essay, by Antje Middeldorf Kosegarten, explores descriptions and perceptions of sculpture in medieval literary sources. Even though this essay forms a conceptual bridge to the papers that follow, its inordinate length, twice that of the majority of the other papers, presents a hurdle for the reader. The facade of the cathedral is the focus of four essays. Gert Kreytenberg and Erica Neri Lusanna discuss aspects of Trecento architecture and sculpture with reference to Poccetti's 1587 drawing of the facade. Shelly Zuraw reconstructs Mino da Fiesole's lost model for the facade of around 1476. Finally, Carlo Sisi clarifies some of the problems attending the creation of the sculptural program for the nineteenth-century facade.

Quattrocento sculpture for the exterior of the cathedral is the subject of essays by Mary Bergstein and Luciano Bellosi. Bergstein's fascinating essay treats istoria and iconography in Nanni di Banco's Porta della Mandora, placing it in the context of sacred drama. Bellosi seeks to identify Donatello's work for the cathedral from 1406-10. His principal attribution to Donatello is the Prophet 'patetico' now in the Museum of the Opera del Duomo; he convincingly identifies it as the David of the 1408 commission.

Eve Borsook discusses the civic nature of the form and iconography of fictive tombs in the cathedral. Doris Carl places the commemorative portrait of Giotto by Benedetto da Maiano and its inscription all'antica within the humanistic tradition of famous men. Mario Scalini addresses Byzantine and Roman influence on the bronze doors of Luca della Robbia and Michelozzo for the Sagrestia delle Messe, relating aspects of their form and iconography to the historic Council of Florence of 1439. Francesco Caglioti consolidates and strengthens his attribution to Donatello of the bronze Spiritelli in the collection of the Jacquemart-Andre Museum in Paris and argues for their original placement on Lucca della Robbia's Cantoria above the entrance to the Sagrestia delle Messe.

Michelangelo's impact on the interior of the cathedral is the topic of two essays. Michael Amy presents an interesting hypothesis for the intended placement in the cathedral of Michelangelo's unfinished St. Matthew. Jack Wasserman traces the history of Michelangelo's Florentine Pieta in the cathedral as it was moved from the back of the high altar to the Chapel of the Madonna delle Neve and finally from the cathedral to the Museum of the Opera del Duomo.

The manner in which workers were paid by the Opera del Duomo in the Trecento is the subject of an essay by Louis F. Mustari, which demonstrates among other interesting facts that sculptors were paid more than other stone workers. Outstanding among the excellent essays in this volume is Louis Alexander Waldman's study of Baccio Bandinelli's relationship with the Opera del Duomo and his patron, Duke Cosimo I. Waldman tells a cautionary tale of the consequences for major commissions when the arrogance and ambition of a gifted artist are not held in check by the strong hand of his patron.

The essays in this volume make a significant contribution to scholarship on the cathedral. The wealth of new documents presented here is a valuable resource for future research. This volume is dedicated to Sir John Pope-Hennessy; however, it is also a tribute to the dedication and scholarship of Margaret Haines.


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Author:Hegarty, Melinda
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 2003
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