The Funeral monument of Ilaria del Carretto it is a sculptural work that is found in the sacristy of the Cathedral of San Martino in Lucca. It was made by Jacopo della Quercia commissioned by Paolo Guinigi for his wife deceased December 8, 1405. The work is entirely realized in marmor, with the exception of the stone base. It represents one of the most successful works of funerary sculpture dating back to the fifteenth century.
Ilaria del Carretto and Paolo Guinigi
Ilaria del Carretto married Paolo Guinigi, lord of Lucca in 1403. The marriage was celebrated between great splendor and the union was born, in 1404, Ladislao, the first-born of the couple. The following year, in December, the woman died shortly after giving birth to the second daughter, which was given its own name. He died at just 25 years and the husband decided to contact the sculptor Jacopo della Quercia to commit himself to creating a work dedicated to the unfortunate wife. The sculptor worked incessantly for several years, creating a beautiful sarcophagus. In this regard it should be noted that the body was never placed inside it but is located in the chapel located inside the villa of the Guinigi family. At the end of the works, the work was placed inside the Cathedral of San Martino, in the city of Lucca.
Then followed a series of events that had repercussions also on the work: Paolo Guinigi was in fact removed from the city and his assets were confiscated. Even the sarcophagus dedicated to his wife Ilaria was involved in this measure and was stripped of the decorations that referred to the tyrant: a plate with the coat of arms and a commemorative inscription. In addition, the work was moved to a more secluded area of the Duomo, near the sacristy. Only in 1887 was it moved again to the position it is still in today.
Characteristics of the sculpture
The figure of Ilaria del Carretto is surrounded by an aura that can be defined legendary, with its youth and ethereal beauty remained unchanged over time thanks to the marble sarcophagus made by Jacopo della Quercia. The relaxed body of the woman it is on a base enriched with putti and festoons of classic style. The size is quite real and the face appears relaxed, the head is resting on a pillow to suggest a rather quiet sleep. Even the dress worn by Ilaria del Carretto is beautiful and refined: in all likelihood it has been faithfully reproduced that of the young woman on her deathbed.
It has wide sleeves ending with tight cuffs and a belt under the breast, aimed at enhancing the waistline. On her face, the woman wears a padded band that contains a small hoop: this is the hairstyle worn by all the women during the fifteenth century. Ilaria del Carretto's portrait is very sweet and creates an excellent contrast between the beauty of the woman and the condition of death in which she finds herself. At the feet of the girl there is finally a dog that symbolizes marital fidelity, realized with incredible realism. It is therefore a true masterpiece of fifteenth-century sculpture, which combines perfectly the Gothic style of French matrix and the Renaissance taste, of Florentine ancestry as symbolized by the finely modeled face. Jacopo della Quercia also demonstrates the strong push for innovation through the use of Renaissance-style motifs. The atmosphere that is perceived observing the work is that of extreme sweetness; there is therefore no idea of suffering as evidenced by the fact that it does not seem to be faced with a representation of death as flat as that of a deep sleep.
News concerning the funeral monument dedicated to Ilaria del Carretto
The main news about the funeral monument dedicated to Ilaria del Carretto can be learned from the Croniche, by Giovanni Sercambi. In his writing, the author refers to the death of the second wife of Paolo Guinigi, a story that has fascinated every person for centuries. The young woman, as mentioned, has never been buried in the sarcophagus and a recent discovery is that the remains of the woman are kept in the Chapel of Saint Lucia inside the Church of San Francesco in Lucca. In fact, the remains attributed to Ilaria del Carretto have been found. In the Guinigi chapel, wanted by the family, all the members of the dynasty were buried. Inside, three skeletons were found: one was connected to Jacopa Trinci, who had married Paolo Guinigi before his wedding with Ilaria. This led scholars to conclude that the two remaining skeletons may belong to other man's wives.
Where is Ilaria del Carretto?
The Funeral monument of Ilaria del Carretto it is now open to visitors. The work was originally placed in the southern transept of the Duomo near an altar belonging to the Guinigi family, where there is currently a confessional. A part of the floor is still visible, characterized by long and narrow stones, different from the remaining paving. It is a sign prepared by the sculptor to indicate the point where the monument of Ilaria del Carretto was to be placed. The work has become a symbol of the city of Lucca and through this sculptural work of incredible beauty we are given the opportunity to learn about the events related to Ilaria del Carretto and the Guinigi family.