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The canopy of holiness at the Misericordia in Florence and its sources (Part two).


Figures 1-12 refer to illustrations in part one.

Throne Baldachins

Thrones and throne baldachins, like altar canopies, were mere pieces of furniture, distinct from tombs and their coverings affixed to or built into a wall and from those that were works of architecture in their own right. Hence, unlike ancient and medieval sheltered sepulchres of the exalted, their survival rate was limited. Too, since dynastic courts were often mobile through the High Middle Ages, the thrones of secular princes in particular along with their canopies probably were made of light and easily perishable materials such as wood and cloth, and discarded when they wore out. Moreover, historically, polities coalesced and then faded with regularity, and regimes rose and fell. Thrones, especially those formerly used by heads of state of political entities that had been superseded, tended to vanish over time along with their canopies, victims on one hand of disuse, and on the other of willful destruction by successor governments. Despite the insistent claims of their erstwhile occupants to derivation and possession of royal authority directly from God--a commonplace in medieval political theory and law--vacated thrones evidently lacked the immunity granted to the sepulchres of the once-mighty who, however vilified they may have been in life or in death, frequently were allowed to continue resting in peace once they were gone. (65) Regardless of the losses, it is nonetheless possible to reconstruct the tradition of arched and domical throne canopies of the past, in Italy and beyond, with the further goal of applying that tradition to a full understanding of the unusual, single-bay loggia of the Misericordia Confraternity in Florence (fig. 13).

Beginning, then, once more with several of the many examples that exist in early Italian art, the third category of representations featuring an arcuated baldachin, this one including both narrative scenes and iconic depictions, consists of images stressing the idea of enthronement. The Magdalene Master's dossal at Yale University from around 1270 presents two such vignettes, at the center left and upper right, respectively: Emperor Nero witnessing the fall of Simon Magus, and Christ handing to Saint Peter, henceforth Prince of the Apostles, the keys to the kingdom of Heaven (fig. 14). The contemporaneous Saint Catherine Altarpiece in the museum in Pisa by an anonymous local master shows at the lower left her condemnation to death at the hands of Emperor Maxentius seated under a domical baldachin. The domed edifice behind King Herod as he questions Christ on a tabernacle shutter at Oxford painted by the Florentine San Gaggio Master a few years later, and the gothicized aedicule in Giotto's Ognissanti Madonna of about 1310 present alternative forms for the same device. (66)


The sources for the arcuated throne canopy symbolizing divine, or divinely educed, rule are plentiful; and here again, as for arcuated tomb baldachins and altar ciboria, Byzantine artists played an important role. (67) An iconic image of Christ enthroned beneath a flatly rendered, highly decorative canopy rising in the shape of a segmental arch looms on one page of the Rabbula Gospels, a Syriac manuscript of 586. Contemporaneously, the scene of the high priest Annas refusing Judas's offer to return the thirty pieces of silver pictured in the Rossano Gospels marks an early appearance of the domical throne canopy in East Christian narrative art. On another page of the same manuscript, likely produced in Constantinople for an imperial patron, Saint Mark sits on a throne the back of which curves up and around him, recalling the actual throne of Bishop Maximianus of Ravenna from the middle years of the same century (fig. 15). The upward-arching throne back that also surges forward to surround the sitter was probably more than a stylistic flourish and should be regarded as a less lofty, one-piece alternative to the arcuated canopy with vertical supports crowning a separate chair, carrying with it the same meaning. The two brief yet influential Old Testament passages (1 Kings 7:6-7, 10:18-20) describing the throne of King Solomon--a leader emulated for his wisdom and justice--and its location within his palace support this conclusion:
 And he made a porch [i.e., hall] of pillars ... and the
 porch [i.e., portico] was before them: and the other
 pillars and the thick beam [i.e., the canopy] were
 before them.

 Then he made a porch [i.e., hall] for the throne
 where he might judge, even the porch of judgment:
 and it was covered with cedar from one side of the
 floor to the other.

 Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory,
 and overlaid it with the best gold.

 ... And the top of the throne was round behind:
 and there were stays on either side on the place of
 the seat....

 ... There was not the like made in any kingdom.


Again from the sixth century, the famous Murano book cover, an Alexandrian masterpiece now in Ravenna, presents the device in another medium, ivory, featuring the enthroned Christ beneath a curved awning in a manner not dissimilar to the way that the Byzantine Emperor Nikephoros Botaniates sits before the monk Sabas in an illumination from a homiletic manuscript in Paris of five and a half centuries later. While all of the throne canopies pictured in these examples are simplified and/or stylized, the domical baldachins over the thrones of King David of the Old Testament and Emperor Theodosius I (reigned 378-95) appearing in the ninth-century manuscript known as the Paris Gregory, each with a detailed depiction of the heavily ornamented posts of the canopy, doubtlessly provide a better idea of how splendid the real objects were, entirely similar in this regard to Byzantine altar ciboria. (68)


One final group of examples of the arched throne canopy within the Byzantine tradition, executed in a third medium, silver repousse tableware, is datable to the period between 613 and 630. Four of the nine preserved David plates with scenes celebrating the youth and divinely ordained future royal status of the biblical hero, likely references to the then-current Emperor Heraklios, include the motif in an unusual and again schematic way (fig. 16). In each case (David's anointment by Samuel, his presentation to the enthroned King Saul, David's arming for battle, and his marriage to Princess Michal) the canopy above the figures consists merely of a semicircular arch swelling upward from an entablature that extends horizontally to either side. Yet only in the second-named scene is a throne actually present, suggesting that the notion of a canopy-crested royal seat was so familiar to the plates' intended audience that the chair itself could be eliminated without sacrificing the implication of the arch overhead in the other three scenes for David's rise to kingly rank. (69)

Early-medieval artists in the West provided ample testimony for the arcuated throne canopy in that region as well. Indicating divine endorsement of his imperial rule, the Carolingian monarch Charles the Bald (reigned 840-77) sits beneath baldachins, usually arched or domical ones, on the illuminated pages of a number of sacred texts, as do the Old Testament kings, David and Solomon, on others. The same convention is manifest repeatedly in ivory carvings of the time covering both contemporary rulers and sacred personages, as in a pair of ninth-century ivories of the enthroned Virgin Mary and John the Evangelist in New York (fig. 17). All of these instances may presuppose the throne of Charlemagne (reigned 768814) with its flat, upward-curving seat back, still in situ facing the altar inside the western bay of his palace chapel at Aachen, a marble chair that is recognizably an inelegant version of the bowed ivory throne of Maximianus that Charlemagne certainly had admired while in Ravenna, itself reminiscent of Solomon's throne as described in 1 Kings. The great arched niche in the exterior wall of the chapel, behind the throne and above the main entrance, would have framed the emperor as he gazed down into the atrium upon his subjects during his official appearances at the palace complex, thus creating a tableau-vivant that probably helped to cement this iconography in the medieval West. The arched throne canopy appears in images of the Ottonian and eventually the Capetian successors to the Carolingian rulers as evidence of the motif's staying power. (70)


As noted, few actual secular thrones of the Middle Ages survive, Charlemagne's being exceptional. (71) Predictably, the number of medieval episcopal thrones that still exist is greater, signaling the continuity of the Church's authority. Those having, known to have had, or that were crafted to suggest having canopies are few, however, and evidently such an arrangement was a late-medieval development at that. (72) In Italy the thirteenth-century Cosmati-style thrones of a number of bishoprics in Rome constitute a focused group of the third type. With their tall backs arching upward and in some cases indented to form a shallow niche to embrace more fully the occupant of the chair, a generic similarity to the far-earlier thrones of Maximianus and Charlemagne is unmistakable. (73) Episcopal thrones with arcuated tops of all sorts probably reflect the papal throne in the Lateran basilica, which likely was centered at the back of the apse of the building and thus appeared to be capped by the gilded half-dome of the ceiling directly overhead, as was the papal throne in Old Saint Peter's. (74)


Once more, as for sheltered tombs and altars, the medieval throne surmounted by a canopy curving upward had a heritage that stretched back into Antiquity. Among the restricted number of representations in Roman art employing this motif, four of them feature the late-fourth-century Christian Emperor Theodosius I, the first three on separate faces of the square base supporting his obelisk in the former hippodrome of Constantinople, and the fourth on the Madrid Missorium (fig. 18). The former trio of images shows the emperor and his family framed by an arch in an identifiable location, enthroned within the imperial box at the stadium itself. The latter object presents him and his two heirs in a setting that is most likely only symbolic, indicating as on the seventh-century David plates the divinely approved supremacy of the emperor by isolating his enthroned figure beneath a central arch while relegating the younger men to seats below a straight entablature extending to either side. (75) For each of these cases and for their medieval descendants, too, a connection to the powerful experience of seeing a victorious Roman leader parade through a triumphal arch erected to celebrate some important conquest is not out of the question, despite the lack of a throne in processions of this sort.

