Neri di Bicci, Cenotaph of Luigi Marsili
- Neri di Bicci
- Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
- Specific location
- Interior, right aisle, third bay, wall
- Fresco painting (transferred on canvas)
- Height: 387 cm; Width: 298 cm;
- Plaster, pigments, canvas
Funerary monument to the Augustinian monk and man of letters, Luigi Marsili (Florence 1342 ca. - 1394), painted in fresco by Neri di Bicci in 1439, transferred to canvas in 1843.
The painting is designed as a faux funerary monument in stone, composed of superimposed wall-mounted elements: corbels, a base with the epitaph, a relief of the Theological Virtues, the sarcophagus, and finally the recumbent body of the deceased. Marsili is portrayed as he was on the occasion of his funeral celebrations, and with the features still remembered at that time: bald, with shaven face, around 60 years of age, marked by wrinkles, wearing the habit of the Augustinian order and with a red volume held in crossed hands.
Fra 'Luigi Marsili was an important man of letters, one of the fathers of Italian humanism, a friend of Petrarch. In the Florentine monastery of Santo Spirito where he lived, he created and guided an important cultural centre. Gradually assuming authority, he received numerous assignments from the government of the city, which on his death decreed his burial in the Cathedral. This funerary monument was commissioned from Neri di Bicci some 40 years later.
The commission was just one element of the Republic's program to develop the basilical space as a pantheon of the great personalities in the history of Florence. The iconography of the painting is based on the almost identical cenotaph of Bishop Pietro Corsini (1422), which can still be admired in complementary position. But the idea of a wall sepulchre made up of several superimposed marble elements, with the portrait of the deceased at the top, recalls a wider tradition of monumental sepulchres seen in the Cathedral and in the Baptistery, among which those of the Bishop Orso by Tino di Camaino, of Giovanni Acuto by Paolo Uccello, and of Cardinal Baldassarre Coscia by Donatello and Michelozzo. Some of the iconographic details are particularly original. The profile of the woman could be a read as a personification of theology or philosophy, while the three virtues would be: on the left, Faith, who gestures while holding an object that recalls the mystery of the Holy Trinity; Charity, in the centre, with the bow and arrows of love; on the right Hope, holding a bird, perhaps a symbol of her flight towards the celestial goal.