QUERCIA, Jacopo della
(b. ca. 1367, Quercia Grossa, d. 1438, Siena)

Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto

Marble, 244 x 88 x 67 cm (sarcophagus)
Cathedral of San Martino, Lucca

By 1406 Jacopo was again in Lucca, where he began work on the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto, the young and beautiful second wife of Paolo Guinigi; she died in childbirth on 8 December 1405. This work represents a landmark in Renaissance funerary design, though what survives is not the complete monument, which was dismantled in 1430 when Guinigi was expelled from Lucca. The original design probably included a canopy to crown the sarcophagus bearing the recumbent effigy.

Compared to the massive, simplified forms of Jacopo's earlier work in Ferrara, the figure of Ilaria is a masterpiece of delicacy, intricacy and finesse. Her head gently resting on a pair of puffy, tasselled pillows, Ilaria lies in eternal repose, her hands softly folded across her chest. In a side view, beautifully swelling curves rise in a sweep from the faithful dog curled at her feet to the high wide collar of the Gothic dress that frames her lovely face. The most unusual feature of the tomb, however, is the frieze of nude putti carrying heavy swags of leaves and fruits that decorates the sides of the sarcophagus. Though putti were a familiar motif on Classical funerary monuments, this is the first use of them on a large scale in the Renaissance. Their robust, fleshly forms stand out in marked contrast to the delicate, fine-boned effigy of Ilaria.

Bacci was the first to note the marked distinction in style between the aggressive putti on the south side and the more reticent figures on the north side of the tomb. The latter are the work of Francesco di Valdambrino, a frequent early collaborator who is documented in Lucca during the period of the tomb's construction.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.