Click on any panel in the altarpiece reconstruction below to see an enlarged version of the image. Color reproductions in the reconstruction indicate panels in the National Gallery of Art collection.
This large painting of the Madonna and Child was in the center of an altarpiece devoted to Saint John the Baptist, which also featured
The style of
This panel, along with its two companions
An image-bearing structure set on the rear part of the altar, abutting the back of the altarblock, or set behind the altar in such a way as to be visually joined with the altar when viewed from a distance. It is also sometimes called a retable, following the medieval term retrotabulum. The altarpiece was never officially prescribed by the Church, but it did perform a prescribed function alternatively carried out by a simple inscription on the altarblock: to declare to which saint or mystery the altar was dedicated. In fact, the altarpiece did more than merely identify the altar; its form and content evoked the mystery or personage whose cult was celebrated at the altar. This original and lasting function influenced the many forms taken by the altarpiece throughout its history. —Alexander Nagel, Grove Art © Oxford University Press
In the infrequent cases in which their original destination is known, horizontal dossals come from churches and altars dedicated to the saint whose legend they illustrate; cf. Edward B. Garrison, Italian Romanesque Panel Painting: An Illustrated Index (Florence, 1949), 140–144; Miklós Boskovits, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting, sec. 1, vol. 1, The Origins of Florentine Painting, 1100–1270 (Florence 1993), 300, 538, 632. Fourteenth-century Riminese painters also frequently painted works for Marchigian churches.
Keith Christiansen, “Fourteenth–Century Italian Altarpieces,” Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 40 (1982): 42–45.
Venturi linked the panel, with a provenance from the Sterbini collection (cf.
Purchased by Philip Lehman from the Galerie Trotti in Paris in 1921, the panel was donated by Robert Lehman to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1975 (no. 1975.1.103). See John Pope-Hennessy and Laurence B. Kanter, The Robert Lehman Collection, vol. 1, Italian Paintings (New York, 1987), 86–88. The painting had already been introduced to the art historical literature by Osvald Sirén, who had seen it on the art market in Paris; Osvald Sirén, “Giuliano, Pietro and Giovanni da Rimini,” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 29 (1916): 320. Pope-Hennessy and Kanter identified the coat of arms on the reverse of the panel as that of the Agnelli dei Malerbi family and suggested that “the panel may have been preserved in the Agnelli collection in Rome or in the Casa Malerbi at Lugo (Ravenna).” A possible connection between the presumed provenance from Lugo (Ravenna) and the life and interests of Luigi Malerbi (1776–1843), canonico, musician, and collector from that little town, has also been surmised. See Anna Tambini, in Il Trecento riminese: Maestri e botteghe tra Romagna e Marche, ed. Daniele Benati (Milan, 1995), 264, but without convincing evidence.
This panel formed part of the Sterbini collection in 1906 (cf.
The altarpiece of Saint John the Baptist had evidently been dismantled by the first half of the nineteenth century, for by the 1840s fragments of it had begun to emerge on the art market.
Adolfo Venturi, La Galleria Sterbini in Roma: Saggio illustrativo (Rome, 1906), 48–53.
Osvald Sirén, “Giuliano, Pietro and Giovanni da Rimini,” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 29 (1916): 320.
The panel (no. 6), which Richard Offner assigned to the Florentine “following of the St. Cecilia Master,” has also been attributed to Buffalmacco and, by the present writer, to Lippo di Benivieni. In any case the more recent literature generally has recognized it as the work of a Florentine artist. See Richard Offner and Miklós Boskovits, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting: The Fourteenth Century, sec. 3, vol. 1, The St. Cecilia Master and His Circle, new ed. (Florence, 1986), 178–180. It has further been shown that it used to belong to the church of Santa Maria degli Ughi in Florence.
Osvald Sirén and Maurice Brockwell repeated the view that Saint John the Baptist Enthroned now in Oxford belonged with the dispersed series of stories of the same saint, and Robert Lehman and L. Venturi accepted this premise. See Osvald Sirén and Maurice W. Brockwell, Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Italian Primitives (New York, 1917), 181; Robert Lehman, The Philip Lehman Collection, New York (Paris, 1928), no. 74; Lionello Venturi, Pitture italiane in America (Milan, 1931), no. 94; Lionello Venturi, Italian Paintings in America, trans. Countess Vanden Heuvel and Charles Marriott, 3 vols. (New York and Milan, 1933), 1: no. 116, repro. Raimond van Marle, “Contributo allo studio della scuola pittorica del Trecento a Rimini,” Rassegna Municipale Rimini 4 (1935): 8–15, expressed uncertainty about the proposal, which has since been abandoned by everyone.
