The Early Works of Alessandro Vittoria (c. 1540 - c. 1570)

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Avery, Victoria Jane 

The thesis is divided into eight chapters, with various approaches adopted. Chapter One is primarily historical and outlines the artistic scene in Trent during Vittoria's youth until his departure for Venice in 1543, investigating the patronage of Prince-Bishop Cles and of his successor Cristoforo Madruzzo, as well as artists whose work was to exercise a subsequent influence on Vittoria.

The next three chapters are ordered chronologically and discuss Vittoria's activities, both documented and hypothetical, during his years as an apprentice and then as a journeyman. Chapter Two investigates the contacts that Vittoria is likely to have made during the time he spent in Sansovino's shop between July 1543 and mid-1546, and those commissions upon which it is known, or reasonable to suppose, that he helped, as well as those places he may have visited, following his elevation to journeyman, and contacts which he probably made outside Venice from mid-1546 onwards

Chapter Three deals with the first two commissions he executed in his own right in Venice around 1550, one subcontracted, the other independent, and his sojourn in Trent from autumn 1550 until late September 1551, where he was patronised by Madruzzo and by various of the foreign dignitaries. It discusses a probable short return trip to Venice in autumn 1551 during which relations with Sansovino were strained, Vittoria's precipitate removal to Vicenza as a result, and the break-down of relations between the two sculptors in December 1551.

Chapter Four investigates his employment during his sojourn in Vicenza, and the role that Aretino appears to have played in obtaining eminent sitters for Vittoria to portray on medals, focussing primarily on the ignominious affair of the colossal d'Este Hercules and Vittoria's part in the stuccowork for Palazzo Thiene. Other non-Vicentine patrons are briefly discussed.

The following four chapters chart Vittoria 's establishment in Venice, following his return by May 1553, and his rise from being regarded as one of several talented pupils of Sansovino to being recognised in the late 1560s by Venetians and non-Venetians alike as the pre-eminent sculptor of the city. Because of the increasing number of commissions undertaken by Vittoria, and the fact that some of them were protracted for several years, the strictly chronological approach is now abandoned in favour of dividing his work according to type of commission, and investigating these chronologically.

Chapter Five focusses on work he produced for the façades of buildings, which fall into two basic categories: large-scale, almost always free-standing, figures for public buildings, and smaller-scale reliefs for the palaces of private patricians. These were subcontracted to Vittoria by the proto in charge of the construction, and with one exception they are all secular subjects.

Chapter Six deals with Vittoria's decorative stuccowork for a variety of locations. It falls into three main categories: life-size (or larger) figures in niches; ornate (often figurated) fireplaces and mezzo-rilievo reliefs for walls or vaults. The smaller scale commissions tend to be for domestic palaces and ordered direct from the owner; the more ambitious and grandiose commissons for public buildings gained through Sansovino in his capacity as Proto-magister. Once more, their subject-matter is derived from pagan sources.

Chapter Seven investigates the sculpture which Vittoria made to decorate altars or monuments in churches, which are as diverse in terms of their size, medium and subject as their commissioning patrons.

Chapter Eight deals with small-scale statuary made by Vittoria, comprising two different commissions from Scuole for silver statuettes of saints; a number of bronzes of pagan subjects -including a statuette originally conceived as S. Sebastian, but then given the alternative designation of Marsyas - made by Vittoria apparently for his own delectation; and a couple of lost secular works in stone for foreign patrons. It also investigates his own collection. This is followed by a Conclusion.

Two appendices follow. The first is a Corpus of Documents (in Volume I) relating mainly to Vittoria's sculptural career, included so that the reader may check my interpretation of events against the sources. Some of the documents have previously been published, while others are transcribed here for the first time. The second appendix (in Volume II) consists of a Catalogue Raisonne of Vittoria's sculptures, to complement that made by Thomas Martin of Vittoria's portrait busts. It discusses the varying degrees of autograph works, works executed by the workshop after designs by Vittoria, works by the circle of Vittoria, lost works and rejected sculptures Volume III comprises the Illustrations.


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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
Digitisation of this thesis was sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin