Master of Sant'Ivo
(Active in Florence, first quarter of XV century)
Saint Peter Enthroned Between Saint Anthony Abbot and Mary Magdalene, 1438
Tempera on panel, "oro di meta'" ground, 133,8 x 149,2 cm (52.68 x 58.74 inches)
- Reference: 730
- Provenance: Pietro di Giovanni Ringli, 1438; Banco Popolare di Genova, Genoa, until 1895; Gallerie Sangiorgi, Rome, 8-11 April 1895; Hanns Teichert, Chicago and Rothemburg, until 1993; Benford am Rhein, Sayn- Wittgenstein
A. Tartuferi - A. Bernacchioni, The Ringli Triptych. A New Discovery by the Master of Sant'Ivo, Florence, 2019
Bologna, Alma Mater Studiorum, Fondazione Federico Zeri, Fototeca: folder 0063 (Pittura italiana sec. XIV. Firenze Maestro di San Iacopo a Mucciana; Maestro Bandini - Hearst; Maestro di Sant’Ivo), dossier 3 (Maestro di Sant’Ivo), n. 3332
The critical recovery and the meritorious structural reassembly of the 1438 tricuspid altarpiece with Saint Peter Seated on a Throne with Saints Anthony Abbot and Mary Magdalene [Figures 00-00], which Federico Zeri attributed for the first time to the Master of Sant’Ivo, stresses a simple, yet pivotal, truth of historical-artistic practice. This is to say that once a work is ascribed to the oeuvre of an artist, each and every subsequent artwork attribution increases the knowledge not only of the artist, but also of the stylistic and chronologic context to which it belongs. Inconveniently, this truth is today increasingly confined to the world of antiques, yet the “practice of connoisseurship” is the research method that has shaped into the critical feature and fundamental framework of Italian art history, especially between the XIX and XX centuries. In other words, every new acquisition is capable of making us question our “certainties”, thus forcing us to reconsider them as a whole. And this is precisely what happened with the painting of the Master of Sant’Ivo analysed in this volume.
Federico Zeri was the first to begin to define the activity of the unknown artist; it was his belief that the Madonna of Humility of the Christ Church Gallery in Oxford (inv. n. 17) and the painting depicting an analogous subject [Fig. 2] in the Pinacoteca Vaticana (inv. n. 178)1were by the same hand, ascribing this very short stylistic group to a “Master of the Madonna of the Christ Church Gallery” in Oxford. Carlo Volpe added a third painting to the group, a Madonna and Child(inv. n. 1920.9) of the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge (Mass.), while later Miklós Boskovits defined the unknown artist’s activity in his important 1975 volume, Pittura fiorentina alla vigilia del Rinascimento.
For the first time, the great scholar gathered a stylistic group of as many as 35 paintings, under the temporary name of the Master of Sant’Ivo after the panel of the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence (inv. 1890 n. 4664) depicting Saint Ivo in Judgment, which he dated to the second decade of the XV century2. Costanza Baldini confirmed this dating based on the style of the garments and headdresses worn by the painting’s figures. More recently, she modified the painting production ascribed to the Master of Sant’Ivo and outlined his possible stylistic and chronological journey3.
Richard Offner also partially identified the personality of this artist, attributing only two paintings to him and curiously naming him the “Master of the Long Faces”: a small ancona for private devotion, previously part of the Longari collection in Milan, and an especially bright Annunciation, previously part of the Hearst collection in New York and recently appearing on the antique market in Florence. The latter is very interesting as we believe it to be one of the earliest known paintings by the Master of Sant’Ivo, possibly to be dated to around 1400. The painting’s good state of preservation reveals that our artist was more likely to have been active from the end of the XIV century, and was inspired by artists such as the Master of the Straus Madonna, Giovanni di Tano Fei and Lorenzo Monaco, rather than, as believed until now, by the direct contact with Agnolo Gaddi4.
