FONTANA, Domenico
(b. 1543, Melide, d. 1607, Napoli)

Tomb of Pope Pius V

c. 1580
Cappella Sistina, Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

The splendid tombs in the Cappella Sistina fill the whole width of the lateral walls to the full height of the piers, and form the principal decoration of the chapel. In each the main register is punctuated by four huge coloured marble columns, and has an arched niche in the centre and two rectangular spaces at the sides; above it is a deep cornice supporting an attic punctuated by four herms. The rectangular spaces in the main register and the three spaces in the attic were filled with narrative reliefs. In this way it was possible to enhance the commemorative character of the whole tomb, and structurally, the use of a uniform sytem of relief emphasized the flat plane of the chapel wall.

The reliefs on the tomb of Pius V illustrate historical events, while those on the Sixtus V tomb are allegorical. Of the two portrait statues in the centre one, the Pius V by Leonardo Sormani, is timid and constrained, the other, the Sixtus V by Giovanni Antonio Paracca (called Il Vasoldo), is less conventional.

Although the reliefs are executed mainly by Flemish artists, they are late sixteenth-century revivals of Lombard narrative reliefs like those which had been carved for the Certosa at Pavia 90 years before.