The section will focus on an object, a lost or far off culture, a period, an artist, a maker all through the lens of a piece from the collection.
For this issue, 0, we have chosen a strange wooden crown, a three dimensional representation of a mazzocchio 1.
Both a hat as well as a mythic geometric figure, the mazzocchio has been studied, and drawn by the great artists of the Renaissance such as Uccello, Durer, and Leonardo. These masters worked hard to represent this figure in increasingly complex orientations to serve their studies of perspective.
Numbers of books exist for perspective drawing with images of the mazzocchio, but very few include representations in three dimensions.
In fact, from our current research, we only know one kranz -- crown -- stored at Ambras Castle near Innsbruck, the famous residence of Archduke Ferdinand of Tyrol.
Paolo Uccello (1397 - 1475) uses the image of mazzocchio as a geometric figure, strongly in his work, most especially in The Flood and in The Battles. In these paintings, more than as headgear, the multi-faceted mazzocchio represents the third dimension.
The fresco of the Flood is part of an iconographic cycle illustrating the book of Genesis. It was painted by Paolo Uccello in two phases: first between 1425 and 1445, and finally in 1450 in the green Cloister of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. Two scenes, seemingly merged as one, are brought together: the Flood on the left, the retreating waters on the right. On the left is the setting for end of the world with a tree torn brutally from the earth, its branches thrust forward towards the viewer. On the right is the calm after the storm, reflecting both death and life, the dead and the survivors.
The mazzocchio, in checkerboard form, appears both in the foreground encircling the neck of a figure holding a club, and poised over the head of a woman at the center of the composition. Its construction in three dimensions on a plane gives the impression of a relief , it is the "additional object" placed in space to provide the key to building perspective. .
The three huge panels of the Battle of Saint-Roman, now housed in museums in London, Florence, and Paris, decorated the chamber of Lorenzo the Magnificent in 1492. In the Uffizi panel, and in Micheletto da Cotignola sur le champ de bataile in the Louvre, Paolo painted all kinds of mazzocchi: black and white chessboards, multi colored, and even in helix form. Their purpose is to indicate both depth and orientation.
The panel in Florence, where a mazzocchio is placed on a pedestal, strengthens and supports the idea of transforming the hat into solid geometry. Paolo Uccello is not the only painter to have wasted his time with "...mazzocchi with points and facets, perspective traces at various angles, or with those 72-point, diamond faceted balls...." .
Even Piero della Francesca has given us one construction in the Prospective Pendgeni, Leonardo da Vinci designed an example with 256 facets, while Wenzel Jamnitzer designed a pyramid on each of the mazzocchio facets and in doing so created a strange crown of thorns.
The mazzocchio built, drawn, painted and inlaid as a "thing" becomes an instrument and a model for the construction of a theory of perspective. It is used in an ambivalent way, in places of the sacred, in places of the profane, and often by the magistri perspective, the creators of marquetry.
Lorenzo Landinara created a marquetry with a mazzocchio on the monumental prie-dieu in the Dome of Modena in 1470. Later, in 1475, with his brother, Cristoforo, he executed the same figure, but this time as a trompe l'oeil in the interior of an armoire in the studiolo of the Urbino ducal palace.
In his secondary residence at Gubbio, the Duke designed a studiolo with the same characteristics, and between 1477 and 1482, he charged the workshop of Giuliano da Majano with its realization. These marquetries provide a spectacular optical illusion, a room surrounded by cabinets, some ajar, giving glimpses of books, cups, fruit baskets, scientific and musical instruments, and bits of armor except -- it is all illusion!
Gebhardt Volker, « Some Problems in the Reconstruction of Paolo Uccello’s Rout of San Romano Cycle », dans Burlington Magazine, CXXXIII, 1991, p. 179-185
Roccasecca Pietro, Paolo Uccello. Les batailles, Paris, Gallimard, 1997
Schefer Jean Louis, Paolo Uccello, Le Déluge, Paris, POL, 1999
Tartaglia Enza, Les ivoires tournés entre science et mythe, Maîtrise Histoire de l'Art, Paris I - Panthéon Sorbonne, 2005
VASARI éd. 1989
Vasari Giorgio, Les vies des meilleurs peintres, sculpteurs et architectes, trad. fr. ss dir. Andrè Chastel, Paris, Berger-Levrault, 1989
PAOLO UCCELLO, Bataille de Saint Roman, NATIONAL GALLERY, LONDRES
PAOLO UCCELLO, Bataille de Saint Roman, OFFICES, FLORENCE
PAOLO UCCELLO, Bataille de Saint Roman, LOUVRE, PARIS
[1 up] Mazzocchio (mazochio, mazzocco, mazzochio) dérivé de mazzo (it.) botte. Coiffure féminine faite de mèches postiches ou naturelles tenues en chignon et assemblées avec rubans et d’autres ornements. Cercle de bourre revêtu de tissu qui bandait la tête. Arch. S. Serlio : « toro, detto bastone, altri lo dicono mazzocchio » ; tore, dit bâton, d’autres l’appellent mazzocchio.
[2 up] Schefer 1999, p. 209.
[3 up] Ibid. p. 68 […] « Au XIXe siècle, les historiens intitulèrent cet épisode Désarçonnement de Bernardino della Carda. Il s’agit, en fait, d’une belle invention littéraire(…), les sources historiques rapportent en effet que Bernardino s’éloigne de la bataille quand Micheletto arriva, et n’y fut pas tué. »
[4 up] Vasari, éd. 1989, vol. 3, p. 105.