When using The Frick Collection app, enter audio stop #523 to access the tour.
Speakers: Xavier Salomon, Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator, Aimee Ng, Curator, and Alexander J. Noelle, Anne L. Poulet Curatorial Fellow
Xavier Salomon: Welcome to the exhibition, Bertoldo di Giovanni: The Renaissance of Sculpture, in Medici Florence. I am Xavier Salomon, the Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator here at the Frick Collection, and I'm accompanied by the two co-curators of this exhibition, Aimee Ng, Curator here at the Frick, and Alexander Noelle, Poulet Curatorial Fellow, also here at the Frick. The three of us worked together on this exhibition and will accompany you through it, focusing on some of the highlights of the show. This is the very first time that every single work that can be transported by Bertoldo di Giovanni is reunited under one roof. It is a very exciting opportunity to look at about 25 works by this artist, with the exception of two. We couldn't bring here a series of reliefs, which are embedded in a courtyard of Palazzo Scala in Florence, and a bronze, which has been attributed to Bertoldo, but the attribution of that object is unclear, which is at the Louvre and could not travel. Otherwise, everything by this artist is here.
Alexander Noelle: Today, Bertoldo di Giovanni is known for his connections to three key figures of the Italian Renaissance. He was a student of Donatello, a confidant and favorite artist of Lorenzo de' Medici, the de facto ruler of Florence, and he was the teacher or the young Michelangelo. However, it is partially due to Michelangelo's own writings that Bertoldo is relatively obscure today. Michelangelo fashioned himself as a self-taught artist, divinely blessed with his abilities. And Giorgio Vasari continued this tradition by reducing Bertoldo's role to being the connection between Donatello and Michelangelo, the two book-ending titans of the Italian Renaissance in his large tomes of art history. In this exhibition, we seek to show how Bertoldo is enhanced by these connections, but not solely defined by them, and we celebrate his artistry and ingenuity in their own right.
Bertoldo was born about 1440 in Florence, to German immigrant parents living in the Oltrarno neighborhood. They were wool weavers who had no apparent connections to the artistic world. However, from the numerous documents related to Bertoldo's life, you can trace his early career and early works in art up through his rise where he accomplished a unique position at the center of the artistic and political landscape. He was closely tied to the Medici family and ended up living with them in multiple homes and villas until his death in 1491. Bertoldo may have started his career as completing major commissions given to Donatello. However, he quickly established his own unique lyrical style. He blended his own modern style with ancient motifs, creating a unique visual language filled with beguiling details that are only revealed on close and careful examination. These details often combined multiple different iconographies, creating multivalent objects, which had a resonance with the antique.
Bertoldo seemed not to have a workshop of his own, yet he actively collaborated with the leading artists in Florence across media. He also taught the next generation of artists in Lorenzo de Medici's famed sculpture garden at San Marco, and fulfilled a dynamic role as a designer and collaborator. For the first time, Bertoldo's entire artistic production is united here in the Frick’s galleries. The exhibition is arranged not chronologically, but instead to create conversations across scale, iconography, medium, and patronage. We also would like to emphasize Bertoldo's role in the birth of the new medium of the portrait medal, inspired by the rediscovery of ancient examples of currency, as well as his pioneering role as an early creator of the bronze relief and bronze statuette, inspired by ancient examples.
Xavier Salomon: In front of you is one of Bertoldo's most ambitious creations in bronze. This exhibition is a partnership with the Museo del Bargello in Florence. They lent us seven pieces by Bertoldo for the show, all of their holdings of the artist. And so, it is particularly exceptional for us to be able to show this incredible relief, this substantial depiction of a group of figures fighting on horseback. We don't know what the exact subject of the relief is or even if this relief originally had a subject, but this is a very important object because it's documented in Lorenzo de Medici, Lorenzo il Magnifico's private apartments in the Medici palace. We know at Lorenzo's death this relief was displayed over a fireplace, so you can imagine how it wouldn't be lit by the flames below it and how it would have glistened in the light of the flames.
