Relief Sculpture, Main Portal, San Petronio


Jacopo della Quercia
marble reliefs, 33 1/2" x 27 1/4"
1425-38

The main portal

Jacopo della Quercia, a Sienese sculptor, executed these reliefs depicting Old Testament subjects on each side of the main entrance to the basilica of San Petronio. Not only is he an important sculptor in his own right (an invited competitor for the Florence Baptistry doors), but he served as an influence on the young Michelangelo, who worked in Bologna on the tomb of St. Dominic and thus knew Jacopo's work.

The right side of the main entrance with the offerings of Cain and Abel, the slaying of Abel, and a detail of the animals leaving Noah's ark

 

The creation of Adam--the first image on the left-hand side

Although this image is distorted (taken with a telephoto lens shooting upwards so that the vertical dimension is collapsed), the power of Jacopo's noble, muscular figures is readily apparent. Here God, with a triangular "halo," representing the Trinity, brings Adam to life with his right hand. Typically, Jacopo's head, hands, and feet are too large. This depiction influenced Michelangelo's Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel Ceiling.
 

The creation of Eve

God, still with the triangular nimbus and voluminous robe, brings Eve to life. The fig tree figures prominently in the background of this scene as it did in the Creation of Adam.
 

Detail of the Temptation

This dramatic scene depicts Eve both rejecting (with her left hand) and accepting the fruit. Adam's gestures are equally eloquent. His frowning face turns back toward Eve while his left hand indicates his new need to cover his nakedness.
 

The Expulsion

Jacopo again uses dramatic and forceful gestures. The angel pushes the resisting Adam from the gates of Paradise while Eve assumes the pose of the classical modest Venus covering her nudity.



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