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

Baptismal font

Marble, gilded bronze, enamel, height 402 cm
Baptistery, Siena

The baptismal font in the Baptistery in Siena, designed by Jacopo della Quercia, is the result of a cooperation of the best contemporary sculptors. The polygonal basin is Gothic from which a high Renaissance construction emerges. On the top there is the statue of St John made by Quercia. The bronze reliefs and the statues in the niches are the works of Quercia, Donatello and Ghiberti.

The last years of Jacopo's life were perhaps his most active and productive. He seems to have divided his time equally between Siena and Bologna, finishing one much-delayed project while beginning another. The Siena Baptistery authorities, surprisingly in view of earlier delays, commissioned him in 1427 to design the upper portion of the baptismal font. This consists of a hexagonal marble tabernacle set on a thick, fluted base that rises from a pillar in the centre of the basin. Five of the six faces of the tabernacle contain marble prophets, clothed in voluminous draperies and situated before scallop-shaped niches defined by pilasters. These prophets have not been specifically identified, although all are highly individualized. The remaining face consists of a small sportello, or door, behind which the baptismal oil would have been kept, ornamented with a gilt bronze relief of the Virgin and Child by Giovanni Turini.

The tabernacle is capped by a heavy cornice, above which rises a dome with six small pediments. Originally six gilt music-making putti, by Donatello and Turini, were placed at the corners (four in situ). On top of the dome are two diminishing pillars that serve as the base for the marble statue of John the Baptist, attributed to Jacopo in most recent literature. The major work on the tabernacle was finished by 1430, although the font itself was not completed for four years.

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