Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Credit Line: Given by J. H. Fitzhenry, Esq.
Museum number: A.24-1910
Gallery location: Medieval and Renaissance, room 50a, case FS
Length: 242.3 cm
Width: 73.7 cm
Height: 35 cm
This piece comes from an English private collection,
and was donated to the Museum. At that time, it was said to
have come from a church on the Giudecca in Venice (in other
words, the churches of the Maddalena, S. Cosma or S. Giacomo).
It would have been removed at the time of the suppression of
these churches in the last years of the eighteenth century.
Nothing is known of the history of this piece after the suppression
and before it was brought to England. Without knowing which
church the effigy is from, it is not possible to say whom it
John Pope-Hennessy suggested that the work was
similar to the tomb effigy of Jacopo Cavalli, also in a chapel
of SS. Giovanni e Paolo. This tomb is signed by Paolo di Jacobello
dalle Massegne, and dated 1384. Several aspects of this comparison
are valid, in particular the decision to represent the knight
as an older man, with a face sunken in death, and the detail
of the bier cloth hanging in folds along the front edge. But
in crucial respects the comparison is not a compelling one -
the armour of the V&A knight is articulated differently,
and in a manner more comparable to the Paduan effigies, and
the other Venetian effigies. The Cavalli tomb is much more elaborate
than the V&A effigy, and features such as the crouching
animal beneath the feet of the Cavalli effigy are not duplicated
on the V&A figure. The overall style of the Cavalli tomb
is undoubtedly later than that of the V&A effigy, whose
closest comparisons are the unattributed Venetian figures discussed
above. A further problem with accepting Pope-Hennessy's conclusions
is that it is difficult to reconcile the date of the Cavalli
tomb, and the presumed life of the artist with the dating of
the V&A effigy. It has been assumed that Paolo di Jacobello
was the son of the Venetian sculptor Jacobello dalle Massegne.
Jacobello is first referred to in 1383 and last cited in 1409.
Paolo's first signed work is the Cavalli tomb in 1384, and he
is last cited in 1414. Given that most commentators agree in
placing the V&A's tomb effigy in the period 1370-75, it
is hard to see how the son of Jacobello could have been active
at this time, ten years before his first signed work. On these
grounds, Wolters has argued against Pope-Hennessy's suggestion.
But it would be difficult to accept anyway, given that the Cavalli
tomb is by no means the closest stylistic and compositional
The fact that the closest comparisons are both
from Venetian churches lends strength to the assertion made
on its acquisition that it had come from a church there.