It is worth recalling that Robert Lehman (1928), commenting on Decollation of the Baptist and Presentation of His Head, cited Richard Offner’s verbal opinion, evidently pronounced some years previously, in favor of Giovanni Baronzio’s authorship. Robert Lehman, The Philip Lehman Collection, New York (Paris, 1928), no. 74. But by 1924 Offner had changed his mind. He then argued that the Lehman panel and the other two stories of the Baptist formerly in the Pratt collection had been painted around 1340 by the anonymous master of the Kahn Madonna. Richard Offner, “A Remarkable Exhibition of Italian Paintings,” The Arts 5 (1924): 245.
Raimond Van Marle gathered under this loose definition various artists’ works, some of which have more recently been recognized as the work of Giovanni Baronzio. Apart from the two stories of the Baptist mentioned in the text, they include the stories of Christ now in the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica di Palazzo Barberini in Rome, the six small panels with stories of Christ in the Accademia in Venice, and Adoration of the Magi now in the Courtauld Institute Art Gallery in London. See Raimond van Marle, The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting, vol. 4, The Local Schools of North Italy of the 14th Century (The Hague, 1924), 288.
Robert Lehman and following him some other authors cited an otherwise unspecified story of the Baptist in the Ryerson collection in Chicago that allegedly formed part of the same series. Robert Lehman, The Philip Lehman Collection, New York (Paris, 1928), no. 74. But the fact that this painting was not among those that entered the Art Institute of Chicago from the Ryerson collection suggests the claim is based on a misunderstanding.
(June 26, 1865–October 6, 1959) Art historian and connoisseur. Son of a Lithuanian timber merchant who emigrated to the United States with his family in 1875, he was educated at the Latin School, Boston, and at Harvard University, where he studied Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Hebrew, and German. In an unsuccessful application for a traveling fellowship to Europe, he wrote, ‘Art prevails in this programme because it is there that I feel myself weakest. One can study literature here . . . but art not at all.’ On his subsequent visit to Europe in 1885, financed by friends, his rapid visual self-education led to the decision to settle in Italy and to devote his life to the study of Italian art. —William Mostyn-Owen, Grove Art © Oxford University Press
Lionello Venturi, Pitture italiane in America (Milan, 1931), no. 92, 94; Lionello Venturi, Italian Paintings in America, trans. Countess Vanden Heuvel and Charles Marriott, 3 vols. (New York and Milan, 1933), 1: no. 113, 116. Among the works attributed to Giovanni Baronzio, Bernard Berenson listed the Kahn Madonna, the Lehman Feast of Herod, the Pratt Birth of the Baptist, and the Angel Leading the Baptist into the Wilderness in the Pinacoteca Vaticana. To these panels he later added the Baptism of Christ in the Kress collection. See Bernard Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: A List of the Principal Artists and Their Works with an Index of Places (Oxford, 1932), 43–45; Bernard Berenson, Pitture italiane del rinascimento: Catalogo dei principali artisti e delle loro opere con un indice dei luoghi, trans. Emilio Cecchi (Milan, 1936), 37–39.
