FORMS OF SCULPTING
EVOLUTION OF SCULPTURE
Jacopo Sansovino (1486-1570)
One of the great Renaissance sculptors in Florence, Jacopo Sansovino was instrumental in introducing the High Renaissance style of art to Venice, although he is probably best known for his Venetian Renaissance architecture, notably the public library, the Mint and St Marks Square. In the fine arts, he excelled in sculpture and his best known work includes his bronze relief sculpture Allegory of Redemption (1546-65, Basilica di San Marco, Venice), and his statue of Bacchus (1510, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence).
Sansovino was born in Florence in 1486 and was christened Jacopo Tatti. He began his career as a sculptor, apprenticed with Andrea Sansovino, whose name he subsequently adopted.
Sansovino initially worked in Rome and Florence. He attracted the attention of the artists Donato Bramante and Raphael with a wax model (the Deposition of Christ) that he sculpted on behalf of Perugino (14461524) to use for a competition. In 1511 he obtained a Florentine commission for a marble statue of St James (1511-18) for the Duomo. The commission was a continuation of a project for the twelve Apostles which had been abandoned by Michelangelo.
Sansovino also carved a marble sculpture of Bacchus for the Duomo, which is now housed in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence. Sansovino's Bacchus (God of Wine) is different to Michelangelo's Bacchus (also in the Bargello) which he had no doubt seen. Where Michelangelo's is bloated and inebriated, Sansovino's is healthy and joyful. In his famous book Lives of The Artists, the biographer Giorgio Vasari (1511-74) admired Sansovino's Bacchus for it's 'virtuoso carving', especially for the extended arm, a technical feat which no ancient sculptor had accomplished in marble without a strut. In 1527, after the violent upheaval of the 'Sack of Rome' by foreign mercenaries, which brought down the curtain on Renaissance art, Sansovino moved to Venice.
BEST WORKS OF SCULPTURE
Move to Venice: Architectural Projects
Sansovino was warmly received in Venice. The Italian painter, draughtsman and illustrator Lorenzo Lotto (c.14801556) declared on Sansovinos arrival that Sansovino was 'second only to Michelangelo'. With this sort of encouragement, Sansovino quickly became the most influential architect in the city.
In 1529 he was appointed proto of the Procurators of San Marco, the most influential architectural office in the country. Under the auspices of this office he orchestrated the reworking of Piazza di San Marco (Mark's Square) to its current form. The Piazza has always been viewed as the centre of Venice and has been the seat of the archbishopric since the 19th century. It was also the focus for many of Venice's festivals. Sansovino then began his design on the Republic's new Mint (Zecca) in 1536 which became one of the biggest in Europe. He also designed the city library - Libreria Vecchia (1536-88) - on the Piazzetta San Marco. This structure is considered one of his masterpieces of Renaissance architecture, and is based on the ancient Roman Theatre of Macellus. As with all of Sansovino's buildings, the facade is heavily adorned with ornamentation, carved friezes and freestanding sculptures. The Fabbriche Nuove di Rialto, begun in 1553 was also one of Sansovino's public structures. The Rialto is a popular area of Venice and was largely destroyed in a fire in 1514. It was gradually rebuilt with the help of several architects, sculptors and craftsmen. He also designed several private commissions of churches, hospitals and palaces.
Sansovino continued to work on his own sculptural commissions, along with the help of his apprentices in his workshop. Examples include:
Marble and bronze Baptismal Font
(c.1545, Basilica di San Marco, Venice)
Allegory of Redemption (1546-65,
Basilica di San Marco, Venice)
St John the Baptist (1554, Santa
Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice)
Madonna with Child (c.1527, Museo
Nazionale del Bargello)
Madonna and Child (1511-18, Museum
of Fine Arts, Budapest)
Sacristy Door (1550s, Basilica di
San Marco, Venice)
Legacy As a Sculptor and Architect
Sansovino died in Venice in 1570. His sepulchre can be found in the Baptistery of St. Mark's Basilica. Although he was a sculptor of undeniable skill, his lasting legacy is in the field of architecture. Rated among the greatest architects in Venice, the buildings he created several hundreds of years ago are as much appreciated today for their beauty, as no doubt they were in the their own time. He went on to influence a new generation of architects, including Andrea Palladio and Baldassare Longhena.