Death of Francesca Pitti Tornabuoni (tomb relief from Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome).

School of Andrea del Verocchio.
Marble, end of 15th cent.

Florence, National Museum of Bargello
(Museo Nazionale del Bargello)

The composition of the scene on the right part of the relief is based on an ancient sarcophagus relief “Death of Meleager” from the Borghese collection (now in the Louvre, inv. No. Ma 539).
The pose of the dying figure with her serene expression differentiates to the visible expression of mourning displayed by those who surround her. Francesca’s depiction is heavily influenced by examples of classical art; she is dressed in Roman garb and lies on a bed in the all’antica style. There are a striking number of similarities between Francesca’s depiction and that of the death of Meleager. Murdered by his own mother with the aid of the goddess Diana in revenge for the slaughter of his uncles, the Death of Meleager was a popular subject matter found on ancient Roman sarcophagi.
Traditionally, the dying hero is represented lying in state surrounded by his mourning loved ones. In both the Bargello Relief and the Death of Meleager scene, the dying protagonist lies on a bed surrounded by a group of figures with varying expressions of profound melancholy including the seated female holding her head in her hands. The principal characters do not exhibit the suffering they have endured. By depicting Francesca in this manner, Verrocchio conferred the deceased with a sense of heroic dignity and gravitas. Her calm appearance masks the pain and suffering she obviously endured. It is only subtly referenced to through the depiction of her limp, tousled hair which sticks to her neck, her dress slipping down her left arm and the exposing of her left breast. The fact that she is portrayed as sitting up in the bed demonstrates how she was physically exhausted from the labour.
© 2013. Photo: Ilya Shurygin.
Keywords: marble relief Death of Francesca Pitti Tornabuoni death of Meleager Morte di Meleagro