If you look to the right, you see a small photograph showing an ancient marble sarcophagus in Pisa which Bertoldo used as the starting point for this relief. This is an act of restoration in a way, of reconstruction of an ancient object. So, Bertoldo starts from this fragmentary antique piece and reconstructs it by adding limbs and heads, but also entire figures where there are holes. And you can compare the two very closely, and you realize that they are exactly the same scene, but reconstructed. So, this is a wonderful example of Bertoldo's relationship with antiquity, but also his modernity, his revising antique sources into a new Renaissance language. If we turn to the left, we can enter the first room of the exhibition, where we will focus on the objects in there by Bertoldo.
On the left are three reliefs on these two walls: One depicting the Virgin and Child from the Louvre, and two representing scenes from Christ's Passion from the Museo del Bargello, The Lamentation Over the Dead Body of Christ and The Crucifixion. These three reliefs show very effectively Bertoldo's learning under Donatello. We know Bertoldo is documented as working with Donatello, he may have been a pupil of Donatello. He describes himself as a follower of Donatello in documents, and his early work is very much indebted to the great Florentine master's example.
Donatello invented a type of very shallow relief called the schiacciato, which effectively is a sort of pictorial way of rendering sculpture. These are 3-D objects, in this case in bronze, but you can see that they're rendered almost as if they were paintings. And so, the figures emerge in a very shallow depth from the background. The Crucifixion, in particular, is a particularly ambitious work. Again, we know this belonged to the Medici family, but we don't really know what it was created for, possibly a small chapel. It clearly had a devotional purpose. But the ambition of Bertoldo is evident from the subject when you look at the perspectival rendering of, especially the thieves on each side of Christ on the crosses, and how they're depicted in space in this very, very shallow relief.
Bertoldo was also known as a maker of medals. And if you cross the room, the opposite wall has six cases showing examples of Bertoldo's medals. Here are all six known Bertoldo medals. For each medal, we decided to borrow two examples so that we could show both obverse and reverse of each medal, so you effectively see the two sides of each object in each vitrine. And we decided to borrow the best examples of each obverse and each reverse from collections all over the world. So, you will see that some of these medals come, again, from the Bargello, from the National Gallery in Washington, from Berlin, from Modena, from Copenhagen, from a number of private collections.
Bertoldo's early medals on the left, were created very much for the Medici court, for Lorenzo il Magnifico, and for relatives of Lorenzo, like his distant cousin, Archbishop Filippo, who was the Archbishop of Pisa. But the ones on the right, instead, show a man and a woman who were related to the Veneto, to the north of Italy, and we know that Bertoldo worked for a period in Padua, and these may date possibly from around that time.
Medals were incredibly powerful objects, again based on ancient Roman coins, but designed to carry with them messages. Bertoldo is very ambitious again, when he uses the medallic form and on the reverses of these medals, where you would usually expect to find a simple emblem or coat of arms, you actually get very complicated and complex scenes. Again, very pictorial. If you look at the second medal from the left, you can see that on the reverse there is a depiction of the Last Judgment. Blow up this image, up to 14 meters high, and effectively you get more or less the same composition as Michelangelo's Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. So, it is interesting that Michelangelo, as a young man working with Bertoldo, would have known this medal and he's still thinking about it several decades later.
Some of the objects are very important diplomatic tools. The fourth medal from the left shows the Sultan, the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed II. At that point, there was a rather unlikely alliance between the Turks and the Florentines, and Lorenzo was very keen on forging diplomatic links with Istanbul. And so, this is a very large, the largest metal by Bertoldo, object, which was given probably as a diplomatic gift by Lorenzo to Mehmed. It is also one of the only two objects we know that are signed by Bertoldo. If you look at the reverse, under the chariot, it says this is the work of Bertoldo, Florentine sculptor. To the left of this medal of Mehmed, instead there is probably the most famous medal by Bertoldo, which shows the tragic events of April, 1478, the so-called Pazzi Conspiracy, when a group of Florentine aristocrats decided to overthrow the Medici power, the Medici dynasty, by attacking the brothers, Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici, during high mass in the Cathedral of Florence.
