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Giorgio da Sebenico [Georgius Matthei Dalmaticus; Giorgio di Matteo; Giorgio Orsini; Juraj Matejev Dalmatinac]

( fl c. 1441; d Sebenico [now Sibenik], 10 Oct 1473). Dalmatian sculptor and architect. He came from Zara (now Zadar). He was possibly apprenticed to Giovanni Buon (i) and may have worked with his son Bartolomeo Buon (i) in Venice. The extent of Giorgio’s contribution to their workshop has not been firmly established, but one piece likely to have been created by him is the base with putti supporting the baptismal font (c. 1430–40) in S Giovanni in Bragora, Venice. He is first documented on 22 June 1441, when he was summoned from Venice to be Master of the Works of St James’s Cathedral in Sibenik. With the aim of transforming the existing simple basilica with nave and aisles (begun 1431) into a more imposing structure, he planned a raised east end with a narrow transept and possibly a dome over the crossing, but his project was only partially realized. The central and side apses (1443–9, 1456–9), which are built from large blocks of carved stone, are polygonal on the outside and have high basements capped by a protruding frieze of 74 highly individual human heads that contrasts with the simplicity of the elevations above. The latter are articulated with simple pilaster strips and fluted shell niches, and, while lacking the classical detail of contemporary Tuscan architecture, they nevertheless create a Renaissance ambience. The sacristy (1452–4), boldly supported on three slender piers to the south of the east end, is similar in construction and wall articulation, but has more Gothic detail. The tetraconch baptistery (c. 1443–6) forms a compact, crypt-like space beneath the apse on the south side. Its decoration combines Gothic forms (e.g. interlaced tracery) with figurative reliefs on the circular ceiling that show the influence of early Renaissance works in Florence (e.g. by Luca della Robbia). Giorgio’s first authenticated sculptures belong to this early period at the cathedral; they include the frieze of heads facing the piazza (c. 1443–4), two putti holding a scroll (1443; see fig.), situated on the exterior of the north apsidal chapel and resembling the shield-bearers on the Porta della Carta (1438–42) of the Doge’s Palace (see VENICE, §IV, 6(i)), and the three putti supporting the font (1444) in the baptistery. The impetuous figures of St James and St Peter (c. 1441–3; Sibenik, Relig. A. Col.) rank among his finest achievements in free-standing statuary.

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