Exposition : “Fifteenth-Century Sculpture in Florence”, Saint-Pétersbourg, Musée de l’Ermitage, jusqu’au 4 septembre 2022

The exhibition presents splendid works of sculpture from the collection of the State Hermitage. Many of them have only very recently become the subject of research and publications. Some of the pieces in the display have never been exhibited before.

The Hermitage collection of Italian Renaissance sculpture reflects the output of the major figures of that era while at the same time making it possible to present works of varying standard and significance. The display contains twenty-five pieces created in Florence during the 15th and early 16th centuries in terracotta, plaster, majolica and wood.

Depictions of the Virgin Mary with the Christ-Child in her arms were one of the main subjects for 15th-century Florentine sculpture due to the particular reverence accorded to the Mother of God in the city. The earliest and most reproduced include two compositions of the Madonna and Child produced in the studio of the sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378–1455), the creator of the celebrated “Gates of Paradise” on the east side of the Baptistry in Florence. Two reliefs from the second half of the 1450s showing The Madonna Worshipping the Christ-Child have their origins in works by the outstanding Florentine creator of fine marble compositions Desiderio da Settignano (circa 1430 – 1464). Another of the city’s foremost sculptors who specialized in working in marble was Antonio Rossellino (1427–1479). His bas-relief of the Madonna and Child was very popular in the second half of the 15th century, being reproduced many times in different materials. Those repetitions included the plaster Madonna and Child from the 1470s(?) displayed in the exhibition. The relief of the Madonna and Child with John the Baptist (circa 1490) after an original by the Florentine sculptor Benedetto da Maiano (1442–1497) was painted with great skill and its subtle mood is reminiscent of the images of the Virgin Mary produced at much the same time by Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510).

The majolica technique, which is considered to have been invented by the 15th-century Florentine sculptor Luca della Robbia (1400–1482), made it possible to endow sculpture with brighter colours and to ensure its better preservation. The exhibition features items produced in the Della Robbia family studio right through to the early 1500s, including a Virgin Worshipping the Christ-Child; Saint Sebastian (circa 1510); Boy with a Flute and Boy with a Garland (both circa 1500) and more.

An example of portrait sculpture from the second half of the 15th century is provided by a piece unique in the museum collection – the terracotta Portrait of a Man created around the year 1500 by a follower of Benedetto da Maiano.

A distinct group among the exhibits is formed by terracotta busts produced under the influence of one of Florence’s foremost sculptors in the second half of the 15th century – Andrea Verrocchio (1435–1488). The images of Christ that Verrocchio created had a strong influence on his contemporaries. Through until the early 16th century, sculptors produced what were to one degree or another variations on them. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to see a terracotta Bust of Christ (1480s–90s) that derives from one of that master’s originals. Particularly fine execution and meticulous working up of the details mark the expressive bust of a Youthful Saint (early 1470s).

“The sculptures representing the artistic and spiritual world of Florence come from various, very famous collections. They are associated with names that resonate in the history of art collecting, such as Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna, Mikhail Botkin, Alexander Bazilevsky, Alexander Dolgorukov and Pavel Stroganov. The greater part of the Hermitage’s stock of Florentine sculpture came into the museum after 1917. Recently the Hermitage acquired a new remarkable collection of Italian art assembled by the Petersburgers Larisa and Oleg Shushkov which included six relief compositions. That was one of the ‘quiet sensations’ that have served as an occasion to describe our collection anew and to present it in its entirety in a single exhibition,” Mikhail Piotrovsky, General Director of the State Hermitage. writes in his foreword to the catalogue.

The exhibition is supplemented by a film (provided by the Leo-Lev centre) devoted to the restoration of a statue of the Archangel Gabriel from San Gennaro in Tuscany that was carried out in 2019 in Florence’s oldest restoration institute – the Opificio delle Pietro Dure – under the direction of Doctor Laura Speranza.

The restoration of the exhibits in preparation for the exhibition was carried out under the direction of Tatiana Baranova, head of the Hermitage’s Department of Scientific Restoration and Conservation, by restorers from the Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Sculpture and Semiprecious Stone – Yekaterina Andreyeva, Alexander Androkhanov, Alexandra Bogdanova, A.V. Bogoliubov and Vera Klur; and restorers from the Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Organic Materials – Yekaterina Mankova, Marina Michri, Yekaterina Kozlova, Yanina Motolianets and Tatiana Stoliarova. Also involved in the work were Olga Smolianitskaya, head of the Laboratory for Biological Monitoring and Protection, and the researcher I.A. Kalinina.

The State Hermitage publishing house has produced a scholarly illustrated catalogue for the exhibition – Skul’ptura Florentsii v XV veke (2022). The catalogue has a foreword by Mikhail Piotrovsky, General Director of the State Hermitage, entitled “Quiet Sensations”.

The catalogue texts are by Sergei Androsov (“15th-Century Florentine Sculpture in the Hermitage Collection”), Yekaterina Andreyeva and Alexandra Bogdanova (“The Restoration of 15th-Century Polychrome Terracotta and Plaster Sculpture in the State Hermitage”) and Oreste Ruggiero (“Two Statues from San Gennaro”).

The exhibition has been prepared by the State Hermitage’s Department of Western European Fine Art. The curator is Sergei Olegovich Androsov, Doctor of Art Studies, head of that department.

The exhibition can be visited during the museum’s working hours as part of either fixed route No 1 (entry by the Jordan Staircase) or fixed route No 2 (entry by the Church Staircase) around the Main Museum Complex.



Citer ce billet
Fiammetta Campagnoli (2022, 27 août). Exposition : “Fifteenth-Century Sculpture in Florence”, Saint-Pétersbourg, Musée de l’Ermitage, jusqu’au 4 septembre 2022. Centre d'Histoire de l'Art de la Renaissance. Consulté le 18 avril 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/moyv

Fiammetta Campagnoli

Fiammetta Campagnoli est doctorante en histoire de l'art moderne à l'Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Ses recherches se concentrent sur la perception et sur la réception de la spatialité de l’image mariale au XVe et au XVIe siècle.

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