Pulpit of Pisa Baptistery
Artist Nicola Pisano
Housed at Pisa Baptistery, Italy
Nicola Pisano had worked in Rome prior to this project, explaining the Classical influence here. Six relief panels depicting scenes from Christ’s life form the pulpit itself, and rest upon cusped arches and Classically styled figures of the virtues; these in turn rest upon columns with Classical capitals.
Given that this figure is draped in lion’s cloth, some scholars recognize this to be Herakles (Hercules), while others see him as Daniel from the Old Testament; at any rate, he is meant to symbolize Fortitude. Classical elements include the strong contrapposto, fleshy musculature and doughy facial features.
This relief panel appears similar to Roman sarcophagi decoration, with its many figures and architectural and landscape motifs crammed into a small space (horror vacui); unlike early Christian sarcophagi, however, the figures here have been given more of a Classical treatment with natural proportions. The Virgin is the most prominent figure with her central position and scale; her austere expression helps to imply the magnitude of the scene, while Joseph’s look of wonder helps to humanize it as well.