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Summary Article: Maitani Lorenzo (c. 1275 - 1330)
from A Biographical Dictionary of Artists, Andromeda

Lorenzo Maitani was a Sienese architect and sculptor. From 1310 until his death in 1330, Maitani was “Capomaestro” of the cathedral at Orvieto. Although documents reveal Lorenzo's supervision of every aspect of the cathedral fabric, the assumption that he was the creator of any of the facade sculptures rests on a single document of 1330. This refers to bronze supplied to Maitani for the casting of The Eagle of St John, one of the Four Symbols of the Evangelists on the cornice that runs across the facade just above the three main doors. Over the center door is a freestanding bronze group of the Madonna and Child with Angels, and there are stylistic similarities between these bronzes and the reliefs on the facade.

The four piers that divide the three door-ways are covered with carved reliefs up to the level of the cornice. From the left they contain The Creation and the Fall, The Tree of Jesse and Prophecies of Christ's Coming, The Life of Christ, and The Last Judgment. Apart from its extraordinary quality, often seeming to possess a French Gothic lyricism, this extensive series contains fascinating evidence about the collaborative methods of a large 14th-century workshop. The sculptures are in varying stages of completion, and from these it can be seen that a sequence of operations was carried out by different workmen over the whole surface of the reliefs. This operation would have been done to the design of Maitani who might be assumed to have intervened at any time, especially on the final stage. While Maitani's workshop can be regarded as responsible for the majority of the reliefs, those in the lower part of the two central piers were done by someone else altogether.

If Maitani's precise role as sculptor is a matter of some guesswork, his role as architect of the cathedral facade as a whole is less open to dispute. There survive two designs for the facade, in pen on parchment. The later of these, much closer to the facade as it appears today, is probably that by Maitani referred to in an inventory of 1356. Comparison with the earlier, anonymous design reveals a change to a broader, less vertical effect; but the salient features of a triple, gabled portal, a rose window, and mosaic and sculptural decoration are retained. The first of the designs, which shows knowledge of French Gothic architecture, probably reflects the influence of the transept ends of Notre Dame in Paris. This is combined with a regard for decorative and pictorial elements, especially evident in the siting of the mosaic Coronation of the Virgin in the main gable. Maitani's changes towards a broader, more spreadout effect emphasize this rather Italian element in the design, and the result is a profusion of architecture, sculpture (in bronze and stone), and mosaic that forms a splendid whole.

A Biographical Dictionary of Artists, © Andromeda 1995

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