SCHEDA : Duomo 8
TITOLO : Sacrifice of Isaac—Abraham with the three visitors


LOCATION: Pisa Duomo, window s X

DIMENSIONS: 2.48 X 0.95 m. (panel 1, rectangle,1.33 x 0.95 m.-panel 2, arched, 1.15 x 0.95 m)

PROVENANCE: No longer in its original location, the window comes from another light of the south side-aisle and probably s XIV, where a modern composition is now installed.

CHRONOLOGY: 1453-1454

AUTHOR: Della Scarperia workshop (documented) - Leonardo di Bartolomeo Della Scarperia in collaboration with his cousin Bartolomeo d’Andrea, called "Banco" (attribution)

PATRON: Opera della Primaziale

SUBJECT/S: Panel 1: Abraham, brandishing a knife, raises his right arm; in the foreground, at the center of the composition, two of Abraham’s young servants watch over two sacks of provisions while their ass pastures. Panel 2: Abraham kneels in prayer before three angels; at the left his wife Sara, her hands folded in prayer, observes the scene; a tent is seen in the background.

CRITICAL NOTES: The stained glass windows in the Duomo of Pisa had been scarcely noticed by scholars. The author of this file re-evaluated this corpus in a study that included direct examination of the stained glass windows and an exploration of the glazing cycle’s rich documentation. As a result of that research—recently published—the artistic personality of master "Lunardo" [Leonardo] was defined and distinguished from that of other members of the Della Scarperia workshop. Documents reveal Leonardo and his brother Goro received payments from the Opera della Primaziale (large sums that corresponded to more than one window) but archival documents offer little information that aids in a reconstruction of the artistic personalities in the bottega. Based on stylistic criteria, the panels attributed to Banco include, in addition to this window dedicated to the Stories of Abraham, also the following: God questions Cain [panel 1, window s XI], Curse of Man [panel 2, window n XIII], the two episodes depicted in window s XII: Joseph gives grain to his brothers and Moses receives the ten commandments. The author of this file had the opportunity to conduct a close inspection of the glass, and this revealed the hand of Banco also in s XV, Stories of the Tower of Babel (Pisa duomo 13) and s XIII, the Stories of Jacob and Esau (Pisa duomo 11); these particular windows show Banco’s mature style at the end of the quattrocento, when Banco conducted a restoration which must have completed damaged sections of the earlier cycle of windows; in some cases the restoration seems to have resulted in the re-making of entire scenes.

The windows attributed to Banco are distinguished from those assigned to Leonardo on the basis of a vigorous trace line which Banco used to model and describe the forms; the figures were created through the use of a light application of grisaille to create a solid monumentality. In the cycle glazed in 1453-54 the influence of Ghiberti is seen clearly. This indicates Banco’s direct observation of the ongoing work of the Porta del Paradiso (c. 1425-1452).

With regard to this particular window, Leonardo’s collaboration is seen in some original heads which were removed from the window during a nineteenth-century restoration and now conserved in the Museo del Duomo (see Pisa duomo museo 1). Instead, the Ghibertian influence seems attributable to Banco: the two stained glass episodes, on the Ghibertian doors both depicted in a single bronze relief, are separated by Banco into two panels that clearly reveal their source, from the episode of Sara who gently pulls back the opening of the tent, to a detail that appears somewhat irrelevant--the two sacks abandoned on the ground between the ass and the two servants.

CONDITION: The window is the only one in the series that was restored by U. De Matteis (1897), as revealed by an inscription. De Matteis’ restoration included the substitution of original heads, hands, and feet with new pieces. And the window’s base panel, which displays the emblem of the Opera della Primaziale, is a recomposition of authentic pieces with modern ones added.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: See Bibl. Pisa Duomo – in recent volume by R. K. BURNAM Le vetrate del Duomo di Pisa "Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi - Italia, vol. 2, Quaderni della Scuola Normale di Pisa, Pisa, 2003.

PHOTOGRAPHIC REF.: R. K. Burnam Archive

EDITOR: R. K. Burnam, June 2003