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Sculpture in the Town Planning Improvements of Dubrovnik During the Renaissance

Igor Fisković ; Filozofski fakultet, Zagreb, Hrvatska

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 13.788 Kb

str. 29-65

preuzimanja: 230



The author analyzes the placement and meaning of a number of sculptures within the city of Dubrovnik in the 15th century. Beside the stylistic and morphological features of these sculptures and their general aesthetic effect he also uncovers their iconological characteristics, which are connected to the original cultural expression of the only longstanding city state in the South Slavic countries. This is at the same time indicative of the development and power of the Humanistic progress and its influence on the expression in the plastic arts, which explains the intensity with which the Renaissance was accepted on the eastern Adriatic coast. Its peculiarities are underlined by the predominantly secular subject matter of the sculptures and their ideological emphasis on the sociopolitical identity and independence of Dubrovnik.
The first group of sculptures, which are also the earliest ones, is strictly symbolical in function. Here belongs the sculpture of Orlando on a pedestal, holding the flag of the Dubrovnik municipality, and of Christ the Savior above the portal of the Dominican church. These statues in fact established a custom of the new age although they had been created by the Lombard sculptor Bonino di Jacopo in the second decade of the Quattrocento. The figure of Orlando is very important since in the Mediterranean it is quite exceptional, and interpreted as an illustration of the legend about the rescue of the city under a Saracene siege in the distant past. Since it was erected opposite the city gates representing a knight in armor, it is clear that in the year of the Venetian occupation of Dalmatia, it was meant to symbolize the invincibility of the city, which was protected from the north by the Hungarian-Croatian kingdom.
Using a similar analysis the author points out the frequency of the statues of St Blaise, the patron of the city of Dubrovnik. They are found in prominent places within and outside the city walls. Their classical notional and formal pretext for their erection on the main government buildings, and also on the fortifications, is clear and follows entirely pragmatic postulates. This is substantiated by the fact that the figure of the saintly bishop, inspired by municipal needs, was never placed in those areas of the city where Turkish travelers were expected to approach it. Dubrovnik did not want to mar its trading alliance with the Turkish Empire nor their relatively friendly political relations. On the other hand, in order to enhance the pride and the freedom of the city, most of them statues were erected on the walls facing the sea and around the harbor where the city was approached by many ships with European diplomatic legations and merchants from the Venetian territories.
Placing the relationship of Dubrovnik and Venice in a special context to explain the development of art, the author also encompasses the iconography of the sculptural cycles from the Rector’s Palace. He indicates the local sources which go back to the antiquity (e.g. the story of Aesculapius is located in the city), but he does not avoid mentioning the imitations of Venetian models, both in the principles of decoration and in the choice of most of the symbolic representations. Some are of medieval origin, others are innovations with a Renaissance inspiration, so the typically provincial interlacing of tradition and innovation is quite obvious. By sublimating the greatest intellectual experiences of the 15th century, the oligarchy of the local patricians was immortalized in sculpture, which was reduced to a series of interesting signs. A number of analogies can be discovered at this level, such as to other kinds of art and to particular visual representations of a literary source. On the other hand, an original approach, inspired by local pragmatic aims, is also manifest. All this, however, does not counteract the Renaissance views, because it was part of the spiritual and material reality of the city.
In connection with the above statement the author draws our attention particularly to several excellent Latin inscriptions which are complements to the interpretation of sculptures, and which testify to the high level of the urban Renaissance culture and a revival of classical customs. Detailed historical and figurative interpretations are provided of the two city fountains, dating from the 1430ies. The partly preserved sculptural decoration of the destroyed Town hall, among them a pair of superb allegorical figures, are included in the analysis. Interesting information is given on the presence in Dubrovnik of learned Italian Humanists, on their services to the government and correspondence with the local aristocrats, and particularly on their written reports from this Slavic city. In his notes the author mentions contemporary foreign travel accounts in which a number of features of the small city are noted. These insights are important for an overview of Dubrovnik’s Humanistic and Renaissance identity and characteristics.

Ključne riječi

sculpture, Dubrovnik, renaissance

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