This paper will consider the possibility that sculptors who had received their early training in al-Andalus worked on early Romanesque architectural decoration in Spain and Southern France. Following this line of thought, it will also investigate case studies, including the Portal of the Lamb at San Isidoro in León, where the conversion of the artist may be evident in the treatment of the narrative.
This paper examines the relationship of the Italian Trecento Gothic cathedral facade with its public spaces, as sites of preparation before entering the sacred spaces within. Facades such as Siena and Orvieto offer idealized, ordered representations of sacred histories that may be read in relation to the disordered chaos of everyday life on the streets below. Designers and sculptors attended to the shifting desire to present visions of virtue and justice, in ways that better met the visual needs of late medieval audiences. As we shall see, these spaces and powerful entrances were impacted by changing notions of mundane time-keeping.
Trecento Italian writers (e.g. Petrarch, Boccaccio, Giovanni Dondi) can be seen as first having attempted to revive art criticism since Antiquity. But while they celebrated coeval painters (e.g. Giotto, Simone Martini), they also refused to name modern sculptors in their published works. Petrarch even referred to the latter as ‘artists of minor renown’. However, despite such trenchant value judgement, Trecento writers often used sculptural metaphors for harnessing concepts and ideas such as fame, durability, solidity or stability. Mostly borrowed from Classical authors (e.g. Pliny, Virgil), such sculptural metaphors only too often betray Trecento writers’ first-hand experience and understanding of actual sculptural works (including unfinished works) and practices. What can we learn by looking at the technical aspects of Trecento sculpture-making through the eyes of coeval writers and ‘intellectuals’?