The Acanthus Frieze in the Renaissance

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Portrait of Mehmed II by Venetian artist Gentile Bellini, 1480

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acanthus friese detail


On the previous page we looked at acanthus frieze and candelabra motifs and their occurence in tabernacle frames. In the 1480 painting shown above we again see both. Below I show an amazing, highly detailed, 1486 painting by Carlo Crivelli (c. 1435 c. 1495) who was an Italian Renaissance painter from Venice. Crivelli has included many detailed architectural elements here and most importantly candelabra motifs, we can see acanthus within the details, but not an acanthus frieze. Please look at the enlargement of this, the detail is extraordinary and this enlargement that can be found on Wikipedia isn't really good enough to see everything that Crivelli has included here, for example what you think may be a space ship in the sky is actually a cloud of tiny winged angels with halos.


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The Annunciation, with Saint Emidius 1486, Carlo Crivelli
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acanthus detail



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Madonna col Bambino tra i SS. Giovanni Battista e Girolamo, Giovanni della Robbia, 1513. Arcevia, San Medardo

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Alternating acanthus frieze, Giovanni della Robbia, c. 1500
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1513 grotesque candelabra

1513 candelabra motifs with acanthus frieze by Giovanni della Robbia.


Giovanni della Robbia (1469-1529) an Italian Renaissance ceramic artist, appears to have included acanthus frieze and candelabra in many of his works, these however are closer to the beginning of the 16th century. The candelabra motifs are now taking on the phantasmagoric transformations of the grotesque. In France we can see the extensive use candelabra motifs in the Tomb of Louis XII, who died 1 January 1515.


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The tomb of Louis XII of France and Anne de Bretagne in the Basilica of Saint Denis, Paris, France.
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tomb detail


Candelabra motif decoration 1515,
(enlarged detail from he tomb of Louis XII of France and Anne de Bretagne ).



Palazzo Ducale


Candelabra motif decoration 1475 , enlarged detail from a chapel in the Palazzo Ducale, Urbino, Italy.


The candelabra motifs found in a chapel at Palazzo Ducale, a Renaissance building in the Italian city of Urbino in the Marche, one of the most important monuments in Italy, appear to precede those of the tomb of Louis XII, perhaps by as much as by 40 years. The only photograph I can find is not of a high resolution however I suspect that the frieze above these candelabra may be an alternating acanthus type.



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created by L. A. Miller in collaboration with Jean Duday.



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