Artibus et Historiae no. 35 (XVIII)

1997, ISSN 0391-9064

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WENDY STEDMAN SHEARD - Tullio Lombardo in Rome? The Arch of Constantine, the Vendramin Tomb, and the Reinvention of Monumental Classicizing Relief

The Arch of Constantine played a decisively influential role as source for Tullio Lombardo, both in his reinvention of monumental classicizing relief which was manifest in the two narrative reliefs on the facade of the Scuola di S. Marco, Venice (c. 1589—1590) (one of them, St. Mark healing Anianus, was probably executed by Tullio's brother Antonio), and in his Vendramin Tomb (erected c. 1493—1494 in Sta. Maria dei Servi, later transformed to its present location in the choir of SS. Giovanni e Paolo). What the Roman Arch's inscription (repeated on both sides) implies concerning Emperor Constantine's heroic defense of Christianity and his role as a savoir of Rome (see Excursus) was deliberately paralleled in Doge Vendramin's epitaph and provides new light on the motive of the doge's commissaria in approving an overt, undistinguished triumphal arch format for his tomb, the first for a Venetian doge, although it was repeated fre­quently in subsequent centuries. The presence of porphyry and black marble accents in similar locations on both the tomb and the arch furnishes another significant connecting link.

I argue that many of the sophisticated and complex (illusionistic) features typical of the Aureilian and Hadrianic era reliefs on Constantine's arch were replicated by Tullio in his Scuola di S. Marco reliefs. He could not have comprehended and so knowl­edgeably imitated these characteristics by means other than direct, first-hand observation, therefore a trip to Rome prior to his Scuola reliefs must be regarded as virtually certain.

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