Tomb stone of Antonio and Caterina Maggi da Bassano
- Place of origin:
Grandi, Vincenzo, born 1488 - died 1578 (probably, maker)
Grandi, Gian Matteo (maker)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Medieval and Renaissance, room 50a, case FS, shelf FLOOR
This round frame formed part of a tomb set in the floor of San Pietro delle Monache Benedettine in Padua. The names of the deceased, Antonio and Catharina Maggi da Bassano, a celebrated jurist and his wife are inscribed on the imitation pavement in the upper loop of the frame.
In commissioning this unusual round marker, the lawyer Antonio Maggi da Bassano departed from the typical rectangular tomb slab. The books, serpent, parchment rolls and inkwell are symbols of the scholar, while the hourglass and candlesnuffer remind us of fleeting time. The blank space in the middle may once have held an engraved brass panel that gave access to the tomb.
Large circular tomb entrance with a central, square aperture.
Place of Origin
Grandi, Vincenzo, born 1488 - died 1578 (probably, maker)
Grandi, Gian Matteo (maker)
Materials and Techniques
Marks and inscriptions
ANT.MAGIVS/BASS IVR CONS/SIBI .ET.CATH. CONS./FIDISS.V.P Antonio Maggi da Bassano Jurisconsult himself and Caterina [his] most faithful consort placed this [when] alive.
SI VLTRA SCIRE CVPIS PATRIAM PATA/VERO CREMO RAV VTI/TARVIS VINC BRIX. BERG./RODIG.ET CRE [PER] CVNTATO.QVIBVS.ASS.DIGNIT.FVNCTVS./QVLeM.SE.GESS.VNA DE/XX VIC GRATO AnImO/REFFEREnT.
FVGIT.FVGIT [time] flies
SIC EXTINGVIMVR OMNES So all men are extinguished
Diameter: 219.5 cm, Weight: 335 kg part 1 only, Weight: 304 kg part 2 only, Depth: 24 cm
Object history note
Purchased by Robinson in Venice for £70. In his description for the museum officials, he called it a “…circular frame or architrave surrounding a square tablet of Istrian stone,” with “…a long inscription round the marginal band, a shorter one on a square tablet...” This could suggest that the center, now empty, was once filled. However, he may have been referring to the faux parchment at the top of the tomb slab. The description also included the note that the memorial was originally located in a building of the University of Padua.
It is not clear why Robinson later changed this statement in his letter to the Times of 24 October, 1883, in which he claimed that it came from Brescia, and was meant to honour Antonio Maggi Bassiano. In the letter, he also stated that “…the square center of the medallion is missing; it was doubtless an inscribed marble or bronze tablet.”
Pope-Hennessy noted that the tomb, with its inscriptions, was described in a 1560 guide to Padua as in the church of San Pietro in Padua. Pope-Hennessy also noted that Giacomo Salamonio recorded “further verses, which seem to have been carved on a tablet set in the square aperture.” (Pope-Hennessy, 514) Though Pope-Hennessy did not mention Robinson’s original description of a square tablet set in the middle, this may have been his source. However, there is no record of such a tablet associated with the tomb slab upon its arrival at the museum.
Pope-Hennessy’s theory also may have been inspired by his translation of the verses recorded by Salamonio. In Salamonio’s text, they were printed in italics; perhaps due to having been written in Italian and not Latin. Pope-Hennessy believed that the verses indicated that the tomb was damaged, however they could also refer to the tomb being opened in order to bury further family members.
It is difficult to determine the original location of the tomb, but it appears from Salamonio’s description that it was near the high altar.
Historical significance: The round format of this tomb slab is highly unusual for an Italian Renaissance tomb. Its innovative shape was noted by Salamonio, who described it as “like a shell.” (Salamonio, 116). The tomb’s original placement near the high altar, its size and the elaborate inscription demonstrate the prestige of Antonio Maggi as the alderman of various towns in the Veneto, all listed on the inscription.
The tomb slab is elaborately carved with both decorative and symbolic motifs. The square frame in the center, out of which scroll heads curve at the top, bottom and sides, is covered in a delicate vegetal pattern. The area between the circular border and the square frame is filled with symbolic objects. The iconography relates to Maggi’s life and more general symbols for death.
