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The Renaissance in Siena

The first great step in advance was taken by the celebrated Jacopo della Quercia, who having been driven from his birth-place, Sienna, to Lucca, executed about the year 1413, in the Cathedral of that city, a monument to Ilaria di Caretto, wife of Giunigi di Caretto, Lord of the City. In this interesting work (of which a good cast may be seen in the Crystal Palace) Jacopo exhibited a careful recourse to nature, both in the surrounding festoons of the upper part of the pedestal and the "puttini", or chubby boys supporting them; the simplicity of his imitation being revealed by the little bandy legs of one of the "puttini".

His great work, however, was the fountain in the Piazza del Mercato Siena, which was completed at an expense of two thousand two hundred gold ducats, and even in its present sad state of decay offers unmistakable evidence of his rare ability. After his execution of this capo d'opera he was known as Jacopo delta Fonte. This work brought him much distinction, and he was made Warden of the Cathedral in that city, where, after a life of much labour and many vicissitudes, he died in the year 1424, aged sixty-four.

Although one of the unsuccessful candidates for the second bronze door of the Florence Baptistery, as we shall presently see, he was much esteemed during his life, and exercised a great and salutary influence on sculpture after his death. Great, however, as were his merits, he was far surpassed in the correct imitation of nature, and in grace, dexterity, and facility in ornamental combination, by Lorenzo Ghiberti, who was one of his immediate contemporaries.

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