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Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011), “Grifo di Tancredi/Christ Blessing/c. 1310,” Italian Thirteenth and Fourteenth Century Paintings, NGA Online Editions, (accessed October 20, 2016).


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Mar 21, 2016 Version

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This image, along with Saint Peter and Saint James Major, originally occupied a single panel. They and two others—one now in a museum in France, the other lost—were cut from the same altarpiece. It would have been an imposing work with triangular gables (see Reconstruction). The considerable dimensions and elaborate ornamental decoration incised on the gold ground suggest that this altarpiece must have been a commission of some importance. However, the iconographic conventions and technical features (execution on a single panel) are of an archaizing type, which indicates that whoever ordered this painting wanted an artist like Grifo di Tancredi (Italian, active 1271 - 1303 (or possibly 1328)), who worked in a traditional style.

The young Giotto’s influence was being felt in Florence at that time, but Grifo remained firmly in the orbit of the great Sienese master Cimabue and the artists of Grifo’s own generation. For these artists, producing the illusion of three-dimensional space was not of prime importance, and the influence of Eastern or Byzantine art was key. Christ, larger than the saints who flank him, displays an open book (captured with Grifo’s usual perspectival incongruities) with the Latin verse from John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.”

Until the late 1980s, Grifo’s identity was unknown. His works had been mostly collected in a group of paintings related to the San Gaggio altarpiece (Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence) assigned to the “Master of San Gaggio,” but a single, difficult-to-read inscription on one of these paintings was deciphered and Grifo was saved from anonymity.


Up until the mid-nineteenth century, this panel and its two companions (Saint Peter and Saint James Major) were preserved together with two others from the same polyptych [fig. 1] (see also Reconstruction): one representing the Baptist [fig. 2] now in the Musée des Beaux-­Arts in Chambéry,[1] and the other probably with an image of Saint Ursula, its whereabouts currently unknown.[2] They were parts of an altarpiece that, in view of its dimensions and execution, must have been a commission of some importance, although characterized by iconographic conventions and technical features (execution on a single panel) of an archaizing type. From an iconographic point of view, the bust of the adult Christ (rather than the Madonna and Child) in the central panel, rather uncommon in Tuscany at the time of the execution of the work,[3] and the appearance among the lateral saints of one whose veneration was not particularly widespread (if she really does represent, as would seem to be the case, Saint Ursula), might suggest that the altarpiece was intended for the nuns of the Florentine convent named after this saint and founded in 1309.[4] The elaborate ornamental decoration incised on the gold ground is probably a measure of the importance attached to the work. This type of decoration, preferred by Cimabue, was not common in Florence and was generally used in the thirteenth century only on images of the Maestà.[5] As for the peculiar profiles of the triptych components, and the fact that they seem to have been painted on a single panel, these were aspects of archaizing character but still fairly widespread in Florentine painting in the early fourteenth century.[6]