Guida della Pinacoteca Vaticana, Musei e Gallerie Pontificie (Vatican City, 1933), 54; An Exhibition of Italian Paintings Lent by Mr. Samuel H. Kress of New York to the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences (1935), 32; Alfred M. Frankfurter, “Fine Italian Paintings from Kress Exhibition,” Art News 32 (1934): 8–9; Alfred M. Frankfurter, “Medieval Style in Painting,” Art News 38 (1940): 14; Alfred M. Frankfurter, “On the Italian Renaissance Painters in the National Gallery,” Art News 40 (1941): 17; Alfred M. Frankfurter, “How Modern the Renaissance,” Art News 45 (1947): 17; Arts of the Middle Ages: A Loan Exhibition (Boston, 1940), 20; National Gallery of Art, Book of Illustrations (Washington, DC, 1941), 60, 238; National Gallery of Art, Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture (Washington, DC, 1941), 13; National Gallery of Art, Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection (Washington, DC, 1945), 9, 10; “The New Kress Gift to the National Gallery, Washington,” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 86, no. 504 (1945): 55; Robert Langton Douglas, “Recent Additions to the Kress Collection,” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 88 (1946): 84; Italian Paintings (New York, 1947), no. 37; Herbert Friedmann, “The Iconography of the Madonna and Child by Giovanni Baronzio in the Kress Collection, National Gallery, Washington,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 35 (1949): 345–352; Pietro Toesca, Il Trecento, Storia dell’arte italiana 2 (Turin, 1951), 730–731 (as “maniera di Baronzio”); Ugo Galetti and Ettore Camesasca, Enciclopedia della pittura italiana, 3 vols. (Milan, 1951), 1:209; Edward Fowles, Memories of Duveen Brothers (London, 1976), 124–125.
See Cesare Brandi, “Conclusioni su alcuni discussi problemi della pittura riminese del Trecento,” Critica d’arte 1 (1936): 236–237; Wilhelm Suida, Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, 1945 – 1951 (Washington, DC, 1951), 36; Exposition de la Collection Lehman de New York (Paris, 1957), 31–32; John Walker, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (New York, 1963), 297; National Gallery of Art, Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture (Washington, DC, 1965), 86; National Gallery of Art, European Paintings and Sculpture: Illustrations (Washington, DC, 1968), 75; National Gallery of Art, European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue (Washington, DC, 1985), 254–255; Carlo Volpe, La pittura riminese del Trecento (Milan, 1965), 38–39; Fern Rusk Shapley, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XIII–XV Century (London, 1966), 68–69; Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols. (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:316–318; Brigitte Klesse, Seidenstoffe in der italienischen Malerei des 14. Jahrhunderts (Bern, 1967), 64; Charles Seymour, Early Italian Paintings in the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven and London, 1970), 108; Hanna Kiel, “Review of Antologia di dipinti di cinque secoli, Circolo delle Stampe, Palazzo Serbelloni,” Pantheon 29 (1971): 345; Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections (Cambridge, MA, 1972), 130; George Szabó, The Robert Lehman Collection: A Guide (New York, 1975), 25; George Kaftal and Fabio Bisogni, Saints in Italian Art, vol. 3, Iconography of the Saints in the Painting of North East Italy (Florence, 1978), 512, 514, 520; Fulvio Zuliani, “Tommaso da Modena,” in Tomaso da Modena: Catalogo, ed. Luigi Menegazzi (Treviso, 1979), 105 n. 9; Keith Christiansen, “Fourteenth-Century Italian Altarpieces,” Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 40 (1982): 42–45; Antonio Corbara, “Il ciclo francescano di Francesco da Rimini,” Romagna arte e storia 4, no. 12 (1984): 59 (“Maestro del Battista”); Andrea Bacchi, “Maestro della Vita del Battista,” in La Pittura in Italia: Il Duecento e il Trecento, ed. Enrico Castelnuovo, 2 vols. (Milan, 1986), 2:611; Daniele Benati, “Pittura del Trecento in Emilia Romagna,” in La Pittura in Italia: Il Duecento e il Trecento, ed. Enrico Castelnuovo, 2 vols. (Milan, 1986), 1:208; John Pope-Hennessy and Laurence B. Kanter, The Robert Lehman Collection, vol. 1, Italian Paintings (New York, 1987), 86; Pier Giorgio Pasini, La pittura riminese del Trecento (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 1990), 124, 125, 127; Fabrizio Mancinelli, “I dipinti della Pinacoteca dall’XI al XV secolo,” in Pinacoteca Vaticana: Nella pittura l’espressione del messaggio divino nella luce la radice della creazione pittorica, ed. Umberto Baldini (Milan, 1992), 162–163; Francesco Rossi, Catalogo della Pinacoteca Vaticana, vol. 3, Il Trecento: Umbria, Marche, Italia del Nord (Vatican City, 1994), 113–118; Katharine Baetjer, European Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born before 1865: A Summary Catalogue (New York, 1995), 110; Mojmir Svatopluk Frinta, Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting (Prague, 1998), 152, 164; Michel Laclotte and Esther Moench, Peinture italienne: Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon (Paris, 2005), 63.
