Nicola Pisano and Claus Sluter Essay

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On the other hand, in Pisano's work, marble lends back to the figures on the pulpit some of its characteristics. This is probably most obvious in some of the virtue figures on the middle level, notably on the figure of Charity. The marble also gives out some of its majesty and monumentality, as can be seen in the case of the figure of Hercules, on the same level.

An important difference between the two works is given by the overall structure. Pisano's pulpit is supported by four slender Corinthian columns, which gives both an architectural perspective to the sculpture, as previously mentioned, as well as a certain slenderness, because the five columns support the structure above it (there is also a central supporting column, but similarly thin). There is, however, an interesting geometric communion between the two parts of the sculpture (columns and pulpit), with each of the points of the hexagon-shaped pulpit fitting on one column. In fact, this approach is in line with Pisano's intentions in terms of working with harmonious ratios and proportions. Further more, the combination between shape and material is completed by the colors in the sculpture: Pisano adds red marble in the entire work, in the form of the supporting columns.

In comparison, Sluter's work appears more austere. To Pisano's elaborate conception of the supporting pillars, Sluter uses a much simpler and less aesthetic supporting hexagonal pillar. This certainly does its job in terms of supporting the pillar, but is less effective than the exquisitely sculpted red pillars from Pisano's pulpit. As previously mentioned, the construction material (stone) adds to this austere impression when the viewer analyses the sculptural group from bottom upwards.

However, Sluter's work compensates the occasional austerity with what comes out as some of the original manifestations of naturalism in Cultural Europe, at least outside of Italy, where Giotto had already promoted this in painting at the beginning of the 14th century. According to different sources, including some from that period of time, Sluter pays an almost minute attention to details. For example, it is documented that the Prophet Jeremiah, one of the six prophets represented on the sculpture, had a pair of spectacles, perhaps to emphasize the idea of culture within the monastery or perhaps in relation with his importance in the scripture. David had a harp in his hands. Above all these elements which have no longer survived, one can note the naturalism with which the faces of these characters are depicted: these can be representations of individuals from Sluter's times, with the sculptor putting in a serious effort to bring out their traits and humanize them.

Naturalism is part of Pisano's work as well and perhaps one of the reasons why, at the middle of the 13th century, this work is considered to be so revolutionary. The figures are large, dominating the panels of which they are part of (on the third level of the sculpture), and they are fully and thoroughly expressive. The story of Christ is told through these characters in a way it had never been done in the past, as these characters also gain the human characteristics.

As can be seen from this analysis, despite being geographically and temporally separated, Pisano and Sluter announce the Renaissance, especially through the naturalistic representation of their subjects and the focus on the human figure.

Bibliography

1. Kren, Emil; Marx, Daniel. Pulpit. On the Internet at http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/p/pisano/nicola/1pisa.html. Last retrieved on February 10, 2010

2. On the Internet at http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/italy/pisa/baptistrypulpit/pulpit.html. Last retrieved on February 10, 2010

3. The Well of Moses. 2006. On the Internet at http://www.antiquespectacles.com/topics/discoveries/well/well.htm. Last retrieved on February 10, 2010

4. Frish, Teresa G. Gothic Art 1140c-1450: Sources and Documents. University of Toronto Press, 1987

Kren, Emil; Marx, Daniel. Pulpit. On the Internet at http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/p/pisano/nicola/1pisa.html. Last retrieved on February 10, 2010

Ibid.

On the Internet at http://www.bluffton.edu/~sullivanm/italy/pisa/baptistrypulpit/pulpit.html. Last retrieved on February 10, 2010

The Well of Moses. 2006. On the Internet at http://www.antiquespectacles.com/topics/discoveries/well/well.htm. Last retrieved on February 10, 2010

The Well of Moses. 2006. On the Internet at http://www.antiquespectacles.com/topics/discoveries/well/well.htm. Last retrieved on February 10, 2010

Frish, Teresa G. Gothic Art 1140c-1450: Sources and Documents. University of Toronto Press, 1987[continue]

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