Lorenzo was wounded but managed to escape and was saved, while the younger brother, Giuliano, was killed. In this medal Bertoldo fuses obverse and reverse by showing portraits of both brothers on each side, as you would usually expect on an obverse, and having narrative scenes below that as you would expect in a reverse. And effectively, each side of the medal becomes its own medal. On the left, celebrating Lorenzo's delivery from the assassins, and so you have Lorenzo's head at the top, a depiction of the choir of Florence cathedral, with the inscription, Salus Publica, public health, the saving of Lorenzo. On the right, Giuliano with the same scene on the choir, and Luctus Publicus, public mourning for the death of Giuliano. If you look at the tiny figures, you can see Lorenzo being attacked and running away on the left, and Giuliano again being attacked on the right, and dead on the floor of the cathedral.
If you look at the actual details of the choir, you realize that on the left, mass is being said on the high altar. To the right of the medal, on the right side, on the other medal, mass is on the left. And that is because the attacks took place on two sides of the choir at the same time on the left and right side of the choir. So Bertoldo, is so precise that he's actually showing the precise locations in Florence cathedral where these events took place. So, thinking back to the Donatello reliefs and the ambition of the Donatellesque schiacciato, you can see how some of this is transposed in much smaller objects like medals.
We actually know that this medal was designed by Bertoldo, but cast by a man called Andrea Guazzalotti in Prato, who was a bronze caster. So, this is one of the first examples in this exhibition where we have documented sources about Bertoldo collaborating with other artists. And throughout Bertoldo's career, his collaboration with other artists is particularly important, as we will see in the next object.
Aimee Ng: If you turn around, you'll see in the center of the room, a large wooden sculpture of St. Jerome, and collaboration may be at the heart of this sculpture as well. You'll see a lot of nudes here in the exhibition, but none as painfully nude as this one. And I'm using the word painfully, because this is a word that comes up pretty often in art historical descriptions of this sculpture. And there is something a little bit uncomfortable about it. Part of this might come from the fact that it is a polychrome sculpture, so, the painting of blood dripping down the chest, for example, drawn by the stone pounded against the flesh. Even the small circles of redness on the knees, as if this saint has just come up from self-flagellating. And we were probably not ever meant to have seen this sculpture like this. He was probably meant to be installed in a niche, much more elevated. Almost certainly, he had a loin cloth covering his now, unfortunately damaged genitals. And he was probably carrying a staff for the cross at the top, a focus for his gaze.
This is a sculpture that has always been associated with Donatello, since the 16th century. The great art historian, Giorgio Vasari, mentions a sculpture in Faenza, of a wooden St. Jerome by Donatello, and this has always been associated with that reference. But, since the 19th century there has been a little bit of doubt. So, this is a very hotly contested attribution for the object. As an object by Donatello, for those of you who know the corpus of Donatello, there are other woods sculptures like this, perhaps the most famous being the Mary Magdalene in Florence. And in fact, both of those don't only share some style, but they're also similar materially. So, this is a wood sculpture, just like Donatello's Mary Magdalene, but much of the detailing, so, the hair, the beard, the throbbing veins that cover the body, much of this is actually modeled on top of the wood, in gesso, and then painted on top of that. So, the two sculptures share this kind of method as well.
