An Elegant Sienese Madonna and Child in Munich
An attractive and poignant Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist by the Sienese painter Girolamo del Pacchia was sold at the Munich-based auction house Hampel on Thursday, September 25, 2014. The work, estimated at €120,000-150,000, sold for €178,000.
The sensitive treatment of the figuration is strongly reminiscent of Perugino, especially in the face of the Madonna, there is evident tenderness between the Christ child and Saint John, and overall the composition is relatively harmonious. But there are some condition issues, including a vertical crack that begins above the Madonna’s head and cracking at the clasped hands of the Christ child and Saint John. There are other areas with surface anomalies suggesting in-painting. The picture would benefit from treatment by an expert in Renaissance-era panel painting restoration. Nevertheless, it is a handsome work and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it appeared at some dealer’s booth in Maastricht.
According to the catalogue notes: “The painting was attributed to the Sienese painter Bernardino Fungai in the past by Giuliano Briganti and Rodolfo Palluchini. A newer and more compelling write-up was by Andrea de Marchi to Girolamo del Pacchia.”
A biography of the artist on the Getty Web site notes:
Even though Giorgio Vasari mentioned Girolamo del Pacchia in his Lives of the Artists, scholars have only recently begun to separate Pacchia’s work from that of his teacher Giacomo Pacchiarotti. Pacchia actually took Pacchiarotti’s name, which has contributed to the confusion.
Pacchia was the son of a metalsmith who specialized in weapons. By 1502 he and Pacchiarotti were Pinturicchio’s assistants, decorating the ceiling of a library in Siena’s cathedral.
Throughout his career, Pacchia absorbed the influences of many painters. Along with many other Sienese artists, he adopted Perugino’s classicizing style around 1510, when Perugino was painting frescoes in a chapel there. In 1518 Pacchia was painting frescoes for a church, under Domenico Beccafumi’s supervision. Those frescoes reveal a thicker, softer impasto, with softer, more velvety effects than his earlier, more hard-edged works. Pacchia’s style changed little during the remaining years of his career.
Of the significance of this particular painting, the sale catalogue says:
This painting is of historical and artistic interest, since it allows us to more accurately distinguish between del Pacchia’s work in the first decade of the 16th century and the more archaic works Giacomo Pacciarotti even though both are close to Perugino, who at that time in Siena two important public contracts awarded for the churches of S. Agostino (1502 – 1503) and S. Francesco (1510).
The painting’s background is quite intriguing. In the upper left hand side we Saint Francis in a rocky, mountainous setting receiving the Stigmata.
The right hand side features an elegant palazzo and a tower; the top of the latter resembles the top of Siena’s Church of Santo Spirito.
For comparison, take a look at this panel by del Pacchia from a cassone in the collection of the Getty, created a decade after the Hampel painting.
Here’s their description:
Girolamo del Pacchia created a complex panorama to fill this long and narrow panel, whose dimensions reflect its original function as part of a marriage chest, or cassone, containing a bride’s household linens. Inspired by Domenico Beccafumi, Girolamo employed delicate color and the traditional Sienese grace of line to beautify the violent subject. The intertwined limbs and intense emotion conveyed by exaggerated gestures reflectideals, Girolamo added the rounded forms and drama of Raphael’s Roman decorations.
Artists often painted the rape of the Sabines, an important incident in the legendary history of Rome. After founding Rome, Romulus solved the problem of a lack of women by inviting the Sabines, an ancient Italian people, to a festival. During the celebrations, the young Romans drove away the men and carried off the women.