Skip to content

A preview of Salamon Old Masters at the Biennale dell’Antiquariato di Firenze

September 11, 2015
Exhibition installation shot.

Exhibition installation shot.

Over the past couple of weeks hints of the coming art season have been arriving – auction notices from Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Drouot; the Pulse Art roster for the December fair was announced; and reporting in the New York Timeand elsewhere about the swooning financial markets and what that portends for sales have cropped up.

Amidst all that came notice from Salamon & Co. Old Masters about their upcoming participation at the Biennale dell’Antiquariato di Firenze accompanied by an image of an arresting and exquisite predella panel by Bicci di Lorenzo depicting the Miracle of San Giovanni Gualberto.  The Biennale takes place at the Palazzo Corsini September 26-October 4, 2015. The painting by Bicci is one of more than a dozen that Salamon will exhibit – they will also unveil two works by Mattia Preti and Gregorio Preti.

BICCI LORENZO (Florence, ca. 1368 - 1452) MIRACLE OF ST JOHN GUALBERTO tempera on panel, 27.5 x 31 cm Click on image to enlarge.

BICCI di LORENZO
(Florence, ca. 1368 – 1452)
MIRACLE OF SAN GIOVANNI GUALBERTO
tempera on panel, 27.5 x 31 cm
Click on image to enlarge.

The Bicci painting concerns Benedictine monk Gualberto (Florence, ca. 995 – Badia a Passignano, 1073), founder of the Vallombrosan Order, who was canonized by Pope Celestine III in 1193 (and is the patron saint of foresters, park rangers and parks).  The panel depicts the miracle of the ruins of the abbey of St. Peter in Moscheta, which became the site of the order he founded. According to legend, the saint, who was very principled and rejected wealth and corruption within the church, was furious when he saw the money and luxury associated with the building, which was more like a palace than a place of worship. St. John gathered his fellow monks close to him and ordered a river to come over the mountain and wash away the abbey.  He then established a more modest monastery built of timber and mud walls.

The artist’s treatment of the subject is riveting – on the left side the determined saint and his awed brethren watch as the crenelated abbey washes down the mountain surrounded by swirling currents and uprooted trees.  The left and right hand of the panel are compositionally complement each other despite the juxtaposition of rectilinear form and coiling motion.

According to information provided by the gallery:

This panel comes from a polyptych [below] made by Bicci di Lorenzo, in collaboration with Stefano d’Antonio Vanni, for the altar of the fourth chapel on the left of the church of Santa Trinita in Florence. The polyptych was commissioned in 1434 by the banker Cante di Giovanni Compagni, one of the wealthiest and most influent protagonists of the Republic of Florence, and was still on the altar in 1755, when it was described by the historian Giuseppe Richa in his account on the churches of the city of Florence[i]. The following dismantling brought the larger compartments, featuring the Virgin with the Child on the throne among the saints Anthony the Abbot, John Gualbert, John the Baptist and Catherine of Alexandria, in Westminster Abbey, where it is [above the tomb of Anne of Cleves near the High Altar]. This is the only fragment remaining of the predella – which according to Richa had on the centre the inscription with the date ‘1434’ –, originally situated right under the figure of John Gualbert.

[i] G. Richa, Notizie istoriche delle chiese fiorentine divise ne’ suoi quartieri, III, Quartiere di S. M.a Novella, Florence 1755, p. 161.

Image from the Fondazione Zeri.

Image from the Fondazione Zeri.

A biography of the artist from the National Gallery of Art:

As a young man Bicci was trained in Florence in the well-established workshop of his father, Lorenzo di Bicci, which he probably took over around 1400.[1] Evidence of collaboration between the two artists might be seen in the large fresco of the tabernacle called “del Madonnone” (of the large Madonna) near the former monastery of San Salvi, in which the decorative richness and elegant rhythms of the drawing reveal an intention to move beyond the essentially Orcagnesque style characteristic of Lorenzo.[2]

Bicci’s first dated work is the Porciano triptych (Santa Maria Assunta, Stia) of 1414, which testifies to his moderate interest in the innovations that Cherardo Starnina and Lorenzo Monaco introduced to early fifteenth-century Florentine painting, and betrays the strong attachment to traditional compositional formulas of his father’s shop. The success of this rather prosaic style, improved by the artist’s great technical skill is demonstrated by a series of prestigious commissions, many of them now lost. The lost works include a panel for the church of Sant’Egidio (1420); frescoes in Santa Lucia de’ Magnoli (1421-1422); frescoes for two chapels in San Marco (1420-1433), fragments of which have recently been found. Still surviving are a fragmentary polyptych in the Pinacoteca della Collegiata in Empoli (1423); frescoes in the former monastery of Sant’Onofrio, called “di Fuligno,” in Florence (just before 1429);[3] and the frescoed lunette of Porta San Giorgio, also in Florence (1430). In the now dismembered polyptych of San Niccolò a Cafaggio (1433) he copied parts of the predella of Gentile’s Quaratesi polyptych.[4] During the 1430s Bicci’s commissions became even more copious, and the artist, who was gradually breaking free of late Gothic linear rhythms and rich ornamentation, developed more sedate and rationalized compositional schemes. His models at this time appear to be the works of Masolino and Fra Angelico, whose innovations are simplified in his own archaic idiom, which shows increasingly stereotyped compositions and monotonous execution. And yet, even in the 1440s, Bicci was still obtaining important commissions in Arezzo; in 1447 he received payment for frescoing the vault of the main chapel of the church of San Francesco, a work that would later be continued by Piero della Francesca. By this time the management of Bicci’s workshop was firmly in the hands of his son, Neri. His death is documented in 1452.