But especially since the 19th century, scholars have suggested that this St. Jerome in front of you is not Donatellesque enough. So, for example, the expressiveness of it, it just doesn't have the sophistication that one might expect from Donatello. And this judgment comes also from the great champions of the work of Bertoldo. So, this is not to deride the sculpture in any way, but just to align it with other known works by Bertoldo, like the small freestanding bronze in the case next to you, which is called The Supplicant, and we'll return to that in a second. But relating to the sort of, hunched figure of the St. Jerome, the spindly legs, this sculpture has been associated with the St. Jerome. Now this again, is a hotly contested topic and bringing them together is a very important thing. Collaboration may be at the heart, as I said, because this may be a work that had been started by Donatello late in his life and completed by Bertoldo. And we know that happened more than once. Donatello starts work, he dies in 1466, and Bertoldo completes it. So, this may be also the kind of collaboration at the heart of St. Jerome.
Now just a word about the small bronze of The Supplicant: This is a plaster cast representing a bronze that was produced probably about 10 years after the death of Donatello. Why does the Frick have a plaster cast in a case in an exhibition? Well, the original bronze was believed to have been destroyed in Berlin during bombing of World War II. So, this plaster cast was actually produced for The Frick Collection just last year for the exhibition, but it was taken from a mold that had been made from the original sculpture before the war. Just a few years ago it was revealed through a joint statement by the Berlin Museums and the Pushkin Museum in Moscow that in fact, the original bronze had not been destroyed. It was severely damaged during the bombing, but it was among 59 other small bronzes and other sculptures that were surreptitiously transferred from Berlin to the Soviet Union in 1946, and they reside still there in Moscow. Drama aside of the 20th century, this is like many of Bertoldo's objects, obscure in its subject matter. Is this a sacred figure? Is this a secular figure? What exactly is he holding in his hand? Is the ring around his left ankle a shackle, as has been suggested by so many scholars? Again, this is open for interpretation. As a captive figure, it does tempt us into speculating what impact this little figure might have had on the young Michelangelo in Bertoldo’s studio. And Michelangelo would go on to create those great slaves bound in marble at a much more monumental scale for the tomb of Julius II.
Alexander Noelle: If you turn around, you'll see a large bronze statuette on a pedestal. This bronze statuette, now known today as Orpheus, continues the discussion of the artistic dialogue between Donatello, Bertoldo, and Michelangelo. This sculpture of Orpheus actually provided Michelangelo with his dynamic serpentine pose for The Young Archer in marble, now at the Metropolitan Museum. We have placed the bronze statuette here with the wooden St. Jerome and the plaster cast at The Supplicant to show that Bertoldo had an active role in this artistic dialogue between Donatello and Michelangelo. And, for a time, the Met’s marble sculpture of Cupid Apollo was even attributed to Bertoldo himself. Now this bronze statuette of Orpheus is the largest statuette Bertoldo created, and it is an amazing accomplishment in the new medium. It has been identified as Apollo, Orpheus, or even perhaps as an allegorical portrait of Lorenzo de Medici himself. And as we have seen with The Supplicant, as well as The Battle already, Bertoldo was a master of creating multivalent iconographies that could be interpreted in many ways.
The heterogeneous surface of the statuette has led to much discussion over the past centuries, and led to questions about its original appearance function. For a time it was even believed to be an ancient statuette that had been damaged and then rediscovered. However, in research for the exhibition, we have discovered that the state of unfinish presented in The Orpheus, actually details Bertoldo's working relationship and highlights the role collaboration played in his practice.
Bertoldo would create the original model in wax, then give the wax to a bronze founder who would cast it in bronze, returning this bronze cast to Bertoldo himself. Now this cast would come back in quite a rough form, and you can see, especially in the chest and the arm of the bronze Orpheus, perhaps this is the state Bertoldo would ever see the statuette in. Then Bertoldo would have begun the laborious and painstakingly detailed process of cold work, of using tools such as files and chisels to work the entire surface of the statuette, achieving the beautiful smoothness and detail that you can see on the left side of his face, for example, as well as his legs, and especially the curls of hair curling down near his ear.
