Doorway surmounted by a figure of St. Stephen and carved with a relief of the Nativity
- Place of origin:
Gagini, Giovanni (Made)
- Materials and Techniques:
Slate (pietra nera di promontorio)
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 50a, The Paul and Jill Ruddock Gallery, case FS 
Lazarro Doria commissioned this doorway for the threshold of his family chapel in the Certosa outside Genoa, where the use of slate reliefs around doorways was common. The chapel, erected in 1442 was dedicated to both St Anne and St Stephen, though only St Stephen appears on the summit of the doorway. Doria was eventually buried in this chapel, where his effigy was at one time to be seen.
This doorway is of exceptionally high quality and it is likely that it was carved by Giovanni Gaggini, a Lombard sculptor active in Genoa in the Fifteenth Century.
The inscription (translated) reads: 'Lazarro Doria son of Oppizzino raised and decorated this chapel with his money (and) dedicated it to the Mother of the nourishing Virgin and the blessed first martyr Stephen, for himself and his children and their successors. 1472'
The doorway is all that remains of the Doria family chapel at the church of San Bartolomeo della Certosa in Genoa. It is also one of few carved slate doorways to be found outside of Genoa, and one of the few examples with a lunette above the lintel. Most of the surviving fifteenth-century carved doorways on entrances to private homes in Genoa have rectangular areas above the lintels, often combined with a rectangular vertical insertion containing the monogram of Christ.
Doorway. Carved slate (pietra nera di promontorio). The lunette has a relief of the Nativity, with St Joseph and the Virgin kneeling on either side of the Baby Jesus. The ox and the ass appear on the right under the stable's woven roof. The rocky landscape in the background includes the Annunciation to the Shepherds and the figure of a bagpiper. God the Father is in the centre with his hands extended in blessing. In the frieze under the luentte is a label held up by two angels with the inscription: LAZARUS.De.AVRIA.OPECINI.FILIVS.HOC SACELLVm.EXTVLIT ORNAVITQue.SVA.PECVNIA.DEDICATVmMATRI ALME VIRGINI AC BEATO.PRIMO.MARTIRI STEPHANO PRO.SE ET.LIBERIS.AC EORUM. SVCCESSORVM.MCCCCLXXII. The outer jambs are carved with foliated scrolls issuing from vases and the inner jamb and interior of the doorway with patterns of leaves and poppy-heads. On the capitals are defaced shields-of-arms.
Place of Origin
Gagini, Giovanni (Made)
Materials and Techniques
Slate (pietra nera di promontorio)
Marks and inscriptions
'LAZARUS.De.AVRIA.OPECINI.FILIVS.HOC SACELLVm.EXTVLIT ORNAVITQue.SVA.PECVNIA.DEDICATVm.MATRI ALME VIRGINI AC BEATO.PRIMO.MARTIRI.STEPHANO PRO.SE ET LIBERIS.AC EORVM SVCCESSORVM.MCCCCLXXII'
'Lazzaro Doria son of Opezzino raised and decorated this chapel with his money dedicating it to the Mother of the nourishing Virgin and to the Blessed First Martyr Stephen for him and for his children and for their successors'
Weight: 1379 kg weighed by Tech Serv/Cons Jan 2006, Height: 517.1 cm, Width: 234.2 cm
Object history note
The doorway was purchased in 1879. It originally formed the entrance to the Doria family chapel in the church of San Bartolomeo della Certosa, in Rivarola on the outskirts of Genoa. It was commissioned by Lazzaro Doria in 1472, as noted in the inscription in the frieze under the lunette.
The Certosa was suppressed in 1798 and the chapel became part of the Scassi family property. After the chapel collapsed in 1859 its sculptures were sent to the Villa Scassi in Sampierdarena. The doorway was purchased from Alfred Pratt of London in 1879 for £75.
Historical significance: The doorway is all that remains of the Doria family chapel at the church of San Bartolomeo della Certosa in Genoa. It is also one of the few carved slate doorways to be found outside of Genoa, and one of the few examples with a lunette above the lintel. Most of the surviving 15th century carved doorways on entrances to private homes in Genoa have rectangular areas above the lintels, often combined with a rectangular vertical insertion containing the monogram of Christ. Though the attribution remains unclear, it provides an example of the development of sculpture in 15th century Genoa under the influence of Lombard sculptors.
Historical context note
Decorated door jambs and lintels were a common feature of Genoese architecture. As noted by R. Lightbown, their development was a result of the "…topography of the old city" in which tall houses were built on steep streets, thus leaving the doorway as the most visible area for display of wealth or family identification (Lightbown, p.412).
