Giovanni de Fondulis - The Deposition of Christ with Carlotta of Lusignano, after 1483

Giovanni de Fondulis (active Crema, 1450 - 1500)

The Deposition of Christ with Carlotta of Lusignano, after 1483

Polychromed and gilded terracotta, 96 cm (37 13/16 in.)

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Object details

Accession number

S31w3

Provenance

Comissioned by Marietta of Patras (d. 1503), Greek mistress of King John II of Cyprus (1418-1458), in memory of her granddaughter Carlotta of Lusigano (1468-1480), the illegitimate daughter of King James II of Cyprus (about 1440-1473) in about 1480.
Installed in the altar of San Salvatore, errected in 1483 and consecrated in 1487, in the left transept of the Dominican church of Sant'Agostino, Padua. Carlotta's tomb was at the foot of this altar.
Moved to a nearby wall and the crumbling altar replaced by 1761.
The church of Sant'Agostino was demolished in 1829.
Purchased by the Count of Schio from an unknown source for use in his private chapel, Villa Schio, Costozza in 1840.
Purchased by the antiquarian and dealer Professor Emilio Constantini from the Schio family, Costozza in April 1897.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from Emilio Costantini, Florence for 23,625 lire on 6 October 1897. (as the work of Paduan sculptor Bartolomeo Bellano, 1437/8-1496/7)
The sculpture's arrival to Boston was delayed by a customs dispute. It arrived around 15 February 1901. (see Hadley's 1987 publication in the bibliography, pp. 129, 251).

Dimension Notes

Carlotta: 46 x 19 cm (18 1/8 x 7 1/2 in.) Virgin: 82 x 38 cm (32 5/16 x 14 15/16 in.) Christ: 88 x 32 cm (34 5/8 x 12 5/8 in.) John the Evangelist: 96 x 40 cm (37 13/16 x 15 3/4 in.)

Bibliography

Wilhelm von Bode. "Lo scultore Bartolomeo Bellano da Padova." Archivio Storico dell'Arte (1891), p. 409. (as by Bartolomeo Bellano)
Cornelius von Fabriczy. "Giovanni Minello. Ein Paduaner Bildner vom Ausang des Quattrocento." Jarhbuch des Königlich Preuszischen Kunstsammlungen, vol. 28 (1907), pp. 65, 68-71, fig. 2. (as attributed to Giovanni Minelli, 1480-1489, probably 1483; consult for earlier manuscript sources)
Adolfo Venturi. L'Arte: rivista di storia dell'arte medioevale e moderna e d'arte decorativa (Rome, 1906), pp. 442-43. (as Paduan, influenced by Donatello; attributed by Bode to Bellano)
Adolfo Venturi. Storia dell'Arte Italiana VI: La Scultura del Quattrocento (Milan, 1908), p. 493, n2. (as "correctly" attributed by Fabriczy to Minelli)
Wilhelm von Bode. "Alte Kunst in den Vereinigten Staaten." Die Woche, vol. 50 (16 December 1911), p. 2100. (as by Minelli)
Leo Planiscig. Venezianische Bildhauer der Renaissance (Vienna, 1921), p. 158. (as by Minelli)
Sir Eric Robert Dalrymple Maclagan. Italian Sculpture of the Renaissance: the Charles Eliot Norton lectures for the years 1927-1928 (Cambridge, 1935), pp. 178, 180, fig. 86. (generally accepted as the work of Minelli)
Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 279. (as by Minelli, after 1480)
Stuart Preston. "The Entombment" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), p. 26, ill. (as by Minelli)
Rollin Hadley. “Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 7, no. 22 (26 Jan. 1964), p. 2. (excerpting Eric MacLagan, p. 178)
Rollin Hadley. “Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 7, no. 31 (29 Mar. 1964), p. 2. (as by Minelli)
George L. Stout. Treasures from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1969), pp. 208-09, ill. (as by Minelli)
Cornelius C. Vermeule III et al. Sculpture in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1977), pp. 134-36, no. 167. (as by Minelli, about 1483-1487)
Rollin van N. Hadley. Museums Discovered: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1981), p. 156-57, ill. (as by Minelli, about 1483-1486)
Cornelius C. Vermeule, III. "The Crusader (Lusignan) Kingdom of Cyprus: Echoes in the Fenway." Fenway Court (1987), pp. 31-39, figs. 1-2. (as by Minelli, about 1483)
Rollin van N. Hadley (ed.). The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner 1887-1924 (Boston, 1987), pp. 100-01, 105-06, 108-09, 123, 127, 129, 248, 251.
Giuliana Ericani in Vittorio Sgarbi (ed.). La scultura al tempo di Andrea Mantegna tra classicismo e naturalismo (Mantua: Castello di San Giogio, 2006), p. 94. (as attribution problematic, 1482)
Andrea Bacchi et al. Rinascimento e Passione per l'Antico: Andrea Riccio e il suo tempo. Exh. cat. (Trento: Museo Diocesano Tridentino, 2008), pp. 26, 28, fig. 8. (as by Giovanni Paolo Fonduli?)
Sotheby's. "An Important Italian Painted Terracotta Half-Length Figure of Saint Jerome, Attributed to Giovanni De Fondulis..." Important Old Master Paintings, Including European Works of Art (New York, 2009), lot 321. (as by Fonduli)
Giuliana Ericani. "Prima e dopo Giovanni de Fondulis. La terracotta padovana di secondo Quattrocento" in Anna Maria Spiazzi et al. (eds.). La Cappella Ovetari: Artisi, tecniche, materiali (Milan, 2009), p. 118. (as ascribed to Minelli but on stylistic grounds should be reattributed to Fonduli)
Sotheby's. "Saint Catherine of Alexandria." Important European Terracotta & Bronze Sculpture from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections (New York, 29 Jan. 2010), lot 409. (as ascribed to Fonduli)
Jessica Chloros, Valentine Talland et al. "Italian Renaissance Polychrome Terracotta Sculpture in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum." ICOM Committee for Conservation in association with the Corning Museum of Glass (2010), pp. 214-17, fig. 5. (as recently reattributed to Fonduli, 1483-1487)
Giuliana Ericani. "Giovanni de Fondulis. Un importante capitolo della scultura rinascimentale padana" in Paolo Venturelli (ed.). Rinascimento cremasco. Arti, maestri e botteghe tra XV e XVI secolo. Exh cat. (Museo Civico di Crema e del Cremasco: Crema, 2015), pp. 77-8, figs. 17-18. (as by Fonduli, after 1483)