Mainly literary sources round out our understanding of the use of this device among the pre-Christian Romans, unambiguously attesting to imperial claims regarding the straight connection between cosmic and terrestrial power. Several authors describe the dining hall in the Emperor Nero's mid-first-century palace in Rome, topped by a rotating wooden cupola that was gilded (hence the name "Domus Aurea" for the palace) and decorated with celestial bodies. Fancying himself the incarnation of Helios, the sun god, Nero (reigned A. D. 54-68) reserved for himself a place in the middle of the room and there held court as he entertained. The dome thus acted as a canopy for the "enthroned" emperor beneath it, such that together he and the cupola, with perhaps an image of the sun at its center, formed the axis of an informal audience chamber. Although there were at least two rooms with celestial ceilings in the idyllic suburban villa of Hadrian (reigned 11738) at Tivoli, one with a starry globe in the center and each of them organized in such a way as to suggest a canopy, the purposes of those rooms are unclear. Such, however, is not the case for the "judgment halls" with star-filled ceilings in the palace of Septimius Severus (reigned 193-211) on the Palatine Hill in Rome, from the turn of the third century. Almost certainly such decorations covered the half-domes over the apses of the palace basilicas whence the seated emperor rendered legal decisions. Yet again, the image of an enthroned monarch beneath an arcuated canopy is clear. Proceeding to the later Roman period, an analogy may exist to the possibly domed room of uncertain function in Constantine's early-fourth-century palace in Constantinople; here, however, the ceiling featured a cross emerging from the center of a gold ground. (76)

Retreating farther into Antiquity for the sources of the arcuated throne canopy leads back once again to the Orient and reaffirms the link between that motif and the concept of the divine origins of earthly prerogative. The throne room in the palace of Assyrian Emperor Sargon II at Khorsabad from the eighth century B. C. was a barrel-vaulted hall, its ceiling faced with celestial blue tiles complementing the yellow star-rosettes on the entry arch. The Achaemenid dynasts of Persia gave audiences under round tents that they called "heavens," presumably for their celestial ornamentation, a custom adopted by their fourth-century B. C. conqueror Alexander the Great, although the shape of the enormous awning erected above his throne, though possibly round, is uncertain. Surely these were the models upon which the Romans drew, and the same tradition continued as well in the East, its home ground. Around A. D. 100, during the era of Parthian hegemony, there was a domed judgment hall in the palace of the Persian sovereign at Babylon displaying golden deities against a deep blue sky. Subsequently the throne room in the palace of the seventh-century Sassanian Emperor Khosroes II presented the much-admired spectacle of a rotating wooden dome adorned with golden figures of astral deities (and kings) glowing against a blue ground, on the model of Nero's dining hall, hovering above an ornate throne. (77) In all of these Oriental instances, as in each of the ancient Roman examples, the ancestry of painted and sculpted representations of those now-lost early-medieval thrones with arched canopies is evident, as is the heritage of their later offspring that abound in early Italian art.

Integrative Readings

Cosmic vaults and domes, especially those featuring stars either in conjunction with or to the exclusion of other elements, appeared in ancient Roman contexts other than throne chambers, but with less consistency. These included a seemingly random assortment of public bathing halls, rooms in private homes, aviaries, and possibly, too, the great coffered ceiling of the Pantheon temple in Rome. (78) But the pertinence of the heavenly ceiling to Christian decorative schemes owes a debt as well to the Old Testament, certain passages of which evoke once again the image of a throne room--though now it is the domain of the Lord. Isaiah described God as "He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth ... that stretcheth out the Heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in." Elsewhere the prophet quoted God as saying, "The heaven is my throne...." (79) These verses informed a number of Early Christian writers in the East who, whether or not they specifically mentioned stars, repeatedly described the domain of the Lord--His heavenly, eternal tabernacle; the throne hall from which He rules--as covered by a dome or vault. That empyreal realm, they believed, is mirrored in the sky that is visible to humans who inhabit the world that God created, and construed also as the prototype for the proliferating churches of the East that were built to exalt Him, the domes of which mimic the celestial baldachin of the Lord on high. (80)

Cosmic canopies occasionally appear in medieval Christian representational art, although a sampling suggests that there is no pattern to the iconographical contexts in which they figure beyond indicating in a general way the Lord's presence and His celestial throne and audience chamber. (81) This is not true, however, for those occasions when the motif was applied to the ceiling of an actual Christian edifice, especially during the Early Middle Ages, for a number of examples of the starry dome of Heaven remain from that era that, somewhat unexpectedly, employ the device in association with the notion of death and burial in particular. These include churches containing relics or possessing other mortuary implications, funerary chapels, and also baptistries, where souls condemned to death by Original Sin are cleansed and reborn in Christ. (82) Of course, inherent in the function of all of these building types (not just baptistries) is the implication that death is not final, that resurrection after death in emulation of Jesus is obtainable through veneration, by beseeching Him and His saints in prayer, and through purification. Allegorizing the physical structure of a church, Saint Germanos, eighth-century patriarch of Constantinople, conflated these two seemingly distinct ideas, reverence at the throne of the Divine Ruler and the deliverance from the grave available to mortals resulting from His sacrifice and death: "The church is Heaven upon earth, the place where the God of Heaven dwells and moves. It represents the Crucifixion, the [Holy] Sepulchre, and the Resurrection of Christ." (83) In the same vein, but more inclusive yet are the words of Simeon of Salonika in the fifteenth century echoing prior centuries of Christian thought regarding the domed churches of the East: "Here [in the church building], the sanctuary is the symbol of the higher and supra-celestial spheres, where, it is said, is the throne of the immortal God, and the place of His rest. It is likewise this that the altar represents." (84)

Even more useful to the discussion here than are those actual early-medieval starry domes, Simeon's tripartite equation is especially helpful because it signals that the discreteness suggested earlier for all three categories of arcuated canopies described thus far--covering thrones, tombs, and now altars as well--is less than absolute. On the contrary, they embody closely interwoven concepts. For a starry vault or dome atop a church or other house of prayer alludes not only to Christ's enthronement in Heaven but also to the commemoration beneath it of His death and resurrection in the sacrament of the Eucharist, a ritual performed at the altar of His worship that in effect is transformed by that very observance into Christ's tomb. Moreover, when a star-filled vault caps an ecclesiastical edifice built not only to glorify Christ but additionally to harbor the remains of a person of distinction, the layers present in such an interpretation multiply. In the upper and lower churches of San Francesco in Assisi and in the Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel in Padua, for example, it is also Saint Francis and Enrico Scrovegni, respectively, whose deaths are commemorated, whose destiny to sit beside the enthroned Christ in Heaven is exalted, and whose former words and actions are venerated (though in different ways than Christ's and each other's) by the living (fig. 19). Intriguingly in this light, the vaulted ceiling of the loggia of the Misericordia Company in Florence was originally painted blue and speckled with stars, an important point to bear in mind. (85)