See Miklós Boskovits, ed., Frühe italienische Malerei: Gemäldegalerie Berlin, Katalog der Gemälde, trans. Erich Schleier (Berlin, 1988), 15–18; Miklós Boskovits, “Per la storia della pittura tra la Romagna e le Marche ai primi del ’300,” Arte cristiana 81 (1993): 168–169; Daniele Benati, “Baronzio, Giovanni,” in Enciclopedia dell’arte medievale, 12 vols. (Rome, 1992), 3:121; Daniele Benati, “Disegno del Trecento riminese,” in Il Trecento riminese: Maestri e botteghe tra Romagna e Marche, ed. Daniele Benati (Milan, 1995), 47, 55, 56 n. 3; Daniele Benati, “Il Dossale Corvisieri nel percorso di Giovanni Baronzio,” L’Arco 4(2006): 27; Daniele Benati, “Giovanni Baronzio nella pittura riminese del Trecento,” in Giovanni Baronzio e la pittura a Rimini nel Trecento, ed. Daniele Ferrara (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2008), 31; Christian Hornig, “Baronzio Giovanni,” in Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon: Die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker, ed. Günter Meißner, 87 vols. (Munich, 1993), 7:135; Alessandro Marchi, “La pittura della prima metà del Trecento nelle Marche: Presenze riminesi, pittori ‘stanieri’ e pittori locali,” in Il Trecento riminese: Maestri e botteghe tra Romagna e Marche, ed. Daniele Benati (Milan, 1995), 112–123; Anna Tambini, “In margine alla pittura riminese del Trecento,” Studi romagnoli 47 (1996): 466 (“attribuiti a Giovanni Baronzio”); Giovanna Ragionieri, “Baronzio, Giovanni,” in La pittura in Europa: Il dizionario dei pittori, ed. Carlo Pirovano, 3 vols. (Milan, 2002), 1:53.
Altarpieces in the elongated horizontal form of thirteenth-century dossals, approximately one meter (or a little more) in height and two and a half meters in width, such as the dismantled altarpiece of the Baptist being discussed here, are rare in Tuscany in the fourteenth century, but must have been fairly common in a region like Emilia Romagna.
Altarpieces of this type and of similar size originally must have included Giovanni da Rimini’s Madonna and Child with Saints in the Museo Correr in Venice (apparently a triptych but, as the horizontal grain of the wood shows, originally a type of dossal enriched with gables); Pietro da Rimini’s fragmentary panel Christ, the Madonna, and Saints now in the Denver Art Museum; Francesco da Rimini’s similar altarpiece now dismantled and dispersed among the Cini Collection in Venice and museums in Lausanne and Barcelona; Giovanni Baronzio’s stories of Christ divided between the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica di Palazzo Barberini in Rome and the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio in Rimini; and Giovanni Baronzio’s still intact altarpieces of this type in the Galleria Nazionale in Urbino and in the church of San Francesco at Mercatello. We may also recall the early fourteenth-century dossal of an anonymous master in the Museo Civico at Reggio Emilia, cf. Carlo Volpe, La pittura riminese del Trecento (Milan, 1965), figs. 64, 78, 159–163, 208, 210, 198, 206, 315, and some Bolognese examples, such as the dossals by the Pseudo Jacopino in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, for which see Jadranka Bentini, Gian Piero Cammarota, and Daniela Scaglietti Kelescian, eds., Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, catalogo generale, vol. 1, Dal Duecento a Francesco Francia (Venice, 2004), 78–83. In rare cases, horizontal dossals even larger in size than the abovementioned were produced, such as that by Giuliano da Rimini in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston (164 × 300 cm).
See Véronique Rouchon Mouilleron, “Le pitture duecentesche del Battistero di Parma: Iconografia e organizzazione spaziale,” in Battistero di Parma, vol. 2, La decorazione pittorica (Milan, 1993), 34–116.