Until now, studies on this Florentine petit-maître have defined the personality of a minor artist, who satisfied the requests of modest clients for medium-small anconefor private devotion. Our panel – skilfully recovered by the competent and passionate restoration of the paint layers by Loredana Gallo, and of the support and frame by Roberto Buda and Andrea Montuori, as seen in their condition report – has to be connected with the artist’s very few works of larger dimensions, and especially, greater proficiency. Combining this with the inclusion of the inscription of the year 1438 on the painting, this suggests a reconsideration of his early career and his critical and stylistic context.
Annamaria Bernacchioni’s captivating reconstruction on the panel’s possible, or rather probable, original provenance from the ancient church of Saint Peter the Apostle in Avenza (Carrara), with the annexed Hospital of Saint Anthony Abbot – precisely the Saints of our panel –, on the Via Francigena, along with the plausible identification of the patron who had commissioned it, seemingly sheds light on the milieus with which the artist was involved, which were for public and institutional occasions. This includes, for instance, the eponymous panel of the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence that was most likely commissioned by the Magistratura dei Pupilli, an entity established in 1393 to protect the interests of minor orphans and widows. This court had chosen Saint Ivo from Brittany, advocate of the weak and those who lacked the means to protect themselves, as their Saint protector5.
As mentioned in the n. 3332 online entry of the precious Fototeca Zeri, our altarpiece – in the image it still is assembled [Fig. 5], yet displays an already altered frame – was auctioned at the Sangiorgi Gallery in Rome on 8 April 1895, with the caption «Ecole de Sienne, XV siècle, datè 1438», along with many works owned by the Banca Popolare e Cassa di Risparmio di Genova6.
We should just mention, I believe, that the first reference to the painting places it in Genoa, not far from Lunigiana, its probable original region of provenance. At the beginning of the last century, our panel was literarily sawn into three pieces, obtaining from every figure the section of an improbable triptych, and the two “wings” were placed into neo-Gothic frames [Fig. 6]. Later, the three panels entered the outstanding collection of Italian and French Old Masters and Russian icons of the architect and decorator Hanns Richard Teichert (1901-1993), born in Dresden and moved to Chicago (USA) in the 1920s. A part of his collection was exhibited in 1940 at the Krannert Art Museum of the University of Illinois, in Urbana-Champaign, and in 1947 at the Wightman Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Notre Dame (Indiana).
On this occasion, our panel, which had most likely already been disassembled into three parts at the beginning of the XX century, should be the 69th item listed in the catalogue: «TRIPTYCH-THREE SAINTS – Italian School, 14th Century»7. In recent years, the paintings reappeared on the market after Teichert’s death and were purchased by the current owner, who must be given considerable credit for having promoted the reassembling of the three sections into the original single alter piece8. A successful reassembly was, luckily, possible as the separation was performed properly, without causing significant losses of the paint layers.
With regards to the critical history of our panel, two opinions were written in 1994. One by Mauro Natale who specifically remarked on the influence of Jacopo di Cione in the three elements of the supposed triptych; the other was Miklós Boskovits who identifies their author as a follower, if not a workshop associate, of Mariotto di Nardo, the likely author of the Madonna of Humility of the Museum of Warsaw and the small ancona with the Madonna of Celestial Humility with Six Saints and Two Musical Angels [Fig. 7] of the Christ Church Gallery in Oxford (inv. n. 16)9. With regards to the latter, which could have been the product of Mariotto’s prolific workshop, we should say that it is one of the most appropriate examples to understand the figurative sources of the numerous artworks of the Master of Sant’Ivo that present a marked proximity to the manner of Mariotto di Nardo. Erling Skaug, by analysing the punchwork visible in the paintings of our anonymous artist, remarks that the panel in Oxford is decorated with punches that were commonly employed in Mariotto’s workshop10.
