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Pisano, Nicola (c.1220/1225–1284) and Giovanni (c.1245/1250–1314)

  1. George Thomas Kurian

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc1083

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Kurian, G. T. 2011. Pisano, Nicola (c.1220/1225–1284) and Giovanni (c.1245/1250–1314). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


Father and son, Italian sculptors. Nicola's first important work was Pisa Baptistery pulpit in 1250. It is a marble hexagon with small figures of Virtues standing on the capitals of columns. At the base of the central column is a group of animals and grotesque figures. Five of the sides have reliefs with scenes from the New Testament, ending with the Last Judgment. All the figures are Roman, including the Virgin in the Nativity and the Holy women in the Crucifixion. Nicola also designed the Shrine of St. Dominic in Bologna. Giovanni carried on his father's work in the pulpit of the Sienna Cathedral. It is similar to the Pisa Baptistery with larger reliefs. Christ does not appear serene but is in agony. The Last Judgment occupies two panels with Christ as the Judge between them, and below him is a cross flanked by angels with instruments of the Passion. Father and son carved many of the prophets and saints on the outside of Pisa Baptistery, one of the first examples of sculpture incorporated into architecture. Two other pulpits by Giovanni followed. His masterpiece is the one in Sant'Andrea, Pistoia (1301). It is hexagonal with five narrative reliefs, including an apo-calyptic Christ with blood spurting from his side, standing on a lion and a serpent with the hand of God and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove above him. The Crucifixion scene includes the two thieves, representations of Ecclesia and Synagoga. The pulpit in Pisa Cathedral is larger and circular in form with nine reliefs, seven on the pulpit proper and two on the stair leading up to it. All the reliefs are taken from the New Testament. The tragic vehemence of the Massacre of the Innocents has no parallel in the history of Italian sculpture. Of the nine supporting columns, seven represent theological virtues, Ecclesia and cardinal virtues, Christ and the four evangelists, Archangel Michael, and Samson. Giovanni also did several Madonna and Child groups, of which the most noteworthy are in the Pisa Baptistery, Arena Chapel in Padua Prato Cathedral, and Pisa Cathedral. He made a number of freestanding statues of which the best known is the Madonna and Child on the altar of the Arena Chapel.


  • pisano, nicola (c.1220/1225–1284) and giovanni;
  • father and son, Italian sculptors;
  • reliefs, scenes from NT, and the last judgment;
  • the crucifixion scene