The permeable boundaries linking tombs, altars, and thrones have, in fact, a conceptual and material history predating Christianity. Among the ancient Greeks, the tomb served as an altar for libations honoring the deceased. In like manner, the grave functioned as a sacrificial altar in ancient Nordic culture. Yet in pagan Northern Europe an altar was understood, too, as the throne of a deity. (86) The latter seems to have been the case among the Greeks and Romans as well, to judge from those coins mentioned earlier that picture a dignified god atop the throne-like altar of a canopied shrine. This reasoning also holds for the similar display of pre-Christian Syrian baetyls. Given the added funereal use to which the pre-Islamic Arabs put their qobba tents, as noted above, those sacred shelters seem to have served all three purposes at issue here: sepulchral, liturgical, and exaltative. Against this background, then, as expected, interlocking ideas concerning tombs, altars, and thrones appeared early in Christian thought and practice. Coincident with the legalization of the faith, the altar of Christ was understood to be His throne and, perhaps just as early, His tomb. (87) Even prior to that, Saint Cyprian had reported that the faithful celebrated the Eucharist at the graves of their coreligionists using portable altars. (88) Related to this, one credible explanation proposed for the quick and widespread popularity among Christians of the cult of relics of the martyrs is that the sacrifices they made, recalled with the aid of those artifacts, were held to mirror that of Christ, whose own redemptive demise was to be continually reenacted in the Eucharistic service. To reinforce this notion and to remind communicants that they, too, were expected to sacrifice, as a sign of unity with Him, altars were usually set up in association with martyrs' remains. Moreover, from the sixth century on, Church councils declared that stone was the proper material for altars, in recollection of the rock sepulchre of Christ described in the Bible. (89)

Such overlapping notions among tombs, altars, and thrones informed many works of Christian art. The original arched altar ciborium at the Lateran basilica in Rome has been mentioned earlier. Recalling the influence exerted by this church as the seat of the pope as bishop of Rome, it is significant here to note that on the front side of the ciborium, atop the arch, was a sculpture five feet tall of Christ enthroned amid figures of the apostles only three-quarters His size. The enthroned Christ appeared again between two pairs of spear-bearing angels atop the ciborium's rear arch. (90) In this way the early Lateran baldachin brought together the concepts of worship and enthronement. Equally influential was the original arcuated structure of a few years later marking the tomb of Saint Peter, also described previously, which from the beginning was physically associated with the high altar of Old Saint Peter's, although exactly how is disputed. Even after the arrangement was altered with the dismantling of the baldachin and excavation of the annular crypt around the saint's sepulchre, the connection was maintained because of the location of the crypt below the altar. In emulation, the ring crypts installed subsequently beneath other Roman church apses to ensure the security of various saints' remains preserved in every case the same relationship between sheltered tomb and altar. Occasionally grave and altar were conjoined with the idea of enthronement, thereby bringing to bear in a single work of art all three conceits under the protective cover of an arcuated canopy. Remaining in the realm of Early Christian art, the Stuma and Riha patens serve as good examples (fig. 11). On each, the arched altar ciborium rises above the heads of the two-form Christ. Here at the Last Supper, officiating at the first Eucharistic service, His death is implicit, as is His assumption of a heavenly throne following that.


These conceptual links also found tangible expression in Italian sepulchral art of the Late Middle Ages. Three of Tino di Camaino's signature funerary monuments in Angevin Naples boldly proclaim the one that existed between tomb and throne, on these occasions honoring secular, not sacred, personages. The front of the fictive sarcophagus of the memorial for Queen Mary of Hungary (died 1323), in Santa Maria Donna Regina, presents in relief seven of her eight sons, all arranged in a single row and frontally enthroned (fig. 7). Each is framed individually by a pointed archway that mimics the canopy surrounding the entire commemorative ensemble. The tomb of Mary's grandson Charles of Calabria (died 1328), in Santa Chiara, offers a different tableau in this prominent portion of the monument: here the prince himself appears, isolated in the center and frontally enthroned but flanked by numerous ecclesiastical and secular aides turned in toward him. The small, seated figure of the prince in relief seemingly lacks a framing arch, but of course that feature is once again present on a grand scale in the Gothic baldachin embracing the entire monument. The front of the sarcophagus of Tino's memorial in the same church for Marie of Valois (died 1331), second wife of Charles, reverts to the scheme found on the Mary of Hungary tomb, but in this case the princess herself presides in the midst of her children, all in a row. Each is positioned frontally and enthroned within an archway that echoes the form of the larger tomb canopy. (91)

The rapport between tomb and altar, so deeply embedded in Christian belief and practice from the beginning and crystallized in material form at Old Saint Peter's, was repeatedly realized in late-medieval Italian monumental art as well. Arnolfo di Cambio's Roman ciboria at San Paolo fuori le mura and Santa Cecilia in Trastevere shelter altars beneath which are interred relics of the titular saints of those churches, respectively (fig. 12). (92) To judge from surviving drawings, the extant fragments of Arnolfo's memorial for Pope Boniface VIII (reigned 1294-1303) in Old Saint Peter's once adorned a section of the inner facade wall above an altar, with the whole ensemble--tomb and altar--covered by a domical canopy encircled at the top by miniature turrets. (93) Here, then, probably for political reasons, Arnolfo wedded an altar to the sepulchre not of an Early Christian saint but of a contemporary cleric, side-stepping the unfortunate truth that Boniface was one of the most unscrupulous men ever to claim the papacy. The high altar of Arezzo Cathedral presents a further instance: a marble polyptych from the 1360s and 1370s consisting of an elaborate grouping of sculptures celebrating Mary and Christ as well as the city's patron, Saint Donatus. Virtually lost, however, amid this complex display of reliefs and statuettes front and back atop the altar is the box resting beneath it that formerly contained Donatus's relics. (94) Moreover, the sarcophagus-like disposition of the reliefs on the rear emphasizes the mortuary objective of the entire tableau. Thus, ignoring obvious dissimilarities in appearance, the Aretine monument shares with Arnolfo's two ciboria the fact that it combines sepulchral and worship functions centered on the person of a long-deceased saint. They differ in that the Saint Donatus shrine lacks a canopy, and also in that it does not depend on arcuated forms except in a secondary way (the sculptures of the upper registers are framed by arched moldings).

To a degree this last observation also holds for the majority of the now mostly lost relic and holy-image shrines erected in various Roman churches from the twelfth through fifteenth centuries, whose appearance is preserved in later drawings and texts, and which may be considered as a group because in each case the revered treasure resided in a chamber that was elevated for visibility as well as security. But the Roman shrines are salient to this discussion for two reasons: because a number of those that displayed on high a relic pertaining to the death of a holy person also incorporated an altar at floor level over which the reliquary chamber projected, forming a canopy; and because despite their otherwise trabeated construction, many if not all were crowned by a small polygonal cupola no doubt meant to simulate a dome. (95) The only surviving such shrine is the one surmounting the high altar of San Giovanni in Laterano, erected in 1368-70 to house the head-reliquaries of Saints Peter and Paul in the place once occupied by the famed silver ciborium of Emperor Constantine. Curiously, while substituting a high-peaked gable for the expected cupola, it replaces the usual trabeation of the reliquary chamber below with a wide and tall arch incorporating lobed tracery on each of the four sides. The principle of arcuation in this case dominates. (96)

The famous Or San Michele Tabernacle in Florence, commissioned to Andrea Orcagna in 1352, correctly has been compared to the Roman shrines insofar as it houses a sacred object: not the effects or remains of a saint, but Bernardo Daddi's miracle-working image of the Madonna and Child that is visible through the broad arched opening on each of three sides of the shrine. The Or San Michele Tabernacle carries no funerary associations, nor was the original intention that it should accommodate an altar, although for over two centuries of its existence this latter fact was disregarded. Therefore, the hemispherical cupola at its summit, beyond its practical use during religious observances, must be understood in the context of this essay in one way only: it, and indeed the entire tabernacle with its arched sides, functions as a ceremonial canopy for the enthroned figures of the Madonna and Child in Daddi's miraculous painting. (97)


But several occasions exist in fourteenth-century Italian monumental art where an arcuated aedicule must be interpreted in a fully three-fold manner, as marking a tomb, an altar, and a throne simultaneously. The first of these presumably surrounded the fragmented and much-disputed memorial for the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII (died 1313), for which several notable art historians have proposed reconstructions. Executed in 1314-15 by Tino di Camaino and assistants, this monument originally abutted the rear wall of the apse of Pisa Cathedral. There, its position atop the altar of Saint Bartholomew, and towering, too, above and beyond the high altar in the church crossing when viewed from the nave, was without precedent. Scholars generally agree that the sculptures, which included a full-scale, three-dimensional figure of the emperor enthroned amid his advisors and also his recumbent effigy upon a sarcophagus, were initially framed by an arched baldachin (possibly one incorporating a stacked pair of arches).98 That baldachin, therefore, encompassing Henry's tomb proper, his enthroned image, and the two altars, would have consolidated and distinguished the monument as the sepulchre of a once-powerful monarch, a man of worldly authority who had derived his exalted position and taken inspiration directly from God, and whose appearance in life--enthroned in royal dignity among courtiers--was now perpetuated in stone. In addition, the impressive ensemble would have beckoned former subjects to step forward and pray at both altars for the departed Henry's soul, such that the image of his earthly enthronement would have constituted a mere foretaste of his eventual enthronement beside Christ in Heaven.

