Pisano, Nicola

Pisano, Nicola nēkô´lä pēzä´nō [key], b. c.1220, d. between 1278 and 1287, major Italian sculptor, believed to have come from Apulia. He founded a new school of sculpture in Italy. His first great work was the marble pulpit for the baptistery in Pisa, completed in 1259. Its form was hexagonal, with panels in high relief consisting of scenes from the life of Jesus. The pulpit is supported by elaborate columns, three of which rest on carved lions. The shape of the pulpit and the use of antique prototypes are thought to derive from an early training in S Italy. Imbued with the classic spirit, Nicola concentrated on the human figure, creating a style of monumental dignity. From 1265 to 1268 he worked on a larger pulpit for the cathedral at Siena. Assisted by his son Giovanni and other pupils, he allowed them a greater part of the execution. The narrative scenes show more freedom of treatment and a tendency toward the more linear French Gothic form. His last great project was the fountain at Perugia. With Giovanni he designed 24 statues and twice as many reliefs, all finished (1278) within one year. Nicola Pisano was the earliest noted Italian sculptor.

See study by G. H. Crichton and E. R. Crichton (1938).

His son, Giovanni Pisano, b. c.1250, d. after 1314, was a sculptor and architect. With his dramatic use of line and his taste for elaborate decoration, he is thought to have had a firsthand acquaintance with the Gothic art of France. Besides assisting his father in work on the pulpit for the cathedral at Siena and on the fountain at Perugia, he independently executed a pulpit (1298–1301) for Sant' Andrea, Pistoia, and a pulpit (1302–10) for the cathedral at Pisa. The last was reconstructed in 1926, though several fragments are dispersed (Metropolitan Mus.; Berlin). He carved several free-standing statues of the Madonna, which are in Pisa, Padua, and Prato. In 1312 he made the tomb of Margaret, wife of Emperor Henry VII. Fragments of it are still in Genoa. Giovanni also designed an ornate facade for the cathedral at Siena.

See study by M. Ayrton (1969).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: European Art to 1599: Biographies