(active 1462-94 in Bologna)

Tomb of St Dominic

San Domenico, Bologna

St Dominic died in Bologna in 1221; in 1234 he was canonized, and c. 30 years later the Dominicans of San Domenico commissioned a tomb for their founder. The design of the tomb is generally credited to Nicola Pisano. The tomb no longer survives in its 13th-century form.

In 1469 Niccolò dell' Arca received the commission to complete and modernize the marble Arca of St Dominic. The contract specified that the decorated sarcophagus lid was to include figures of God the Father, angels, the Four Evangelists, a Pietà with adoring angels, a Resurrection relief and figures of SS Petronius, Dominic, Francis, Florian, Vitale, Agricola, Thomas Aquinas and Vincent Ferrer, and two angels with candelabra.

The lid was installed in 1473, but Niccolò never completed the terms of the contract, although he probably continued to work on the shrine until his death. In 1494 Michelangelo was commissioned to sculpt a few remaining figures, including St Proculus, which Niccolò may have already begun.

Niccolò's figural sculpture and decorative architectural elements for the Arca reflect a curious blend of influences, including features that are Burgundian, Florentine and non-Tuscan. The statuettes, though small in scale, are powerful and dramatic in expression and pose, with draperies, beards and hair flowing in crisply carved patterns, recalling works by Jacopo della Quercia. God the Father at the top of the monument is the most impressive figure; its dramatic, pivoting axial movement and subtly shifting, massive drapery folds are derived from Jacopo della Quercia's figure of St John the Baptist on the top of the font in the baptistery of Siena Cathedral.