In Naples three decades later, Florentine sculptors Giovanni and Pacio Bertini communicated the same messages when they produced one of the most elaborate of all tombs of the trecento, surely with Tino's Henry VII monument in mind and probably intended to answer it, an Angevin/Guelf counterweight to the Imperial/Ghibelline model. Badly damaged during World War II, the tomb of King Robert of Anjou (died 1343) rises today in reduced form against the rear wall of the apse of Santa Chiara, like its Pisan model visible in conjunction with the high altar before it when seen from the nave. (99) Formerly, although they existed in two different spatial planes, tomb and altar were both embraced visually by the great Gothic aedicule surmounting the monument. Also inspired by the Henry VII tomb, a large figure of King Robert, centered on what was the fourth-highest of five levels of the ensemble, sits frontally upon his throne. In the Neapolitan monument, however, this element is echoed below by a second enthroned portrait of the ruler in the middle of the sarcophagus front, flanked by a row of family members; all sit within archways that mimic the now-truncated tomb baldachin in the manner established by Tino on his earlier tombs in the Angevin capital (fig. 7).

The monument to Bernabo Visconti of Milan (died 1385), attributed to Bonino da Campione and partially executed before its protagonist's death, reiterated the intentions of the Henry VII and Robert of Anjou tombs, again perhaps reflecting political rivalries. In this case, the sarcophagus is the base for a rigid, frontally conceived equestrian portrait of the feared strongman. But like the earlier monuments, this one, today in the Castello Sforzesco, originally stood behind the altar of San Giovanni in Conca and likely was surrounded by a now-vanished baldachin. (100) Once again, therefore, canopied tomb and altar were combined with the image of an enthroned ruler, only here, drawing upon ancient Roman tradition, the noble warrior's throne of command is his horse.

A fourth example that follows the lead of the previous three--and the only one that survives intact--is the most grandiose among them, commemorating a pair of younger members of the House of Anjou in San Giovanni a Carbonara in Naples (fig. 20). (101) A product of the quattrocento, the monument to King Ladislas (died 1414) and his sibling and successor Queen Joanna II (died 1435) rising behind the high altar of the church once more joins notions of entombment, worship, and enthronement under the aegis of an enormous architectonic structure with proliferating arches. Noteworthy here is the fact that Ladislas appears enthroned twice, recalling the commanding presentation of his greatuncle King Robert on his tomb. In this case, however, the large figure of the monarch seated frontally beside his sister on the second level is echoed above the intervening sepulchral zone by an equestrian portrait of Ladislas in profile, isolated as the monument's crowning element.


The preceding quartet of monuments with their arched canopies resided primarily in the secular arena, as did the individuals whom they memorialized, although the presence in each of an altar (two altars in the case of the Henry VII tomb) added the necessary religious component that both the period and the soul of the deceased called for. The star-filled vault or dome enclosing ecclesiastical edifices was a motif that existed more fully in the sacred realm, as intimated earlier. But constructions of both types demonstrate that for those who created them, concepts of burial, worship, and enthronement were thoroughly intertwined. Reflecting this fact, and not surprisingly, many of the narrative scenes in early Italian art cited previously in this essay further demonstrate that a single arched or domical covering might serve more than one purpose.

Indeed, in light of the foregoing discussion of those four dynastic monuments, the potential for layered interpretations of the canopied tombs of holy persons in latemedieval narrative art is especially evident. For example, the domical funerary baldachins above Christ's prostrate body in the two representations of the entombment specified earlier, on the painted crosses designated as Uffizi number 432 and Pisa number 20, also suggest the offering of His transubstantiated substance at a church altar (fig. 6). In addition, they likely carry implications for Christ's enthronement in Heaven following His death. The same and more can be said of the vignette of the Three Maries at Christ's tomb also pictured on the Pisan cross. The holy women approach the canopied sepulchre with deference and awe to anoint His corpse, much as in life the faithful advance toward a similarly covered altar to receive the Eucharist, His consecrated body, at communion. But in this scene Christ's body is absent, so that it is also possible to explicate the canopy as anticipating His celestial enthronement. Furthermore, in lieu of Christ's body, the domed baldachin frames the hieratically scaled angel "enthroned" upon the now-empty tomb, acknowledging his role as Christ's proxy and voice--in a sense His alter ego--in reiterating the promise of Jesus's resurrection. (102)

Altar ciboria in early Italian art lend themselves to such multiple interpretations as well. The dedication and presentation narratives on the Madonna and Child in Moscow by a follower of the Master of the Bardi Saint Francis present two instances of this, for the domical canopy in each not only indicates the location of these events at the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem, but also hints at the eventual enthronement in Heaven of both Mary and Jesus. Beyond marking the altar where the act of sanctification occurs, the arch atop the canonization scene on the Bardi Saint Francis Master's Saint Francis Altarpiece in Florence surely alludes both to Francis's recent death and to his assured seat of honor in Heaven, and also of course to the throne of Pope Gregory IX conducting the ceremony. The domical baldachin spread over the Supper at Emmaus on the painted cross known as Uffizi number 434 imbues the scene with both funereal and liturgical significance through that meal's reference to Christ's death in the sacrament of the Eucharist performed at an altar, and no doubt it is meaningful as well that in this representation of the event Jesus is "enthroned" underneath the canopy between his two dining companions (fig. 10).

Enthronement is more obviously the meaning of the domical baldachin sheltering Nero in the fall of Simon Magus and also that filling the space between Christ and Peter in the consignment of the keys of Heaven, both on the Magdalene Master's Yale dossal (fig. 14). But the death of the emperor, who favored Simon, and ultimately pagan Rome's demise, are perhaps adumbrated in the former narrative as well. The fact that the charge of authority to Peter foreshadowed Christ's death--and, for that matter, Peter's own end as a result of having accepted that mandate--also may be signaled in the latter scene. The similar canopy above the seated Maxentius, who condemns Saint Catherine on the above-mentioned Saint Catherine Altarpiece in Pisa, elicits the same dual interpretation as the one just offered for the canopy in the representation featuring the enthroned Nero. Similarly, the dome behind Herod as he cross-examines Jesus on the Oxford tabernacle shutter points not only to Herod's royal status but possibly as well to the obsolescence and expiration from this time forward of the Old Law that he represents and defends.