After their recent reappearance on the market, I immediately believed the attribution of the three panels to the Master of Sant’Ivo to be plausible, even before noticing – thanks to the previously mentioned entry of the Fototeca Zeri – that, in origin, it actually was a single panel and before knowing that the great connoisseur had already attributed it to the prolific Florentine author.
It is our belief that convincing comparisons between the stylistic features of our panel and the other paintings attributed to the Master of Sant’Ivo can be made. Particularly, correspondences are visible with the works that until now have been ascribed to the mature phase of his production: first of all, the eponymous altarpiece of the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, likely datable to circa 1420-1425. Keeping in good consideration the existing chronological gap, I also believe that the features of our panel’s Magdalene are similar to those of the Saint Judas Thaddeus of the Museo Bandini in Fiesole and of the Saint Julian whose location is unknown, both originally belonging to the same site.
The year 1438 written on the lower part of our altarpiece – undoubtedly contemporary to its realisation, as revealed by the analysis of the paint layers in Loredana Gallo’s condition report – calls for a critical repositioning of the Master of Sant’Ivo, or at least of the last phase of his last activity, along with artists such as the Master of Montefloscoli or Ventura di Moro (1399-1486). The latter’s altarpiece of the parish church of Saint Mary in Dicomano, likely completed in the same years of our painting, reveals analogous features in the search for a unitary space despite the tripartite shape of the support. Nonetheless, the stylistic elements of Ventura di Moro, born in 1399, are more ‘modern’ than those of our artist, who likely was of a previous generation12.
The Madonna of the Girdle with Saints Catherine of Alexandria and Francis of Assisi [Fig. 13], signed by Andrea di Giusto and dated 1437, part of the collection of the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence (inv. 1890 n. 3236), is an immediate analogous precedent amongst the works painted during the transition from the Late Gothic cuspidate polyptych to the “squared altarpiece” of the Renaissance; certainly, it is also usefully comparable to our altarpiece. Furthermore, we cannot exclude that the original frame of our panel, just as the altarpiece from the Church of Saint Margaret in Cortona, displayed a predella and lateral pillars with figures of Saints, and also an upper part decorated with figures13. With regards to the quality of our panel, it certainly is one of the greatest executions of the Master of Sant’Ivo, to the same level of the dodecagonal desco da parto with the Garden of Love, previously at the Wildenstein in New York, which conveniently highlights once again the proximity of our artist to Mariotto di Nardo14. Nonetheless, the gracious and slender female figures of the desco, despite having been painted significantly earlier, around 1415-20, reveal connections with our Saint Mary Magdalene, standing near Saint Peter Seated on a Throne, to the viewer’s right. Yet, this figure appears to be free from the climax of the graphic excesses of the early Florentine Late Gothic; rather, it dialogues intensely with some of the many artists of the “Pseudo-Renaissance”, such as Bartolomeo di Fruosino and the Master of 1441 in Signa (Florence), the Master of Montefloscoli16and Francesco d’Antonio, and even with the less intense Masaccesque phase of Giovanni dal Ponte, to which, not by accident, our altarpiece was once ascribed. As previously said, our panel calls for a reconsideration of the timeline of our artist’s works that should also establish, once again, the date of those already thought to be of his mature production, around the third decade of the XV century. First of all, the beautiful Annunciation with Saints John the Baptist and Stephen of the Church of Saint Stephen in Montefioralle (Greve in Chianti) – one of his best-executed works: in the compact and peaceful shapes of the two Saints, it anticipates the analogies that are especially visible in Saint Anthony Abbot, plausibly datable to the second half of the 1420s19. More recently, other works have been ascribed to the mature production of the Master of Sant’Ivo, after Baldini published another catalogue with 48 paintings20. The sturdy Madonna of Humility Worshipped by Saint Catherine of Alexandria [Fig. 18], which was unfortunately reduced along the whole perimeter, can be dated to the same years of the Annunciation in Montefioralle, near the end of the third decade, as it was inspired from the last production of Mariotto di Nardo. It is our belief that two paintings recently on the antique market can be dated to the fourth decade of the XV century: the Madonna and Child seated on a throne with Saints Catherine of Alexandria, Dorothea, John the Baptist and Anthony Abbot and a small ancona with the Madonna and Child Seated on a Throne with Two Angels and Saints Julian and Francis of Assisi. Besides revealing useful stylistic connections with the 1438 altarpiece, they attest to the approach of the Master of Sant’Ivo to the more personal and peculiar manner of the intriguing Master of Montefloscoli. Besides, Andrea De Marchi attributed the second panel to this very artist, although it displays the typical style of the Master of Saint’Ivo, as attested by the punching of the haloes that is identical to the one of our panel. This was probably the last important commissioned work of an elder master who managed to meet the requests of his time, when his patrons acknowledged him much more than the critics today. It is nice to think that the human and artistic journey of the Master of Sant’Ivo ended with this elegant, technically impeccable and almost solemn painting – we could say “timeless”, especially if we observe the first pope, seated in the middle on the throne –, just in time to gaze towards the new manner that by 1438 had arrived almost everywhere.
