Antonio Rizzo (Verona 1430-99 Venice)
Virgin and Child, ca. 1480
stone relief (pietra di Nanto)
25 1/5 x 19 inches
64 x 48.5 cm
Capturing the subtle interplay between line and three-dimensional form, Virgin and Child is an extraordinary refined low relief by Antonio Rizzo, a leading sculptor in 15th century Venice and the main competitor to Pietro Lombardo’s family workshop. Reliefs representing the Virgin and Child are usually associated with the Florentine Renaissance and models by artists such as Ghiberti and Donatello. The present work differs from these by the treatment of its shallow relief, set off against the background, the rounded faces, sharply delineated lips and arched brows, which are distinctive of a number of sculptures attributed to the artist.
In her extensive monograph on Rizzo, Markham Schulz supposes that he must have been in Florence yet in his review of the monograph Boucher suggests that the artist’s work is distinctly different from Florentine art. Rizzo’s vein of classicism could derive from the Venetian and Pavian schools, which also gave rise to artists such as Agostino di Duccio (1418-1481) with his distinctive linear style and Pietro Lombardo (1430-1515). A rare example of a low relief by Rizzo is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (fig. 4).
Schulz published a somewhat heterogeneous group of four reliefs with the Virgin and Child, including an example in the Rijksmuseum (fig. 4) in her monograph on Rizzo, published at a time when the present work was unbeknownst to her. The only documented one, a high relief on the altar of Saint Clement in Saint Mark’s Basilica, shows affinity with the present sculpture: the full cheeks, the design of the hair line near the temples, the way of rendering the drapery, which is thicker on the arms than over the body and forms meandering lines as it falls towards the frame. Schulz has examined this relief in person and endorses the attribution to Antonio Rizzo. ❖