Terms that refer broadly to the study of subjects and themes in works of art. Iconology, which is based on the results of iconography, is the more wide-ranging and comprehensive. One of the principal concerns of iconography is the discovery of symbolic and allegorical meanings in a work of art. —Willem F. Lash, Grove Art © Oxford University Press
On the episode of the Child Saint John the Baptist Praying, see Isle Falk, Studien zu Andrea Pisano (PhD diss., University of Zurich, 1940), 128; Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, “Giovannino Battista: A Study in Renaissance Religious Symbolism,” The Art Bulletin 37 (1955): 88–89 and n. 27. The rare motif of the Baptist’s Descent into Limbo recurs in dossal no. 14 of the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Siena, which was cataloged by Piero Torriti as the work of a “Maestro senese – bizantino” but should probably be attributed to Gilio di Pietro. Cf. Piero Torriti, La Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena, vol. 1, I dipinti dal XII al XV secolo (Genoa, 1977), 44–45; Miklós Boskovits, “Sulle tracce di un grande pittore toscano di metà Duecento,” Arte cristiana 98 (2010): 241–246. Based on the account in the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, this is evidently a version of the more familiar iconography of Christ’s Descent into Limbo (Anastasis), in which the Baptist, easily recognizable, often appears among the Fathers awaiting the Savior’s arrival; cf. Elisabeth Lucchesi Palli, “Höllenfahrt Christi,” in Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographie, ed. Engelbert Kirschbaum and Günter Bandmann, 8 vols. (Rome, 1970), 2:325.
For example, Annunciation to Zacharias, formerly in the Street collection in Bath, is very unusual in iconography. It takes place in a Romanesque church packed with worshippers, and the priest is kneeling before the altar as if celebrating Mass. The iconography adopted in the other former Street panel is equally rare. Here, in the scene in which the disciples are sent by John to interrogate Christ, instead of the miracles performed by Christ we see a group of believers sitting on the ground and listening to the Savior’s words. Also rare is the twofold presence of Salome in Feast of Herod, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: in one she is dancing, and in the other she is presenting the decapitated head of the Baptist on a charger to the banqueters.
The episode of the Circumcision, if shown at all, substitutes either the scene of the Birth of the Baptist, as in the relief on the façade of San Giovanni in Venere at Fossacesia (Chieti), or that of the Naming of the Baptist, as in the reliefs of the cathedral of Auxerre. See Otto Lehmann-Brockhaus, Abruzzen und Molise: Kunst und Geschichte, Römische Forschungen der Bibliotheca Hertziana (Munich, 1983), 175–176; Camille Enlart, “La sculpture des portails de la cathédrale d’Auxerre du XIIIe à la fin du XIVe siècle,” Congrès archéologique de France 74 (1907): pl. between 602 and 603.
On the iconography of the Baptism of Christ, see Gabriel Millet, Recherches sur l’iconographie de l’évangile aux XIVe, XVe et XVIe siècles, d’après les monuments de Mistra, de la Macédoine et du Mont-Athos, Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d’Athènes et de Rome (Paris, 1916), 170–215; Gertrud Schiller, Ikonographie der christlichen Kunst, 6 vols. (Gütersloh, 1966–1990), 1:137–152.
On placing the hand on the person being baptized, cf. U. Miekle, “Taufe, Taufszenen,” in Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographie, eds. Engelbert Kirschbaum and Günter Bandmann, 8 vols. (Rome, 1972), 2:244–247; and, more generally, Lucien De Bruyne, “L’imposition des mains dans l’art chrétien ancien,” Rivista d’archeologia cristiana 20 (1943): 113–278. Baptism by infusion—that is, by the pouring of water over the neophyte’s head—is usually represented from the fourteenth century onward.
With regard to the Madonna and Child, a motif for which the painters of Rimini had a special predilection was the cloth of honor supported by angels behind the Virgin’s throne
See Dorothy C. Shorr, The Christ Child in Devotional Images in Italy during the XIV Century (New York, 1954), 116–117.
With reference to Proverbs 30:27 (“the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank”), Herbert Friedmann explained that in medieval thought, locusts were sometimes considered symbols of converted pagans. See Herbert Friedmann, “The Iconography of the Madonna and Child by Giovanni Baronzio in the Kress Collection, National Gallery, Washington,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 35 (1949): 345–352. But in the case of the altarpiece being discussed here, in which the Madonna and Child is flanked by stories of the Baptist, the locust in the Christ child’s hand presumably was intended to allude, more prosaically, to the food on which the Baptist lived in the wilderness of Judea (cf. Mt 3:4; Mk 1:6). As for the figures of lions on the throne, in medieval theology Mary was considered the personification of wisdom, seated on the throne of Solomon, in which (1 Kings 10:19) “two lions stood beside the stays” (i.e., beside the armrests). Cf. also Gregor Martin Lechner, “Sedes Sapientiae,” in Marienlexikon, ed. Remigius Bäumer and Leo Scheffczyk, 6 vols. (St. Ottilien, 1994), 6:113–118.
