COSMA, Giovanni di
(active 1290s in Rome)

Biography

Cosmatus (Cosmati), Italian family of marbleworkers and sculptors, active in Rome in the second half of the 13th century.

A large part of the development of sculptural production between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries refers to the activity of families of marbleworkers traditionally known as Cosmati but subsequently renamed by art historians as 'magistri doctissimi romani' (expert Roman masters), in accordance with the definition they themselves used on inscriptions. The Cosmati were one of five or six families in a total of about sixty craftsmen working in this period.

Cosmatus is first named in a document of 1264 as the son of Petrus Mellini. In 1279 he was a witness in the palace of the papal chamberlain. In fact there were two sons of Mellini, Giovanni and Deodato, who distinguished themselves in the modernizing of the architectural and decorative typologies of tabernacles and tombs, starting from the work of Arnolfo di Cambio, but deriving from these only the most obvious structural characteristics and some Gothic elements.

There signed works exist by Giovanni di Cosma, all executed when he was at the peak of his artistic maturity, as is proved by the style and the high status of the patron. The first was executed around 1295 for the papal chaplain Stefano Surdi. Now in the Santa Balbina, it shows the recumbent figure above a sarcophagus covered by a draped curtain. The second tomb, dated 1300 in Santa Maria sopra Minerva, was executed for Cardinal Guglielmo Durando, bishop of Mende. It is composed of a sarcophagus with drapery and family arms against a mosaic background, with the recumbent figure above flanked by two angels holding back the curtain.

Giovanni's mature artistic language is apparent in the tomb of Cardinal Consalvo Garcia Gudiel, dated between 1299 and 1303, in the right aisle of Santa Maria Maggiore.

Deodato di Cosma was active in the years around 1300. He, like his brother, must have enjoyed considerable fame, as is shown by the prestigious patrons of his few surviving works. Basing himself on works by Arnolfo di Cambio he developed his own version of the tabernacle, in which, eliminating the traditional formulae of the enclosure and the confessional, developed the architecture of the baldacchino in a Gothic sense. Only one work attributed to him survived as a whole, the tabernacle of Santa Maria in Cosmedin executed for Francesco Caetani, nephew of Boniface VIII. The dating of the work has been established as 1295, the year in which Caetani was ordained cardinal deacon of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.