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Laurinda Dixon

Ancient science from which modern chemistry evolved. Based on the concept of transmutation—the changing of substances at the elemental level—it was both a mechanical art and an exalted philosophy. Practitioners attempted to combine substances containing the four elements (fire, water, earth, and air) in perfect balance, ultimately perfecting them into a fifth, the quintessence (also known as the philosopher’s stone) via the chemical process of distillation. The ultimate result was a substance, the ‘philosopher’s stone’, or ‘elixir of life’, believed capable of perfecting, or healing, all material things. Chemists imitated the Christian life cycle in their operations, allegorically marrying their ingredients, multiplying them, and destroying them so that they could then be cleansed and ‘resurrected’. They viewed their work as a means of attaining salvation and as a solemn Christian duty. As such, spiritual alchemy was sanctioned, legitimized, and patronized by the Church. Its mundane laboratory procedures were also supported by secular rulers for material gain. Metallurgists employed chemical apparatus in their attempts to transmute base metals into gold, whereas physicians and apothecaries sought ultimately to distill a cure-all elixir of life. The manifold possibilities inherent in such an outcome caused Papal and secular authorities to limit and control the practice of alchemy by requiring licences and punishing those who worked without authorization....



Italian, 15th – 16th century, male.

Born c. 1460; died 1528, in Bózzolo.

Goldsmith, sculptor, medallist, copyist. Statues, statuettes.

Antico was from Mantua and went to Rome in 1495 and 1497. His first commission was in 1479, for a pair of medals commemorating the wedding of Gianfranceso Gonzaga to Antonia del Banzo. His first visit to Rome, in ...


Danielle B. Joyner

From the time John Cassian established the first female foundation in Marseille in ad 410, monastic women lived in varying states of enclosure and were surrounded by diverse images and objects that contributed to their devotion, education and livelihood. The first rule for women, written in 512 by St Caesarius of Arles, emphasized their strict separation from men and the world, as did the Periculoso, a directive issued by Pope Boniface VIII (reg 1294–1303) in 1298. Various architectural solutions developed throughout the Middle Ages to reconcile the necessities of enclosure with the access required by male clerics to celebrate Mass and provide pastoral care. Nuns’ choirs, where the women would gather for their daily prayers, were often constructed as discreet spaces in the church, which allowed women to hear or see the Mass without interacting with the cleric, as in the 10th-century choir in the eastern transept gallery at St Cyriakus in Gernrode, Germany. In some Cistercian examples, the nuns’ choir appeared at the west end of the nave. Dominican and Franciscan architecture was largely varied. Double monasteries, which housed men and women, also required careful construction. A 7th-century text describing the church of St Brigida in ...


Cristina De Benedictis

(fl 1288–1324).

Italian painter and illuminator. He was the son of the goldsmith Filippuccio (fl 1273–93). In 1948 Longhi attributed a fresco of the Virgin and Child Enthroned with SS James and John the Evangelist in the church of S Jacopo, San Gimignano, and others in the tower of the Palazzo del Popolo there to Memmo, who is documented as having lived and worked in the town from 1303 to 1317. A document of 1303 also records him as having worked in the upper church of S Francesco, Assisi, and Longhi suggested this might have been on the frescoes of the St Francis cycle, which would account for the Giottesque influence he had noted in the frescoes in San Gimignano. Previtali (1962) further attributed to Memmo the frescoes of Carlo d’Angio Administering Justice (1292; San Gimignano, Pal. Pop., Sala dell’Udienza), an altarpiece of the Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints...


Italian, 16th century, male.

Active in Sebenico (now Sibenik, Croatia).

Born c. 1530; died c. 14 May 1596.

Illuminator, goldsmith.

In 1578 Fortezza also worked on the restoration of paintings.


(d c. 1417–20).

Goldsmith, sculptor, and painter, probably of German origin. None of his works is known to have survived, but he is mentioned twice in mid-15th-century texts: in the second book of Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Commentarii and in the manuscript of the Anonimo Magliabecchiano. Both texts relate that Gusmin died during the reign of Pope Martin (i.e. Martin V, reg 1417–31), in the year of the 438th Olympiad (i.e. between 1415 and 1420). He worked in the service of the Duke of Anjou, who was forced to destroy Gusmin’s greatest work, a golden altar, in order to provide cash for his ‘public needs’. Gusmin consequently retired to a hermitage where he led a saintly life, painting and teaching young artists. Although it is clear from his account that Ghiberti never knew the master or saw any of his original works, he stated that he had seen casts of his sculptures, which, he said, were as fine as the work of the ancient Greeks, although the figures were rather short. There have been numerous attempts to identify Gusmin with artists, both German and Italian, fitting the account of Ghiberti and the Anonimo Magliabecchiano. Swarzenski first named Gusmin as the author of the alabaster Rimini altar (Frankfurt am Main, Liebieghaus), but this has now been demonstrated to be of Netherlandish workmanship. Krautheimer proposed a convincing reconstruction of Gusmin’s career, suggesting that his Angevin patron was ...


Neil Stratford

(fl Bury St Edmunds, c. 1125–56).

Metalworker and illuminator, active in England. The Gesta sacristarum of Bury St Edmunds Abbey, written in the late 13th century, mentions magister Hugo three times. He ‘sculpted’ (insculptas) two metal doors (valvas) for the church façade, surpassing even himself in this wonderful work; Hervey the sacrist, for his brother Prior Talbot (c. 1125–38), paid for a great Bible, which was painted by Master Hugo on parchment acquired ‘in Scotiae partibus’ (perhaps Ireland); and Elias, sacrist under Abbot Ordning (1148–56), commissioned the crucifix in the choir and the figures of the Virgin and St John, which were incomparably ‘sculpted’ by Master Hugo. A 14th-century source records the inscription on a bell that was cast by a certain Hugo during the abbacy of Anselm (1121–48). A 15th-century manuscript refers to the façade doors of the abbey church as cast (arte fusoria...


Flemish School, 15th century, male.

Born possibly in Limbricht, near Maeseyck.


Burgundy School.

These three brothers, nephews of the painter Jean Malouel, are thought to have served their apprenticeship in the workshop of a goldsmith in Paris. Details of the dates of their births are unknown, but it is thought that all died some time in ...


Italian, 12th century, male.

Active in Puglia.

Sculptor, illuminator, goldsmith.


Italian, 16th century, male.

Born 1523, in Parma; died 18 August 1567, in Ferrara.

Engraver (burin), medallist, illustrator.

Vico is documented in Rome at a very young age, where he was taught by Tommaso Barlacchi. He also studied the style of Giulio Bonatsone, Caroglio, Agostino, Veneziano, Marcantoni Raimondi and the other masters of Italian engraving. He was summoned by Cosimo de' Medici to Florence, where he engraved several works by Michelangelo and the portraits of Charles V and Henry II. He was also active in Venice....