In Shakespeare’s time, the visual arts were flourishing on the Continent, especially in Italy and in the Low Countries where many skillful artisans and artists proved deeply committed to the advancement of their art. Their progress affected many kind of images and many art forms, from drawing or painting to architecture and sculpture in their countries and abroad. In point of fact, their knowledge and art did not exclusively remain in their countries of origin but instead crossed the Channel, to land at London. Keeping in mind this European inflow, I would like to reassess the status of sculpture in early modern England and to evaluate to which degree Italian art could have influenced English sculpture and statues and, in particular, Shakespeare’s vision of art. Art included works created by painters, sculptors, and carvers but these terms were not as distinct as today. Actually, the term “statue” may need some clarification, because in early modern England it was first and foremost a mere image. The first attempt to define the word “statue” emerges in John Palsgrave’s manual, Lesclarcissement de la Langue Francoyse (1530), in which the term is defined as follows: “Statue an ymage statue”. 1 About 1574, John Baret in his An Alveary or Triple Dictionary, in English, Latin, and French also gives a much more complete defintion:

an Image of man or woman, the proportion of any thing, Per translat. the signe shadow or likenesse of any thing. Simulâchrum, chri, n.g. Cęs. Imâgo, nis, f.g. Image esleuee: Semblance.

An image of woodde, stone or mettall. Státua, æ. Cic. Une statue de bois, pierre, ou de metal. There was in his minde a certaine image, &c. Insidebat eius mente species eloquentiæ. Cic.

A carver or maker of images. Statuarius, rij, m.g. Quintil. Imageur, tailleur d’images. & Statuarius, a, um. vt. Ars statuaria. Plin. Perteyning to images. 2