(Glasgow 1876 - Oxford 1953)
The Bronze Sculpture of Saint Michael and the Dragon on the Façade of the Cathedral of Orvieto, Looking Down on the Piazza del Duomo
Signed, dated and inscribed Muirhead Bone / Orvieto 1912 at the lower right.
505 x 288 mm. (19 7/8 x 11 3/8 in.)
In her 1914 Country Life article, Gertrude Bone noted that ‘the great Duomo of Orvieto is almost always empty, save for tourists and intoning priests. Built on the tide of one of those waves of inspiration which visited Italy, it would seem as though with the ebbing of that wave the people’s interest in their treasure slackened and they returned to the half-pagan beliefs which sustained their ancestors.’
This unusual view of the façade of the great cathedral at Orvieto is dominated by the 14th century bronze sculpture of The Archangel Saint Michael and the Dragon by Matteo di Ugolino da Bologna, cast in 1356, which adorned the top of the gable above the right-hand (south) door of the Duomo. (Matteo di Ugolino succeeded Nino Pisano as capomaestro of the works at the Duomo.) Now replaced by a copy, the sculpture of Saint Michael and the Dragon is today in the collection of the Museo del Opera del Duomo in Orvieto. To make this drawing, Bone stood at the level of the open arcade running above the three gabled doors and below the rose window, leaning out to draw the sculpture and the piazza below.
During his time in Italy Bone produced thirty-two copper plates and several fine drawings, some of which were sent from Italy to London and Glasgow to be sold by his dealers. A number of his drawings of Italy were exhibited at the Colnaghi and Obach gallery in London in 1914, to very positive reviews. Other drawings by Bone of the cathedral of Orvieto are today in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
In a letter to The Times written shortly after Bone’s death, the artist Sir William Russell Flint noted that ‘Muirhead Bone’s extraordinarily alert and sensitive eye was merely the instrument of his inner vision and uncanny perception. In his more sombre architectural subjects dignity always prevailed. His buildings seemed part of Nature, carrying ornamentation and finicky detail as a great oak carries its leaves…We have lost one of the great draughtsmen of all time.’