Pisano, Niccola

Pisano, Niccola a noted Italian architect and sculptor, was born at Pisa about 1206. At the age of fifteen he was appointed architect to Frederick II, with whom he went to Naples. In the service of this sovereign he passed ten years, and then went to Padua, where he made the design for the Basilica di S. Antonio. The first known attempt which he made as a sculptor resulted in his alto-rilievo of the Deposition from the Cross which now fills a lunette over a door of the cathedral of S. Martino at Lucca. This is most excellent as the work of an untutored artist, as he was at that time, and it shines by comparison with works of his contemporaries which are near it. The statuettes of the Misericordia Vecchia at Florence are of about the same merit as this bass-relief. In 1248 Niccola went to Florence to assist the Ghibellines in their work of destruction; he was commissioned to overturn the tower called Guardamorto in such a way as to destroy the Baptistery; he overturned the tower, but it did not fall in the anticipated direction, and we may believe that this was in accordance with his intention, although it was attributed to a special miracle by Villani. During tie twelve succeeding years he was employed in making designs for the building and remodeling of many churches and palaces. The church of Santa Trinita at Florence is one of the best known of his works of this period. In 1260 Niccola established his fame as a sculptor by the magnificent pulpit which he executed for the Baptistery at Pisa. Of course marks of his comparative inexperience can be found in this work, but taken all in all it almost challenges criticism. His next work was the Arca di S. Domenico at Bologna, which is now surrounded with a maze of beautiful sculptures, of which the Arca is the center, and is of great interest as illustrating the art of the 13th century. In 1266 Pisalno went to Siena to make the pulpit for the Duomo. This is similar to that of Pisa in many ways, but not so effective, because surrounded by other objects of interest, and in a larger space, while at Pisa the pulpit seems almost the only thing to attract the attention. In 1269 he was commissioned to build the abbey and convent of. La Scorgola, which are now in ruins. In 1274 he commenced the fountain of Perugia, which was his last work. The authorities of the city made severe laws for its preservation, and it was considered the most precious possession of the city. In 1278 Pisano died, after a life of great usefulness, for his influence had been felt through all Italy. His services could never be estimated. He had founded a new school of sculpture; had put behind him the standards of barbarism; in architecture too, the same may be said, and in the words of Mr. Perkins, "He was truly a great man, one to whom the world owes an eternal debt of gratitude, and who looms up in gigantic proportions through the mist of five centuries, holding the same relation to Italian art which Dante holds to Italian literature." In his life he was respected and beloved by all who came in contact with him, be it as patron, friend, of servant.

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