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Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011), “Bernardo Daddi/Saint Paul and a Group of Worshippers/1333,” Italian Thirteenth and Fourteenth Century Paintings, NGA Online Editions, http://purl.org/nga/collection/artobject/1 (accessed May 31, 2016).

 

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Overview

When this painting was made in 1333, according to the date given on the lower frame, the style was a bit old-fashioned. Saint Paul’s frontal stance, the intensity and fervor of his direct gaze, the inclusion of his name in red-backed gold letters on either side of his head, and the pointed arch all might have been seen in a work from the previous century. Probably this archaizing look is just what was wanted by the 12 men and women whose small figures appear below this imposing saint. These donors were likely members of a lay confraternity that commissioned the image of their patron saint. Its tall, narrow shape suggests that it was hung in front of a church pillar, where confraternity members would gather periodically for prayer and song. Lay confraternities, which performed various kinds of charitable work like caring for the sick and burying the dead, were an important part of religious and civic life. We cannot say for certain, but these six couples may have been part of the Compagnia di San Paolo that administered what later became Florence’s convalescent hospital.

Among their expressions and gestures of praise—much more than in the stern countenance of Paul—we can see Bernardo Daddi’s bent for gentle narrative. Each face is quiet, filled with calm emotion, except the woman at the right who is moved to speak of her devotion to her neighbor, or perhaps to sing. Early in his career, Daddi had worked in the orbit of Giotto (Florentine, c. 1265 - 1337), but his figures avoid Giotto’s solemnity in favor of a more lyrical touch as shown in the soft fabric of Saint Paul’s mantle, breaking into sweeping folds that further emphasize the figure’s corporeal substance.

Entry

The panel, with the frontal figure of the standing saint, who is not accompanied to the sides by a series of superimposed narrative scenes of his legend as in so-called biographical icons, belongs to a type of image that began to appear in Florence and in other cities in Italy in the thirteenth century and remained widespread throughout the following century: narrow and elongated in format, these paintings were probably intended to be hung against a pillar in a church.[1] Paintings of this kind, however, were more frequently painted directly onto the pillar or onto the wall of the church with the more economical technique of fresco.[2] Panels with single figures of saints were realized either with a votive intention, as for instance the one by Daddi himself representing Saint Catherine of Alexandria and a kneeling donor, now in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence,[3] or as an expression of the cult of a confraternity or a religious lay company that met to pray and sing before the image at particular times. Both the number of the minuscule kneeling figures below the saint — ​​six men and six women — ​​and the absence of any name or coat of arms of a donor family make it likely that a confraternity commissioned our panel.[4]

