According to tradition this altarpiece was offered to the clergy of Trani by Charles I of Anjou, after the death of his son, young prince Philip I (1256-1277). With this donation Charles wanted to thank the most important representatives of the clergy for having allowed him to bury his son in the Cathedral. The altarpiece is the symbol of the king’s power, a spiritual but also political tribute. It has recently come back to Apulia after having been in the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro in Rome for a number of years; at present it is in the Museo Diocesano in Trani, to which it belongs. There are plenty of difficulties, of different kinds, arising from the study of a single artefact. In this case they were the almost complete lack of specific bibliography and the absolute originality of the object. The uniqueness of the altarpiece of Trani depends from the two materials employed: ebony and ivory. In artefacts of the same kind these materials can be found together starting from the end of the 14th century on, therefore much later than the period in which the altarpiece was made. The tradition and the stylistic analysis would suggest that the altarpiece dates back to the13th century. Its apparent uniqueness within that period can be explained by the many reworks it seems to have undergone, making it acquire a rather hybrid aspect. In fact, following an accident, it must have been reassembled by substituting the most compromised parts with dark wood splints. The less damaged part is the central panel, with the full relief sculpture of the Virgin and Child. Photographic documentation shows that the ivory parts had already been placed in the wrong order during previous repairs, and even the most recent restoration has done no better. In the article I suggest a virtual reconstruction of the original order of the scenes on the side panels (Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Adoration of the Magi and Presentation of Christ in the temple), elaborated by comparing this altarpiece with other similar ivory artefacts dating to the first half of the 14th century. The analysis of an Angevin document dating 1277 and referring to the death of prince Philip will create new grounds for future discussions. Being easily portable, this altarpiece may have become a vehicle of culture, and a model of stylistic features and iconographies coming from France. I think that the episodes represented on the side panels did not actually affect art in Apulia, since a rather Byzantine style maintained an hegemony in monumental art. The artistic context of the area must have been affected by the more original traits, as the Virgin in the round, with its elegant grace in the taste of the capital of Gothic Art. Even if it lacks its original beauty, this altarpiece holds the intrinsic charm of works designed to be looked at by a cultivated and attentive audience.
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|Titolo:||M. MIGNOZZI, L’altarolo eburneo della cattedrale di Trani: dalla tradizione alla realtà storica, in “Arte Medievale”, s. IV, II/1 (2012), pp. 271-296, ISBN 978-88-3662-564-2.|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2012|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||1.1 Articolo in rivista|