1 Zeri’s connections between the two paintings has been relayed by J. Byam Shaw, Paintings by Old Masters at Christ Church, Oxford, London 1967, cat. n. 17, p.38.
On the two paintings and relative literature, see C. Baldini, Il Maestro di Sant’Ivo. Ritratto di un pittore fiorentino a cavallo tra XIV e XV secolo, Rome 2004, cat. 41, pp. 96-97 and cat. 43, pp. 99-100.
2 On the panel in Cambridge, cfr. C. Baldini, op.cit., 2004, cat. 7, pp. 59-60. Volpe’s attribution is relayed by M. Boskovits, Pittura fiorentina alla vigilia del Rinascimento 1370-1400, Florence 1975, p. 376; cfr. also pp. 131, 241 notes 186-187 and 376-379. On the biography and iconography of the priest and magistrate Yves Hélory de Kermartin, born in 1235 and died poor in 1303, canonized by Pope Clement VI in 1347, see F. Baldini, La figura di Sant’Ivo di Bretagna nelle opere dei pittori italiani dalla seconda metà del XIV secolo al XVIII secolo, «Arte Cristiana», XCV, n. 839, 2007, pp. 91-99. On the eponymous panel of the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, cfr. C. Baldini, op. cit., 2004, cat. 16, pp. 69-70.
3 C. Baldini, op. cit., 2004; Ead., Il Maestro di Sant’Ivo: profilo di un pittore fiorentino a cavallo tra XIV e XV secolo, «Arte Cristiana», XCIII, n. 829, 2005, pp. 261-276.
4 Cfr. R. Offner, A Legacy of Attributions, “Corpus of Florentine Painting. Supplement”, edited by H. B. J. Maginnis, New York 1981, p. 21. On the two paintings Offner attributed to his “Master of the Long Faces” see C. Baldini, op.cit., 2004, cat. n. 31, pp. 85-86 and cat. 40, pp. 95-96. The early career of the anonymous painter was identified by Boskovits (op. cit., 1975, p. 241 note 186) in some heads of angels in the decorative band of the frescoes of the main chapel of the church of Santa Croce in Florence; cfr. also Baldini, op. cit., 2004, pp. 33-36, which also indicates the analogies between the ex-Hearst painting, the frescoes of Agnolo Gaddi in the Sacro Cingolo chapel of the Duomo in Prato and those of the Manassei chapel, also in the Cathedral. Nonetheless, it is our belief that these comparisons do not undoubtedly retrace the early career of the Master of Saint Ivo.
5 Giovanna Pedani is behind this hypothesis, see F. Baldini, in Dal Giglio al David. Arte civica a Firenze fra Medioevo e Rinascimento, exhibition catalogue edited by M. M. Donato and D. Parenti (Florence, Galleria dell’Accademia, 14 May – 8 December 2013), Florence 2013, p. 208.