The composition of the painting is decidedly archaic: the device of placing the inscription of the name of the saint over a red ground against the gold on both sides, divided into two syllables by the figure, is especially found in paintings dating to the last decades of the thirteenth and early decades of the fourteenth centuries.[5] Also archaizing seems to be the exclusive use of decorations incised by hand, without any punched motifs, in the ornament of the halo [fig. 1]: in the years in which Bernardo painted this panel, major Florentine painters preferred to use the more rapid and labor-saving as well as more showy method of decorations impressed with punches in the gold ground. On the other hand, ornamental motifs very similar to those that decorate the halo of Saint Paul in this panel are also found in the lateral panels of the polyptych painted by Bernardo Daddi for the Ospedale della Misericordia in Prato only a few years later.[6] So the incised decoration, if it is not a deliberate archaism, is at any rate somewhat demodé, though it would recur throughout the painter’s work. Clearly, this archaic character of the image, the form itself of the panel with the triangular gable (without the inscribed Gothic arch and other decorative elements that usually embellished painted panels from the 1330s on), and the severity of expression of the frontally standing saint misled art historians, who failed for so long to recognize the master who painted it. Osvald Sirén’s attribution to the Master of Santa Cecilia, or to Buonamico Buffalmacco, with whom the art historian thought he could identify the anonymous master (1919, 1920), was the first attempt to establish an authorship.[7] Raimond van Marle (1924) accepted his reference to the Master of Santa Cecilia, but Richard Offner (1927, 1931, 1947) firmly rejected it, though without suggesting an alternative name.[8] By 1931, Bernard Berenson had given the painting to “a contemporary and close follower of Giotto,” and George Martin Richter was “inclined to feel [the painting] is too good for Maso, and [thought it] could be by Orcagna.”[9] Lionello Venturi’s alternative proposal (1931, 1933) of the authorship of Maso di Banco was probably formulated after the restoration commissioned by Duveen Brothers, Inc., a treatment that attenuated the grandeur and softened the rather rough character of the original image.[10] Wilhelm Valentiner (1933, 1935) accepted the proposed attribution to Maso, as did Luigi Coletti (1942, 1946), at least initially; Ugo Galetti and Ettore Camesasca (1951) endorsed it, and Walter Paatz reported it skeptically (1941) before the later literature jettisoned it for good.[11] Emilio Cecchi gave the panel to Giotto (Florentine, c. 1265 - 1337) himself (1937). The more cautious definition “School (or follower) of Giotto,” with which the painting was first labeled in its present location (“The Mellon Gift” 1937), was promulgated by the earlier catalogs of the National Gallery of Art (NGA 1941, NGA 1949) and by the volume Duveen Pictures (1941), in which an attribution with a question mark to Giotto himself was hazarded; the postwar studies also abandoned it (Salvini 1952, Vigorelli and Baccheschi 1966).[12] David George Wilkins (1969, 1985), however, did not exclude the possibility that it might have been “a product of the late Giotto workshop,” while Arno Preiser (1973) preferred to speak vaguely of “Florentine school.”[13] Richter (1941) returned to the old identification proposed by Sirén and conjectured an attribution to Buffalmacco, a point of view that remained without any following.[14] So, too, did the hypothesis of Richard Offner (1958), who compared the panel in the Gallery with four lateral panels of a dismantled polyptych in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence (nos. 8704, 8705, 8708, 8709), subsequently given to Lorenzo Monaco (Florentine, c. 1370 - c. 1425) by Federico Zeri and by most modern authorities.[15] Berenson, in letters to Edward Fowles and Joseph Duveen, had altered his opinion in favor of Daddi by 1935, and the dealer recorded it on the 1936 bill of sale to the Mellon Trust while describing the painting as “attributed to Giotto.”[16] Coletti (1950) reproposed Daddi’s authorship, perhaps independently and with considerable caution.[17] This view finally achieved almost unanimous acceptance after being cited in the posthumous edition of Berenson’s Lists (1963) and then in the catalogs of the Gallery from 1965 onwards.[18]

How, then, can this panel be inserted in the sequence of the painter’s works, assuming that the date in the inscription should be transcribed as 1333?[19] Observing the imposing figure of Saint Paul and especially his brooding face, rigidly frontal, dilated eyes, as well as the forms modeled (as the old photo testifies) with extreme delicacy, we may at first be reminded of certain paintings by Giotto himself, especially in his earlier phase. But the elements that exclude a Giottesque authorship are too many to be ignored. The proportions of the figure (in which the ratio between head and overall height of the figure lies between 8:1 and 9:1) are without parallel in Giotto’s oeuvre, with the exception of the final phase in his career, for example in the frescoes in the chapel of the Bargello, Florence, where the scenes painted by the artist (or by his pupils) are populated by very tall figures.[20] The subtle detailing of the garments and the saint’s furrowed brow are also quite alien to Giotto. The works most closely related to the Saint Paul in Washington are to be found, instead, in the output of Bernardo Daddi, especially among those paintings that reveal affinities with Giotto’s pupil Taddeo Gaddi, with whom Bernardo seems to have established a kind of collaborative venture around 1333 – ​1334.[21] In his cycle of frescoes in the Baroncelli Chapel in Santa Croce, Florence, Taddeo adopted extremely tall figures of powerful monumentality.[22] On the other hand, the rhythm of the draperies in the Washington panel is too refined, too static, and the chiaroscuro modeling of the forms too delicate for an artist trained exclusively in the school of Giotto. Admittedly, the physiognomic type of the saint is rather unusual in the production of Daddi’s shop;[23] nonetheless a Saint Paul with a youthful face framed by a short and silky beard does occasionally appear in Daddi’s paintings dating to the early 1330s.[24] The delicately calligraphic pictorial modeling of the face can be compared with that of the frontal bust of Christ in the votive Madonna, now in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence, executed in February 1335.[25] The soft fabric of our saint’s mantle, breaking into sweeping folds that further emphasize the figure’s corporeal substance, seems very similar to that presented by Daddi in the already cited figure of Saint Catherine, dated 1333.[26] In conclusion, that Bernardo Daddi was the artist of the Gallery panel can, I think, be unhesitatingly confirmed.[27]

Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011)

March 21, 2016

Inscription

above the saint's halo: S[ANCTUS]; above the saint's shoulders: PAU LUS; on the lower frame below the worshippers: [ANNO DOMI]NI.MCCCXXXIII M...II.ESPLETUM FUIT H[O]C OPUS (In the year of the Lord 1333... this work was finished) [1]

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

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.

Exhibition History
1910
Palazzo Davanzati, Florence, between September 1910 and 1916.
1921
Loan Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture by Italian Artists of the Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries, Cincinnati Art Museum, 1921, no catalogue.
1933
Sixteenth Loan Exhibition of Old Masters. Italian Paintings of the XIV to XVI Century, Detroit Institute of Art, 1933, no. 3.
Bibliography
1919
Sirén, Osvald. "A Great Contemporary of Giotto, 1." The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 35 (1919): 228 (repro.), 229, 230, 236.
1920
Sirén, Osvald. "The Buffalmaco Hypothesis: Some Additional Remarks." The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 37 (1920): 183.
1923
Marle, Raimond van. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. 19 vols. The Hague, 1923-1938: 3(1924):276, 277, 287, 290.
1927
Offner, Richard. "A Great Madonna by the St. Cecilia Master." The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 50 (1927): 97.
1931
Offner, Richard. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. The Fourteenth Century. Sec. III, Vol. I: The School of the S. Cecilia Master. New York, 1931: 17.
1931
Venturi, Lionello. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931: no. 27, repro.
1933
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. "Die Leihausstellung frühitalienischer Malerei in Detroit." Pantheon 12 (1933): 238, repro. 239.
1933
Venturi, Lionello. Italian Paintings in America. Translated by Countess Vanden Heuvel and Charles Marriott. 3 vols. New York and Milan, 1933: 1:no. 34, repro.
1935
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. "Giovanni Balducci a Firenze e una scultura di Maso." L’Arte 38 (1935): 29, fig. 25.
1937
Cecchi, Emilio. Giotto. Milan, 1937: 174, pl. 177.
1937
"The Mellon Gift. A First Official List." Art News 35 (20 March 1937): 15.
1940
Paatz, Walter and Elisabeth Paatz. Die Kirchen von Florenz: ein kunstgeschichtliches Handbuch. 6 vols. Frankfurt am Main, 1940-1954: 2(1941):51.
1941
Coletti, Luigi. I Primitivi. 3 vols. Novara, 1941-1947: 2(1946):xli.
1941
Duveen Brothers. Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941: no. 12, repro., attributed to Giotto, as St. Paul with Twelve Adorers.
1941
National Gallery of Art. Book of Illustrations. Washington, 1941: 114 (repro.), 233.
1941
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 80-81, no. 3, as by Follower of Giotto.
1941
Richter, George Martin. "The New National Gallery in Washington." The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 78 (June 1941): 177 n. 3.
1942
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 239, repro. 116, as by Follower of Giotto.
1942
Coletti, Luigi. "Contributo al problema Maso-Giottino." Emporium 98 (1942): 463-464.
1947
Offner, Richard. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. The Fourteenth Century. Sec. III, Vol. V: Master of San Martino alla Palma; Assistant of Daddi; Master of the Fabriano Altarpiece. New York, 1947: 7, 39, 42 n. 1, 94 n. 1.
1949
Coletti, Luigi. "Il Maestro colorista di Assisi." Critica d’arte 8-9 (1949-1950): 447.
1949
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 7, repro., as by Follower of Giotto.
1950
Florisoone, Michel. Giotto. Paris, 1950: 116 n. 6.
1951
Einstein, Lewis. Looking at Italian Pictures in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1951: 23 n. 1.
1951
Galetti, Ugo, and Ettore Camesasca. Enciclopedia della pittura italiana. 3 vols. Milan, 1951: 2:1604, 1606.
1952
Salvini, Roberto, ed. Tutta la pittura di Giotto. Biblioteca d’arte Rizzoli. Milan, 1952: 52.
1958
Offner, Richard. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. The Fourteenth Century. Sec. III, Vol. VIII: Workshop of Bernardo Daddi. New York, 1958: 46 n. 2.
1963
Berenson, Bernard. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Florentine School. 2 vols. London, 1963: 1:58.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 297, repro., as by Follower of Giotto.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 36.
1966
Vigorelli, Giancarlo, and Edi Baccheschi. L’opera completa di Giotto. 1st ed. Milan, 1966: repro. 122-123.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 29, repro.
1969
Wilkins, David G. "Maso di Banco: A Florentine Artist of the Early Trecento." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1969. Ann Arbor, MI, 1979: 214.
1972
Fredericksen, Burton B., and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972: 63, 437, 645.
1973
Preiser, Arno. Das Entstehen und die Entwicklung der Predella in der italienischen Malerei. Hildesheim and New York, 1973: 37, 38, fig. 10.
1975
Boskovits, Miklós. Pittura fiorentina alla vigilia del Rinascimento, 1370-1400. Florence, 1975: 22, 195 n. 47, 243 n. 201.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 90, repro.
1975
Fremantle, Richard. Florentine Gothic Painters from Giotto to Masaccio: A Guide to Painting in and near Florence, 1300 to 1450. London, 1975: 47, 50, fig. 92.
1979
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. Washington, 1979: 1:152-153; 2:pl. 107.
1981
Salvini, Roberto. Giotto: Werkverzeichnis. Die großen Meister der Malerei. Frankfurt, 1981: 94, fig. 191.
1982
Tambini, Anna. Pittura dall’Alto Medioevo al Tardogotico nel territorio di Faenza e Forlì. Faenza, 1982: 112.
1983
Volpe, Carlo. "Il lungo percorso del ‘dipingere dolcissimo e tanto unito.’" In Storia dell’arte italiana 2: dal Medioevo al Novecento. pt. 1, dal Medioevo al Quattrocento. Edited by Federico Zeri, Giulio Bollati and Paolo Fossati. Turin, 1983: 265 n. 11, 275 n. 23.
1984
Boskovits, Miklós. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. The Fourteenth Century. Sec. III, Vol. 9: The Miniaturist Tendency. Florence, 1984: 71, 349-350, pls. 177b, 178.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 73, no. 12, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 111, repro.
1985
Ferrazza, Roberta. "Elia Volpi e il Commercio dell’arte nel primo Trentennio del Novecento." In Studi e ricerche di Collezionismo e Museografia, Firenze 1820-1920. Pisa, 1985: 414 n. 50.
1985
Wilkins, David G. Maso di Banco: a Florentine Artist of the Early Trecento. New York, 1985: 209.
1986
Offner, Richard, and Miklós Boskovits. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. The Fourteenth Century. Sec. III, Vol. I: The School of the S. Cecilia Master. 2nd ed. Florence, 1986: 309.
1989
Offner, Richard, Miklós Boskovits, and Enrica Neri Lusanna. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. The Fourteenth Century. Sec. III, Vol. III: The Works of Bernardo Daddi. 2nd ed. Florence, 1989: 35 n. 15, 37, 87, 391.
1991
Offner, Richard, and Miklós Boskovits. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. The Fourteenth Century. Sec. III, Vol. IV: Bernardo Daddi, His Shop and Fllowing. 2nd ed. Florence, 1991: 166 n. 3, 513.
1992
Boskovits, Miklós, ed. The Martello Collection: Further Paintings, Drawings and Miniatures 13th-18th Centuries. Florence, 1992: 54.
1992
Labriola, Ada. "Daddi, Bernardo." In Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon: Die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker. Edited by Günter Meissner. 87+ vols. Munich and Leipzig, 1992+: 23(1999):356.
1993
Ferrazza, Roberta. Palazzo Davanzati e le collezioni di Elia Volpi. Florence, 1993: 128, 174 fig. 165, 216 n. 52, 220 n. 70.
1993
Meoni, Lucia. San Felice in Piazza a Firenze. Florence, 1993: 41 fig. 27, 44.
1994
Conti, Alessandro. "Maso, Roberto Longhi e la tradizione offneriana." Prospettiva 73-74 (1994): 36, 38 fig. 6, 43 n. 19.
1994
Ladis, Andrew and Hayden B. J. Maginnis. "Sculpture’s Pictorial Presence: Reflections on the Tabernacles of Orsanmichele." Studi di storia dell’arte 5-6 (1994-1995): 45, 49 n. 3, 53 fig. 6.
1994
Skaug, Erling S. Punch Marks from Giotto to Fra Angelico: Attribution, Chronology, and Workshop Relationships in Tuscan Panel Painting with Particular Consideration to Florence, c. 1330-1430. 2 vols. Oslo, 1994: 1:99, 108, 110 n. 174; 2:punch chart 5.3.
1996
Neri Lusanna, Enrica. "Daddi, Bernardo." In The Dictionary of Art. Edited by Jane Turner. New York and London, 1996: 8:442.
2001
Offner, Richard, Miklós Boskovits, Ada Labriola, and Martina Ingendaay Rodio. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. The Fourteenth Century. Sec. III, Vol. V: Master of San Martino alla Palma; Assistant of Daddi; Master of the Fabriano Altarpiece. 2nd ed. Florence, 2001: 635.
2004
Secrest, Meryle. Duveen: A Life in Art. New York, 2004: 444.
2004
Strehlke, Carl Brandon. Italian Paintings, 1250-1450, in the John G. Johnson Collection and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 2004: 102 n. 4.
2005
Boskovits, Miklós, and Daniela Parenti, eds. Da Bernardo Daddi al Beato Angelico a Botticelli: dipinti fiorentini del Lindenau-Museum di Altenburg. Exh. cat. Museo di San Marco. Florence, 2005: 70.
2008
Skaug, Erling S. "Bernardo Daddi’s Chronology and Workshop Structure as Defined by Technical Criteria." In Da Giotto a Botticelli: pittura fiorentina tra gotico e rinascimento. Atti del convegno internazionale Firenze, Università degli Studi e Museo di San Marco, May 20-21, 2005. Edited by Francesca Pasut and Johannes Tripps. Florence, 2008: 82-83.
Technical Summary

