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Architecture doorway - Doorway surmounted by a figure of St.George and craved with a relief of the Resurrection
  • Doorway surmounted by a figure of St.George and craved with a relief of the Resurrection
    Gagini, Giovanni
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Doorway surmounted by a figure of St.George and craved with a relief of the Resurrection

  • Object:

    Architecture doorway

  • Place of origin:

    Genoa (made)

  • Date:

    1480 (Made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Gagini, Giovanni (sculptor)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved Slate (pietra nera di promontorio)

  • Credit Line:

    Acquired by the V&A on 21 May, 1879.

  • Museum number:

    222:5-1879

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 50a, The Paul and Jill Ruddock Gallery, case FS []

Highly decorated slate door jambs capped by reliefs were a common feature of Genoese architecture . Here a figure of St George stands at the top in honor of the donor’s name, who paid for a chapel in the same church as the slate doorway shown nearby. The doorway has been attributed to Giovanni Gaggini, a Lombard sculptor active in Genoa in the Fifteenth Century.

Inscription: ‘To the most blessed Virgin Mary and to Catherine the martyr. Giorgio Spinola the son of Eliano commanded the making of this, and the altar and the cell beneath, which is under this arch for himself and his successors. 1480'

The doorway was purchased in 1879, at the same time as the very similar Doria family chapel doorway (V&A-Mus. no: 221-1879). It originally formed the entrance to the Spinola family chapel in the church of San Bartolomeo della Certosa in Rivarolo on the outskirts of Genoa. It was commissioned by Giorgio Spinola in 1480, 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.

Physical description

Doorway. Carved slate (pietra nera di promontorio). The lunette contains a relief of the Resurrection. It is surmounted by a figure of St George. Three sleeping soldiers are in front of the tomb from which Christ rises. In the frieze under the lunette is a label held up by two winged figures, with the inscription: BEATISSImE.VIRGINI.MARIE: ET.CATHERInE.MARTIRI.GEORGIUS.SPINVLA.ELIANI.FILIVS.HANC.EDEMARAMQue.ETCELLAm.QVE.INFRA.Est.SVB.HOC.FORnICESIBI.ET.POSTERITATI.SVE:FACIENDAm.CVRAVIT.MCCCCLXXXo. The outer jambs are carved with foliated scrolls issuing from vases, the inner with a pattern of branches and leaves. At the tops of the outer jambs are defaced sheilds-of-arms. The interior of the doorway is surrounded by a strip of panel and rosette decoration.

Place of Origin

Genoa (made)

Date

1480 (Made)

Artist/maker

Gagini, Giovanni (sculptor)

Materials and Techniques

Carved Slate (pietra nera di promontorio)

Marks and inscriptions

'BEATISSIME.VIRGINI.MARIE.ET CATHERINE. MARTIRI. GEORGIVS.SPINVLA. ELIANI.FILIVS.HANC. EDEM ARAMQ(ue). ET CELLAM.QVE INFRA.Est.SVB.HOC.FORNICE SIBI .ET. POSTERITATI. SVE: FACIENDAm. CVRAVIT. MCCCCLXXX.'
'To the most blessed Virgin Mary and to Catherine the martyr. Giorgio Spinola the son of Eliano commanded the making of this, and the altar and the cell beneath, which is under this arch for himself and his successors. 1480'

Dimensions

Height: 509.5 cm, Width: 229 cm, Weight: 1578.5 kg

Object history note

The doorway was purchased in 1879, at the same time as the very similar Doria family chapel doorway (221-1879). It originally formed the entrance to the Spinola family chapel in the church of San Bartolomeo della Certosa in Rivarolo on the outskirts of Genoa. It was commissioned by Giorgio Spinola in 1480, 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 for £75.

Historical significance: The doorway is all that remains of the Spinola 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. 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 degrees of tensile strength and 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. 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, 413).

Descriptive line

Doorway, slate, figure of St. George and a relief of the Resurrection, by Giovanni Gaggini, Italy (Genoa), 1480

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.411
Kruft, Hanno-Walter,Portali Genovesi del Rinascimento, Florence, 1971, tav. 36
As possibly by Giovanni Gaggini da Campione
37.T.4
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. 164 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, p. 21

Labels and date

DOORWAY TO A FUNERARY CHAPEL, 1480
Attributed to Giovanni Gaggini and Workshop (Active about 1449-1517 )

Highly decorated slate door jambs capped by reliefs were a common feature of Genoese architecture . Here a figure of St George stands at the top in honor of the donor’s name, who paid for a chapel in the same church as the slate doorway shown nearby.

Inscription: ‘To the most blessed Virgin Mary and to Catherine the martyr. Giorgio Spinola the son of Eliano commanded the making of this, and the altar and the cell beneath, which is under this arch for himself and his successors. 1480' [46 words]

Italy, Genoa
Slate
Mus.No.222-1879 [April 2007]

Materials

Slate

Techniques

Carved

Subjects depicted

Tomb; Putti; Scrolls (motifs); Flags

Categories

Architecture; Architectural fittings

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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