National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Saint Paul and a Group of Worshippers Bernardo Daddi (painter)
active by 1320, died probably 1348
Saint Paul and a Group of Worshippers, 1333
tempera on panel
painted surface: 224.8 × 77 cm (88 1/2 × 30 5/16 in.) overall: 233.53 × 88.8 × 5.3 cm (91 15/16 × 34 15/16 × 2 1/16 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
On View
From the Tour: Italian Altarpieces and Religious Sculpture of the 1300s
Object 1 of 8


The often-repeated statement in the earlier literature that the panel comes from the Florentine monastery of San Felice in Piazza[1] does not seem to be based on any secure, or at any rate documented, evidence. Perhaps more plausible, based at least on the identity of the saint, is the more recent proposal of a provenance either from the Florentine Ospedale di San Paolo or from the nearby church of San Paolino, since a handwritten annotation on an old photograph indicated its provenance “dai padri di San Paolino.”[2] Elia Volpi [1858–1938], Florence, by the early 1900s;[3] (his sale, American Art Galleries, New York, 21-27 November 1916, seventh day, no. 1040, as “Primitive school of Tuscany, early XVth century”); (Bourgeois Galleries, New York);[4] purchased January 1920 by (Duveen Brothers, Inc. London, Paris, and New York);[5] sold 15 December 1936 to The A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh;[6] gift 1937 to NGA.

[1] In the introduction to the 1916 sale catalogue (n.p.), Elia Volpi states that among his pictures which “belong . . . to the School of Italian Primitives, the majority . . . [come] from the sacristy of the convent of St. Felice in Florence.” On this basis both Venturi and several other later authors claimed that the NGA Saint Paul formerly belonged to that church; however, as Lucia Meoni has (1993) pointed out, “nessuna fonte antica o le schede del Carocci testimoniano l’antica collocazione del San Paolo nella chiesa di San Felice. . . .” ("No early source nor the entries in Carocci's Inventory [an inventory compiled in 1892 on behalf of the Soprintendenza of Florence] record the presence of the Saint Paul in the church of San Felice..."). Roberta Ferrazza (Palazzo Davanzati e le collezioni di Elia Volpi, Florence, 1993: 216 n. 52) has found records of sales of art objects from the Conservatorio di San Pier Martire, annexed to the church of San Felice, in the years between 1884 and 1901, as well as a note in the photo archive of the Biblioteca Berenson at I Tatti (Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Florence), according to which Stephan Bourgeois, who bought the panel now in Washington at the Volpi sale, “went to see Mr. Guglielmetti, Mr. Volpi’s secretary, from whom he [Bourgeois] received the information that Mr. Volpi [said he had] bought the picture in 1907 from the administrators of the Monastery of S. Felice in Florence. . . .” NGA systematic catalogue author Miklós Boskovits is inclined, however, to think that the records of Volpi’s secretary were based on the same rather vague memories and should not be considered trustworthy.

[2] According to the unpublished research of Kathleen Giles Arthur (c. 1991; copy in NGA curatorial files) “the Saint Paul most probably was commissioned by one of the major charitable institutions in fourteenth century Florence,” i.e., the Ospedale di San Paolo, and the worshippers of the saint can be identified as the members of the third order of Saint Francis, lay men and women who formed the staff of the hospital. The claim, however, is no more than speculation on the part of the author. The provenance from San Paolino, on the other hand, is asserted by a handwritten note on the reverse of an early photograph in the photo archive of Federico Zeri in Bologna (no. PI 0044/2/32; originally taken c. 1910 apparently by the firm Brogi in Florence); see also Miklós Boskovits, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. The fourteenth century, The Painters of the Miniaturist Tendency, Sec.III, Vol. IX, Florence,1984: 350 n. 3). San Paolino (originally San Paolo), in the Quartiere Santa Maria Novella, was already a collegiate church in the eleventh century and, after various vicissitudes, was sold to the discalced Carmelites in 1618; they rebuilt the church in its present form later in the seventeenth century and still officiate it. After the suppression of religious orders in 1808, the friars had to abandon the church and its annexed convent, but it was restored to them in 1814, and they remained there until a second suppression of the convent in 1866 (Osanna Fantozzi Micali and Piero Rosselli, Le soppressioni dei conventi a Firenze, Montelupo Fiorentino, 2000: 233). Since the late nineteenth century, however, the church has once again been officiated by the discalced Carmelites; see Walter and Elisabeth Paatz, Die Kirchen von Florenz. Ein kunstgeschichtliches Handbuch, Vols. 1-6, Frankfurt am Main, 1940-1953: 4(1952): 591. There is no documentation of any confraternity dedicated to Saint Paul that met in this church, but the large group of donors at the foot of the NGA panel suggests that a lay confraternity commissioned it. It is known, on the other hand, that Daddi did work for San Paolino: another painting by him, representing the Madonna and Child and now in the Galleria dell’Accademia (no. 3466; see Angelo Tartuferi in Cataloghi della Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze. Vol. 1: Dipinti, ed. Miklós Boskovits and Angelo Tartuferi, Florence, 2003: 60-63), also comes from this church and can be assumed to be close in date to the Gallery's painting.

[3] After an early career as a painter and restorer, Volpi began to work as an art dealer in Città di Castello towards the end of the nineteenth century. He then moved to Florence, where he purchased the Palazzo Davanzati in 1904 and transformed it into a private museum, furnishing it with paintings and objets d’art from his collection. The museum was opened to the public in September 1910. Presumably by then the panel discussed here was already in Volpi’s possession; the Volpi sale catalogue of 1916 noted that it had come from the Palazzo Davanzati. Luigi Coletti (“Il Maestro colorista di Assisi,” Critica d'Arte 8-9 (1949-1950): 447) claims that the painting passed through the hands of the dealer Stefano Bardini (1836–1922), but Everett Fahy’s research (L’Archivio storico fotografico di Stefano Bardini. Dipinti, disegni, miniature, stampe, Florence, 2000) does not confirm this.

[4] A copy of the sale catalogue in the NGA library is annotated with the Bourgeois name, which is also given in the Duveen prospectus (in NGA curatorial files). See Osvald Sirén, “A great contemporary of Giotto – I,” The Burlington Magazine 35 (December 1919): 229; Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols., Washington, D.C., 1979: 152; and note 1 above.

[5] Boskovits 1984, 349-350, and Duveen Brothers Records, accession number 960015, Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles: reel 422; reel 45, box 133, folder 1; reel 101, box 246, folder 4; copies from the Duveen records in NGA curatorial files.

[6] The original bill of sale is in Records of The A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Subject Files, Box 2, Gallery Archives, NGA; copy in NGA curatorial files. The painting is attributed to Giotto, with a parenthetical note stating that Bernard Berenson gives it to Daddi.

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