Nicola Pisano was one of the last medieval sculptors to include classical styles. His interest in copying Roman styles presupposed artistic ideals of the Italian Renaissance. Frederick II of Germany, who ruled Sicily while Pisano was trained there as a sculptor, saw himself as the heir to the Caesars and emphasized the incorporation of classical styles into art. Pisano took these influences with him when he moved north to Pisa and carved the Annunciation and Nativity scene for the pulpit of the baptistery of Pisa Cathedral. The dense grouping of figures on the pulpit’s panel, their Roman features, and the reclining Mary reflect carvings from Etruscan, Roman, and Early Christian sarcophagi that Pisano would have seen in both Sicily and Pisa. While the figures are classical, the focus on human feeling is typical of Gothic art. The fact that the Annunciation and Nativity carving was created for a baptistery pulpit is significant. Baptism in thirteenth century Italy was a civic and religious event, bringing children into both the church and the commune. While the Annunciation and Nativity panel depicts several stories and figures relating to the birth of Christ, such as the shepherds in the upper right and Joseph in the lower left, the lower-central apocryphal scene of two midwives testing the temperature of the Christ child’s bath evoke associations with the sacrament of baptism. Digitized static image of the Annunciation and Nativity.
33-1/2 x 44-1/2 in.
civ metadata; 98400499.jpg
Cunningham & Reich, Culture & Values vol.4, fig. 9.2 C&V p.239; H. W. Janson and Anthony F. Janson, A Basic History of Western Art, 7th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2006), 223; Fred S. Kleiner and Christin J. Mamiya, Gardner's Art Through the Ages, 12th ed., vol 2 (Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2005), 525-526; Frederick Hartt and David G. Wilkins, History of Italian Renaissance Art, 5th ed. (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2003), 79-80.
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