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date: 23 September 2019

Candlestick, S Paolo fuori le Muralocked

  • Alison Manges Nogueira

Extract

Monumental, marble paschal Candlestick of the late 12th to early 13th century with reliefs signed by Nicolaus de Angelo and Vassallettus now in S Paolo fuori le Mura, Rome. The imposing column (h. 5.6 m), adorned with six registers of reliefs and surmounted by a fluted candle holder, rests upon a base of sculpted lions, sphinxes, rams and female figures. The upper and lower reliefs bear vegetal and ornamental patterns while the three central registers portray Christ before Caiaphas, the Mocking of Christ, Christ before Pilate, Pilate Washing his Hands, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and the Ascension. The culminating Easter scenes reflect the paschal candle’s function during the Easter season as a symbol of Christ resurrected, as evoked in an inscription on the base. A second fragmentary inscription refers to the unidentifiable patron’s desire for commemoration. A third inscription identifies Nicolaus de Angelo as the master sculptor and Petrus Vassallettus as playing a secondary role. Both were active in the second half of the 12th to the early 13th century and came from leading families of Roman sculptors: the Vassalletti and Cosmati (Nicolaus’s family). The candlestick is the only work signed by and securely attributed to Nicolaus and the scope of his contribution remains uncertain. A plausible theory attributes the base and first register to Petrus, based upon similarities to works signed by him and ascribed to his family, such as the cloister of S Giovanni in Laterano in Rome and the narthex of S Lorenzo fuori le Mura in Rome. Nicolaus probably executed the Christological scenes, distinguishable for their more dynamic, expressive figures and decorative chisel work, and appropriate for the master sculptor because of their centrality and significance. Early Christian sarcophagi and Carolingian ivories may have provided models for the figural types. This form of paschal candlestick was probably inspired by Roman columnar monuments carved with triumphal scenes....

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