The precision in representing the insect
Herbert Friedmann, “The Iconography of the Madonna and Child by Giovanni Baronzio in the Kress Collection, National Gallery, Washington,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 35 (1949): 350, underlined this aspect.
Term used to denote, since the 15th century, the architecture and, from the 19th century onward, all the visual arts of Europe during a period extending by convention from about 1120 to c. 1400 in central Italy, and until the late 15th century and even well into the 16th century in northern Europe and the Iberian Peninsula. The early gothic style overlapped chronologically with Romanesque and flourished after the onset of Renaissance art in Italy and elsewhere. The term gothic is applied to western European painting of the 13th century to the early 15th century. Unlike gothic architecture, it is distinguished more by developments in style and function than in technique, and even in these areas there is considerable national and regional diversity. The applicability of the term to Italian painting is debated, as is its usefulness in accounting for developments in Netherlandish painting from the early 15th century. Contact with Byzantine art was close in the early 13th century, but after c. 1250 survived principally in the Holy Roman Empire and Italy. —Peter Kidson, Grove Art © Oxford University Press
A very important aspect of women’s dress of the period, the depth and width of the décolleté, is exemplified by the dresses in Feast of Herod (but also by the dress of Mary herself in the Washington Madonna). This wider and deeper neckline reflects a fashion that spread in the 1330s; cf. Luciano Bellosi, “Moda e cronologia: A) gli affreschi della Basilica Inferiore di Assisi,” Prospettiva 10 (1977): 21–31. Details such as the length of the dresses of the courtiers portrayed in the foreground in front of Herod’s table, or the length of their caps with side flaps, also reflect a phase of the development of fourteenth-century court fashion that precedes that illustrated by Giovanni Baronzio in the altarpiece dated 1345 in the Galleria Nazionale in Urbino. Bellosi’s studies are useful in elucidating these aspects. Luciano Bellosi, Buffalmacco e il Trionfo della morte (Turin, 1974) 41–54. The details of dress I have cited, to which others can be added, therefore suggest a date for our panels in the 1330s.
Several clues confirm the attribution of our panels to Giovanni Baronzio. First, there are clear analogies between the fragments of the altarpiece of Saint John and other works generally attributed to the artist, such as the solemn mantle-clad men to the right of our Birth of the Baptist and those of Christ before Pilate now in the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, or the peculiar, splayed-leg pose of the Baptist in the baptism scene that recurs in the figure of Adam in Descent of Christ into Limbo, also in the Gemäldegalerie.
For the five fragments with stories of Christ in the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin (no. 1110), cf. Carlo Volpe, La pittura riminese del Trecento (Milan, 1965), 86 and fig. 280 (as Master of the Parry Adoration); Miklós Boskovits, ed., Frühe italienische Malerei: Gemäldegalerie Berlin, Katalog der Gemälde, trans. Erich Schleier (Berlin, 1988), 15–18 and figs. 15–20 (as Giovanni Baronzio).
The layer or layers used to prepare the support to hold the paint.
As Brigitte Klesse has shown, the ornamental motifs incised in the gold ground in the Gallery’s panels depicting stories of the Baptist recur in the abovementioned panels in the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, in the fragments belonging to the same series now in the Accademia in Venice (no. 26), and in the altarpiece signed by Giovanni and dated 1345 in the Galleria Nazionale in Urbino; Brigitte Klesse, Seidenstoffe in der italienischen Malerei des 14. Jahrhunderts (Bern, 1967), 281.
As for the date of our dismantled altarpiece, it may be placed in or shortly before the mid-fourth decade of the fourteenth century, on the basis of comparisons with the artist’s only signed and dated work.
For the altarpiece Madonna and Child with Angels and Saints and Stories of Christ in Urbino’s Galleria Nazionale (no. 125), cf. Carlo Volpe, La pittura riminese del Trecento (Milan, 1965), 82; Pier Giorgio Pasini, La pittura riminese del Trecento (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 1990), 141–143.