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Commentary

The death and entombment of Christ was often depicted by terracotta sculptors, who focused on the agonizing sadness of the mourners, here the Virgin to the left of Christ and Saint John on the right. The artist’s working of the clay heightens this agitation. The grooves of the textiles, hair, skin, and fingers mingle with the painted streaks of tears and blood to create an overall texture.

This stylized rendering of emotion is very different from the calm grace of Gardner's Virgin and Child sculpture by Matteo Civitali, which was made at around the same time.

Isabella Gardner bought this sculpture in 1897 as the work of Bartolomeo Bellano. It was shipped to Boston in three pieces sent from different ports to avoid the suspicions of customs officers in both Italy and the U.S. Gardner did not actually see the sculpture until four years later when she unpacked it to install in her museum. It has recently been discovered that this is a work by Giovanni de Fondulis, a sculptor active in Padua.

Conservation notes:

Between 2007 and 2010, Gardner conservators undertook detailed study and conservation of three of the Gardner’s terracotta sculptures: Virgin Adoring the Child, Matteo Civitali, ca. 1480; Bust of St. John the Baptist, Benedetto da Maiano, ca. 1480; and Entombment of Christ, Giovanni Minelli (recently reattributed to Giovanni de Fondulis), ca. 1483-87, in addition to thirteen 19th-century paintings in the Gardner Museum’s collection. Funded by the Sherman Fairchild Foundation, this work focused on the analysis of paint and elemental constituents of the terracotta as well as treatment, which provided new insights into the sculptures’ composition and condition. For example, research revealed that the works by Civitali and de Fondulis preserve much of their original 15th-century paint, while Benedetto da Maiano’s Bust of St. John the Baptist has been over-painted several times—including once with a thick layer of black paint mixed with a combination of ground copper and brass metal leaf that was applied to make it appear as though the bust was made of bronze. Analysis also revealed new information about the method of modeling the figures, which were all done by hand as indicated by the visible took marks, the selective massing of the clay, the hollowed out walls with uniform thickness, and the individual expressiveness of the figures. Methods of evaluation focused on X-radiography, paint cross-sections, Scanning Electron Microscopy-Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), Raman spectroscopy, thermoluminescence, and other methods of evaluation conducted by the Gardner Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. These new discoveries contributed to the 2010 exhibition, Modeling Devotion: Terracotta Sculptures of the Italian Renaissance, which highlighted the highly emotive and expressive qualities of these artworks, their technique and condition, and even fakes and forgeries created in the late 19th century to fuel a growing market.

In addition to in-depth technical analysis, treatment, and photographic documentation of the de Fondulis, conservators completed comparative study analysis of the artwork in Padua, Italy. A notable finding included the reattribution of this work to the previously obscure Renaissance Paduan sculptor Giovanni de Fondulis. Specializing in highly emotive painted terracottas, de Fondulis’ importance has only recently been reconstructed by scholars. This sculpture is one of only twenty known examples of de Fondulis’ work. The treatment of this sculpture focused primarily on consolidation of the paint/ground layers and surface cleaning. The sculpture was conserved in 1936 at the Gardner in an effort to consolidate flaking paint. The method used was a wax/resin mixture that was melted together and then applied to the painted surface. Upon cooling, excess consolidant was wiped away with solvents. Unfortunately, this treatment was no longer effective and the wax/resin material had actually become quite dark and yellowed with age. The soft wax surface had also accumulated and retained a significant amount of dirt and dust. Therefore, the recent conservation treatment focused on locally consolidating the paint and ground layers and to remove the discolored residual wax/rein from the paint surface. Areas of paint loss exposing bare terracotta were isolated with a reversible resin and in-painted to blend with adjacent surfaces.

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