Conclusion: Healing Shelters and the Misericordia Loggia

As was true for actual tombs, altars, and thrones, in all of these narrative scenes and many similar ones, whether they evince multivalent interpretations or not, the fundamental point to bear in mind is that an arched or domical canopy was intended to shelter and concentrate attention upon a particular person or object worthy of high regard, even reverence. For within the framework of medieval Christianity, as in the pagan traditions that preceded it, notions of entombment, worship, and enthronement all entailed the concept of holiness. (103) The pertinence of this observation becomes clear when considering the fourth narrative context for the arcuated canopy or dome in early Italian art, returning this inquiry to the loggia of the Florentine Misericordia Confraternity: those occasions on which one individual ministers to another. (104)

At the center right of the Magdalene Master's Yale dossal of about 1270, Saint Peter heals a cripple seated before such a structure (fig. 14). On a far larger scale Cimabue included a similarly equipped scene among his frescoes of about a decade later in the right transept of the upper church of San Francesco at Assisi, in which Peter cures the sick and possessed. The life and posthumous appearances of Saint Francis himself provided several occasions for artists to adorn scenes of physical healing as well as exorcism--healing of a spiritual kind--in this way. Early vita icons of the saint, such as those of around 1235 by Giunta Pisano in Pisa and Bonaventura Berlinghieri in Pescia, regularly feature these incidents, showing the poverello curing a young girl with her head attached to her shoulder, relieving a woman with a diseased breast, treating one or more crippled boys, restoring the paralyzed leg of Bartolomeo da Narni, and freeing a demented woman of Narni from her demons (fig. 21). (105) While such depictions attested to Saint Francis's miraculous powers, they also assured the faithful of the salutary effects to be gleaned through his veneration. Significantly, artists often pictured such events in and following Francis's life as occurring before the arcuated ciborium of an altar (or, less frequently, with a domed construction present), recalling how one such structure can function in multiple ways, and reminding viewers that acts of curing the sick along with other works of mercy had, after all, biblical sanction, taking on almost sacramental character.

Indeed, precisely the verses in Matthew, chapter twenty-five, inscribed and illustrated on the Misericordia Company's Allegory of Mercy fresco, make it clear that for Christians the performance of charitable deeds was as necessary for salvation as was taking communion at the altar (fig. 2). Moreover, that same biblical passage, portending Christ seated "upon the throne of His glory" and urging good works upon the faithful, promises those who heed His words a consequent place in Heaven at the right hand of the enthroned Lord following their earthly demise. Thus, in Italian narrative art, the sanctity of and reward for effecting such benevolent acts could best be signaled by the presence of an arched or domical canopy. For in art as in life, spiritually, both now and in the future, works of mercy ennobled--one might say "enthroned"--persons performing them, assuring such individuals of lasting honor and remembrance from the time of their entombment, and providing them with access to Christ in a way that only receiving the Eucharist, His true body blessed upon the altar, could match. In this way, canopies in early Italian narrative scenes displaying humanitarian actions must be understood as more than mere reflections of charity loggias described earlier.

Conversely, the unusual loggia of the Misericordia Company in Florence also assumes deeper meaning in this light (fig. 13). Exemplifying a practical structural form descended from an ancient albeit discontinuous line of charity loggias recently revived through the influence of porticoes employed in other contexts, all with communal implications, the Misericordia loggia figured prominently on the city's Piazza del Duomo. Like all loggias of charity, it served as an emblem, the architectonic frontispiece of the organization that built it and operated from within the adjacent headquarters. Visually, the loggia introduced the Confraternity of the Misericordia to the public and stood as an open, beckoning magnet for persons directly involved in its affairs. But the single bay of the Misericordia loggia, inescapably reminiscent on purely formal grounds of the first three types of arcuated structures surveyed here that were so deeply ingrained in the late-medieval mind, also functioned as a place of public distinction for the company and as a sacred space wherein the distribution of foundlings and orphans truly became God's work. More broadly, it signified the Lord's benediction on all the philanthropic endeavors of the Misericordia. In its simple, canopy-like form, capped by a star-filled cosmic vault, the loggia conferred present esteem upon the institution as a corporate body and consecration of its good works, ensured continuing future respect for individual members at life's end, and, most important, promised each of them in return for their merciful actions a favorable reception and seat of honor in Heaven. While the physical analogy between the simple arched and domical canopies over tombs, altars, and thrones on one hand and the more common multiple-bay loggias of charity on the other is less evident, the same understanding possibly applies to them as well. (106) True or not, the singular Misericordia loggia, a reflection in miniature of the great Cathedral dome nearby that so amazed Alberti, distinguished the members of the organization who gathered there to serve their neighbors and bask in the radiance of the divine.

Editor's Note: This is the second and final part of an essay commenced in the preceding issue of the SECAC Review. With the single-bay loggia of the prominently situated Confraternity of the Misericordia in Florence as his point of departure, the author traces the history of arched and domical structures from the Late Middle Ages backward to Antiquity. Part one addressed the Misericordia loggia proper and arcuated structures marking tombs and altars; part two considers sheltered thrones and venues for humanitarian actions, as well as instances where an arched or domical construction served more than one of these functions.

Centre College

(65.) See Ernst H. Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1957), esp. 42-86, 155-64, 317-36, on the perceived close rapport that existed between earthly rulers and Christ.

(66.) For the Madonna and Saints Altarpiece (the Yale dossal; New Haven, Conn., Yale University Art Gallery, cat. no. 1871.3), see Gloria Kury Keach in David Arnheim et al., Italian Primitives: The Case History of a Collection and Its Conservation, exhibition catalogue (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1972), 9-10, fig. 1a. For the Saint Catherine Altarpiece (Pisa, Museo Nazionale di San Matteo, cat. no. 1583), see Tartuferi, La Pittura a Firenze nel duecento, 27, 34 n. 14, fig. 68 (here dated ca. 1235-45). For the Oxford tabernacle shutter and the scene of Christ Before Herod (Oxford, Christ Church Museum, cat. no. 69), dated ca. 1285-90, see ibid., 62, 109, fig. 220. For the Ognissanti Madonna (Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, cat. no. 8344), see Hartt and Wilkins, History of Italian Renaissance Art, 108-10, fig. 3.10. The arcuated throne canopy recurs in subsequent Italian art, verifying at second hand the continuing tradition of such an arrangement into the Renaissance era and beyond. (Arched and domical canopies over still-existing post-medieval tombs as well as altars establish continuity more directly for those contexts.) Thrones sheltered by an arch appear, for example, in The Triumph of Saint Thomas Aquinas as represented by both Andrea Bonaiuti da Firenze in 1365-68 (Florence, Santa Maria Novella, Spanish Chapel) and Filippino Lippi in 1488-93 (Rome, Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Carafa Chapel), in Masaccio's Saint Peter Raising the Son of Theophilus of ca. 1424-27 (Florence, Santa Maria del Carmine, Brancacci Chapel, completed by Filippino Lippi ca. 1481-85), in Benozzo Gozzoli's Saint Augustine Lecturing in Rome of 1464-65 (San Gimignano, Sant'Agostino, apse), and in Raphael's tapestry cartoon of 1515-16 representing The Blinding of Elymas before the Proconsul Sergius Paulus (London, Victoria and Albert Museum). For another example, see note 69 below.

(67.) For additional references beyond those appearing in the notes that follow regarding arcuated throne canopies, see Deer, Dynastic Porphyry Tombs, 33 n. 40.

(68.) For the Rabbula Gospels miniature (Florence, Biblioteca Laurenziana, MS. Plut. I, 56, fol. 14r), see Kurt Weitzmann, Late Antique and Early Christian Book Illumination (New York: George Braziller, 1977), 104, pl. 37. For the two sixth-century Rossano Gospels miniatures (Rossano, Palazzo Arcivescovile, Museo Diocesano, fols. 8r, 121r), see ibid., 92, 96; pls. 30, 33. For the throne of Maximianus (Ravenna, Museo Arcivescovile), who was bishop from 546 to 556, see Cormack, Byzantine Art, 56-57, fig. 31. For the early-sixth-century Murano ivory (Ravenna, Museo Nazionale), see Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 69, fig. 115. For the miniature from the Homilies of Saint John Chrysostom (Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, MS. gr. Coislin 79), dated 1078-81, see Demus, Byzantine Art and the West, 96, fig. 95. For the two miniatures from the Homilies of Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (the Paris Gregory; Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, MS. gr. 510, fols. 143v, 239), illuminated between 867 and 886, see Lehmann, "The Dome of Heaven," 19, 23, 24, fig. 57; and Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 53, 82; figs. 144, 146.

