Renaissance and Baroque Polychrome Sculpture in Lombardy and Piedmont

The mountains and lakes of Lombardy and Piedmont are both picturesque and rich with little-known cultural heritage. In the Renaissance and Baroque, northern Italy, which bordered Protestant lands, was central to promoting and supporting the Catholic faith. Life-sized painted sculptures made of wood, terracotta, and other materials were arranged to create naturalistic tableaux in chapels on holy mountains (Sacri Monti), pilgrimage sites which the devout visited at night, whipping themselves before sculptures must have seemed to come to life by the flickering light of lanterns. Sculpted bodies with a range of skin tones, some thin from suffering and illness and others Herculean in their muscular energy, have actual hair and are bound with real ropes or eat from real dishes. Other fleshy sculptures inhabit huge, theatrical altarpieces. Many of these living statues continue to be the focus of cult today and so are adorned with real jewelry and other offerings made by the faithful. These sculptures are site specific, embedded in the landscape, politics, and devotional practices of the region, but also the work of cosmopolitan artists and patrons with international connections. This database offers high-resolution images of and information about over 185 sculptures and sculptural groups, along with an interactive digital map. The information is in the form of a catalog entry with bibliography for each sculpture or sculptural group. Over 1,300 high-resolution photographs are available for download and can be used free of charge for research, teaching, and publication. This database was created by Kennis Forte and Una D’Elia (Queen’s University).

In addition to supporting scholarship in this understudied area by offering open access photographs that can be published free of charge, this database is a rich resource for teaching, as students can carry out research, curate, and publish their own virtual exhibitions using the database (links to undergraduate and graduate student exhibitions provided on the homepage).