Now, Bertoldo's role, as the one who would create the motif or the original design for the objects, as well as then taking responsibility for creating their final appearance, provided a uniformity across all of his sculptures, from small-scale metals to large-scale bronze reliefs, and would have provided a uniformity of design and dazzlingly intricate marks that created a sense of Bertoldo's style across medium, despite various hands that may have been involved in the production. This working process would have provided Bertoldo's artistic production with a unifying style that created a sense of Bertoldo's own artistic voice and hand across scale and medium in his artwork. If you turn around and walk down the hall, we'll continue into the second exhibition gallery.
Xavier Salomon: Just in front of you, in the first vitrine, is this wonderful bronze of a man with a winged horse. This is one of Bertoldo's greatest masterpieces, The Bellerophon Taming Pegasus, from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. This is one of two only signed works by Bertoldo: You remember in the other room there was the medal of Mehmed II, this is the other signed work. You can look around it and try and find the signature, but you wouldn't because the signature is actually under the base on which the sculpture rests. And this is a fascinating inscription in Latin, which says, Expressit me Bertholdvs, Bertoldo modeled me, designed me, created me, Conflavit Hadrianvs, Adriano cast me. And so, Adriano Fiorentino, another artist, actually cast this bronze. We've already heard about how Bertoldo collaborated with other artists and this is another situation where he clearly worked very closely with a bronze caster, another sculptor, to create this very monumental, very beautiful bronze object.
We know that this belonged to a Venetian family, to the Capella family, and it first appears in the 16th century in the collection of the son of Febo Capella, who was ambassador, Venetian ambassador, to Florence at the time of Lorenzo il Magnifico. So, it is possible that this was commissioned by the Venetian ambassador while in Florence. Equally likely is that Lorenzo de Medici may have given this as a gift to the Venetian ambassador while he was in Florence. We don't actually know. But this again, represents an ancient subject. It is the mythical figure of Bellerophon who has to tame the winged horse, Pegasus, to defeat a mythical monster, the Chimera. And there is Bellerophon actually grabbing the horse by its mouth and with a club, trying to restrain him and holding him. The story also tells us that he was given a gold bridle from Minerva, from the goddess Minerva, with which to tame the horse and you can see that over Bellerophon's left shoulder.
The composition is incredibly ambitious, this idea of the rearing horse in bronze. This is an incredibly heavy object and see how light it looks and how all of the weight of the body of the horse and the figures rests on the two back legs of the horse and the legs of Bellerophon. So, it's a technical feat of its own. And thinking about when this was created, in the 1480s, this is a very early Renaissance bronze, so it's incredible that better Bertoldo and Adriano create something so powerful, so moving, so lyrical in bronze. Again, it shows how Bertoldo responds to antiquity in a very creative way. He is looking at ancient gems in the Medici collection. He is also looking at the great marble statues of the mythical twins, Castor and Pollux, which still are today on the Quirinal Hill in Rome, which were well known from drawings and prints at the time.
So again, Bertoldo is very much looking at antiquity and reinterpreting it for Lorenzo, and for people at the court of Lorenzo. But we don't actually know who this object was originally intended for, if it was for Lorenzo or for Febo Capella or for someone else. So, the problem of patronage often, within these Medici circles, remains when we talk about Bertoldo.
Alexander Noelle: If you continue to the case to your left with the two gilded statuettes, the discussion about patronage remains. You see two gilded bronze statuettes holding shields. Originally, these shields would have held the coats of arms of two different families, perhaps inscribed on a precious metal or enamel insert now lost. These two Shield Bearers would have been displayed on a table, desk, or shelf, or perhaps even in a cabinet from which they could be removed to be considered and held and examined visually. The statuette on the right was the birth of this exhibition and research project. The Shield Bearer on the right comes from the Frick’s collection and was purchased in 1916 by Henry Clay Frick from the collections of the late J. P. Morgan. This beautiful gilded statuette is actually the only statuette or relief by Bertoldo outside of Europe, and has now been reunited with its pendant from Vienna on the left for the first time in modern history. Both statuettes were rediscovered around Florence about a hundred years ago and this is the first time that they had been seen together publicly. These two statuettes are the only gilded bronzes by Bertoldo and they have incredible detail on a personal scale, giving them the semblance of goldsmith's work.