(69.) For the often-published David plates (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, cat. nos. 17.190.394-399 inclusive; Nicosia, Cyprus Museum, J452-J454), see Ruth E. Leader, "The David Plates Revisited: Transforming the Secular in Early Byzantium," Art Bulletin 82, no. 3 (September 2000): 407-27, for a recent challenge to their conventional interpretation. The four plates at issue here are New York nos. 397-399 and Nicosia no. J452. The David plates exemplify a motif ultimately of Assyrian origin traced in Donald F. Brown, "The Arcuated Lintel and Its Symbolic Interpretation in Late Antique Art," American Journal of Archaeology 46, no. 3 (July-September 1942): 389-99, esp. 397-98, figs. 11A-B. (Brown [ibid., 398] rightly mentioned the Riha paten in this context as well. See note 54 above, and also note 75 below for yet another example.) For its subject, a distant and surely indirect echo of the motif as it appears on the David plates--yet one certainly to consider within the broader discussion of the arcuated throne canopy--is the coffered, vault-like baldachin over the vacated seat of Heraklios's nemesis, the Persian Emperor Khosroes II, in Piero della Francesca's mid-quattrocento painting of the Byzantine monarch's victory over and beheading of his enemy, one of the frescoes detailing the legend of the True Cross in the apse of San Francesco at Arezzo; see Hartt and Wilkins, History of Italian Renaissance Art, 319-20, fig. 11.29.

(70.) The Codex Aureus of Saint Emmeram of Regensburg (Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, MS. Clm. 14000, fol. 5v), from ca. 870, includes an illumination of Charles the Bald beneath an arched baldachin; see Florentine Mutherich and Joachim E. Gaehde, Carolingian Painting (New York: George Braziller, 1976), 108, pl. 37. The Count Vivian Bible (First Bible of Charles the Bald; Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, MS. lat. 1, fol. 423v), dating from the reign of the count between 843 or 844 and 851, contains another such illumination; see Beckwith, Early Medieval Art, 56, ill. 49. King David appears in this manner in the Psalterium Aureum of Abbot Salomon of Saint Gall (Saint Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, MS. 22, fol. 2), probably from the last years of the ninth century; see ibid., 76, ill. 64. King Solomon follows suit in the Bible of San Paolo fuori le mura (Rome, Abbey of San Paolo fuori le mura, fol. 188 [185 old style]), from ca. 870; see Mutherich and Gaehde, Carolingian Painting, 119, pl. 44; and Weiss, "Architectural Symbolism," 311-12, fig. 5. The ivories mentioned are both in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, cat. nos. 17.190.49 (Virgin Mary) and 1977.421 (John the Evangelist). For the throne of Charlemagne in its setting, see Fred S. Kleiner and Christin J. Mamiya, Gardner's Art through the Ages, 12th ed. (Belmont, Cal.: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2005), 433-34, fig. 16.17. A similar throne--actually one much closer to the Byzantine models familiar to the Carolingians in its niche-like form--appears in the illumination depicting the enthroned Emperor Lothair I (reigned 840-55), grandson of Charlemagne and heir to the Italian portion of his empire, in the Gospels of Emperor Lothair I (Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, MS. lat. 266, fol. 1v), datable ca. 849-51; see Beckwith, Early Medieval Art, 56-57, ill. 48; and Mutherich and Gaehde, Carolingian Painting, 85, pl. 25. For the arched opening on the exterior of the late-eighth-century chapel at Aachen, see Beckwith, Early Medieval Art, 12, ill. 5; and Kleiner and Mamiya, Gardner's Art through the Ages, 434. One of two surviving folios of ca. 983 from the Registrum Gregorii of Archbishop Egbert of Trier (Chantilly, Musee Conde, MS. 14 bis) presents an Ottonian example of the arched baldachin sheltering the enthroned Emperor Otto II (reigned 973-83) or possibly Otto III (reigned 983-1002); see Beckwith, Early Medieval Art, 102-3, ill. 84. A similar motif enshrines the person of Pope Gregory the Great in the other extant folio from the same manuscript (Trier, Stadtbibliothek); see ibid., ill. 83. The illuminated volume known as the Arsenal Old Testament, commissioned between 1250 and 1254 by the sainted Capetian monarch Louis IX, depicts both David and Solomon enthroned beneath trefoil arches (Paris, Bibliotheque de l'Arsenal, MS. 5211, fols. 154v, 307r, 337r); see Daniel H. Weiss, "Biblical History and Medieval Historiography: Rationalizing Strategies in Crusader Art," MLN [Modern Language Notes] 108, no. 4, French Issue (September 1993), fig. 2; and idem, "Architectural Symbolism," figs. 13, 15. The author thanks Ms. Erin E. Menard for the reference to this manuscript.

(71.) Only one extant secular throne from the Middle Ages, a canopied royal English example in Woodstock, England, made in 1252, was named by Jane Geddes in The Dictionary of Art, s.v. "Throne, II. Europe, 1. Before ca. 1500, ii. Secular," vol. 30, p. 779. She also noted (ibid., 780) the representation of a canopied throne sheltering King Edward the Confessor stitched into the late-eleventh-century Bayeux Tapestry, commenting as well that the seat of Duke William (the Conqueror) of Normandy in the same artwork lacks a covering. In fact, the Bayeux Tapestry includes a number of images of enthroned lords, including two of King Edward and one of Count Guy de Ponthieu beneath arched baldachins; two of Harold of Wessex, crowned pretender to the English throne, under canopies, one of which is arched and one flat; and six of Duke William, all prior to his assumption of the English crown, once with a standing Harold and several guards together under a flat ceiling topped by an arcaded second floor, once alongside his seated half-brother Odo below an arched covering, once joined by Odo and his other half-brother Robert de Mortain--both seated as well--within a gabled structure (a field tent?), and three times alone with nothing overhead whatsoever. The tapestry's absence of conformity in this regard is no less puzzling than the similar lack of consistency in other matters such as dress and the presence or absence of facial hair. See Wolfgang Grape, The Bayeux Tapestry: Monument to a Norman Triumph, trans. David Britt (Munich and New York: Prestel-Verlag, 1994), esp. 91, 100, 103, 106-7, 116-17, 120, 123, 124, 126, 141, 143. See also note 66 above for Italian secular examples.

(72.) For medieval ecclesiastical thrones of these sorts, see Joseph Braun in The Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. "Throne," vol. 14, p. 709; and Tessa Garton in The Dictionary of Art, s.v. "Throne, II. Europe, 1. Before ca. 1500, i. Ecclesiastical," vol. 30, pp. 774-79. For the subsequent, evidently more common and regulated use of thrones with baldachins in expanded Church contexts, see J[ohn] B[ertram] O'Connell in New Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. "Baldachino," vol. 2, p. 25. See also note 66 above for Italian ecclesiastical examples.

(73.) For Roman thrones of this sort, see Garton, "Throne, II. Europe, 1. Before ca. 1500, i. Ecclesiastical," 776-79, naming those in San Cesareo, Santi Nereo ed Achilleo, San Lorenzo fuori le mura, and Santa Balbina, to which those in Santa Sabina and in the cathedral of nearby Anagni may be added. (Garton cited late-medieval canopied Church thrones in England and France as well.) In general see the well-illustrated Edward Hutton, The Cosmati: The Roman Marble Workers of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1950).

(74.) For the thrones in the Lateran and Old Saint Peter's and the setting of each, see Holloway, Constantine and Rome, 60. On the notion of a concave apse ceiling as substitute for an autonomous arcuated canopy, see above at notes 54, 55.

(75.) For the obelisk base of 390, see Hans Peter L'Orange, The Roman Empire: Art Forms and Civic Life, trans. Dr. and Mrs. Knut Berg (Milan: Editoriale Jaca Book; New York: Rizzoli, 1985), 180, pls. 95-98; and Elsner, Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph, 75, fig. 49. For the Madrid Missorium of 388, see ibid., 84-85, 258, fig. 56. In fact, the latter object provided another example of the motif discussed by Brown in "The Arcuated Lintel," 394-97, fig. 10.