The wooden support, which has not been cradled, retains its original thickness of 3.3 cm. The engaged frame adds another 1.2 cm around the edges. The vertically grained panel is composed of three planks; the central one has a crack running the length of the panel. Three horizontal battens, attached with very large nails, reinforce the panel on the reverse; the lowest of these appears more recent than the other two, which are probably original. The wood panel was covered with fabric, and over it, gesso.[1] The craquelure is continuous over the panel and the inner part of the molding, indicating that the inner portion of the frame molding, attached with nails and dowels, is original. The outermost portion of the molding, however, is a later addition. Red bole serves as the preparation layer for the gold ground, upon which Saint Paul’s halo is incised rather than punched. The gold trim on Saint Paul’s robe and mantle was mordant gilded. The wooden support shows extensive worm damage, especially along the sides. The gold ground is much abraded. The silver leaf of Saint Paul’s sword has oxidized to black in some areas. A broad pattern of wide-aperture craquelure penetrates the painted surface, which contains many small, scattered losses, especially in the headdresses of several small figures at the lower right, and a few scratches. The original engaged frame, decorated with silver leaf overlaid with orange and green pigments, has discolored in some of the areas where the leaf is exposed.[2] A small section of the original gable top, mostly underneath the frame, has been replaced. Photographs of the painting made in the years 1910 – ​1915 [fig. 1] [3] show it much darkened by dust and somewhat opaque varnishes. Shortly after the 1916 sale the panel underwent partial varnish removal; the inscription with the date was discovered on this occasion [fig. 2].[4] It was treated again in 1928, when the figures were inpainted and the frame completed above and re-gilded.[5] The painting was treated most recently between 1984 and 1989.[6] During this treatment the insecure areas in the wooden support were strengthened, the discolored varnish and old inpainting were removed, and losses were inpainted.

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