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Who’s your Daddi? Three gems of Italian painting in Munich

September 9, 2015

Bernardo Daddi (c. 1280-1348)
The Crucifixion of Christ, ca. 1345/1348
Panel: 58 x 27.5 cm
Altenburg, Lindenau-Museum, Inv. 14

Another small but choice exhibition is currently on view at Munich’s Alte Pinakothek, part of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections). On Golden Ground: Loans from Lindenau Museum in Altenburg features three exquisite 14th century Florentine paintings by Bernardo Daddi, the Meister von San Lucchese, and Puccio di Simone that complement the Alte Pinakotehek’s own holding, which includes works by Giotto, Nardo di Cione, Bernardo Daddi, and others.  The three works are on loan through June 30, 2016.

Here’s a short history of the Lindenau Collection courtesy the Alte Pinakothek’s Web site:

The astronomer, statesman and patron of the arts Bernhard August von Lindenau (1779 – 1854) was a passionate collector. While on a trip around Italy in 1843/44, he broadened his knowledge of thirteenth-to-sixteenth-century Italian painting, and planned the systematic enlargement of his collection. In the following years he was supported by the archaeologist Emil Braun, who, as first secretary of the German Archaeological Institute in Rome, helped him with the purchase of numerous further paintings and classical pottery. Lindenau’s collection eventually grew to a total of 180 panel pictures, and to this day it is one of the largest specialist collections of early Italian painting outside Italy.

As early as 1848, Lindenau made the art treasures he had acquired accessible to his fellow citizens. At the Pohlhof, the Lindenau family seat in Altenburg, he had a special building erected to house it, seeing it as a place of public education in the spirit of the Enlightenment. The presentation of the original paintings was supplemented by a small school of arts and crafts, his library, and numerous plaster casts. While he certainly liked the paintings he bought, he acquired and exhibited them primarily, in his own words, ‘to provide instruction for the young and pleasure for the old’. Lindenau was in the service of the king of Saxony in Dresden, and had earned a measure of fame for his involvement in drawing up the kingdom’s first liberal constitution, for re-ordering and opening the royal collections, and not least for his support for the academy of art. In his will, he named the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg as the heir to his own collections. In fulfilment of his wishes, a magnificent new museum was built in Altenburg 20 years after his death. The building, opened in 1876, was designed by a pupil of Gottfried Semper in the Neo-Renaissance style.

One of the three works is a crucifixion by Bernardo Daddi (above); more about the painting from the exhibition Web site:

This depiction of the Crucifixion with the good centurion on Christ’s left can be assigned on stylistic grounds to the late work of Bernardo Daddi, who is documented as working as a painter in Florence in the period from 1320 to 1348. There he was in charge of a particularly large workshop for panel paintings, probably indeed the city’s most productive. At the start of his career, Daddi was closely involved with Giotto and his workshop. In spite of this influence, his mature style is characterized by originality. The typical features of his art include the harmony and clarity of composition and narrative, interest in spatial phenomena while exhibiting a predilection for large areas of colour, a linear decorative style and a broad luminous palette. The work of renowned masters of the succeeding generation, in particular Maso di Banco and Andrea di Cione (alias Orcagna) testifies to the importance of Daddi’s œuvre to the enrichment of Florentine painting in the first half of the fourteenth century.

This Crucifixion has been preserved with its original frame, a gabled panel with a trefoil arch; it was originally the center panel of a small triptych, a three-part folding altarpiece. Against the gold ground, the tall Cross bisects the panel and also intersects with the elaborately punched ornamental border. The four grieving angels in blue and pink seem to be flying towards the slender body of Christ from a different spatial plane. Via the medium of three scrolls, such as were formerly customary in monumental painting, the protagonists gathered in the lower half of the picture are linked to the crucified Christ in a dialogue – on the left, the Virgin Mary and John, who is comforting the Mother of God by clasping her hand; on the right, the good centurion in a costly garment, his polygonal halo indicating the lesser degree of his saintliness. The red scroll on the right documents the soldier’s moment of recognition: ‘Truly, this was the Son of God’ (Mt. 27: 54), while the blue and red scroll to the left refers to Christ’s care for His mother and John; for the words ‘Woman, behold thy son!’ (John 19: 26) are supplemented by the passage immediately following: ‘Then saith he to the disciple: behold thy mother!’ (John 19: 27).

In addition the following figures, likewise finely differentiated in their facial expressions and interaction, are also witnesses to the event: in the middle, Mary Magdalene in a luminous red garment, on her knees as she embraces the upright of the Cross, and to the sides, slightly in the background, two other Marys, two Pharisees and two soldiers.

Bernardo Daddi Holy Bishop with a Goldfinch, ca.1335/40 Alte Pinakothek, Inv. 10828

Bernardo Daddi (c. 1280-1348)
Holy Bishop with a Goldfinch, ca.1335/40
Alte Pinakothek, Inv. 10828

The Alte Pinakothek’s collection includes this panel depicting a bishop saint – it would have originally been part of a polyptych and may well have been sawn down (having once been a full length portrait) – more from the Web site:

Together with his workshop, Bernardo Daddi dominated the panel painting of the artistic generation that came after Giotto. His depiction of a bishop with a goldfinch on his hand [above] reveals how sensitively he was able to combine the achievements of the Floren- tine gold-ground painters with qualities deriving from Sienese art, for example linear decorative elements.

