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Title: The decoration of the Collegiata Santa Maria Assunta at San Gimignano and related problems of medieval iconology
Author: Smith, Michael Q.
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 1967
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The frescoes of the Collegiata at San Gimignano are famous, and passing references to them will be found in most histories of Tuscan painting. The purpose of the new study has been to treat them in such a way that their unity as a scheme of decoration should be made apparent, and that their position as a unit might be recognised within the context of Trecento painting whether in fresco or on panel. All previous studies have concentrated of a different aspect of the problem - that of identifying the hands of the various painters. In the course of the study the unity of the scheme, which had been recognised on archaelogical grounds by Faison, has now been proved not only for the mid-trecento work but also for the subsequent parts; these include late fifteenth century paintings of prophets which complete the scheme. The correct interpretations of the whole is indicated by the inscriptions on their scrolls. Changes in emphasis in the religious art of the period 1350-1500 are very briefly considered, and an indication is given of the place of the Collegiata in Gothic Europe. Particular emphasis is placed on the recognition of the factors which help to explain the uniqueness of the Collegiata frescoes: chief among them are the architectural form of the building and the techniques of fresco rather than tempera painting. In this context, an analysis is made of the ways in which iconography derived from Duccio's Maesta is transformed, under Giottesque influence, into monumental forms. Comparison is also made with other fresco-cycles, particularly with the Job series in the Camposanto, Pisa. The study of the Collegiata is part of a much longer project, a study of the practice of decorating churches with typological schemes. The study of the Collegiata frescoes involved consideration of the place of hagiographical cycles in similar contexts, and as a demonstration of this practice, a particular study has been made of the frescoes of the crypt at Anagni. These date from c. 1255, a century earlier than the Collegiata frescoes, and provide an important example of the use of a scheme carried out during the intervening period at Assisi. The content of the schemes in the Collegiata and at Anagni are described, and suitable evidence from such authorities as S. Augustine and S. Gregory the Great, from sermons, commentaries and from service books is produced. Consideration of the artists concerned allowed a suggestion to be made concerning the inter-relationship of a rare Sienese drawning and a fresco of the same subject in the Collegiata; connexions between manuscript illuminations and the Anagni frescoes had already been discovered by Garrison. The consideration of the place of the Collegiata frescoes in the history of Trecento painting necessitated a reconsideration of the oeuvre of the major figure, Barna, an artist whose personality has been obscured by a number of false attributions. In an Interim Catalogue (many of his works are inaccessible in the United States) an attempt has been made to clarify the situation. During the preparation of this work, a Sienese panel was encountered at Stalybridge, Manchester, and at its exhibition in London a short article on its iconography (together with another on a panel at Birmingham) was published.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral