National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Madonna Enthroned with Saints and Angels [left panel] Agnolo Gaddi (painter)
Florentine, active 1369 - 1396
Madonna Enthroned with Saints and Angels [left panel], 1380/1390
tempera on panel
left panel: 197 x 80 cm (77 9/16 x 31 1/2 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
1937.1.4.a
On View
From the Tour: Italian Altarpieces and Religious Sculpture of the 1300s
Object 3 of 8

Provenance

Probably in the sacristy of the church of San Miniato al Monte, Florence, from whence the triptych may have been removed shortly after 1830.[1] Bertram Ashburnham [1797-1878], 4th earl of Ashburnham, Ashburnham Place, Battle, Sussex;[2] by inheritance to his son, Bertram Ashburnham [1840-1913], 5th earl of Ashburnham, Ashburnham Place; by inheritance to his daughter, Lady Mary Catherine Charlotte Ashburnham [1890-1953], Ashburnham Place; (Robert Langton Douglas, London);[3] purchased 19 June 1919 by(Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris);[4] sold 15 December 1936 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh;[5] gift 1937 to NGA.

[1] Miklós Boskovits, Pittura fiorentina alla vigilia del Rinascimento, 1370-1400, Florence, 1975: 118-121, proposed this provenance. The Alberti family were patrons of the church, and Benedetto di Nerozzo Alberti left funds for its decoration in a codicil dated 1387 that was appended to his will of 1377 (now lost and known only from a seventeenth-century abstract); see Luigi Passerini, Gli Alberti di Firenze. Genealogia, storia e documenti, Florence, 1869: 2:187. Three of the four saints depicted in the side panels are associated with the Alberti family, providing further argument in support of the proposed provenance. Although in 1975 Boskovits erroneously asserted that Saint John Gualbert was represented in the altarpiece to the right of the Virgin, he corrected this in the NGA systematic catalogue by identifying the saint instead as Bernard of Clairvaux, the patron saint of Benedetto Alberti's son Bernardo, who in his will dated 1389 left money for masses to be celebrated annually for his soul in the family chapel in San Miniato, which had evidently already been consecrated (see Stefan Weppelmann, Spinello Aretino, Florence, 2003: 381). The representation of Saint Andrew, who was the patron saint of a predeceased son of Benedetto Albert also links the altarpiece to the sacristy of San Miniato, and Catherine of Alexandria, shown standing on a broken wheel, was evidently much venerated in the Alberti family. In Benedetto's will he bequeathed money for the decoration of an oratory near Florence (Santa Caterina dell'Antella) dedicated to Catherine, and his son, Bernardo, wished to build a monastery and a church in her honor (see Weppelmann 2003).

Although this provenance remains a hypothesis, it still seems a quite plausible one that, if correct, would provide the certainty that by 1830 the altarpiece was still on the altar of the sacristy. An altarpiece can apparently be seen still in place in a sketch of the sacristy's altar wall made in that year by Christoph Roller (1805-1858), in his Tagebuch einer italienschen Reise (Burgdorfer Heimatsmuseum, Burgdorf, Switzerland). Unfortunately, the sketch, kindly brought to the attention of Miklós Boskovits by Stefan Weppelmann, is very small and not sufficient for identifying the Gallery's painting. What may be said for certain is only that an altarpiece composed of five panels stood on the altar of the sacristy of San Miniato in 1830, but by 1836 this altarpiece was no longer there (Weppelmann 2003, 184). It was removed and sold, presumably by the Pia Opera degli Esercizi Spirituali, which had owned the furniture and decorations of the church since 1820; see "Regesto dell' Abbazia florentina di S. Miniato," La Graticola 4 (1976): 117-135.

[2] The collection, formed originally by George, 3rd earl of Ashburnham, was enlarged by his son, Bertram, after whose death no further paintings were added. See The Ashburnham Collections. Part I. Catalogue of Paintings and Drawings ..., Sotheby’s, London, sale of 24 June 1953: 3-4.

[3] According to Denis Sutton (“Robert Langton Douglas. Part III,” Apollo 109 (1979): 452, Douglas was in contact with the Ashburnham family around 1919. See also letter from Douglas to Fowles dated 1 May 1941, Duveen Brothers Records, Box 244 (reel 299).

[4] Duveen Brothers Records, accession number 960015, Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles: reel 422. The painting was first entered in the Duveen "X-Book" (number X 149) as by Starnina, but this was crossed out and replaced with the attribution "Agnelo [sic] Gaddi."

[5] The original Duveen Brothers invoice is in the 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 listed as by Gherardo Starnina, influenced by Agnolo Gaddi, with the additional note that Bernard Berenson gave the painting to Gaddi.

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