Agnolo di Polo (Firenze 1470 - Arezzo 1528)
Saint Nicholas of Tolentino
Painted and gilded terracotta
55.5 x 24 x 16.5 cm
The work was the object of a scientific study carried out by Alfredo Bellandi, Professor at the University of Perugia and author of several essays devoted to Agnolo di Polo. The attribution has been confirmed by Giancarlo Gentilini, Professor of the University of Perugia.
San Nicholas de Tolentino is represented with the black tunic decorated by a sun typical of the hermits of Saint Augustine, holding the book of the Rule and a lily in his hands.
The ascetic face with soft and youthful features corresponds to the image of the Saint transmitted by hagiography and whose representation were very popular after the canonization in 1446 by Pope Eugenio IV.
This sculpture was probably intended for private devotion as suggested by the reduced dimensions of the statuette, designed to be placed in a niche or on an altar.
The work is made in one piece according to the technique used in Florence in the workshops of the end of the Quattrocento: the sculpture is carved with extreme skill from a single block of clay, cleverly emptied in the back. A small hole is visible in the back lower part which was used to release the gases during cooking.
Born in a family of artists, Agnolo di Polo learned his skills at a young age, working with the father, an accomplished wax sculptor specialized in portraits and funeral masks, Agnolo entered the Verrocchio’s workshop as Vasari remind us “Fu suo allievo Agnolo di Polo, che di terra lavoro’ molto praticamente, et ha pieno la città di cose di sua mano » (G. Vasari, Le vite de’ piu’ eccellenti pittori scultori et architettori).
This Saint Nicholas was realized at the peak of his artistic production, between 1510-1520, while he was fulfilling commissions from Prato, Florence and Arezzo.
Stylistically, this sculpture shows affinities with the works of Giovanni della Robbia, in particular in the simplified treatment of the drapes of the Saint's tunic as well as in the position of the feet, identical to some Madonnas made by Giovanni at the beginning of the Cinquecento.
The large and long hands of this Saint Nicholas are almost a signature of Agnolo di Polo: we find the same large hands in the Saint Roch of the Spadari altar in Arezzo, the artist’s last documented work.
Working in the workshop of Giovanni della Robbia, Agnolo di Polo familiarized himself with the classicist culture of the early years of Cinquecento which permeated the artist's mature production and which we find in this sculpture dated around 1510 -1520.
- G. Gentilini, La scultura fiorentina in terracotta del Rinascimento :tecniche e tipologie , in La scultura in terracotta. Tecniche e conservazione, a cura di M.G. Vaccari , Firenze 1996, pp. 91-92
- L.Lorenzi, Agnolo di Polo, scultura in terracotta dipinta nella Firenze di fine Quattrocento, Ferrara 1998
- L.Pisani, Appunti su Agnolo di Polo, in « Zbornik za umetnostno zgodovino », Nova Vrsta Series Nova XL, Ljubljana 2004, pp. 114-126
- G. Vasari Le vite de’ piu’ eccellenti pittori scultori et architettori, Firenze 1568, ed. a cura di P. Della Pergola, L.Grassi e G.Previtali, III, Novara 1967, p. 232
- A.Cecchi, in l’officina della Maniera. Varietà e fierezza nell’arte fiorentina del Cinquecento fra le due Repubbliche 1494-1530, cat. Della mostra a cura di A. Petrioli Tofani – A. Natali, Firenze, (Venezia) 1996, p.180, n. 52
28 000 €