Storia dell’arte 4, Ottobre – Dicembre 1969
Il protomanierismo di Francesco di Giorgio Martini
In examining Francesco di Giorgio Martini’s work as a whole the author dwells at length on a kind of « sudden leap » forward in quality which occurred in the period between 1475 and the artist’s death in 1501. In the first place he points out that the Adoration of the Shepherds in the picture-gallery in Siena, which was painted in 1475, reveals a naturalistic tendency probably due to the influence of Florentine models; this was lacking in his preceding work and distinguishes it from his earlier production. His other Adoration of the Shepherds, painted about 1489, in the church of S. Domenico in Siena, shows that he had abandoned this tendency; in this painting the spatial composition is no longer based on a centralised perspective but aims, on the contrary, at producing an incorporeal, wafted effect, which gives the scene an ideal, spiritual atmosphere. From « space as vision », conveyed through perspective in his Adoration of 1475, Francesco di Giorgio Martini moved on to « space as idea » in the later work, a symbolical, mental and purely allusive conception. A similar, phenomenon may be observed in his sculptured work; this is evident if we compare the relief with the Deposition from the Church of the Carmine in Venice (about 1475) with the angels bearing candelabra in the cathedral of Siena. Whereas the Deposition represents the exact translation into a plastic medium of the optic naturalism evident in the contemporary Adoration of the Shepherds in the picture gallery, the angels in the cathedral are characterized by an ideographical and symbolical tendency, apparent chiefly in the graphic qualities of the modelling; the result is that they express a conception of spatial values similar to that seen in the Adoration of the Shepherds in S. Domenico. The author finds an analogous development in the designs for the first and second version of the Trattato di architettura e ingegneria, the former of which was written between 1476 and 1486 and the latter between 1485 and 1492. A comparison between the designs in the Saluzziano Codex Nr. 148 in Turin and those in the Magliabechiano Codex in Florence reveals the same stylistic characteristics. A closer examination of the drawings in the two versions of the Trattato shows, however, a difference in tendency, which in the second version has some aspects typical of « maniera », as abstract and symbolical values that are substituted for naturalistic representation. The author finds that the cause of these changes in attitude in Francesco di Giorgio Martini’s work is to be found in the clearer conception he had evolved of the role of classical antiquity: during his last years the artist came to realise that antiquity was not to be imitated, but studied with penetrating insight if it was to provide a lesson in method, capable of illustrating the means by which an unfettered imagination might coexist within the limits imposed by an ideal norm. The fact that in the second version of the Trattato Francesco di Giorgio Martini abandons his concept of space as « vision », as it had been defined in Renaissance perspective, and is no longer interested in antiquity as a decorative appendix or as a source of iconographical material in sculpture or painting, is significant. The author concludes by pointing out that it was a profounder understanding of antiquity and not the abandonment of any interest in it that led, in the Trattato, to a conception of space extremely complex in an existentialist sense — and this characterizes the mannerist tone and direction adopted by Francesco di Giorgio Martini during the last phase of his activity.