The books inscribed DECRET and DIGEST refer to Maggi’s work as a lawyer and symbolize his knowledge of canon and civil law. The serpent found at the top left might have a variety of meanings. Though generally negative, serpents could also be seen to symbolize wisdom, prudence, logic – all useful qualities for a jurist. It might also be seen as symbolizing Time and death. The box with the open lid might also refer to scholarly work. The peach below the hourglass symbolizes truth. The rolls of parchment and inkwell to the upper right likely refer to Maggi’s work as an alderman or jurist.
The hourglass with the scroll inscribed FVGIT, FVGIT (it flees, it flees) refers to the fleeting qualities of time, while the candle snuffer’s scroll is inscribed SIC EXTINGVIMVR OMNES (so all men are extinguished.) Both are therefore memento mori; intended for the viewer to be aware of his or her own temporary existence.
The pinecone was a symbol of immortality, but also fertility. The branches of palm in the upper left symbolize victory over death. Laurel, as found in the upper right, was a common symbol for victory. The pomegranate in the lower right symbolizes resurrection, and the olive is the lower left is likely a sign of peace.
The coat of arms at the bottom are those of the Maggi family, and balance the faux parchment inscribed with the names of Antonio and Caterina found in the top scroll head.
Historical context note
Round tomb slabs such as this one are unusual. Pavement tombs were more commonly rectangular.
A possible precedent for the form of Maggi’s tomb is found in the tomb marker of Cosimo il Vecchio de’ Medici by Andrea del Verrocchio in the church of San Lorenzo in Florence (c.1464-1467). Cosimo’s tomb marker was series of porphyry and serpentine discs joined by white marble bands and framed in a square. One white marble band creates a circular border, while two others in the form of elongated ovals intersect and frame a porphyry square in the center. Faux parchment inlays at the top and bottom have are inscribed with Cosimo’s name and his status as Pater patriae (a name meaning father of the nation, awarded to him after his death).
The Medici arms appear in the four corners of the square. Bronze grates in three squares at the bottom, left and right of the square visually connect the crypt with the upper church. Though Cosimo’s tomb is flat and is made of inlaid stone, the Maggi tomb, though sculptural, evokes its general form.
Donatello brought the influence of Florentine sculpture to Padua during his sojourn there from 1443-53. Exchange of ideas also took place during artists’ travels and through pattern books and sketch books.. It is possible that the unknown artist who sculpted Maggi’s tomb had seen Cosimo il Vecchio’s tomb, either in person or in a drawing, and changed the flat forms of the inlay into an updated 16th century sculptural form.
On the Maggi tomb, the inside border which appears to curve out of and around the square frame is also reminiscent of patterns found in Cosmati pavements (mosaic inlaid floors popular in churches during the 12th and 13th centuries, though the style was based on earlier Byzantine models). Such pavements often had funereal connotations. Similar patterning appears in the church of San Vitale in Ravenna, where Maggi served as alderman.
Tomb stone of Antonio and Catharina Maggi da Bassano, Italy (Padua), 1520
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington Museum acquired during the Year 1882. London, 1883, pp. 7
Pope-Hennessy, John. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1964, pp. 513-5
Robinson, J.C, [Letter], The Times. 24/10/1883
Scardeone. De Antiqvitate Vrbis Patavii & claris civibus Patauinis. Basle, 1560, pp.190
Salamonius. Urbis Patavinae inscriptions sacrae, et prophanae. Padua, 1701, pp. 116-7
'Descrizione della Chiese Parrochiale di S. Pietro' in Diario o sia Giornale per l'anno 1766. Padua, pp. 237
Portenari. Della felicità di Padova. Padua, 1623, pp.286
Sanuto. I diarii. iv, Venice, 1880, pp.570, 587, 502
Scrolls (motifs); Shield; Pen; Books; Serpent; Laurel (foliage); Pine-cones; Palm; Pomegranates (fruit); Olive branch; Peach; Box; Inkwell; Hourglass; Corks (stoppers); Parchments; Extinguisher