Rectangular carved lintels surmounted the doorways of palazzi, while the arched lunette of the V&A doorway has been seen as an appropriate form for its original religious location (Profumo, p.164).
The use of slate was typical in Genoa. It has high tensile strength and a high degree of water and fire resistance. These qualities, and its natural abundance in Liguria (the region of Genoa) made the city's preferred material for roof tiles, chimneys, doorways and floors.
The attribution of this doorway has been the subject of much debate. There is no documentation regarding the commission beyond the inscription on the lintel. There is also some confusion resulting from interpretations of documents from Genoa in the 1460s. Kruft, based on Cervetto, suggested that there were two men named Giovanni Gaggini, (alternatively spelled "Gagini") originally a Lombard family, working in Genoa during the same time. This was based on documents transcribed by Cervetto which seemingly referred to two sculptors, one named Giovanni Gaggini d'Andrea da Campione, who had a workshop in Genoa, and one called Giovanni Gaggini the son of Magister Beltrame, who came from Bissone (Cervetto, p.137 and Kruft, p.15). Bissone and Campione (today Campione d'Italia) are two towns very close to each other on the shore of Lake Lugano (in today's Switzerland). Until the 15th century, Bissone was under the rule of the Dukes of Milan, while Campione has remained Italian.
Algeri suggested in 1977 that further research might reveal that Giovanni Gaggini da Campione and Giovanni Gaggini da Bissone were the same person, as a 1475 document published by both Alizeri and Cervetto made reference to a Giovanni da Beltrame from Campione who worked with Michele d'Aria for the Spinola family (doorway 222-1879 was a Spinola commission). She also noted that documents published by Cervetto regarding the location of the Gaggini shops locate them in the same area of Genoa and might provide further evidence for believing they are the same person. However, it does not appear that any further research on this branch of the Gaggini family has been done, and therefore identification remains speculative.
Lightbown remarked that the dates suggested the work of Giovanni and Elia Gaggini but the style of the doorways did not. He therefore attributed the doorways to Michele d'Aria, who worked with the Gaggini workshop and was documented in Genoa in the 1460s (Lightbown, p.413).
Doorway, carved slate, by Giovanni Gaggini, Italy (Genoa), 1472
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Cervetto, L. A. ,I Gaggini da Bissone. Loro Opere in Genova e Altrove, Milan, 1903
Foulkes, C. J., and Maiocchi, R., Vincenzo Foppa of Brescia, Founder of the Lombard School His Life and Work, London , 1909, pp. 154-55
Maclagan, E. And Longhurst, M., Catalogue of Italian Sculpture, London, 1932
Lightbown, R. "Three Genoese Doorways," , Burlington Magazine, ciii, 1961, pp. 412-17
Pope-Hennessy, J. assisted by Lightbown, R. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1964, cat. no. 410
Kruft, Hanno-Walter,Portali Genovesi del Rinascimento, Florence, 1971, tav. 36
Kruft, Hanno-Walter, "Alcuni Portali Genovesi del Rinascimento fuori Genova," Antichità Viva,, xvii/6 Nov./Dec 1978, 31-35
Algeri, Giuliana, "La scultura a Genova tra il 1450 e il 1470: Leonardo Riccomano, Giovanni Gagini, Michele d'Aria," Studi di Storia delle Arti,Università di Genova, 1977, pp. 65-78
Motta, Paola, Chiese di Genova, No. 8, Genova: 1986, p. 72
Profumo, Luciana Müller, Le pietre parlanti: L'ornamento nell'architettura genovese 1450-1600, Genova: 1993, p. 165 photo
Foster, P., "Renaissanceportale in Genua: Bemerkungen zu Einem Neuen Buch," Architectura,1975, band 5.2, 178-186
List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington Museum acquired in the Year 1879. London, 1880. pp. 21
Galbiat. La Val Polcevera e la Certosa di Rivarolo dal 1297 al 1801 Genoa, 1927, pp. 150-2
Labels and date
DOORWAY TO A FUNERARY CHAPEL, 1472
Attributed to Giovanni Gaggini and workshop (Active about 1449-1517)
Lazarro Doria commissioned this doorway for the threshold of his family chapel in the Certosa outside Genoa, where the use of slate reliefs around doorways was common. The chapel was dedicated to both St Anne and St Stephen, though only St Stephen appears on the summit of the doorway.
Inscription: 'Lazarro Doria son of Oppizzino raised and decorated this chapel with his money (and) dedicated it to the Mother of the nourishing Virgin and the blessed first martyr Stephen, for himself and his children and their successors. 1472'
Museum no. 221-1879 [April 2007]
Ass (animal); Oxen; Putti; Scroll