The Gospel narrative (Lk 1:59–63) explains that Elizabeth’s kinsfolk and neighbors had suggested the boy be called Zacharias like his father and not John, as indicated by the angel at the time of the Annunciation (Lk 1:13: “and you shall call his name John”), objecting: “There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.”
The period that elapsed between the execution of the dismantled altarpiece of the Baptist and the panel now in Urbino cannot have been brief, but its duration is difficult to gauge given the lack of other securely datable works by Baronzio. A probable terminus post quem could be offered by the dossal now divided between the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica di Palazzo Barberini in Rome and the collection of the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio in Rimini; according to a plausible recent proposal, the dossal must have been commissioned for the high altar of the Franciscan church of Villa Verucchio and must date to c. 1330.
It is Massimo Medica who observed that the two surviving fragments are similar in subject and iconography to those preserved in the church of San Francesco a Villa Verucchio until the mid-nineteenth century. The same scholar also assumed that, since this church was completed in 1324, the altarpiece for its high altar would have been commissioned and installed not many years later. Massimo Medica, “Una proposta per la provenienza del Dossale di Baronzio: La chiesa francescana di Villa Verucchio,” L’Arco 4 (2006): 13–16. The dating of c. 1330–1335 that Daniel Ferrara suggested for the dossal is too late, in my opinion. Cf. Daniele Ferrara, ed., Giovanni Baronzio e la pittura a Rimini nel Trecento (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2008), 108–115.
Cesare Brandi, ed., Mostra della pittura riminese del Trecento (Rimini, 1935), xxiii, who considered the Madonna in the Gallery and the stories of the Baptist as works by an anonymous Riminese master, compared them with the stories of Christ now in the Galleria Nazionale of Palazzo Barberini, Rome, though the latter are said to be more closely linked to the traditions of painting in Rimini.
Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011)
March 21, 2016
on the Madonna's halo: AVE.MARIA.GRAT[IA].PLENA.D[OMI]N[U]S: (Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; from Luke 1:28)
Marks and Labels
Possibly commissioned as part of the high altarpiece of a church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist in Emilia Romagna or in the Marche, Italy. Léon Ouroussoff [1877-1933], Vienna and later, Monte Carlo and Cannes, early twentieth century; purchased February 1920 by Edward Fowles for (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); sold to Otto H. Kahn [1867-1934], New York, by 1924; by inheritance to his wife, Addie Wolff Kahn [d. 1949], New York; sold 18 January 1937 to (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); sold 1942 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1943 to NGA.
- Loan Exhibition of Important Early Italian Paintings in the Possession of Notable American Collectors, Duveen Brothers, New York, 1924, no. 9, as by Giovanni Baronzio (no. 33 in illustrated 1926 version of catalogue).
- Arts of the Middle Ages: A Loan Exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1940, no. 57, as The Virgin and Child Enthroned.
- Recent Additions to the Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1946, no. 711.
- Il Trecento Riminese: Maestri e botteghe tra Romagna e Marche, Museo della Città, Rimini, Italy, 1995-1996, no. 50, repro.
- Offner, Richard. "A Remarkable Exhibition of Italian Paintings." The Arts 5 (1924): 240 (repro.), 245.
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The support is a panel made from a single, vertically grained plank of wood, which has been thinned to approximately 1.2 cm and cradled. It was covered with pieces of fabric, followed by
A mixture of finely ground plaster and glue applied to wood panels to create a smooth painting surface. —Grove Art © Oxford University Press
The NGA scientific research department identified gold and silver leaf using x-ray fluorescence spectrometry (see report dated February 16, 2000, in NGA conservation files). At that time, XRF analysis suggested that the pigment in the Virgin’s blue robe was azurite.
Attaching a woodent grid to the reverse of a panel to prevent the panel's warping.
Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols. (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:316, reported that Stephen Pichetto “cradled, cleaned, restored, and varnished” the painting.
A photographic or digital image analysis method that visually records an object's ability to absorb or transmit x-rays. The differential absorption pattern is useful for examining an object's internal structure as well as for comparing the variation in pigment types.
Application of restoration paint to areas of lost original paint to visually integrate an area of loss with the color and pattern of the original, without covering any original paint.