Artaud de Montor probably acquired the National Gallery of Art’s panels in Italy in the later years of the eighteenth or early years of the nineteenth century. They came to him accompanied by the attribution (wholly unjustified) to “Margaritone d’Arezzo,” with which they were later illustrated in the successive catalogs of his collection (1808, 1811, 1843).[7] A century later, Bernard Berenson (1920) suggested an attribution to Cimabue.[8] Publishing the three panels immediately after their acquisition by Duveen Brothers, Inc., in 1919, Berenson considered them executed “as early as 1271​ . . . ​or a little later” and compared them with various late thirteenth-century works, including two apse mosaics—one in San Miniato al Monte in Florence[9] and the other in Pisa Cathedral, the latter a documented work of a “magister Franciscus,” who executed it between 1301 and 1302[10]—and the fresco with the scene of the Capture of Christ in the upper church of San Francesco at Assisi.[11] The panels were exhibited under the name of Cimabue in 1920, 1924, and 1935, and various subsequent publications accepted the attribution.[12] Among these we may mention the opinions of Osvald Sirén (1922), who compared the three paintings with the artist’s late works (in particular with the Maestà now in the Uffizi, Florence);[13] Lionello Venturi (1931, 1933); Enzo Carli (1949); Pietro Toesca (1927); and Luigi Coletti (1941), all of whom thought that the paintings in the Gallery probably were autograph by the master.[14] Berenson himself restated on various occasions his conviction of the Cimabuesque authorship of the panels. But Raimond Van Marle (1923 and later) placed this in doubt, as did Richard Offner (1924), though he admitted the possibility of a direct intervention of the master, at least in the central panel.[15] Mario Salmi (1935) also excluded the three panels from Cimabue’s catalog; additionally, he recognized one of the missing figures of the former Artaud de Montor altarpiece in the panel of the Baptist in the museum in Chambéry.[16] In 1948, Roberto Longhi identified the master of the polyptych with the anonymous artist who executed the Maestà no. 6115 in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence.[17] That panel came from the monastery of San Gaggio near Florence,[18] hence the conventional name Longhi bestowed on this artist: Master of San Gaggio. From that moment, the attribution to Cimabue disappeared from the art historical literature, apart from the posthumous edition of Berenson’s Italian Pictures (1963) and the catalogs of the Gallery.[19] The three paintings thereafter were classified as works by a follower of the master, or ascribed—ever more frequently—to the Master of San Gaggio himself.[20] In 1987, the present writer tentatively proposed the identification of this anonymous master with Grifo di Tancredi,[21] and this proposal has since met with growing consensus.[22] On the other hand, different opinions have been expressed about the dating of the former Artaud de Montor polyptych: Luiz C. Marques (1987) proposed the date 1275–1280; Edward Garrison (1949), Angelo Tartuferi (1990, 2002), and Rolf Bagemihl (1999), the years between 1280 and 1290; Sonia Chiodo (2009), the last decade of the thirteenth century; and others have preferred a dating around or even after 1300.[23]

An aid for solving the problem of dating may come from the panel that gave its name to the painter, namely the Maestà now in the Accademia. This is not dated, but some clues suggest that it was executed in the early years of the fourteenth century.[24] The very circumstance that the earlier literature related the altarpiece in the Accademia to the Master of Santa Cecilia, and the three panels in Washington to the earlier production of Pacino di Bonaguida, implies that their closest stylistic affinities should be sought in works dating to the early decades of the fourteenth century.[25] The influence of the young Giotto (Florentine, c. 1265 - 1337) has even been aired.[26] That seems improbable, for some characteristic aspects of the art of Grifo da Tancredi, such as the incongruities and chaotic perspective of his architectural structures or of his marble thrones, suggest that his models in this phase were derived not from Giotto but from the works of Cimabue and artists of his own generation, as yet unable to accept the rationality of Giotto’s way of creating pictorial space. The model for the panel in the Accademia, for example, could have been an image of the type of the Maestà of Santa Margherita at Montici, or Saint Peter Enthroned (dated 1307) in the church of San Simone in Florence.[27]

If the San Gaggio altarpiece in the Accademia belongs, as I believe, to the first decade of the fourteenth century, a similar dating may also apply to the former Artaud de Montor panels. The two share close affinities. Among the saints in the Florentine Maestà, the Baptist in particular is almost a replica of the image of the same saint in the painting now in the Musée des Beaux-­Arts in Chambéry, but the Saint Peter [fig. 3] standing alongside the protagonist in the San Gaggio altarpiece also is very close to the representation of that saint in our panels. Their faces are energetically modeled, with marked contrasts of light and shade and characterized by very pronounced cheekbones, short nose, fleshy lips, small eyes, and penetrating gaze. Their facial features and their intense brooding expressions are further enlivened by the undulating curls that frame their faces, while their stiff, simplified drapery, furrowed by few folds and given an almost metallic consistency and sheen, assumes a subordinate role. The artist’s unfamiliarity with the rules of perspectival foreshortening is also betrayed in the panels now in the Gallery, notably by the rendering of the book held in Christ’s left hand [fig. 4]: its pages, instead of opening, improbably seem to bend backwards.[28] Offner (1924) rightly observed that, although the frowning expression of the energetically squared faces [fig. 5] may recall those of the Florentine caposcuola, “Cimabue’s figures possess a higher intensity.”[29] At least during his late phase, Grifo emphasized solemnity and elegance in his figures, delineated with a graphic style that Fern Rusk Shapley correctly deemed “more suave and flowing than in Cimabue’s commonly accepted paintings.”[30] It is just in this respect that Grifo went beyond the example of Cimabue. His human ideal is gentler, more graceful in movement, neater in dress. He conforms more faithfully to the conventions of the Gothic style in Florentine painting, as did the Master of Santa Cecilia (that is, probably Gaddo Gaddi) and Lippo di Benivieni during these same years. The style of the Washington panels suggests that their dating be placed between the first and the second decade of the fourteenth century. But if we are right in assuming that they were intended for the church of Sant’Orsola in Florence, they cannot have been any earlier than 1309.

Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011)

March 21, 2016


on the book held by Christ: EGO SUM / LUX / MUNDI. (I am the light of the world)


By 1808 in the collection of Alexis-François Artaud de Montor [1772-1849], Paris, who probably purchased the panels during one of his several periods of residence in Italy;[1] (his estate sale, Seigneur and Schroth at Hotel des Ventes Mobilières, Paris, 16-17 January 1851, nos. 35, 36, and 39 [with 1937.1.2.a and .c, as by Margaritone d’Arezzo]); Julien Gréau [1810-1895], Troyes; by inheritance to his daughter, Marie, comtesse Bertrand de Broussillion, Paris;[2] purchased September 1919 by (Duveen Brothers, Inc., Paris, New York, and London);[3] Carl W. Hamilton [1886-1967], New York, by 1920;[4] returned to (Duveen Brothers, Inc.); sold 15 December 1936 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh;[5] gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History
Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1920, unnumbered catalogue.
Loan Exhibition of Important Early Italian Paintings in the Possession of Notable American Collectors, Duveen Brothers, New York, 1924, no. 2, as by Giovanni Cimabue (no. 1 in illustrated 1926 version of catalogue).
Exposition de L'Art Italien de Cimabue à Tiepolo, Petit Palais, Paris, 1935, no. 110.
Berenson and the Connoisseurship of Italian Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1979, no. 81.
La fortuna dei primitivi: Tesori d’arte dalle collezioni italiane fra Sette e Ottocento [The Fortunes of the Primitives: Artistic Treasures from Italian Collections between the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries], Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence, 2014, no. 79a, repro.
Artaud de Montor, Alexis-François. Considérations sur l’état de la peinture en Italie, dans les quatre siècles qui ont précédé celui de Raphaël: par un membre de l’académie de Cortone. Ouvrage servant de catalogue raisonné à une collection de tableaux des XIIe, XIIIe, XIVe et XVe siècles. Paris, 1808: no. 30.
Artaud de Montor, Alexis-François. Considérations sur l’état de la peinture en Italie, dans les quatre siècles qui ont précédé celui de Raphaël, par un membre de l’Académie de Cortone (Artaud de Montor). Ouvrage servant de catalogue raisonné à une collection de tableaux des XIIe, XIIIe, XIVe et XVe siècles. Paris, 1811: no. 35.
Artaud de Montor, Alexis-François. Peintres primitifs: collection de tableaux rapportée d’Italie. Paris, 1843: no. 35.
Berenson, Bernard. "A Newly Discovered Cimabue." Art in America 8 (1920): 251-271, repro. 250.
Berenson, Bernard. "Italian Paintings." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 15 (1920): 159-160, repro.
Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition. Loans and Special Features. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1920: 8.
Robinson, Edward. "The Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 15 (1920): 75.
Sirén, Osvald. Toskanische Maler im XIII. Jahrhundert. Berlin, 1922: 299-301, pl. 113.
Marle, Raimond van. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. 19 vols. The Hague, 1923-1938: 1(1923):476, 574; 5(1925):442, fig. 262.
Loan Exhibition of Important Early Italian Paintings in the Possession of Notable American Collectors. Exh. cat. Duveen Brothers, New York, 1924: no. 2.
Offner, Richard. "A Remarkable Exhibition of Italian Paintings." The Arts 5 (1924): 241 (repro.), 244.