6 See the sale catalogue of the Sangiorgi Gallery in Rome, Collection de tableaux et d'objets d'art qui seront vendus pour le compte de la Banque Populaire et Caisse d'Epargne de Gênes par le ministère de Mr. G. Sangiorgi. Espositions le 6 et 7 Avril 1895. Ventes le 8, 9, 10 et 11 Avril à 2 heures et demie précises, Rome 1895, p. 18, lot n. 81.
7 On the biography of Hanns Teichert see Rolf Diba’s article on 28 February 2017, www.dibas.de/2017/02/wie-der-hans-im-glueck/. Once he achieved success, Teichert returned to Germany in 1956, settling in the small town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, in Bavaria, restoring an ancient Franciscan monastery, later transformed into a prison, turning it into a luxury villa. I could not verify the catalogue of the exhibition displayed at the Krannert Art Museum, cfr. Exhibition of old master drawings and paintings from the collection of Hanns R. Teichert, Champaign (Illinois) 1940. As mentioned in the essay, the painting is probably the 69th item listed in the catalogue of the exhibition displayed at the Wightman Gallery of the University of Notre Dame, cfr. M.H. Goldblatt, The Dr. Hanns R. Teichert collection of paintings by Old Masters and his collection of rare Russian icons, Notre Dame 1947.
8 After Teichert’s death, his widow sold the panels and they entered the famous noble family Sayn-Wittgenstein, until the recent auction at Christie’s, Old Masters Day Sale, London, 6 July 2018, p. 94, lot 178, attributed to the entourage of Mariotto di Nardo.
9 The opinions are written in Christie’s catalogue mentioned in note 8. As for Jacopo di Cione’s influence, it is quite generic in our painting, and, generally, in the production attributed to the Master of Sant’Ivo. On the panel in Oxford identified by Boskovits, generally attributed to Mariotto di Nardo, cfr. J. Byam Shaw, op. cit., 1967, n. 16, p. 37.
10 E. S. Skaug, Punch marks from Giotto to Fra Angelico: attribution, chronology, and workshop relationship in Tuscan panel painting c. 1330-1430, vol. I, Oslo 1994, pp. 271-272 and note 59.
11 On these paintings, see C. Baldini, op. cit., 2004, cat. 11, pp. 63-65 and cat. 26, pp.80-81. It is my belief that the hypothesis, according to which the two panels and the Saint Francispreviously in the Gamurrini collection in Arezzo (cfr. C. Baldini, op. cit. 2004, pp. 51-52) were the side panels of a polyptych with the Madonna of Humilityof the Pinacoteca Vaticana as central panel [Fig. 2], cfr. M. Bietti, in Il Museo Bandini a Fiesole, edited by M. Scudieri, Florence 1993, p. 110, is not supported by convincing confirmations.
12 On Ventura di Moro’s painting, see S. Albertazzi’s essay, in Bagliori dorati. Il Gotico Internazionale a Firenze 1375-1440, exhibition catalogue (Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi, 19 June – 4 November 2012), edited by A. Natali, E. Neri Lusanna, A. Tartuferi, Florence 2012, pp. 230-231. On the painter, see E. Neri Lusanna, Ventura di Moro: un riesame della cerchia del Pesello, «Paragone», XLI, N.S., N.485, 1990, pp. 3-20; cfr also W. Jacobsen, Die Maler von Florenz zu Beginn der Renaissance, Münich 2001, pp. 250-251 and 637-639.
13 On Andrea di Giusto, cfr. F. Sorce, Manzini, Andrea di Giusto, in Dizionario biografico degli italiani, vol. 69, Rome 2007; for the provenance of the panel in Cortona, cfr. now P. Pacini, Un documento della devozione a Cortona nel XV secolo: la pala di Andrea di Giusto per l’Oratorio dei Baldelli a Santa Margherita, «Annuario dell’Accademia Etrusca di Cortona», XXXV (2013-2015), 2016, pp. 451-470.
