1902 Encyclopedia > Giovanni Pisano

Giovanni Pisano
Italian sculptor
(c. 1250 - 1330)

PISANO, GlOVANNI (c. 1250-1330), son of Nicola Pisano (see below), born about 1250, was but little inferior to his father either as an architect or a sculptor. Together with Arnolfo del Cambio and other pupils, he developed and extended into other parts of Italy the renaissance of sculpture which in the main was due to the extraordinary talent of that distinguished artist. After he had spent the first part of his life at home as a pupil and fellow-worker o of Niccola, the younger Pisano was summoned between 1270 and 1274 to Naples, where he worked for Charles of Anjou on the Castel Nuovo. One of his earliest independent performances was the Campo Santo at Pisa, finished about 1283 ; along with this he executed various pieces of sculpture over the main door and inside the cloister. The richest in design of all his works (finished about 1286) is in the cathedral of Arezzo, - a magnificent marble high altar and reredos, adorned both in front and at the back with countless figures and reliefs - mostly illustrative of the lives of St Gregory and St Donato, whose bones are enshrined there. The actual execution of this was probably wholly the work of his pupils. In 1290 Giovanni was appointed architect or " capo maestro " of the new cathedral at Siena, in which office he succeeded Lorenzo Maitani, who went to Orvieto to build the less ambitious but equally magnificent duomo which had just been founded there. The design of the gorgeous facade of that duomo has been attributed to him, but it is more probable that lie only carried out Maitani's design. According to Vasari, Giovanni and other pupils of Niccola also executed the bas-reliefs on the west front of Orvieto, but this assertion is unsupported by any documentary evidence. At Perugia, Giovanni built the church of S. Domenico in 1304, but little of the original structure remains. The north transept, however, still contains his beautiful tomb of Benedict XI., with a sleeping figure of the pope, guarded by angels who draw aside the curtain (see woodcut).

Above is a sculptured plinth supporting canopied figures of the Madonna and other saints. The whole composition is framed by a high cusped and gabled arch, on twisted columns, enriched with glass mosaic in the style of the Cosmati. The general design is like the earlier tomb of Cardinal de Braye at Orvieto, the work of Giovanni's fello -pupil, Arnolfo del Cambio.

One of Giovanni's most beautiful architectural works is the little chapel of S. Maria della Spina, on the banks of the Arno in Pisa; the actual execution of this gem-like chapel, and the sculpture with which it is adorned, was mostly the work of his pupils.' This exquisite little building has recently been pulled down and rebuilt, under the pretext of " restoration."

The influence of his father Niccola is seen strongly in all Giovanni's works, but especially in the pulpit of S. Andrea. at Pistoia, executed about 1300. In design it resembles that in the Pisan bAptistery ; but the reliefs are less severely classical, and more full of vivid dramatic power and complicated motives. Another pulpit, designed on the same lines, was made by him for the nave of Pisa cathedral between 1310 and 1311. Only fragments of this now exist, but it is in course of restoration. The last part of Giovanni's life was spent at Prato, near Florence, where with many pupils he worked at the cathedral till his death about 1330.

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