Dottori in facciata, poeti in giardino. Il riuso secentesco di quattro statue di Piero di Giovanni Tedesco e di Niccolò Lamberti da S. Maria del Fiore

Author: Enrica Neri Lusanna

Doctors on the façade, poets in the garden. The seventeenth century reuse of four statues by Piero di Giovanni Tedesco and Niccolò Lamberti from S. Maria del Fiore

The historiography of the previous century identified four statues at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence as the Doctors of the Church that originated from the old façade of the cathedral. This attribution was based on reference to documents that attest to the commission and payments to Piero di Giovanni Tedesco (Saint Jerome and Saint Ambrose) and Niccolò di Piero Lamberti (Gregory The Great and Saint Augustine) between 1395 and 1401, despite the fact that, at an unspecified time, the statues were transformed into crowned figures. However, recent studies suggest that the figures were originally conceived to represent poets “laureate”, and executed in the second decade of the fifteenth century by Giovanni d’Ambrogio, a Florentine sculptor more inclined to penetrate the humanistic spirit and to record the innovations of the Renaissance than the artists mentioned above.
In this paper, the author reconfirms the choice of religious subjects documented at the end of the 14th century, by undertaking an iconographic and formal review of the individual statues after restoration, and highlights the particular stylistic and illustrative features that make it possible to return them to their original attribution, and to date their transformation to the end of the 16th century or early 17th century. This was the point at which, having been bought by the Medici to decorate their gardens, the statues were adapted, by the hand of a sculptor close to Giovanni Caccini, from sacred to profane figures. The Medici was not the only family to buy marble statues from the Opera del Duomo after the destruction of the Arnolfian façade in 1587. However, unlike another great collector of the time, Riccardo Riccardi, who was more inclined to transform the medieval statues of the Duomo into classical sculptures, often replacing the original heads with parts from ancient statues, the Grand Dukes opted for a more complete, albeit limited, ‘mimetic’ reworking, which had gone unnoticed until now.