[1] On Lorenzo di Bicci, see Miklós Boskovits, Pittura fiorentina alla vigilia del Rinascimento, 1370-1400, Florence, 1975: 107-109, 331-336; for a hypothesis on Bicci’s role in his father’s workshop see Cecilia Frosinini, “Il passaggio di gestione di una bottega fiorentina del primo Rinascimento: Lorenzo di Bicci e Bicci di Lorenzo,” Antichità Viva 25, no. 1 (1986): 5-15.

[2] See Ugo Procacci, Sinopie e affreschi, Milan, 1961: 55, who leaves open the question of attribution between father and son.

[3] See Paatz and Paatz, Kirchen von Florenz, 4, 1952: 468, and Serena Padovani, Il Cenacolo del Perugino, Florence, 1990: 7-9.

[4] Frederico Zeri, “Una precisazione su Bicci di Lorenzo,” Paragone 9, no. 105 (1958): 67-71; Sonia Chiodo, “Osservazioni du due polittici di Bicci di Lorenzo,”Arte Cristiana 88 (2000): 269-280.

There’s good news and bad news about this painting – the bad news is that it doesn’t have an export license – the good news is, that’s your excuse to purchase a home in Italy and make this a housewarming gift to yourself.

Here are several other intriguing paintings included in Salamon’s forthcoming exhibition:

MASTER OF SAN POLO IN CHIANTI (active ca. 1340-1360) MADONNA AND CHILD IN THE THRONE AND FOUR ANGELS tempera on panel, 72 x 52 cm

MASTER OF SAN POLO IN CHIANTI
(active ca. 1340-1360)
MADONNA AND CHILD IN THE THRONE AND FOUR ANGELS
tempera on panel, 72 x 52 cm
Click on image to enlarge.

The Corpus of Florentine Painting (section III, volume IV), Bernardo Daddi, His Shop and Following, has the following entry about the author the painting above:

This otherwise unknown Florentine painter takes his conventional name from a panel painting in the parish church of San Polo in Chianti … a work that reveals links in style and cultural orientation with Florentine painting of the fourth decade of the Trecento.

His work is said to be principally influenced and suggestive of the paintings of Bernardo Daddi, with a secondary influence by Taddeo Gaddi.  The catalogue for the Pittas Collection states:

He was an artist who trained in close  contact with the models of Taddeo Gaddi and who, in the development  of his style, shows ties—particularly in terms of composition—  to Bernardo Daddi. The San Polo Madonna must have been a mature  work, datable around 1340, due to references to paintings from the  mid-1330s such as Bernardo Daddi’s altarpiece in San Giusto at Signa –  no, near Scandicci, and, to an even greater extent, the Madonna Enthroned  with Angels, St Matthias and St George in the church of San  Giorgio at Ruballa, near Bagno a Ripoli, dated 1336 and probably attributable  to the young Maso di Banco. The Madonna and Child Enthroned  with Four Saints and Two Angels, now at the Museo della Socie –  tà di Esecutori di Pie Disposizioni in Siena, is an earlier work, and  thus datable to the 1330s. The later phase—perhaps even after 1350—  is represented by the polyptych with the Madonna and Child with Four  Angels in the collection of Michele Bagnarelli in Milan [the present picture] and the four  panels—once part of the same altarpiece—with St John the Evangelist,  St Margaret, St Catherine of Alexandria and St Bartholomew at the  Museo Bandini in Fiesole where the style draws perceptibly closer to  that of Puccio di Simone.

Of this particular painting, the Corpus notes:

The panel, which must originally have represented the Madonna full-length, appears to have been cut down at the base … [I]t must have formed the central part of the polyptych which also included the four Saints by the same master in the Museo Bandini … This reconstruction is based not only on stylistic analogies, but is confirmed by the shapes and frames of the panels, and by the tooling of the halos, which overlap the frames in a rather unusual way.

 

MASTER OF THE STRAUS MADONNA (Florence, active between 1385 and 1415 approx) NATIVITY OF CHRIST tempera on panel, 34 x 26 cm Click on image to enlarge.

MASTER OF THE STRAUS MADONNA
(Florence, active between 1385 and 1415 approx)
NATIVITY OF CHRIST
tempera on panel, 34 x 26 cm
Click on image to enlarge.