(76.) For Nero's dining-hall cupola, based on ancient descriptions by Suetonius (Life of Nero 31), Seneca (Epistles 90.15), and Martial (Epigrams 2.59.2), see Lehmann, "The Dome of Heaven," 21-22 (see also ibid., 11, regarding a star-filled amphitheatre awning picturing Nero as the chariot-driving Helios in the center, as related by Dio Cassius in his History of Rome 63.2); and Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 53, 82. For the Hadrianic ceilings, see Lehmann, "The Dome of Heaven," 3, 6-7; figs. 5, 10 (graphic illustrations based on floor mosaics reflecting the lost frescoes overhead). For the halls in the palace of Septimius Severus as described by Dio Cassius, see ibid., 8. For Eusebius's account (Life of Constantine 3.49) of the cupola in Constantine's palace, see ibid., 8, 8 n. 46.

(77.) For the throne room at Khorsabad, see Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 87. For the Achaemenid "heavens" as recounted by the Greek writer Hesychius (s.v. "Ouranos"), see Lehmann, "The Dome of Heaven," 11; and Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 81. For Plutarch's description (Life of Alexander 3) of the throne tent of Alexander the Great, see ibid., 53, 81-82. For the Parthian judgment hall at Babylon as recorded by Philostratus (Life of Apollonius of Tyana 1.25), see Lehmann, "The Dome of Heaven," 22; and Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 82. For Khosroes's throne room, related by various European and Arabic writers, see Lehmann, "The Dome of Heaven," 24-25; and Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 82.

(78.) For these other ceilings that included stars among their decorations, see Lehmann, "The Dome of Heaven," 9, 19-23, 20 n. 177; figs. 8, 16, 58-59, 61; and Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 91 n. 139. Certain passages in Virgil's Aeneid are striking as literary parallels, e.g., "Where giant Atlas turns the sphere of heaven/Studded with burning stars" (4.665-66; cf. 6.1071-72); "... [S]uch deathly/Exhalations rose from the black gorge/Into the dome of heaven" (6.334-36); and "All who shall one day pass under the dome/Of the great sky ..." (6.1061-62). The preceding quotations are from Virgil, The Aeneid, trans. Robert Fitzgerald, 2nd ed. (New York: Random House, Vintage Books, 1985).

(79.) Isa. 40:22, 66:1; cf. Ps. 104:2. Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 86, 87 n. 123, 109. Concordant passages in the New Testament include Matt. 5:34 and Acts 7:49.

(80.) Baldwin Smith (ibid., 87-94) located the origin of this line of thinking in Syria, esp. Antioch, beginning in the fourth century. Theologians to whom he referred include Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History 10.4.2-72), Theodoros of Mopsuestia, Diodoros of Tarsus (frag. "Against Fate," and On Genesis), Severianus of Gabala (Orations on Creation 3), Cosmas Indicopleustes (Christian Topography), and the anonymous author of the possibly seventh-century Sougitha hymn written in praise of the great church of Hagia Sophia at Edessa (mentioning specifically the starry mosaic filling the dome).

(81.) Examples of the celestial canopy in Christian figural art include a sixth-century(?) ivory plaque probably from Alexandria of the Madonna and Child enthroned, now in the John Rylands Library, Manchester, with stars incised into the flat background below the domical throne awning (see ibid., 69, fig. 114); the Pentecost miniature in the Rabbula Gospels of 586, with the heavenly vault interpreted literally as a blue arc above the figures, though in this case without stars (Florence, Biblioteca Laurenziana, MS. Plut. I, 56, fol. 14v; see Weitzmann, Late Antique and Early Christian Book Illumination, 105, pl. 38); and the Prayer of Isaiah miniature in the ninth- or tenth-century Paris Psalter, with points of light glimmering upon the wind-filled, pale-blue shawl of the personification of Night (Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, MS. gr. 139, fol. 435v; see David Talbot Rice, Art of the Byzantine Era, World of Art, [London and New York: Thames and Hudson, 1963], 79, ill. 66). The cosmic canopy was a recurrent theme in Italian art of the trecento, manifest for example in the deep-blue, star-filled vaults of Saint Anne's bedchamber in Pietro Lorenzetti's Birth of the Virgin of 1335-42 (Siena, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, cat. no. 50; see Hartt and Wilkins, History of Italian Renaissance Art, 143, fig. 4.24); and in the similar vaults of the Synagogue in Jerusalem in his brother Ambrogio's Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple of 1342 (Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, cat. no. 8346; see ibid., 143-45, fig. 4.25).

(82.) For Christian buildings capped by vaults or domes with stars, see Lehmann, "The Dome of Heaven," 2, 8-12; figs. 1, 11-12, 17, 30; and Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 26-29, 55-56, 91, 98-99, 108; figs. 14, 71, 73. Churches cited therein with funereal associations and possessing cupola mosaics with stars include Santa Maria della Croce in Casaranello (Apulia) of the mid fifth century (a cemetery adjacent to this small church suggests a link to the idea of burial); San Prisco in Capua (Campania), with a now-lost mosaic of perhaps the fifth century known through a far-later graphic illustration; the Church of the Dormition of the Virgin in Nicaea (Turkey), destroyed in 1922, which had an eleventh-century mosaic known through photographs that reflected an original of the late sixth or seventh century; and San Marco in Venice (eastern dome) of the twelfth or thirteenth century. (Sant'Apollinare in Classe outside Ravenna, from the mid sixth century, may also be included in this category for the starry blue field against which looms a jeweled cross in the transfiguration mosaic covering the semi-dome of the apse; the relics of the church's titular saint lay here until their transferal centuries later to Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in the city center. See Cormack, Byzantine Art, 54, 57.) The mosaic-filled oratory containing sarcophagi known as the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna (the noblewoman herself probably was buried elsewhere) of ca. 450 exemplifies funerary chapels capped by a starry vault; the ceilings of such buildings probably reflect the star-filled cupola of the original Holy Sepulchre, as pictured in the scene of the Maries at the tomb of Christ on the cover of a sixth- or seventh-century wooden reliquary box probably from the Holy Land, formerly in the Sancta Sanctorum in Rome and now in the Museo Vaticano. Baptistries cited that include mosaic vaults with stars are San Giovanni in Fonte in Naples from the second half of the fifth century, and the domical altar recess of the one in Albenga (Liguria) from the late fifth or early sixth century. For the theological analogy between baptism and the soul's rebirth after death and for the corresponding physical similarities between baptistries and martyria, see Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 56-57, 56 nn. 46-47, 104.

(83.) From Germanos's Ecclesiastical History and Mystical Contemplation, quoted in translation in Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 93.

(84.) From Simeon's On the Holy Temple, quoted in translation ibid.

(85.) For the thirteenth-century vaults of both the upper and lower churches at Assisi (seldom pictured together in the same volume), see Giovanni Morello and Laurence B. Kanter, eds., The Treasury of Saint Francis of Assisi, trans. Christopher Evans and Richard Sadleir (Milan: Electa [Editrice], 1999), figs. 9-10. For the vault of the Arena Chapel of 1303-6 painted by Giotto, see Hartt and Wilkins, History of Italian Renaissance Art, 96; figs. 3.2, 3.4. For the vault of the Misericordia loggia painted by Jacopo di Cione in 1369, see Levin, "A Lost Fresco Cycle," 78-80.

(86.) Bolle et al., "Altar," 343.

(87.) Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 54-55, 55 n. 40, 119; and Lupia and Boehm, "Altar, II. Europe, 1. Early Christian, 2. Eastern," 694.

(88.) Cyprian (died 258), Epistles 12.3, 39.3, cited in Bolle et al., "Altar," 347.

(89.) For these connections between altars and the tombs and remains of Christian martyrs, see Baldwin Smith, The Dome, 97, 109, 116, 134-35, 149, 152, 152 n. 61; Bolle et al., "Altar," 347, 350; and Lupia and Boehm, "Altar, II. Europe, 1. Early Christian, 2. Eastern," 694, 697. A biblical passage--Rev. 6:9-11, recounting the opening of the fifth seal--establishes the link encompassing the sacrifice of Christ, those of the martyrs, and those expected of living Christians. Among early Christians the top of a martyr's tomb might even have served as an altar; see Maurice M. Hassett in The Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. "Arcosolium," vol. 1, p. 699; and Penny, "Tomb, VI. Western World, 1. Introduction, 2. Before ca. 1600," 121.

