Theses Doctoral

Reconsidering the Career of the "Artifex" Nicholaus (active. c. 1122- c. 1164) in the Context of Later Twelfth-Century North Italian Politics

Spiro, Anna

The present study revises the chronology for the twelfth-century "artifex" Nicholaus, demonstrating that his career began just after c.1122 in Piacenza and ended in Verona c. 1164, not c. 1150 as often proposed. The first sculpted entranceway with the Nicholaus imprimatur was executed at the Sagra di San Michele.
It is documented that Nicholaus was put in charge of supervising the construction and decoration of the new cathedral in Ferrara in 1135, including the western entranceway with his self-laudatory signature inscription. His activity here ended around 1150, at which time the interior of the cathedral was functional. In the early 1140s, members of the Nicholaus atelier and possibly the "artifex" himself crossed the Alps to execute certain sculptures at the imperial burial church at Königslutter. The signed Verona Cathedral entranceway was executed in the 1150s. Work at San Zeno began after 1164: the elegiac tone of two signature inscriptions here seems to indicate that Nicholaus died around this time.
To determine the date of the Nicholaus Verona projects, given the lack of firm documentary evidence for their dating, because their subject matter could be associated with a known historical incident or situation and those dates fit with my stylistic evaluation as to the sculpture's date, I used the dates for these occurrences as the "termini post quem" for the project.
Luigi Simeoni had proposed that the formation of the commune of Verona in 1135 is celebrated by the scene on the lunette at San Zeno depicting the patron saint of Verona signing blessing in the midst of the troops. This supported a date of 1138 for this work. However, my research into the relationship between Verona and various emperors led me to conclude that the image on the lunette at San Zeno actually memorializes the formation in 1164 of the Veronese League opposing Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. A second subject here, The Hunt of Theodoric, seems to have been chosen to insult Barbarossa, previously well received in Verona. The San Zeno frontispiece with Nicholaus's sculptures, the famous bronze doors, and the Wheel of Fortune window was assembled c.1200.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
Klein, Holger Alexander
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014