Angelo del Maino - Massacre of the Innocents
Post #943 • January 23, 2007, 12:40 PM • 10 Comments
Donatello to Giambologna at the MFA has interesting origins. Photographs from the early 1900s, depicting the European sculpture hall at the old MFA location at Copley Square, adorn the entrance. In them you can see masterpieces placed alongside plaster copies, including highly elaborate ones, such as a full-scale reproduction of a Giovanni Pisano pulpit. Since that time the museum has made an effort, albeit a seemingly scattered one, to augment its holdings of originals, but much of it lay in storage and relative neglect until the recent efforts of Marietta Cambareri, a curator who came to the MFA from the Getty several years ago. She set out to assess the collection of Italian Renaissance sculptural works, unclear at the beginning whether a viable show could come out of it. In the process, she came upon a John the Baptist with a bag over its head and soiled with everything from dust to wasp nests. Once cleaned (under the direction of conservation expert Abby Hykin) and researched, it had a convincing appearance and provenance as a work by Giovanni Francesco Rustici, who was friendly with Leonardo.
So the exhibition has an exquisite Donatello low relief, folky maiolica religious figurines, and a few dubious efforts of likely 19th Century origins. In short, with scholarly intents, it sets out masterpieces with what we might now call middle-market works, with a few frankly bogus objects. Cambareri deliberately and rightly excluded painting from the show, thereby achieving thorough coverage of three-dimensional objects from the Italian Renaissance, meant to adorn everything from church niches to dinner tables.
One work by Giovanni Angelo del Maino represents high accomplishment in Lombard wood sculpture, in which the region specialized. The artist carved all the figures from a single block, excepting one held in by 16th Century nails, indicating an early repair. He uses the coloring method favored in Lombardy, in which one applies gilding to the wood, paints it, and scratches the color to reveal the gold in places. The architecture sets up a narrative using, essentially, comic panels, read counterclockwise. Here's a link to the backstory for the uninitiated.