If you turn to your right, you'll see in an equestrian statue of Hercules on Horseback, which comes from the collections of the Galleria Estense in Modena. Rediscovered around the same time as the two Shield Bearers, this statuette has long been considered the central part of a three-piece miniature equestrian monument, in which the two Shield Bearers flanked Hercules. And again, for the first time in modern history, these three statuettes have been reunited. However, in the research conducted for the exhibition, we have discovered that contrary to scholar opinion for the last century, the two Shield Bearers do not flank Hercules on either side, and instead, the Hercules on Horseback figure should be considered independent from the two Shield Bearers.
The Hercules on Horseback, likely celebrates Duke Ercole Primo d'Este, perhaps celebrating his marriage to the princess of Naples or a springtime festival, in which he would parade through the city, leaving garlands of flowers at the homes of the most beautiful maidens of the town. Returning to the to Shield Bearers now on your left, if we consider them independently from the Hercules on Horseback, their intriguing iconography can be appreciated in its own right. The two figures which seemed to be mirrored, upon closer examination are actually quite distinct. The figure on the left is older, brawnier, and has a beard, while the figure on the right seems to be younger, more alive, and has beautifully chased sideburns, but no beard himself. If you look closely at the figure on the right, you can actually see two small horns coming through the hair above his forehead, and when you walk around the case to view the figure from behind, you see a set of pan pipes at his hip and a swishing tail at the base of his spine. The figure on the left has neither of these attributes.
It seems that these two figures combine in an ingenious way the iconography of the mythical wild man, who was a monstrous medieval figure, lived in the woods and was covered in hair from head to toe, wielding a club, as well as the iconography of fauns of the Arcadian woodland (fauns being the mythical half goat, half human satyr figures), and finally these two statuettes combined the imagery of the fauns and wild men with the iconography of the Florentine hero, Hercules, known for carrying a club. It seems that Bertoldo created an ingenious blend of iconography, designed to intrigue the learned Renaissance mind and created a game in which they would attempt to discern what they were seeing before them, looking closely at the details, while working back and forth between these two gilded statuettes.
Aimee Ng: We're going to end the tour with one of Bertoldo's earliest works, and what was probably his last work, which is the monumental glazed terracotta frieze surrounding us in the room. So, if you walk to the wall that is to the left of the door you entered this gallery from, you'll see a small slender, a frieze-like relief. This is believed to be one of Bertoldo's earliest works and it may have been made for Lorenzo de Medici's father, Piero. It's small but is relatively heavy, so, it was probably made to be embedded in some kind of furniture or architecture. It's called the Triumph of Silenus, but if you look closely at what's actually happening, there's a grown man, the figure of Silenus, the god of drunkenness and wine, lying on his back being tickled and force fed grapes, it's a little bit more like a torment. Here is Bertoldo playing again with classical figures and classical language, and as playful as these little kids look, they seem to be a direct response to, again, the work of Donatello, so the famous Cantoria he does for Florence Cathedral.
Now, how much changes in about 20 years from these Donatellian beginnings, to the major monumental frieze that surrounds us in this room. So, this is the largest glazed terracotta frieze of the Italian Renaissance. It was made for Lorenzo de Medici's villa in Poggio a Caiano, which is today about 45 minutes outside of Florence. And this is something that is supposed to be seen from about seven meters in the air. Being able to see it from here, you can notice details that make it look kind of sketchy. So, some of the eyes just looked a bit scooped out as if they're meant to be seen from a distance. But there are also details that seem to be precise in a way that they would never have been noticed from the ground. So, for example, if you walk to the second panel, there's a little goat whose horns are striated in a very delicate way, and next to the goat there are colorful decorations on the uniforms of the soldiers. And from this distance you can see the way that the five sections of the frieze are actually cut into smaller sections in order to be fired in a kiln. Now when you glaze terracotta, it makes it more durable for exposure to outdoor elements, and this is something that did live outside for 500 years. It did survive remarkably well, but of course there are losses, there is damage, and a couple of figures are now completely missing. That includes one of the terms that separates the third and the fourth section, and it seems that only 11 of the 12 months survive.
