A statue of the Drunkenness of Noah

I have previously posted a piece about the painting by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel of the story of the drunkenness of Noah, but there is another image of this story on the Ducal Palace in Venice which deserves a mention. Filippo Calendario, a local stonecutter, building contractor and commercial stone dealer was appointed sometime in the early 1400s by the Great Council to act as project architect on the building of what was to be a two-storey Council chamber, but which ended up as being called Calendario’s Ducal Palace.

Calendario proved to have a genius as a sculptor and in his design of the Ducal Palace, he suggested that groups of near life-sized figures representing stories from the Old Testament be placed at eye level at the lower corners of the Palace. One of these was a sculptural group representing The Drunkenness of Noah at the southeast corner of the Palace. In Michelangelo’s painting, Noah was represented as almost a Bacchus figure naked and ridiculed, whereas here, Calendario portrays him as being tall and very thin, with heavy eyelids, and a bulging upper lip, his loin cloth falling from his body. He appears to almost be swaying, the wine falling from the cup which he holds in his right hand. One of his sons appears to be holding his loin cloth to stop it further falling from his body. Calendario also incorporated a large sinuous grapevine between Noah and his sons. This is significant, as Calandario had, on the southwest angle of the Palace carved the images of the Fall of Man, also incorporating a the appearance of a vine but within the context of the Tree of Knowledge. Calendario was therefore linking to drunkenness of Noah to the fall of Adam and Eve and showing that human weakness is inherent and an ever present risk to all, something that it is arguably at the heart of Michelangelo’s inclusion in the work of the Sistine Chapel.

There is much more that could be said about the work of Calendario, but for today I just wanted to highlight another portrayal of the story of the drunkenness of Noah – a seemingly insignificant and small story within the context of the Old Testament.


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