I’m currently editing a book on the sculptures of Tullio Lombard (1460-1532), whose work adorns churches and tombs throughout Italy.
As I edit, I try to find images of the artwork online. That’s when I came across this:
Instantly, I fell in love. Look at that face! I am in awe that this has been carved out of marble, not fashioned from pliable clay or wood. Such exquisite detail, and such suffering now at rest.
Turns out, I’m not the first to fall in love with that face. It is from the tomb of a sixteenth-century soldier’s tomb sculpted by Tullio Lombardo and now housed at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ravenna, Italy.
Apparently, in the 1800s, a rumor circulated that any woman who kissed the fallen knight would marry a wonderful gentleman. Some 5 million women are said to have kissed the soldier and the statue’s mouth has now developed a slight red tinge.
Today, the effigy of Guidarello Guidarelli is housed in a protective case, so we no longer have the opportunity of planting a kiss on those lips.
Not that I need to. I have already won the heart and hand of a most wonderful gentleman!
But I do know one statue I will make a point of visiting if I’m ever in Ravenna, Italy.
Here is a bit more about the effigy, by Anne Markham Schultz in her book about Tullio Lombardo:
Tomb of Giudarello Guidarelli, Pinacoteca Comunale, Ravenna
Guidarello di Francesco Guidarelli was born at Ravenna to a notary whose family had emigrated from Florence to the Romagna at the beginning of the fifteenth century. In December 1468, Guidarello was made cavaliere by Emperor Fredrick III and therefore can be supposed to have been born not later than 1455 and probably a good deal earlier. He served as condottiere in Venetian employ during her intervention in support of Pisa against the Florentines in 1498–1499.
In 1500, under Cesare Borgia, Guidarello held the rank of captain while treacherously reporting to the Venetian Signoria on Borgia’s maneuvers in Romagna. At the beginning of March 1501, Guidarello was mortally wounded in a quarrel at Imola over an embroidered shirt he had lent his assassin.
On 6 March 1501, Guidarello indited his testament, in which he charged that his tomb be erected in the burial place of his ancestors in the Cappella di San Liberio in San Francesco at Ravenna.
Curiously, Tullio chose to portray the condottiere at the age of approximately 33 – the age at which Christ died and thus the age at which the dead will rise again – despite the fact that the captain was close to fifty, if not a good deal older. Indeed, the Effigy of Guidarello is unequalled among Italian Renaissance effigies for the beauty of its youthful and idealized visage, reminding us of Tullio’s so-called portraits of beautiful youths. To be sure, Guidarello had died two and a half decades earlier and his appearance must have long since faded from memory. Nonetheless, it is indicative that Tullio made use of the occasion to depict a chivalric ideal quite unrelated to his ostensible subject.