Now, there is no primary source related to this frieze. We have no documents about who made it, when, or for whom, or why, or what it means. An early attribution was made to Giuliano da Sangallo, the architect of the Villa Medici in Poggio a Caiano, but it is now generally accepted that this is the work of Bertoldo. And some of this is circumstantial evidence: We know that Bertoldo was very close to Lorenzo de Medici; there is a report of Bertoldo being in, an in fact dying, in Poggio Caiano; and stylistically, you're able to compare some of the works in bronze to some of the figures that you see in the glazed terracotta frieze. For example, in the third section, some of the soldiers standing around may have some resonances with the Shield Bearers that you've just seen. If you go to the fourth section, some of the physiognomies of these men, like that crouching laborer picking up those sheaves of wheat, have some correspondences with some of the male figures you've seen in bronze. And in the very last section too, the horses we've brought together with Bertoldo's horses in bronze, and the women whose radiating light from the head resembles some of the radiating hair in some of the reliefs in the other room. All of these have some resonances with Bertoldo's work.
But there are also figures that seem to have nothing to do with Bertoldo. So for example, in the same last section, there's a woman lying languidly across a bed. You don't see anything like that in the rest of the work of Bertoldo. And it reminds me, to some degree, of 16th century mannerists, than of 15th century sculptors like Bertoldo. When conservators did a major examination and conservation campaign about 10 years ago, they identified at least five different hands in the modeling of this work, and for sure, a work of this size would require assistance.
It's also possible that this is something that Bertoldo started at the end of his life and he died before it was complete, so, it was completed by others, his collaborators. And almost certainly, he would have had to collaborate with a specialist workshop in glazed terracotta, like the workshop of Andrea della Robbia, or Benedetto Buglioni.
Now what does it all mean? A lot of ink has been spilled about the iconography of the five sections. There is no consensus on what it all means. It is very complicated and there are two leading interpretations. The first being about time, so, that each section is about the birth of a denomination of time, from eternity to the age, to the year, to the seasons and months, to the day. And the second major interpretation that is followed is that this is about the story of souls following either a just life or an unjust life, and looking at the rewards and the punishments related to that. What is probably true is that the cyclical allegory of either interpretation relates to the Medici family's motto, Semper, always, or Lorenzo de Medici's own personal motto, Le temps revient, which is the time comes again.
Now what we don't want to do is have the interpretation of the complicated iconography overshadow this as a work of art. There are incredible details here that are even more incredible when you think about them in glazed terracotta. So, in the third section you see somebody coming out of a doorway. This is the temple of Janice, and those little details are marble insets into a door, but this is all made out of glazed terracotta. And back here, in the fifth section, the final section of the frieze, an amazing array of horses with heads turned in all sorts of foreshortening, a carriage turning out toward the right, and the hair of the women, the radiating light, just tickling the top of the frame, all showing the innovation of this artist in the medium of glazed terracotta and of clay.
We can only speculate as to who his collaborators. Where, as we said, we don't know about a workshop that he had in any formal way, he was a teacher of some sort. The figures of Donatello and Michelangelo loom large here. They're very useful book ends to understand where Bertoldo lies. But this exhibition is really about Bertoldo and probing his art and his corpus, and celebrating an artist who is unlike any other in the Italian Renaissance. Thank you so much for listening and we hope you enjoy the exhibition.