TYPOLOGY AND MORPHOLOGY OF THE 15th CENTURY ALTARPIECES IN DALMATIAReport as inadecuate




TYPOLOGY AND MORPHOLOGY OF THE 15th CENTURY ALTARPIECES IN DALMATIA - Download this document for free, or read online. Document in PDF available to download.

Contributions to the History of Art in Dalmatia, Vol.29 No.1 February 1991. -

On the basis of numerous 15 th century contracts to paint altarpieces in some towns of southern Croatia, the author gives a survey of their typology together with the analysis of archival documents and preserved paintings. He, first, semiologically explains the appearance and growth of altarpieces in mediaeval and early Renaissance period, and mentions the names of painters and wood cutters involved. The author states that gothic polyptychs varying in number and quality of painted panels set in ornamented and guilded frames were still in use. He further explains the problem of their nomenclature recorded in several variations, not necessarily resulting from the form of the polyptych.

Polyptych must have become popular in Dalmatia in the early 14 th century when several monumental pieces were purchased from Italy. Then, trough work of some foreign painters, especially P. Veneziano, it became favourite type of altarpiece which grew even more widespread with the development of Gothic fashion among the local artists. The continuity of triptychs could be traced back to Romanesque time, while one-part sacred paintings-icons ceased to have monumental dimensions and, as such, become object of private cult. Since some 200 polyptychs from Gothic and Renaissance period were mentioned in written sources their comparison based on several criteria was developed. These analyses are confirmed by about twenty preserved works mostly made by Dalmatian artists from the same period. It was found out that the model in Gothic style with usually horizontally arranged sacred pictures in one or two rows lasted longer than the others. Variety was achieved by emphasizing central parts, by enlarging the central panels or by surmounting decorative top. At the same time there was a tendency to cluster painted panels round the central picture which dominated the surrounding ones with its subject, size and arrangement. Although balanced form of an altarpiece was a square one with tendency to grow in hight, this development was not necessarily influenced by Renaissance features, though these were harmoniously incorporated in the alterpiece since the first decades of the Cinquecento. But predominant tendency of the 15th century was to follow the Trecento’s experiences, mostly Venetian ones, as is evident from many details. This also confirms provincial character of this art, very often reduced to more craft, after authenticated mediaeval traditions.

Otherwise, typological divisions are based on the number of painted panels and their inner distribution. More numerous are those with odd number of members, 5 or 7, with monumental doubling, that is, with 10 do 14 sacred paintings and even more in very rich churches. But it was not possible to deduce any regylarity in putting more lavish or expensive paintings in parish churces, cathedrals of monastery buildings, nor was it possible to confirm that certain artist preferred only particular artistic type, which reveals complex artistic market that followed main currents in towns and villages. In each case commission is an important lead for finding out degree of creativity, but like iconography it was mostly stated in terms of technical details. Analyzing inner structure of those works of art it was possible to distinguish several centers of production, so that Zadar was marked by strong traditionality in spired by northern styles befitting the court, while Dubrovnik led the way in the number of works revealing local traditional features.

Typological differences mostly appear i different shape of predella and in the articulation of the top part of the altarpiece. While Venetian Dalmatia remained faithful to the predella-type with sequence of small pictures depicting apostles with or without centrally placed figure of Christ, narrative scenes with horizontally placed panels prevailed in Dubrovnik. Differences were not so marked in the upper part, although craftsmen from Dubrovnik were the first to apply Renaissance features. The polyptychs whose central figures were carved in reliefs, were made in alla the towns but in Dubrovnik the number of so plastically rendered figures could be bigger, even 14, especially from the mid Quattrocento on. Special door-like constructions for closing polyptychs with carved and painted panels started to be used, as is testified by the rich written sources, but only rare pieces have been preserved. The analysis of these interesting documents confirms that mostly Gothic features prevail until the 16 th century. However, morphological analysis will say more on the subject in the second part of the paper.

The paper also deals with the special type of altars made by the painters and carvers along the coast. An interesting feature is the appearance of polyptych-like altar with centally placed old icons of outstanding religious importance. The altars of the same type but with the built in tabernacle were in use since the mid 15 th century when they were introduced by new liturgy. Some earlier restored polyptychs were closely studied on the basis of records and their adherence to traditional restauration techniques was analyzed. So an attempt was made to give a general survey of art in which the typology of a work of art is the basis for further analysis of style and character of painting in Dalmatia at the end of the Middle Ages and at the beginning of modern times. This was accompanied with the names of craftsmen and painters, mostly Croatian ones, living on the coast, but the author’s aim was not to write a history of painting but to give a comment on the typology of production rich in quality and quantity.



Author: Igor Fiskovć - ; Faculty of philosophy in Zagreb, University of Zagreb

Source: http://hrcak.srce.hr/



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