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Fashion, Devotion and Contemplation

The Status and Functions of Italian Renaissance Plaquettes

Marika Leino

Italian Renaissance ‘plaquettes’ are often stored and displayed as a homogeneous category or genre in museum collections due to their apparently uniform small relief format. This has resulted in a scholarly literature that has concentrated largely on connoisseurship and taken the form of catalogues, thereby both responding to and propagating the myth of this classification. However, what is often forgotten, or buried deep in scattered catalogue entries, is that during the Renaissance this small relief format was regularly mass-produced and employed extensively in a variety of different contexts. Far from being a homogeneous category, plaquettes were originally viewed as many separate types of object, including pieces for personal adornment, liturgical objects, domestic artefacts, and models for architecture and painting. For the Renaissance consumer, the commission of a hat badge with a personal motto, the purchase of an off-the-shelf inkwell or the acquisition of a small relief for his study were separate concerns.
The aim of this book is to redress the balance by examining these reliefs in terms of their use, alongside broader issues regarding the status of such objects within visual, scholarly and artistic culture from the fifteenth century to the early sixteenth.


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Appendix 4 A Case Study: Valerio Belli’s Altar Set for Pope Clement VII


It is illuminating to examine Lewis’s theory that Valerio Belli’s lead and bronze plaquettes represent a type of ‘proof ’ of an unfinished crystal engrav- ing more thoroughly. An example quoted by him will be analysed in detail to determine the types and range of dif ferences between some existing crystals and the reliefs directly related to them. Lewis proposes that the crystals, listed below, were originally components of an altar set which consisted of a cross and two candlesticks known from documents to have been executed by Valerio Belli for Pope Clement VII between 1533 and 1539, and which is no longer intact.1 The crystals, all of a trapezoidal format to fit into the bases of the cross and candlesticks, are as follows: Candlestick 1. The Entry into Jerusalem2 2. Christ Washing the Feet of the Disciples3 3. The Kiss of Judas (crystal lost)4 Cross 4. Christ before Pilate5 5. Ecce Homo6 6. The Road to Calvary7 1 D. Lewis in Valerio Belli 2000, pp. 127–128. 2 Valerio Belli 2000, cat. nos 7.1 (crystal) and 53 (relief ). 3 Valerio Belli 2000, cat. nos 7.2 (crystal) and 54 (relief ). 4 Valerio Belli 2000, cat. no. 55 (relief ). 5 Valerio Belli 2000, cat. nos 7.3 (crystal) and 56 (relief ). 6 Valerio Belli 2000, cat. nos 7.4 (crystal) and 57 (relief ). 7 Valerio Belli 2000, cat. nos 7.5 (crystal) and 58 (relief ). 316 Appendix 4 Candlestick 7. The Entombment (crystal lost)8 8. Christ in Limbo9 9. The Incredulity of...

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