The so-called Master of the Straus Madonna takes his name from depiction of the Virgin and Child that was donated to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in 1944 by Edith A. and Percy S. Straus. According to the biographical entry in the Web Gallery of Art:

MASTER OF THE STRAUS MADONNA Florentine, late 14th century - early 15th century Virgin and Child c. 1395–1400 Tempera and gold leaf on wood 35 x 19 inches The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston The Edith A. and Percy S. Straus Collection

MASTER OF THE STRAUS MADONNA
Florentine, late 14th century – early 15th century
Virgin and Child
c. 1395–1400
Tempera and gold leaf on wood
35 x 19 inches
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The Edith A. and Percy S. Straus Collection

Of over 30 [Salamon cites the scholars  Miklós Boskovits and Angelo Tartuferi who say there are about 50] surviving panels painted in Florence and its environs, the Master’s only dated work is the small, incisive Man of Sorrows (1405; Warsaw, National Museum).

One of the most individual and lyrical Late Gothic Tuscan painters, he bridges the gap between Agnolo Gaddi and Lorenzo Monaco. His slender, pale figures blend spiritual evanescence with Giottesque solidity of form and are at their most expressive in the Man of Sorrows with Instruments of the Passion of c. 1395 and the Annunciation of c. 1405 (both Florence, Accademia), in which a highly refined sense of design balances perfectly with a poetic and vivid sense of colour. Striking touches of realism, as seen in the cockerel of the Passion or Gabriel’s lilies, enliven these scenes. The subtly modelled Virgin and Child with Two Angels in the church at Sagginale (nr Borgo San Lorenzo), originally flanked by Sts John the Baptist and Dominic (both Oxford, Christ Church Picture Gallery), is one of the Master’s finest mature works. Like Starnina and influenced in part by Spinello Aretino and the Giottesque revival, his graceful yet quietly compelling figures were important for the generation of Masolino in the last years of the Late Gothic style.

 

VINCENZO FREDIANI (Documented in Lucca 1481 to 1505) MADONNA WITH CHILD AND SAINTS JOHN THE BAPTIST, ROCCO, JEROME AND SEBASTIAN tempera on panel, 92 x 137 cm Click on image to enlarge.

VINCENZO FREDIANI
(Documented in Lucca 1481 to 1505)
MADONNA WITH CHILD AND SAINTS JOHN THE BAPTIST, ROCCO, JEROME AND SEBASTIAN
tempera on panel, 92 x 137 cm
Click on image to enlarge.

A recent Dorotheum auction catalogue entry for a Lamentation of Christ by the artist stated:

Vincenzo Frediani is one of the best-documented painters from Lucca during the last quarter of the 15th century. His prestigious commissions of altarpieces and frescoes for churches in Lucca demonstrate that he was one of the most renowned painters of his native town. At first, Richard Offner and Everett Fahy compiled the artist’s work under the name of the ‘Master of the Lucchese Immaculate Conception’. Subsequently Maurizia Tazartes succeeded in identifying the master as Vincenzo Frediani in 1984 and 1987, thanks to newly discovered documents. There is proof that the artist was commissioned with the name-giving retable of the Immaculate Conception in 1502 (today in the Museo Nazionale, Villa Guinigi, Lucca; see. M. Tazartes, Anagrafe lucchese I, Vincenzo di Antonio Frediani ‘pictor de Lucca’, il Maestro dell’ Immacolata Concezione?, in: Ricerche di storia dell’arte, vol. XXVI, 1985, pp. 4–6). From the mid-1480s on, Frediani was influenced by Domenico Ghirlandaio and Filippino Lippi, whose presence in Lucca while working for San Martino and San Michele in Foro around 1480 and 1481/83 respectively is attested to by documents.

 

Francesco Guardi (Venice, 1712-1793) The basin of San Marco with the island of San Giorgio Maggiore and the tip of Giudecca oil on canvas, cm. 34.2 x 44.7 Click on image to enlarge.

Francesco Guardi (Venice, 1712-1793)
The basin of San Marco with the island of San Giorgio Maggiore and the tip of Giudecca
oil on canvas, cm. 34.2 x 44.7
Click on image to enlarge.

The National Gallery of Art’s website has a comprehensive biography of the artist; here are the opening paragraphs:

Francesco Guardi was born in Venice in 1712. Due to a lack of documentation and secure early works, his initial training and career remain the subject of intense speculation. It cannot be assumed that he was trained by his elder brother Antonio (1699-1761), who was too young to have inherited the family workshop upon the death of their father Domenico (1678-1716). Furthermore, the obvious differences in the brothers’ styles go beyond a difference in temperament and indicate that Francesco was probably trained by another master. Yet, suggestions that he received this initial training in the family’s native Trentino, in Vienna with a north-Italian painter, or in Venice remain highly speculative.

By about 1730 a Guardi family workshop was in existence in Venice: a will of 1731 refers to copies by the “fratelli Guardi.” Because Francesco would have been only 18 at this time, it can be assumed that at first Antonio probably functioned as the head of the shop. It appears, however, that Francesco soon collaborated on and made independent contributions, primarily as a figure painter, to the shop’s large projects. He also accepted independent commissions, as clearly indicated by two letters of 1750 in which he attempted to recover payment on sketches for unexecuted figure compositions. After Antonio’s death in 1761, Francesco continued to work occasionally as a figure painter, but was active mainly as a painter of views and capricci.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: