PISANO, Giovanni
(b. ca. 1250, Pisa, d. 1314, Pisa)

Pulpit

1301
Marble, height 455 cm
Sant'Andrea, Pistoia

From Vasari, we learn that the commission for a third Pisano pulpit, for S. Andrea in Pistoia, was awarded to Giovanni around 1297. The Latin inscription beneath the pulpit's narrative reliefs gives the name of its patron, Canon Arnoldus, and the date of its completion, 1301.

Probably because the church is a small Romanesque building, Giovanni returned to the hexagonal format of the Pisa Baptistry pulpit, although its Gothic character sets it apart from thc earlier work. Not only are the cusps of the archivolt pointed Gothic forms but also the figures are Gothic, contributing a vertical thrust. As at Siena, angle figures separate the narrative scenes. There are also innovative variations on the Pisano pulpit formula. For example, one of the two supporting lionesses on the base nurses cubs and pauses over a rabbit, while a third has been replaced by an older, bearded atlantid figure turning in extreme contrapposto.

The five reliefs depict: the Annunciation, Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds; the Adoration, Dream of the Magi and Angel warning Joseph; the Massacre of the Innocents; the Crucifixion; and the Last Judgment. They demonstrate an increased interest in anecdotal detail and narrative enrichment.

At the angles of the archivolts between prophets are six sibyls with attendant genii whispering in their ears, a motif also used by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. It is in the style of the relief and the figures with more expressive gestures, angular forms, diagonal rhythms, deep undercutting and emphasis on heavy shadows that one feels Giovanni has found his mature stride. The influence of French ivories is everywhere evident. There are also traces of gilding and inlaid vitreous paste with patterns of quatrefoils, the ubiquitous Gothic form. The reliefs were carved quickly and surely with great freedom and abrupt plunges into darkness. Such virtuoso technique generalized and distorted the figures' expressions and left gouges and the raw marks of the chisel. For the first time Giovanni carved the reliefs tilting towards the viewer to achieve greater visibility.