14 On thedesco da parto and relative literature, see C. Baldini, op. cit., 2004, pp. 94-95.
15 On Bartolomeo di Fruosino and relative literature, cfr. U. Feraci, Tre tavole in monastero: aggiunte al catalogo di Gregorio e Donato di Arezzo e un dipinto per Bartolomeo di Fruosino, «Arte Cristiana», XCVI, N. 845, 2008, pp. 117-118 and 124, note 61-74; on the attribution to the late phase of the artist of the Madonna and Child with Four Angels of the Cathedral in Copenhagen, cfr. A. Tartuferi, Pittori a Firenze alla vigilia del Rinascimento (e anche dopo): qualche spunto critico, in Bagliori dorati. Il Gotico Internazionale a Firenze 1375-1440, op. cit., 2012, p. 24 e fig.9. On the Master of 1441, cfr. A. Tartuferi, Ercole nell’arte fiorentina dei secoli XIV e XV: alcuni esempi e una proposta per il Maestro del 1441 a Signa, in Ercole il fondatore dall’antichità al Rinascimento, exhibition catalogue (Brescia, Museo di Santa Giulia, 11 February – 12 June 2011), edited by M. Bona Castellotti and A. Giuliano, Milan 2011, pp. 84-91.
16On the Master of Montefloscoli and relative literature see L. Sbaraglio’s recent essay on the eponymous polyptych, in Legati da una cintola. L’Assunta di Bernardo Daddi e l’identità di una città, exhibition catalogue (Prato, Museo di Palazzo Pretorio, 8 September 2017 – 14 January 2018), edited by A. De Marchi and C. Gnoni Mavarelli, Florence 2017, pp. 176-177.
17 On Francesco d’Antonio di Bartolomeo, cfr. A. Tartuferi, Francesco d’Antonio a Figline Valdarno (e altrove), Microstudi N. 28, Figline Valdarno 2012.
18 Cfr. Giovanni dal Ponte. Protagonista dell’Umanesimo tardogotico fiorentino, exhibition catalogue (Florence, Galleria dell’Accademia, 22 November 2016 – 12 March 2017), edited by A. Tartuferi and L. Sbaraglio, Florence 2016. On the traditional attribution of the painting of the Master of Sant’Ivo to Giovanni dal Ponte see the previously mentioned entry n. 3332 in Fototeca Zeri.
19 On the painting in Montefioralle, now restored by Gloria Verniani, cfr. C. Baldini, op. cit. 2004, pp. 89-91.
20 Nonetheless, considering that the 42 item listed on the catalogue, the Madonna and Child with Two Saints of the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in the Palazzo Corsini in Rome (inv. n. 560), is not of the Master of Sant’ Ivo, but maybe of Rossello di Jacopo Franchi, as previously noticed by Andrea G. De Marchi. Vice versa, the attribution of the Madonna of Humilitypreviously in an English Private collection to the Master of Sant’Ivo, dismissed by Baldini, has to be confirmed. See C. Baldini, op. cit. 2004, pp. 97-98 and 108-109 respectively.
21 On sale with the collections of Villa La Torre in Scarperia (Florence) correctly attributed to the Master of Sant’Ivo, cfr. Vendita Semenzato, 28 May 2006, lot 474. The panel measures 40 x 29,4 cm. The panel reappeared in auction sale at San Marco in Venice, on 18 December 2008, lot 39.
22 Cfr. sale catalogue Old Master Paintings, 19th Century Paintings, Furniture and Works of Art, Sotheby’s, Milan, 15 December 2009, lot 3, correctly attributed to the Master of Sant’Ivo; the painting measures 55,5 x 35 cm.
23 Cfr. sale catalogue Rari dipinti di antichi maestri, Venice, Semenzato, 17 April 2005, lot 26; later appeared at Milan’s Finarte, on 22 November 2005, lot 125.