Queen's University

Sculpture and Colour in Fifteenth-Century Tuscany

Fifteenth-century sculptures in Lazio and Tuscany are painted and glazed red, Fifteenth-Century Tuscan Sculptureblue, white, green, brown, gold, and other hues, making them alive according to contemporary accounts. Sculptures by Donatello, Luca della Robbia, and others were touched, paraded, adored, kissed, and dressed. My book will consist of case studies of types of colored sculptures that were used for public and private devotion, commemoration, and for pleasure: statues of Gabriel and the Virgin Annunciate, crucifixes, private devotional reliefs of the Virgin and Child, and portraits. I am also examining stories and jokes about polychrome sculptures, as well as the language of color more broadly in secular and sacred texts of the period.

The original coloring of hundreds of polychrome sculptures made of stone, metal, terracotta, wood, stucco, wax, and other materials survives. In addition to writing a book, I am, in collaboration with graduate student research assistants and with the support of a SSHRC Insight Grant, creating a website, which will offer open access to high resolution photographs of these sculptures, to allow for wider publication and teaching of this little-known aspect of Renaissance art. By examining this range of sacred and secular sculpture in different materials and colors, I am exploring the relationships among art, life, flesh, and spirit in an age in which sculptures could be brunettes or blondes, and blush and bleed.