Tabernacle with a Bishop and Adoring Angels

Tabernacle with a Bishop and Adoring Angels
Antonio Rossellino, Circle of (Italian, 1427-1479)
c. 1460-70s
Marble and porphyry with gilt bronze 
26-3/4 x 19 x 4 in. (67.9 x 48.3 x 10.2 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
On View

Nicknamed Rossellino (“little redhead”), Antonio belonged to a prominent family of sculptors and painters in Florence. His crowning achievement was the tomb of the Cardinal of Portugal in San Miniato al Monte, Florence, begun in 1461, a brilliant monument that combined architecture, sculpture and painting. Antonio also produced smaller works, including Madonna and Child reliefs and tabernacles, meant to hold the Eucharist or a sacred relic. This tabernacle—likely incorporated into a wall above an altar, rather than freestanding—combines a variety of media in a manner that was still novel at that time.

Stylistic elements inspired by classical sources inform the architectural schema of the relief, from the fluted Corinthian pilasters flanking the barrel- vaulted hall to the entablature capped with a cornice. The ensemble is organized around a one-point perspective centered on the gilt bronze door adorned with the figure of a bishop. Antonio’s foreshortening of the vaulted ceiling and other elements increases the sense of spatial illusion. His love of ornamental detail is evident in the festoons and the porphyry medallion of the frieze. Tiny holes that have been drilled into the marble add emphasis and sparkle to the details of the angels’ hair and the cherubim in the spandrels.


Charles Timbal, Paris, to;
Gustave Dreyfus, Paris, to;
[Duveen Brothers, Inc., New York, sold 1965 to];
The Norton Simon Foundation.

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