- Place of origin:
Pisano, Nicola (makers)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10, case EXP
By the 1200s the cult of the Archangel Michael had spread across Europe. There were several mountain sanctuaries dedicated to him. One was at Monte Sant’Angelo on the Gargano Peninsula in south Italy. The Angel often appears trampling on the devil in the form of a dragon. He holds a spear in his raised right hand. This representation became very popular. Many sculptures of this type survive.
This St Michael has a companion figure in the V&A, the Archangel Gabriel (Museum no. 5800-1859). Some people think that these figures, with other sculptures now in Florence, Boston and Paris, were among the supports of the Arca (shrine) of St Dominic in San Domenico Maggiore in Bologna. Nicola Pisano supervised the making of the shrine in the years 1264-1267. The young Arnolfo di Cambio and Fra Guglielmo executed much of the work. We do not know what the shrine originally looked like, however. It might be that the St Michael and St Gabriel belonged to a different ensemble, possibly a pulpit. At the time of their acquisition, John Charles Robinson stated that they came ‘from a church in the neighbourhood of Pisa’.
These objects are of historical significance both because of their rarity and quality. Examples of Tuscan carving of this period outside Italy, especially ones which have formed part of a larger architectural scheme, are rare. The quality of carving displayed (as discussed in the Curator's Comments) is also, in some parts, of very high quality. Being able to look at the objects as sparate entities enables the viewer to gain unique insight into the way they were carved. It is possible to see clearly the drill holes and carving techniques employed at the time. They are also important in trying to establish the cannon of Tuscan sculpture carving. Although they have been hotly debated since their arrival in the museum, with differing attributions, it is clear that they are connected to the workshop of Nicola Pisano and are useful in the discussion of the different hands in that workshop and its possible output.
The archangel Michael is shown wearing the imperial loros, standing frontally and holding a censer or orb in his left hand. The base of his spear rests in the mouth of the dragon beneath his feet. The upper part of the spear that pierces the dragon's head is broken away. At the back is an angled vertical shaft running the length of the figure.
Place of Origin
Pisano, Nicola (makers)
Materials and Techniques
Height: 97 cm, Width: 38.5 cm, Depth: 16.5 cm, Weight: 74 kg
Object history note
The history of this object is somewhat obscure. It was acquired in Florence by JC Robinson along with 5797, 5799 and 5800-1959. Robinson states in Italian Sculpture of the Middle Ages(p.1) that all 4 fragments "came from a church in the neighbourhood of Pisa, and the original position, in work, of the three angle-piers may be seen from a photograph, placed near them, of the celebrated marble pulpit by Nicola Pisano in the baptistery [sic] of the cathedral at Pisa, corresponding details of which they closely resemble." The present piece was bought for £10. Since their acquisition the histories of this and the others acquired with it have not been resolved. Robinson gives all 4 to Nicola or Giovanni Pisano in the second half of the 13th century.
Historical significance: These objects are of historical significance both because of their rarity and quality. Examples of Tuscan carving of this period outside Italy, especially ones which have formed part of a larger architectural scheme, are rare. The quality of carving displayed (as discussed in the Curator's Comments) is also, in some parts, of very high quality. Being able to look at the objects as sparate entities enables the viewer to gain unique insight into the way they were carved. It is possible to see clearly the drill holes and carving techniques employed at the time. They are also important in trying to establish the cannon of Tuscan sculpture carving. Although they have been hotly debated since their arrival in the museum, with differing attributions, it is clear that they are connected to the workshop of Nicola Pisano and are useful in the discussion of the different hands in that workshop and its possible output.
Historical context note
The function of this object is not entirely clear. Robinson (1862) states that along with 5800-1859 (Archangel Gabriel) and 5797-1859 (Ss Peter, Paul and James) that these three were originally the angle-piers of a marble pulpit. Maclagan and Longhurst say "they are not in the same marble, and can hardly be ascribed to the same sculptor" (p.4) [that is to say the Archangels are not in the same marble as 5797-1859] and link the Archangels with the hand of Fra Guglielmo based on comparison with a holy-water stoup in the Bargello, Florence and the angel in the Louvre. As Pope-Hennessy adeptly points out in his Italian Sculpture Catalogue "The problem of the authorship of the two carvings is inseparable from that of the function they were intended to fulfil." The angled shaft running the verticle length of the back of the figure can be identified as the joining point of a right angled scheme. That could be a pulpit or a tomb. Pope-Hennessy places the figures via a stylistic similarity to Lapo as part of the Acra of St Dominic in San Domenico Maggiore in Bologna. This view is backed up by Moskowitz in her 1992 article. However, Williamson casts doubt on this theory in the European Sculpture catalogue of 1996, saying the evidence is inconclusive to link them to the Arca. Stylistically he gives them to the workshop of Nicola Pisano possibly by the hands of Arnolfo di Cambio and Fra Guglielmo. Williamson confirms and expands this view in Gothic Sculpture 1140-1300, based on the Pisan provenance and the physical design of the pieces with the angled shafts on the back. Williamson's view is confirmed by the most recent literature on the subjects, the Duecento exhibition catalogue from Bologna in 2000. In this Ferretti also rejects Pope-Hennessy's reconstruction of the Arca because of the unfinished back of these pieces.
