In the nave of a small conventual church in the Tuscan hill town of Casole d’Elsa, there is a monument that, as they say in French guidebooks, vaut le voyage.” The detour-worthy work of art was commissioned by a relatively obscure knight and magistrate of the Republic of Siena called Bernardino del Porrina not long before his death in 1309. The standing, lifesize, and in the round marble likeness of Porrina looks down from his perch in an elaborate Gothic niche, clearly implying that this is not a tomb but a cenotaph to the man’s living presence (the actual burial is in a nearby crypt). Funerary monuments of the period had endlessly repeated the French format of representing the deceased lying in state (gisant). No less obscure than the sculpture’s patron is the artist: an elusive, itinerant stone carver named Marco Romano, who is presumed...


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