The Business of Sculpture in Venice, 1525-1625
This thesis offers, for the first time, an in-depth study of the principal aspects of the business of sculpture in Venice from 1525 to 1625. Based on systematic examination, analysis and interpretation of myriad archival sources (unpublished and published), primary texts and key objects, it answers fundamental questions such as: how was sculpture commissioned in Renaissance and Early Modern Venice? Why were some contracts verbal, yet others written? How was quality assured? What meanings did materials have? How did sculptors’ workshops operate? The first two chapters examine the various stages of the commissioning process, from a patron’s initial motivations, to choosing a sculptor, drawing up a contract and agreeing a price. Chapter 1 examines who commissioned sculpture and why, the genres favoured, and how locations were chosen and secured. Chapter 2 analyses the documentary evidence for the format and content of contracts, the use of drawings and models, and the involvement of third parties. It also considers how patrons sought to ensure the quality of the finished work. Chapter 3, ‘Materials: Sourcing, Supply, Significance’, concentrates on the media most commonly employed: marble, stone, bronze, stucco and clay in the form of terracotta. It assesses the practicalities of sourcing, supply, cost and transportation, and then considers the aesthetic and pragmatic reasons for material choices and what these choices would have signified to the patron, sculptor and Venetian society more widely. The final chapter, ‘Workshops, Authorship, Networks, Problem-solving’, explores how sculptors’ workshops were organised and the division and delegation of labour. It discusses the concept of authorship and the nature and meaning of signatures, given that sculptural production was an inherently collaborative process. An analysis of the importance of the sculptor’s network follows, focusing on the life and career of Girolamo Campagna. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how sculptors and patrons could resolve any problems that arose during the production process. This thesis is underpinned by a catalogue of select commissions, with new transcriptions of pertinent archival sources where possible. The chosen case-studies span the century under examination and represent a diverse range of commissions (in terms of patron, sculptor, genre, material, location etc.) and documentary evidence (such as wills, contracts, account-books, letters, notarial acts, ballot records).