Statuette in marble, St. Michael, by the workshop of Nicola Pisano, 1250-1275, Tuscany
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Robinson, J C, Italian sculpture of the Middle Ages and period of the revival of art. A descriptive catalogue of the works forming the above section of the Museum, with additional illustative notices. London, South Kensington Museum, 1862, p.1
Maclagan, E and Longhurst MH Catalogue of Italian Sculptures, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1932, p.4
Venturi, A Storia dell' arte italiana, Milan, 1901-40, vol IV, pp.45-7, pp.73, 76
Graber, Beiträge zu Nicola Pisano, Strasburg, 1911, p.98, no.2
Swarzenski, Nicolo Pisano, Frankfurt-am-Main, 1926, p69
Crichton, Nicola Pisano and the Revival of Sculpture in Italy, Cambridge, 1938, p.114
Pope-Hennessy, J assisted by R. Lightbown, Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1964, pp15-6, fig.30
Ragghianti, Arnolfo di cambio ed altri problemi d'arte pisana Riv. I d'A, v, 1935-6, p.320
Pope-Hennessy, The Arca of St Dominic: a hypothesis, Burlington Magazine, xciii, 1951, pp.347-51
Pope-Hennessy, J, Essays on Italian Sculpture, London, 1968, pp.11-15
Middeldorf Kosegarten, A, Sienesische Bildhauer am Duomo Vecchio: Studien zur Skulptur in Siena 1250-1330, Munich 1984, p.56
Moskowitz, Anita, ed.S Bule, A Phipps Darr and F Superbi Gioffredi, 'On the Sources and Meaning of Nicola Pisano's Arca di San Domenico in Bologna': Verrocchio and Late Quattrocento Italian Sculpture, Casa Editrice le Lettere, Florence, 1992, pp.271-81
Williamson, Paul ed. European Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1996, p.53
Williamson, Paul, Gothic Sculpture 1140-1300, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1996, pp.243-91
Avery, Charles, Florentine Renaissance Sculpture, London, 1970, pp.22-23
Raggio, Olga, Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Art Bulletin, vol.L, 1968, pp.99
Fontana, Maria Vittoria, An Islamic Sphero-conical Object in a Tuscan Medieval Marble, East and West, IsIAO, vol.49, nos.1-4, December 1999, pp.9-33
Seidel, Max, Adsit ei angelus Michael, Eine neu entdeckte Skulptur von Giovanni Pisano, Pantheon, XLVI 1988, p.9, fig.8
Moskowitz, Anita, Giovanni di Balduccio's Arca di San Pietro Martier: Form and Function, Arte Lomarda 96/97, 1991, pp.7-18, fig.13
Moskowitz, Anita, Nicola Pisano's Arca di San Domenico and Its Legacy, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994, pp.9, 13, 22-23, figs.4, 5, 10-14, 18
Ames-Lewis, Francis, Tuscan Marble Carving 1250-1350. Scuplture and Civic Pride, Ashgate, Aldershot, 1997, pp.172-3
Romano, S, The Arca of St Dominic at Bologna in W. Reinink and S. Stampel, Memory and Oblivion, Proceedings of the XXIXth International Congress of the History of Art hold in Amsterdam, 1-7 September 1996, Dondrecht, 1999, pp.499-513, p.504 and figs.4-5
Ferretti, Massimo, Duecento: Forme e colori del Medioevo a Bologna, Exhibition Catalogue, Museo Civico Archeologico, Bologna, 2000, pp.217-226
Moskowitz, Anita, The Arca di San Domnico Caryatids, Source, vol.VI, no.3, Spring 1987, pp.1-6
Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1859 In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 45
Labels and date
THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL
Workshop of NICOLA PISANO (active 1258-78)
ITALIAN (Pisa); about 1260-70
The carving, like the companion figure of the Archangel Gabriel (5800-1859) and other sculpture in Florence, Boston and Paris, has been associated with the Arca (shrine) of St Dominic in San Domenico Maggiore at Bolgna. this was made under the supervision of Nicola Pisano in 1264-67, much of the work being carried out by the young Arnolfo di Cambio. The physical and documentary evidence is inconclusive about the original form of the Arca, however, and it is possible that the St Michael and St Gabriel belonged to a different ensemble.