Posted by: Valentino Radman | July 31, 2011

Francesco Laurana and 19th century academies

“If Laurana were Leonardo (…) what would art historians think about his female busts?” – asked German architect and art history professor Fritz Burger (1877-1916) in his monograph on Croatian renaissance sculptor Frane Vranjanin – known as Francesco Laurana. He was born in Vrana, near Zadar.
Laurana’s female busts, after they had been finally correctly attributed to him several decades before, by at the turn of 20th century came into the focus of interest of greatest German and French scholars. Peter Tusco, for example, called Laurana “the greatest non-Tuscan and non-Venetian sculptor active in Italy in 15th century”. John Pope Hennesy, one of the foremost authority on Italian renaissance, praised Laurana’s female busts as “some of the most sensitive achievement of the fifteenth century”.
Having lived and worked in Dalmatia, Rome, Naples, Apulia, Sicily and Provence, Laurana did not belong in any of the regional schools. He was actually a link between Italian and French courts of his time.

As I already mentioned, by the end of the 19th century Laurana came into fashion, so to say, since many of his works has been – up to that time – misattributed to other sculptors, but by the last quarter of 19th century things started to change.  Academies all over the Europe and USA begun to purchase plaster casts  of Laurana’s works. Here is a proof for that – student cast drawing (after Laurana’s bust) of Lucia Matthews. I suspect that the cast in question were made from one of the Laurana’s busts in Mellon or Frick Collection.

At the beginning of the post is Kenyon Cox’s painting of famous sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (from 1887). In the background is plaster cast of one of Laurana’s bust.

edit – march, 2014: here is a photograph of a famous French architect Hector Guimard in his studio. Guimard is the best-known representative of the French Art Nouveau style (Castel Béranger, Paris Métro station entrances…) Note the cast of Laurana’s bust above the fireplace.

Hector Guimard


(The first half of this entry was taken from the academic paper of prof. dr. Ivana Prijatelj)

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