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Problem of the sources of the ornament on the Siena Cathedral facade Bismanis, Naija Ruta

Abstract

In this paper the sources and origins of the ornament on the west facade of Siena Cathedral are examined in order to find the artistic developments which influenced the Gothic style in Italy. The ornament on the Siena Cathedral facade can be subdivided into two stages, one of which was influenced by French Gothic art, and one by Italian art, both Classical and Tuscan Romanesque architecture. The form of the west facade wall at Siena Cathedral was modelled after French facade wall forms. Due to French influence brought into northern and central Italy by the constructions of the Cistercian monks, at Siena the Tuscan Romanesque, facade silhouette was abandoned for the French facade silhouette of a nave projecting above the aisle roofs. The first stage of ornament on the facade of Siena Cathedral is that of ornament which was influenced by French Gothic ornamental forms. The French Gothic ornamental forms which influenced the Siena facade ornament were not derived from French Gothic architectural ornament, but from the ornamental forms used to decorate the French Gothic carved ivory altarpieces. One such ornamental farm is the tourelle eg. Scenes from the Life of the Virgin and Childhood of Christ, French ca. 1300, Coll: Institutio de Valencia de Don Juan. That French Gothic ornament which was derived from an architectural source did not influence the Siena facade ornament is indicated by the fact that the role of the ornament on a French Gothic facade differs from that on the west wall of Siena Cathedral. The ornament on the west wall of Siena Cathedral creates a decorative screen which conceals the structure of the cathedral behind it. In French Gothic facades the purpose of the ornament is to create an easy transition from the sculpture to the structure of the facade, eg. the facade of Amiens Cathedral. The supposition that the architectural ornament which was used to decorate Gothic ivories influenced the ornament on the Siena facade is supported by the fact that at Siena there appear decorative schemes which appear only (at first) in ivory altarpieces, eg. the idea of the use of half-length figures in niches to create a border around a figure or scene of central importance is adopted at Siena to create a border around the west facade nave window. The third stage of ornament found on the Siena Cathedral facade was derived from Italian sources, from Classical art and Tuscan Romanesque architecture. The profiles of the stringcourse and gables on the Siena facade are similar to that of a Classical cornice. The three equal sized arches over the three west facade doors were derived from the decorative arcades of the Tuscan Romanesque facade. At Siena the retention of the Tuscan Romanesque concept of the facade as a screen wall made it possible to incorporate into the facade design the diverse ornamental forms mentioned. In conclusion, the form and ornament of the Siena Cathedral was found to be derived from primarily three sources, two of which were French, consequently the greater part of the Siena Cathedral facade design was influenced by French Gothic art. However, at Siena there occurs no imitation of the French Gothic. The French forms are joined with Italian ones into a homogeneous decorative surface. It may be concluded from the evidence of the sources of the ornament on the Siena Cathedral facade that the Gothic style in Italy was based on French Gothic developments which were fused with native Italian developments so that the Gothic style in Italy appears as it did in France, a new development based on the country's Romanesque tradition.

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