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Nanni di Banco, Four Crowned Saints

Nanni Di Banco, Four Crowned Saints, Or San Michele, Florence, Italy, c. 1410-16, marble, figures 6' high. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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Video transcript

(soft piano music) Man: We're on the second of Or San Michlele, and we're looking at one of the most famous sculptures that used to be on one of the exterior niches. It has been brought inside to keep it safe. This is Nanni di Banco's, The Four Crowned Mytryrs. These are four ancient Roman sculptures, who are asked by the Roman Emperor, Diocletian, to create a sculpture of a pagan God. They refused, and were put to death. The moment that Nanni di Banco has chosen to get picked is the moment when their coming to the realization that this will be their fate. Lady: This is commission by the stone masons skilled. Each skilled had a niche on the outside of the Or San Michlele, and chose a sculpture to represent their patron saints. This is unusual in that we have four figures instead of a single figure in the niche. The figures who are human in their interactions. Man: Almost as if there's a negation going on between them, and as if their thinking deeply about the consequences of the decision that their in the process of making. Then it is a deeply human experience. Lady: Instead of having these single thoughtful figures like the Donatello Saint Mark. We have figures who are looking at each other gesturing. Man: Look at the vividness of the interaction. As the man on the right is speaking, his mouth is open. There's that wonderful dark shadow `` in that really deep carving, and all of them are paying attention. Not necessarily focused on him visually, we can see them listen in the most engaged way. This is an extraordinary expression of what stone can do. And this was of course for the stone masons themselves. This guild is showing the nobility of their profession that stone can get to the heart of what it means to be human, and in a noble way to live up to ones belief. Lady: Being a sculpture in the early 15th century in Florence, looking back at the ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, it's in sculpture that we see the revival to take place. Artist like Donatello and Nanni di Banco, and then later on soon Masacio. We'll see that looking back to ancient Greek and Roman culture. This looks so ancient Roman to me. The faces look like figures from ancient Roman Republican statues. Their wearing these Roman togas. Several of them stand in contrapposto epically, this one second from the left, where we can really see his knee pressing through the drapery and a sense of his hips and really a body. Man: There's kind of a empathy that I feel for these figures that is intensified, because it is these four men. Think about Florence in the 15th century, which was really thinking about its sense of community. They took decisions together. Whether or not they were going to act we ask to the [Milanese 02:48] for example. This notion of doing things together, and doing things for the group was absolutely central to the specific nature of this city. Lady: With Donatello Saint Mark, you have the dignity of the individual which was a very important part of humanism. Here you have the importance of the relationships. The importance of the group in Nanni di Bancos Four Crowned Saints. (soft piano music)