(b. ca. 1308, Firenze, d. ca. 1368, Firenze)


Marble, lapis lazuli, gold and glass inlay
Orsanmichele, Florence

Orcagna - a painter, sculptor and architect - was commissioned to execute the only significant, large-scale sculpture of the time in Florence, the mammoth tabernacle for Orsanmichele. This Gothic marble structure, rather like a miniature church, was a religious and civic edifice built to house Bernardo Daddi's repainting of a lost image of the Virgin and Child. Hexagonal reliefs of the virtues and octagonal reliefs of the Life of the Virgin alternate on its base. The programme culminates in the large relief on the back, the Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin, where the work is signed and dated 1359.

The tabernacle is encrusted with precious lapis, gold and glass inlay that creates a brilliant, shining polychromy; it is especially dense in the celestial realm, rendering the area still flatter. The elaborate decoration is equivalent to the rich brocades in contemporary painting, a taste which blossomed with the International Gothic style.