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Orcagna's tabernacle

Orcagna's tabernacle

Gert Kreytenberg

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The tabernacle of the Madonna in the Church of Orsanmichele in Florence is one of the great monuments of Gothic art. Commissioned in 1349 by the Laudesi, a society devoted to the cult of the Virgin, it was to be a magnificent statement of Florentine piety, a marble shrine encrusted with mosaics and sculpture worthy of the wealth and the artistic heritage of the city. The Laudesi chose Andrea Orcagna, the foremost artist in the city at the time, to design and oversee the construction of their gift to the Madonna. Orcagna, a master painter at the height of his powers, had little experience as an architect or sculptor when he received the commission. However, he rose admirably to its demands, organizing a team of stone carvers, masons, and mosaicists. In doing so, he created the last great expression of Florentine Gothic genius before the dawn of the Renaissance. This generously illustrated book documents the shrine in detail for the first time, revealing the complexity of its design, the harmony of its proportions and the exquisite precision of its carving. The photographer, David Finn, is well known for his sensitive studies of sculpture. His work has illustrated highly regarded books on Donatello, Michelangelo, and Bernini, among others. The author, Gert Kreytenberg, a noted authority on fourteenth-century Italian art, places the tabernacle in historical and social context, and in relation to Orcagna's work as a whole. He enumerates the textual and visual sources for the iconography, and suggests possible attributions for individual sculptures. With 108 black-and-white photographs and 17 superb colorplates, the book will be a primary source for art historians. At the same time it will offer the general reader an intriguing and informative view of a Florentine masterpiece.
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