NERO ALBERTI DA SANSEPOLCRO
Sculpted, painted and partially gilt wood with additions in various materials, height 120 cm
The work presented here belongs to a particular branch of the plastic arts, namely the mixed media sculptures which were above all made for purposes of worship, from a combination of simple and poor materials as wood, flax tow and plaster. The production of such works must have been of considerable entity at one time, but they have been held in little artistic consideration for a long time, and because of this and their inherent fragility only a few such figures have been preserved today. Some such works are true manikins that could be “dressed” in clothes made specifically for this purpose and joined limbs, others are statues made from a combination of materials made to imitate more precious ones; the figure presented here belongs to the latter category. The splendid polychrome decoration played a very important role in the creation of these works, according to a practice which reached a high level in central Italy, inspired by earlier artists as for instance Francesco di Valdambrino, a brilliant representative of the glorious Sienese school.
In a city not far from the one famous for its Palio, namely Sansepolcro, a sculptor specialized in mixed media works distinguished himself in the Sixteenth century; it is a matter of Nero Alberti, previously known among scholars as the Master of Magione, whose activity has recently been the subject of an exhibition (Sculture “da vestire”. Nero Alberti da Sansepolcro e la produzione di manichini lignei in una bottega del Cinquecento, exhibition catalogue (Umbertide) edited by C. Galassi, Città di Castello, 2005).
Among the works of the master from Sansepolcro which may be useful for purposes of comparison with the one presented here, which very probably once formed a pair with an Annunciated Virgin, we may in particular mention the Infant St. John at the Bardini Museum of Florence, which vaunts a gilt drapery of which naturalistic effect closely resembles the fluttering garments of this Annunciating angel.