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The Round of Giovanni Pisano – written by Carlo Pagliai

The Round of Giovanni Pisano
Museum of the Collegiate of St. Andrew, (inventory Carocci 49)

By Carlo Pagliai    – Translation by L.F.

Leggi l’articolo in lingua iitaliana →     Read the full article in italian language 

Origins and history
It’s preserved and exhibited in the Museum of the Collegiate of St. Andrew in the town of Empoli, located in the old town; it is exactly placed on the ground floor in the “sculptures Room”, that includes several artworks during between the late thirteenth and eighteenth century;  this little round was previously placed over the sink in the sacristy, and transferred to the Museum of the Collegiata by Guido Carocci in 1894 [1], during which it was assigned the generic attribution of the <<Pisan school>>.

Tondo di Giovanni Pisano

The Round of Giovanni Pisano

Attribution and authenticity
There were a lot of opinions, sometimes conflicting, about the attribution of the work. As mentioned above, in 1894 it was generally attributed to the” School of Pisa”; later in 1905 Adolfo Venturi [2] defined the work as an example of spreading “almost industrial” prototypes of Giovanni Pisano occurred at the beginning of the fourteenth century.
Edward H. Giglioli [3] in 1906 expressed a critical opinion of the work, for which he expressed the following opinion:

<< A small bas-relief brings us back to the pisan art of the fourteenth century ; it is a Madonna and child modelled on the Junoesque type of Giovanni Pisano, but here the classical morphology of the face loses all finesse and the arm folds badly. The child, while retaining the traditional appearance, has marked defects in proportion (compare it for example with that of the Cathedral of Prato) especially in large and ugly hands, so it is a real caricature of the other. This sculpture is in conclusion a poor imitation of the powerful works of the great innovator of Plastic fourteenth century, and it was first over a sink in the sacristy. Figures are detached to the prominence of a medallion deeply sunken. In the last German edition of Cicerone’s Burckhardt the mediocre work is attributed to the school of Giovanni Pisano; the Venturi too believes that it derives from a youthful Madonna of the great master. >>

Later authors and historians as the Ragghianti and Peter Toesca [5] have attributed the work to the Sienese sculptor Tino da Camaino; among the last supporters of this thesis has added Antonio Paolucci [6], who placed the work << at the center of pisan assets of  Tino (1311-1315) the Madonna di Empoli >> as well as Peter Toesca, attribution also reported in another recent publication of local history written by Naldi and Pianigiani[7].

A publication of 2006 [8] signed by Rosanna Caterina Proto Pisani continues and deepens the initial thesis attributing to “School Pisana”; she supports the attribution of  the Round to Giovanni Pisano, also referring to other studies (Spannocchi 2005).
She says that the work is among the most important and early of Giovanni Pisano, son of Nicholas, also based on the presence of the Byzantine tradition of headset worn by Madonna; this iconographic element disappeared at the end of the penultimate decade of the thirteenth century, and previously used by Nicola Pisano to realize the pulpit of Siena.

The Museum of the Collegiate of St. Andrew:

Empoli - Piazzetta della Propositura - Foto di C. Pagliai

It’s a white marble of about 42,5 cm in diameter in which there are finely carved a Madonna and Child.
Both figures have turned their gazes to the left of the observer; the Madonna hold the Bambino Gesù with his left forearm, while his right arm seems to pose a “hint of presentation”.
This Madonna has her head encased in the headset of the Byzantine tradition; on it there is a wreath with two big leaves, decorated with pearls and precious stones carved; in the space between the two big leaves, there seems to be a small broken base , maybe once topped by a pearl or a further reduced leaf: This may be the type of noble crown of the Holy Roman Empire in ancient version.
The Child is dressed in a long tunic tied at the waist with a cord; shoulders are covered by a cape called sago (garment of ancient Romans origin in its ongoing Byzantine period) stop on the chest by a buckle. His right hand has fingers in blessing as they used the Byzantine priests, with the tip of the thumb touches the ring finger.

     by Carlo Pagliai   – Translation by L.F.

↖ Digital Guide-Ebook Museum of the Collegiate of St. Andrew

Notes and references:
[1] Il museo della Collegiata di Sant’Andrea in Empoli, A. Paolucci, Firenze 1985, pag 33;
[2] Venturi Adolfo, Storia dell’Arte Italiana, Vol IV, Hoepli 1905, pag. 287;
[3] Odoardo H. Giglioli: Empoli Artistica, Lumachi Editore, Firenze 1906, pag 58-59;
[4] Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti, 1938, pag. 170 e segg.
[5]  Pietro Toesca, Storia dell’arte italiana, II, Il trecento (1951)
[6] Il museo della Collegiata di Sant’Andrea in Empoli, A. Paolucci, Firenze 1985, pag 33;
[7] Empoli i luoghi e i tesori della storia, Naldi, Pianigiani, Terreni, Empoli 2012, pag. 58;
[8] Museo della Collegiata di Sant’Andrea in Empoli, R. Caterina Proto Pisani, Polistampa, Firenze 2006, pag. 47;

published in accordance with the decree-law “Franceschini” May 31, 2014 Art. 12 paragraph 3:

Essential bibliography
Empoli. Itinerari del Museo, della Collegiata e della Chiesa di Santo Stefano, R. C. Proto Pisani, collana “Biblioteca de Lo Studiolo”, Calenzano (Fi), Becocci/Scala, 2005;
Museo della Collegiata di Sant’Andrea a Empoli, R. C. Proto Pisani, collana “Piccoli Grandi Musei”, Firenze, Edizioni Polistampa, 2006;
Empoli, il Valdarno inferiore e la Valdelsa fiorentina, R. C. Proto Pisani, collana “I Luoghi della Fede”, Milano, Mondadori, 1999;
Empoli. I luoghi e tesori della storia, A. Naldi, P. Pianigiani, L. Terreni, Editori dell’Acero, Empoli 2012;
La Collegiata di Sant’Andrea a Empoli, la cultura romanica, la facciata, il restauro – Galletti, Moretti, Naldi, Edizioni dell’Erba, Fucecchio, 1991;
Chiese, cappelle, e oratori del territorio empolese, W.Siemoni, Editori dell’Acero, S. Croce sull’Arno, 1997;
Il museo della Collegiata di Sant’Andrea in Empoli, A. Paolucci, Firenze 1985
Empoli, una città e il suo territorio, W. Siemoni e M. Frati, Editori dell’Acero, Santa Croce sull’Arno, 1997;
Empoli: città e territorio. Vedute e mappe dal ‘500 al ‘900, AA.VV., Editori dell’Acero, Santa Croce sull’Arno 1998;
Il museo della Collegiata di Sant’Andrea in Empoli, A. Paolucci, Firenze 1985
Empoli: città e territorio. Vedute e mappe dal ‘500 al ‘900, AA.VV., Editori dell’Acero, Santa Croce sull’Arno 1998;

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