(90.) As described in the Liber pontificalis, cited in Hassett, "Altar, III. The Ciborium," 363-64. Recall also (at note 61 above) the four golden crowns--another sign of Christ's royalty--suspended from the arches of the Lateran ciborium.

(91.) For these three Angevin tombs by Tino, see Panofsky, Tomb Sculpture, 74-75, 86, fig. 397; Pope-Hennessy, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 17, 185-86, fig. 28, pl. 35; and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 184-90, figs. 237-45.

(92.) On this aspect of Arnolfo's two ciboria, see Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 52, 56.

(93.) For the Boniface VIII tomb, completed possibly as early as 1296, see ibid., 61-63, fig. 76 (one of a number of drawings of 1605 by Giacomo Grimaldi collected in Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS. Barb. lat. 2733); two fragments of the tomb are reproduced as figs. 77-78. See also Panofsky, Tomb Sculpture, 77, fig. 335 (a less comprehensive Grimaldi drawing of the tomb).

(94.) For the Arezzo Cathedral altar sculptures doubling as the tomb of Saint Donatus, see Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 170-71, 303, 347 n. 47, figs. 221-23. Sculptors named in the documents are Betto di Francesco of Florence and Giovanni di Francesco of Arezzo, although scholars have discerned the hands of additional colleagues.

(95.) For these Roman shrines, see Cassidy, "Orcagna's Tabernacle in Florence," 199-205, figs. 13-16. Cassidy did not remark on their canopied arrangement or on their cupolas.

(96.) For the Lateran shrine, see ibid., 188, 199, 205, fig. 6. The documented Sienese architect Giovanni di Stefano at work in the Lateran may have designed the shrine; see ibid., 199 n. 87.

(97.) Cassidy (ibid., esp. 199, 203-5) first made the comparison between the Or San Michele Tabernacle and the Roman shrines. He also noted (ibid., 184-86) the insertion of an altar within the enclosure and below Daddi's painting before 1684, where it remained until the 1890s. In addition, Cassidy (ibid., 186, 189) described the practical purpose of the cupola, to accommodate and hide a participant in the periodic unveiling of the miraculous image. For analyses of the tabernacle from other points of view, see Nancy Rash Fabbri and Nina Rutenberg, "The Tabernacle of Orsanmichele in Context," Art Bulletin 63, no. 3 (September 1981): 385-405; Pope-Hennessy, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 24, 196, figs. 42-43, pls. 56-57; Gert Kreytenberg, Orcagna's Tabernacle in Orsanmichele, Florence (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994); Levin, "Advertising Charity," 240, 293-94 nn. 72-74 (with earlier references); Diane Finiello Zervas, ed., Orsanmichele a Firenze/Orsanmichele, Florence, with text by Paola Grifoni et al., 2 vols., Mirabilia Italiae, vol. 5 (Modena: Franco Cosimo Panini, 1996); idem, Orsanmichele: Documents, 1336-1452/Documenti, 1336-1452, Istituto di Studi Rinascimentali, Ferrara: Strumenti (Modena: Franco Cosimo Panini, 1996); and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 162-69, figs. 214-20.

(98.) For the Henry VII tomb, see Panofsky, Tomb Sculpture, 86; figs. 395-96, esp. 395 (reconstruction by Wilhelm R. Valentiner, 1935); and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 104-9; figs. 132-36, esp. 135 (reconstruction by Naoki Dan, 1977, 1982) and 136 (reconstruction by Gert Kreytenberg, 1984).

(99.) For the Robert of Anjou tomb, see Panofsky, Tomb Sculpture, 65, 86-87, figs. 398-99; Pope-Hennessy, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 17-18, 186, fig. 32, pl. 36; and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 191-93, figs. 247-49.

(100.) For the Bernabo Visconti tomb, see Panofsky, Tomb Sculpture, 84; Pope-Hennessy, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 27, 201, fig. 52, pl. 64; and Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 218-21, figs. 280-81, suggesting that originally there may have been a canopied frame. The equestrian portion of the tomb is documented as already in place in 1363; the sarcophagus must date from the time of the ruler's death.

(101.) For the Ladislas tomb, see Moskowitz, Italian Gothic Sculpture, 197-98, 349-50 n. 5, fig. 255.

(102.) Christ prophesied His own resurrection, as recorded in Matt. 16:21, 17:23, 20:19; Mark 14:28; and Luke 9:22, 13:32-33. The angel at the tomb announced the fulfillment of Christ's prediction in Matt. 28:6, Mark 16:6-7, and Luke 24:6-7.

(103.) The truth of this concept is self-evident in the case of altars in both pagan and Christian traditions. It is equally patent regarding tombs insofar as the hope of the deceased Christian has always been to join Christ in Heaven--recall the intercessory elements of Italian wall-tombs (fig. 7) and the biblical lesson on good works in the Misericordia Company's Allegory of Mercy fresco (fig. 2)--just as pre-Christian pagans sought to join their gods in the afterlife. On this latter point, see the discussion above at notes 48-51. Finally, enthroned Christian rulers of the Middle Ages, mimicking their pagan predecessors, claimed their authority and inspiration directly from on high, in their case from Christ Himself. See the reference in note 65 above.

(104.) See Levin, "The Facade of Public Philanthropy," 1-2, 18, figs. 12, for two early-fifteenth-century Florentine paintings associated with Masaccio that illustrate charitable actions, each time performed in the presence of an arched loggia; both images must be understood as formal and iconographical descendants of the paintings discussed forthwith. The same is of course true for the damaged fresco of 1386 mentioned above that depicts members of the Misericordia Company consigning homeless children (fig. 5). For two more such offspring, see Phillip J[oseph] Earenfight, "The Residence and Loggia della Misericordia (Il Bigallo): Art and Architecture of Confraternal Piety, Charity, and Virtue in Late Medieval Florence" (Ph.D. diss., Rutgers University, 1999), 207, figs. 57-58.

(105.) For the Yale dossal, see note 66 above. For the fresco by Cimabue in Assisi, see Enio Sindona, L'Opera completa di Cimabue e il momento figurativo pregiottesco, Classici dell'Arte, vol. 81 (Milan: Rizzoli Editore, 1975), 107, fig. 36, pl. 31. For Giunta Pisano's Saint Francis Altarpiece (Pisa, Museo Nazionale di San Matteo), see Tartuferi, La Pittura a Firenze nel duecento, 13, fig. 23. For Bonaventura Berlinghieri's Saint Francis Altarpiece (Pescia, San Francesco), which bears the date 1235, see ibid., 17, fig. 24. Stories of Saint Francis's activities as a healer were codified in Thomas of Celano's biography of the saint, esp. its first redaction, and in his subsequent treatise on Francis's miracles. See Rona Goffen, Spirituality in Conflict: Saint Francis and Giotto's Bardi Chapel (University Park, Pa., and London: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1988), 32, 45-47, 102 n. 16. The occasion when Saint Francis tended to the woman with a diseased breast appears on Giunta's altarpiece but not on the dossal by Berlinghieri; both panels feature all four of the other events named in the text. In every one of these narratives a domical canopy is present with the exception of both Bartolomeo da Narni scenes, in which a domed edifice is substituted. On the Bardi Saint Francis Master's Saint Francis Altarpiece in Santa Croce, Florence (see note 52 above), there are three healing narratives. A domed building again appears in the Bartolomeo da Narni episode. The incidents of the girl cured of her twisted neck and the woman of Narni exorcised are conflated here in a single vignette, and perhaps for reason of limited space there is no arcuated structure. A domical canopy is present, however, in the scene in which the still-living saint cares for lepers.

(106.) In particular, though usually regarded merely as symptomatic of architect Brunelleschi's emulation of Roman architectural forms, the row of nine domed vaults with pendentives capping the renowned facade loggia of the Hospital of the Innocents in Florence (1419-27) may owe something as well to the forms and ideas addressed in this essay insofar as those cupolas tend to isolate each bay from its neighbors. Each bay is comprehensible not only as a contributor to a series but also as a discrete, individual canopied space.
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Author:Levin, William R.
Publication:Southeastern College Art Conference Review
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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