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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.

Giovanni Angelo del Maino (Italian, about 1475 - about 1525), Massacre of the Innocents, about 1520, wood, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, H. E. Bolles Fund, photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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Comment

1.

mark

January 23, 2007, 2:41 PM

Thanks for the images, Franklin, great post.

2.

Jack

January 23, 2007, 8:12 PM

A bag over its head, eh? That's an idea. Could be extended to non-sculpture objects as well. I can think of numerous candidates for such treatment within recent memory here in Miami, and at all the best places, too. Of course, I'm not talking about stuff in storage, but very much on display, often ostentatiously so. Who knows? I could become the new Christo.

3.

jm

January 23, 2007, 10:26 PM

Like "Logan's Run" the bag over the head is synonymous with the excellent youth - the one that can and can't - or Kant...

4.

Marc Country

January 23, 2007, 10:44 PM

"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."

Similar to the colouring method used by some Edmonton steel sculptors, except we generally skip the gilding...

5.

MC

January 23, 2007, 10:50 PM

Speaking of cant... can someone translate comment #3 for me?

6.

jm

January 24, 2007, 12:37 AM

...ethics, quality, wisdom, business, freedom, and youthful expectations - you figure it out...

7.

jm

January 24, 2007, 1:11 AM

Thanks Lombardi !

8.

ahab

January 24, 2007, 1:11 AM

There are only nine works shown in the MFA's virtual preview of DtoG, of which four look worthy of a second take. A miniature cast of my favourite Giambologna is in there, Bonacolsi's Cleopatra looks pretty good, Donatello's Madonna of the Clouds might hold up to scrutiny, and Rustici's John the Baptist may be alright.

Del Maino's Massacre is obviously impressive in execution, but that's about all that interests me about it. How did he carve such teeny figures so perfectly? I totally would have massacred one of those innocent little babies if I'd tried to carve it myself. But that's all I can think about with this piece.

I'm not sure they're sufficient reason to book a plane to Boston, though I wouldn't mind seeing some of that Japanese basketry. But Boston itself is probably reason enough to go - especially for someone who hasn't been out of
Edmonton for three years. Well, full disclosure: I drove through Calgary on my way to Medicine Hat one time and Kamloops another. Sorry for the full disclosure.

9.

MGT

January 24, 2007, 7:05 AM

Franklin: Once again, thanks for another GREAT post. I love the pictures! I've been trying to soak up every detail - I wish I was there to see it in person. I agree with Ahab about the masterful execution, but the piece is also charged with emotion and to me, it's intense.

10.

MC

January 24, 2007, 1:00 PM

I think I'll just stick with the bag over my head...

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