Thursday, July 7, 2016

Andrea Bregno, the great sculptor of Quattrocento Rome.

Before Michelangelo, contemporary to the great Florentine masters, even if perhaps not as famous, Rome had its own great Renaissance monument maker: Andrea Bregno whose very fine work can be found scattered throughout the main churches of the Eternal City.
Andrea di Cristoforo Bregno was born in Osteno in Lombardy into a great family of sculptors, as it used to happen, they formed a workshop in Ferrara and supervised works in the Doge's Palace in Venice. He is well renowned for his work in Rome from the 1460s up to the end of Quattrocento.

Because of his outstanding talent Andrea was invited to Rome when Paul II, a Venetian, was elected Pope - he started to work consistently under Pope Sixtus IV Della Rovere when he began to project great monuments and tombs for the cardinals of the curia. His work is very characteristic of 15th century Rome as it is inspired by Classical and Early Christian art, but it evolved also thanks to Mino da Fiesole, a Florentine sculptor who often collaborated with him in Rome and who gave him that Renaissance touch which we can still see in his work. Raphael's father Giovanni mentioned Andrea's great skills in his biography of Federico da Montefeltro, the Duke of Urbino. In Rome he moved very well in the papal court and its humanist circles - he was especially a great friend of Bartolomeo Platina, the Vatican librarian. He also invented an original method of creating epigraphs for *his* tombs. During his first years in Rome he collaborated with Mino da Fiesole in the Sistine Chapel on the choir's balcony (the cantoria) and the chapel's marble screen. 

Among his first works in Rome are the monument to the cardinal De Cusa who died in 1464, in St. Peter's ad Vincula, with a fine sculpture of an angel and St. Peter's presenting the keys to the cardinal and the rather extravagant coat of arms of his family: a lobster. 

Another fine work is the monument to the Cardinal D'Albret who died in 1465, in Santa Maria in Aracoeli, where we can first see the Florentine influence in the shape of it all, the classical columns  and the grotesque decorations on the frame, but also the reredos above the resting statue of the donor - the patron saints of Rome, Peter and Paul. St. Francis (being in a Franciscan church) and St. Michael are very finely sculpted at the bottom of the pillars that hold the canopy together. The sarcophagus that recalls classical ones is a touch he added to most of his works.

Also from this time is the tabernacle of San Gregorio al Celio, the actual tabernacle is surrounded by a triumph of angels, saints with God the Father above it all and the Madonna with Child under it - Mary being the living tabernacle mystically offering the body of her Son to us. 

In 1466 he works in Santa Maria sopra Minerva on some monuments and in 1473 he designs the altar of Santa Maria del Popolo (now in the sacristy). 

That same year he works on the tomb of cardinal Roverella in San Clemente. The following year he works on the tomb of cardinal Pietro Riario (probably with Mino da Fiesole) in the Basilica of SS. Apostoli.  The decoration consists of the usual Madonna with Child and saints, the mourning cherubs at the bottom of the pillars are rather dramatic.

Between the 1470s and the early 1500s he works on the tombs of two Della Rovere cardinals (Cristoforo and Domenico) in S. Maria del Popolo. Pintoricchio was inspired by Bregno's sarcophaguses for that in the fresco of Mary's Assumption in the Della Rovere chapel next door.


Among his last works are the baptismal font and humbry, donated by Vannozza Cattanei (Alexander VI's mistress) for Santa Maria del Popolo. 


In the 1470s he created some of his most fascinating works: the somehow unknown Piccolomini tombs in the cloister of Sant'Agostino: Luca and Costanza, the latter is especially fine as it has a sort of aedicula that clearly recalls early-Christian burials and monuments in Rome.


In 1473 he worked again with Mino da Fiesole on the elaborate tomb of cardinal Forteguerri in Santa Cecilia, decorated with beautiful renditions of the Madonna with Child, saints and God the Father.

In 1477 he worked on the tomb of cardinal Diego Giovanni de Coca in Santa Maria sopra Minerva, with the help of an artist from the workshop of Antoniazzo Romano (the only Roman Renaissance artist) or Melozzo da Forlì.

One of his last works was the decoration of the chapel Coëtivy in Santa Prassede: cardinal Coëtivy was a titular of that basilica for several years and was awarded with a very fine tomb, again with a central sculpture representing Ss. Peter and Paul, under the pilasters are representations of two martyr saints: one is Pudenziana, the other of course, Prassede.

In 1503 he worked on the monuments of the secretaries of Pope Alexander VI in Santa Maria in Monserrato.

The reconstruction of the Renaissance church of Santa Maria del Popolo can be attributed to him, in fact he also designed the rather fine high altar reredos which was moved to the sacristy after the Council of Trent norms. The church also hosts peculiar hexagonal side chapels with ribbed vaults which he designed for the Della Rovere and other families for whom he also made monuments. He also worked with Bramante on the Palazzo della Cancelleria, near the Campo de' Fiori square.

His late work include the monumental and elaborate marble reredos of the Piccolomini altar in the Siena cathedral completed in 1503.

Andrea Bregno died in Rome in 1506 and his tomb is in Santa Maria sopra Minerva - it is probably a work by Luigi Capponi. His work and legacy continued with his great workshop.

Among great works from his workshop is the splendid reredos in the crucifix's chapel in Santa Maria della Pace (c.1493).

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