📍 🇮🇹 Scaliger tombs - less is more?
"I can't profess, even after much worshipful gazing, to have fully comprehended and enjoyed these soaring pinnacles with their high-poised canopies..." admitted English writer Henry James in 1872. Impressive artistic craft in his view, but something's missing.
French historian Henri Focillon (1881-1943) gave it another shot a few decades later. He sees the strong influence of Gothic humanism coming from northern Europe and spreading over Italy between 1300 and 1400, "the thrill of our human particularity replacing everywhere in Europe the grandeur of the old Christian calm".
Now, look closer. First at Cangrande, then at Cansignorio della Scala. Take your time. Breathe in; breathe out. Try to catch differences.
Have you noticed the dignity of Cangrande (1291-1329) and the monumentality of Cansignoro (1340-1375)?
The former did not choose sculptures of his own heroic deeds to be remembered, but that of Resurrection - all deeply religious in content, and "so little inconspicuous, so little intrusive" in spirit (Ruskin). The latter, only two generations later, minimized the presence of the Christian message and brought forward "the images of his own assumed virtues, namely Faith, Hope, Charity, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude" - even though he was twice a fratricide and accelerated the decline of Verona.
Less, once again, is more...
____ Sources ____
>> John Ruskin, "Stones of Venice", 1851
>> Henry James, "Italian Hours", 1909
>> Henri Focillon, "The Art of the West in the Middle Ages", 1938