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

Virgin and Child between Two Deacons

Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua

In the period when Giovanni worked on the pulpit in Pisa Cathedral, around 1306 he produced the statue of Virgin and Child for the tomb of Enrico degli Scrovegni in the chapel of the Arena.

The tomb was designed for an unknown position in the family chapel attached to Scrovegni's palace in Padua. Today it stands on the altar before Scrovegni's tomb, flanked by two wingless acolyte angels. The chapel was constructed to expiate the sins of the patron and his father, whose vast fortune was gained from usury (inspiring Dante to place him in Hell in the Divina Commedia).

This regal group is similar to others executed by Giovanni. While the Paduan Madonna wears a Gothic crown, she seems more majestic, tempered by antiquity and less influenced by French Gothic forms. Giotto's sculptural figures in his frescoes in the chapel, painted at the same time, are so close to Giovanni's that it is tempting to conclude the two met, as Vasari contends. Unfortunately, there is no proof of this attractive theory and, indeed, Giovanni may have executed his work in Classicising Pisa.

An intent colloquy between mother and child is found in the Virgin, which was created for a close viewing point on the altar of the chapel. Its cascade of dense folds emphasizes the twist of the body, culminating in the embrace and intense look between mother and child.