To anyone who starts thinking about art in Lucca, a few key names and a few symbolic monuments will immediately come to mind: the city walls, the white medieval churches of the historic centre, the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto, Pietro Paolini, Pompeo Batoni, perhaps Matteo Civitali. But if we were to stop at these cases, which certainly are fundamental, or at other similar ones, we would lose sight of the most characteristic feature of Lucchese figurative art, i.e. its complex and evocative alternation and succession of fervent local schools, highly attentive to external stimuli and extremely capable both of metabolising them intelligently and of re-proposing them with elegant expertise, producing original and beguiling results.
The well known names are undoubtedly present, but they seem to fade into the background compared with certain phenomena that are of unsuspected quality and quantity, and have often emerged only in very recent times: such is the case, for instance, with the wooden sculptures produced in the territory between the thirteenth and the fifteenth century; with the efficient organisation of eighteenth-century silversmiths’ workshops; or with the decorative cycles that completed the interiors of palazzi and villas in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Thus the aim of this book is to accompany the reader on a voyage through all aspects of the artistic panorama of Lucca, seeing them in relation to the historical context that determined them.
Naturally the sheer variety of subjects treated required a collaborative effort, and this has been carried out by a variety of specialists, many of them young scholars whose studies have paid particular attention to Lucca.
This working group has operated in a co-ordinated and dialectical fashion to produce a sort of virtual itinerary covering many centuries, from the time when Lucca, having become Caput Tusciae, through the combined action of the diocese and the Longobard nobility was enriched by an extraordinary flourishing of churches and monasteries embellished with marble, right down to the early decades of the last century, by which time the city with its rich patrimony of history and tradition was fully inserted into the evolving scenario of national artistic life.