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Central doorway of S. Petronio

  • Object:

    Plaster cast

  • Place of origin:

    Siena (sculpted)
    Florence (cast)

  • Date:

    1425-1438 (sculpted)
    1886 (cast)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Quercia, Jacopo della (sculptor)
    Lelli, Oronzio (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Plaster cast

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.1887-41

  • Gallery location:

    Cast Courts, Room 46b, The Weston Cast Court , case WN

This monumental doorway for the West entrance to the cathedral of S. Petronio in Bologna is one of Jacop della Quercia's most celebrated works, and illustrates scenes from the Old and New Testament and busts of prophets, as well as figures of saints. It was commissioned in 1425 by Cardinal Louis Aleman, Archbishop of Arles and papal legate in Bologna. But della Quercia was to die in 1438, leaving the doorway unfinished, and so the figures for the lunette, together with the upper portion of the doorway, were not completed until the early 16th century. In 1510 Domenico da Varignana executed St Ambrose for the lunette, while Antonio Minello and Antonio da Ostiglia sculpted fifteen of the marble prophets for the archivolt.

Physical description

Plaster cast, Central Doorway of S. Petronio, Bologna, after the original of Verona marble and Istrian stone by Jacopo della Quercia 1425-1438, completed by other artists after 1510.

In the lunette: The Virgin and Child with St. Ambrose (left) and St. Petronius (right).
On the architrave (from left to right):
The Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, the Massacre of the Innocents, the Flight into Egypt.
On the archivolt and inside the pilasters:
God the Father, with thirty-two half-length prophets.
On the lateral pilasters:
1.The Creation of Adam / The Offering of Cain and Abel
2.The Creation of Eve / Cain slaying Abel
3.The Temptation of Adam and Eve / Noah coming out of the Ark
4.The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden / The Drunkenness of Noah
5.Adam and Eve condemned to Labour / The Sacrifice of Isaac.

Place of Origin

Siena (sculpted)
Florence (cast)

Date

1425-1438 (sculpted)
1886 (cast)

Artist/maker

Quercia, Jacopo della (sculptor)
Lelli, Oronzio (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Plaster cast

Object history note

Purchased from Oronzio Lelli in 1887 for £865 5s 9d (32000 lire). This was for two copies: one for South Kensington and one for Edinburgh (Edinburgh paid 1000 lire)

Historical context note

In a contract of 28 March, 1425, Cardinal Louis Aleman, Archbishop of Arles and papal legate in Bologna, commissioned Jacopo della Quercia to execute the central portal of S. Petronio according to a design submitted by Jacopo. There were to be fourteen narrative reliefs on the lateral pilasters, three scenes across the architrave, twenty-eight busts of prophets, and a lunette with the Virgin and Child flanked by St Petronius on one side and on the other side Pope Martin V with the kneeling figure of Louis Aleman. There were also to be two life-size lions, with figures of SS. Peter and Paul above the pilasters, and Christ on the Cross rising from the apex of the doorway. This programme seems to have been modified as work progressed and the iconography of the lunette was radically altered following the expulsion of Louis Aleman from Bologna in 1428 when it was decided that the group of Martin V and Louis should be replaced by the single figure of St Ambrose. The figures for the lunette, together with the upper portion of the doorway were not completed until the early sixteenth century, as Jacopo dell Quercia died in 1438, leaving the doorway unfinished. In 1510, Domemico da Varignana executed the St Ambrose for the lunette, while Antonio Minello (active 1484; d. 1527/28) and Antonio da Ostiglia executed fifteen marble prophets for the archivolt and a team of five other sculptors worked on the friezes and foliate ornaments for the portal.

Descriptive line

Plaster cast, Central Doorway of S. Petronio, Bologna, after the original of Verona marble and Istrian stone by Jacopo della Quercia, cast by Oronzio Lelli, ca. 1886

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Cormier, Brendan and Thom, Danielle, eds. A World of Fragile Parts, London, 2016, pp. 80-82.

Production Note

Made between 1425 and 1438 and completed after 1510

Subjects depicted

Prophets; Doors

Categories

Ph_survey; Architecture; Sculpture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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