Jacopo Sansovino (1486-1570)
Italian, Venice, circa 1550
RELIEF WITH THE MADONNA AND CHILD
polychromed and gilt cartapesta on wood board, within a partially gilt wood frame
137 by 113cm, 53 7/8 by 44 ½ in. overall.
Jacopo Sansovino was the pre-eminent sculptor in 16th-century Venice, responsible for many of the greatest masterpieces of the Italian High Renaissance. This magnificent relief is one of a group of cartapeste made by Sansovino during his artistic maturity, when his career was at its zenith. Of the thirteen surviving examples only the Castle Howard relief is in private hands, the remainder being housed in major European and American public collections.
Sansovino adopted the cartapasta technique towards the end of his career, probably in order to capitalise on the fame he enjoyed throughout the Serenissima. Combining softened paper or cloth with water (and possibly glue), which was then pressed into moulds, the medium gave the sculptor the ability to create impressive relief sculptures in multiples. The chief advantages of this technique lay in the lightness of the material (in contrast to heavier marble, bronze or terracotta), its surprising durability, and the opportunities it provided for polychromy. More