Meister von San Lucchese The Coronation of the Virgin with Angels and Saints, ca. 1365/70 Altenburg, Lindenau-Museum, Inv. 18

Meister von San Lucchese (active c. 1345-70)
The Coronation of the Virgin with Angels and Saints, ca. 1365/70
Panel: 77 x 32 cm
Altenburg, Lindenau-Museum, Inv. 18

from the Web site:

The effect of this Coronation of the Virgin is determined by the dominant, magnificent colour scheme of gold, blue and red. A luminously red mandorla, framed by blue cherubim, forms the immediate background to the event, which is thus strikingly positioned in the heavenly sphere. Christ and the Virgin both wear blue cloaks threaded with gold above golden-yellow undergarments. They are depicted at the moment of coronation, facing each other and, while seated in majesty, they appear to be floating: the absence of any physical thrones within the aureole emphasizes yet again the otherworldly character of the event. In the light of the divine glory, emanating in particular from Christ’s garment, the Virgin, as a submissive bride, receives the crown from the hands of her Son. There is no biblical authority for such an event, but it had been an established pictorial motif since the thirteenth century, and it is depicted here, as was traditional, in such a way that Mary, as the crowned advocate of mankind, embodies the hope of salvation, while the divine ceremony is being carried out in the presence of angels and saints who bear witness to the beatific vision vouchsafed to all believers.

Almost without exception staring fixedly at the crowning ceremony, male and female saints are gathered beneath the mandorla in a semicircle, taking up the whole of the space. Above them on each side are the heads of four angels, who, together with the cherubim, represent the angelic hierarchy. Identifiable among the saints are Peter with the key to Paradise, John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene with a vessel of ointment, and Catherine with the wheel of her martyrdom. Interrupted only by the pale green that gives particular emphasis to the last-named, the coloration of the cloaks of the saints, in accordance with the total composition, is dominated by clear blue, red and yellow.

The narrow gable-topped panel, which has lost its external frame and originally formed the central section of a small triptych, is thought to be the work of an unknown master who was active in Florence in the mid-fourteenth century. The starting-point for the reconstruction of his œuvre was a multi-section altarpiece in San Lucchese in Poggibonsi, destroyed in 1944, hence the master’s conventional appellation. The works attributed to him suggest that at first he was familiar particularly with the art of the two leading Florentine masters, Orcagna and Maso di Banco. His late work then increasingly shows stylistic parallels with the œuvre of Nardo and Jacopo di Cione, as well as Maso di Stefano (alias Giottino). A characteristic feature in this respect is the fine light-and-dark modelling of the figures and their garments, such as we also see in this panel.

Puccio di Simone The Coronation of the Virgin with Angels and Saints, ca. 1340/45 Altenburg, Lindenau-Museum, Inv. 16

Puccio di Simone (active c. 1330-60)
The Coronation of the Virgin with Angels and Saints, ca. 1340/45
Panel: 68.7 x 38.3cm
Altenburg, Lindenau-Museum, Inv. 16

from the Web site:

First documented as a member of the Florentine painters’ guild in 1346–48, Puccio di Simone was one of the painters named as the best of their age in a document drawn up in Pistoia in 1349. Two works with Puccio’s signature have survived. Since 1345 he was probably a pupil of Bernardo Daddi, whose workshop in Via Larga he may have taken over after the death of the master in 1348. Apart from a successful few years in the Marche, where, together with Allegretto Nuzi, he executed a Marian altarpiece in Fabriano dated 1354. Puccio was active in Florence until about 1360. His late works evince clear stylistic parallels with the art of Andrea, Nardo and Jacopo di Cione, the brothers who dominated Florentine art in the middle of the century.

What distinguishes Puccio from the art of Daddi and most of his successors is his particular interest in realistic narrative. With the dynamic row of dancing and music-making angels at the foot of the coronation scene, this quality comes out in particularly charming fashion in the Altenburg panel. The heavenly beings, depicted so lifelike in their pale glowing garments, are framed left and right by larger angels in pale green. While the one on the left is blowing one of the bagpipes, the right-hand one is playing a fanfare on a long horn being held high. An angel distinguished both by his size and by a red liturgical cloak and headdress seems to rank above the others in the hierarchy; he is introducing two new members to the ensemble. This motif directly addresses the theme of the reception of the saved into Paradise. The numerous retinue that encircles the throne and stresses the courtly character of the ceremony comprises fourteen saints, led by Peter and John, and a further six angels. They are arranged strictly symmetrically one above the other to the left and right of the magnificent Gothic architecture of the throne, at the same time demonstrating spatial perspective. The angels behold the majestic, monumentally depicted protagonists through the openings in the screens that form the wings of the throne. Here, Puccio is taking up a motif invented by Giotto, which not only defines spatiality, but also reflects the gaze of the beholder, for whom the panel represents a window on to the heavenly sphere beyond. The detailed, richly decorated architecture of the throne, whose pinnacle is adorned by a little tabernacle with a seraph, and the elaboration and meticulousness of the artistic execution, are underscored above all by the varied and delicate ornamentation in gold, which accentuates numerous parts of the depiction. The ornamental splendour is revealed in particular in the deep blue of the cloaks worn by Christ and His mother, and on the red material with its gold threads stretched across the back of the throne.

Two panels, now in York and attributed to Puccio di Simone, are possible candidates for the wings that originally framed this central panel of an altarpiece for private devotions. One shows a throned Madonna and Child, and the Annunciation, and the other the Nativity and Crucifixion of Christ.

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