Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ilaria del Carretto

QUERCIA, Jacopo della
(b. ca. 1367, Quercia Grossa, d. 1438, Siena)
Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto 1406-13
Marble, sarcophagus 244 x 88 x 66,5 cm, effigy 204 x 69 cm
Cathedral of San Martino, Lucca

Ilaria del Carretto, who died at aged twenty-six after giving birth to her second child in 1405, was the second wife of Paolo Guinigi, the local merchant tyrant in Lucca. Ilaria was from an old and noble family who came from Zuccarello in the province of Savona in Liguria.

Jacopo barely had time to finish it in 1407 before Guinigi married again

Ilaria is actually buried, and always has been, in the Guinigi chapel of Santa Lucia in San Francesco; Paolo Guinigi had the tomb placed in the cathedral just to show off what he could buy.

What remains of Jacopo`s work is a sarcophagus and an effigy.

A dog, symbol of fidelity and in particular marital fidelity, looks up expectantly at his mistress from her feet. Ilaria seems to be sleeping with her hands over her swollen abdomen to remind us of the cause of her death.

His use of several nude putti at the flanks of the tomb clearly shows the classical influence of the Roman sarcophagi at Camposanto (Pisa). This is a first, a harbinger of the incipient Renaissance.

The work was eulogised by Ruskin.

Recently in `1990 it was restored. The noted art historian Professor James Beck criticised the restoration which removed the ancient yellow patina. This led to four actions of criminal libel being brought against him which he successfully defended. As a result, he founded the organisation "Artwatch" which amongst other things campaigns against ill thought out restorations of ancient art works.


  1. Thanks for writing this. It is a beautiful piece of work.

  2. Thanks! couldnt find much other information on the origins of this piece. great work