Vitzthum, Georg Graf, and Wolgang Fritz Volbach. Die Malerei und Plastik des Mittelalters in Italien. Handbuch der Kunstwissenschaft 1. Wildpark-Potsdam, 1924: 249-250.
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. A Catalogue of Early Italian Paintings Exhibited at the Duveen Galleries, April to May 1924. New York, 1926: n.p., no. 1, repro.
Toesca, Pietro. Il Medioevo. 2 vols. Storia dell’arte italiana, 1. Turin, 1927: 2:1040 n. 48.
Berenson, Bernard. Studies in Medieval Painting. New Haven, 1930: 17-31, fig. 14.
Fry, Roger. "Mr Berenson on Medieval Painting." The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 58, no. 338 (1931): 245.
Venturi, Lionello. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931: no. 8, repro.
Berenson, Bernard. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: A List of the Principal Artists and their Works with an Index of Places. Oxford, 1932: 150.
Marle, Raimond van. Le scuole della pittura italiana. 2 vols. The Hague and Florence, 1932-1934: 1(1932):495-496, fig. 321.
Nicholson, Alfred. Cimabue: A Critical Study. Princeton, 1932: 59.
Venturi, Lionello. Italian Paintings in America. Translated by Countess Vanden Heuvel and Charles Marriott. 3 vols. New York and Milan, 1933: 1:no. 10, repro.
Escholier, Raymond, Ugo Ojetti, Paul Jamot, and Paul Valéry. Exposition de l’art italien de Cimabue à Tiepolo. Exh. cat. Musée du Petit Palais. Paris, 1935: 51.
Muratov, Pavel P., and Jean Chuzeville. La peinture byzantine. Paris, 1935: 143.
Salmi, Mario. "Per il completamento di un politico cimabuesco." Rivista d’arte 17 (1935): 113-120, repro. 115.
Serra, Luigi. "La mostra dell’antica arte italiana a Parigi: la pittura." Bollettino d’arte 29 (1935-1936): 31, repro. 33.
Berenson, Bernard. Pitture italiane del rinascimento: catalogo dei principali artisti e delle loro opere con un indice dei luoghi. Translated by Emilio Cecchi. Milan, 1936: 129.
"The Mellon Gift. A First Official List." Art News 35 (20 March 1937): 15.
Coletti, Luigi. I Primitivi. 3 vols. Novara, 1941-1947: 1(1941):37.
Duveen Brothers. Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941: no. 3, repro., as by Cimabue.
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 41, no. 2, as by Cimbue.
Richter, George Martin. "The New National Gallery in Washington." The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 78 (June 1941): 177.
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 239, repro. 85, as by Cimabue.
Sinibaldi, Giulia, and Giulia Brunetti, eds. Pittura italiana del Duecento e Trecento: catalogo della mostra giottesca di Firenze del 1937. Exh. cat. Galleria degli Uffizi. Florence, 1943: 277.
Salvini, Roberto. Cimabue. Rome, 1946: 23.
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: 216 n. 1.
Longhi, Roberto. "Giudizio sul Duecento." Proporzioni 2 (1948): 19, 47, fig. 37.
Pope-Hennessy, John. "Review of Proporzioni II by Roberto Longhi." The Burlington Magazine 90 (1948): 360.
Carli, Enzo. "Cimabue." In Enciclopedia Cattolica. 12 vols. Vatican City, 1949-1954: 3(1949):1614, repro.
Garrison, Edward B. Italian Romanesque Panel Painting: An Illustrated Index. Florence, 1949: 172-173, repro.
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 5, repro.
Einstein, Lewis. Looking at Italian Pictures in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1951: 16-18, repro., as by Cimabue.
Galetti, Ugo, and Ettore Camesasca. Enciclopedia della pittura italiana. 3 vols. Milan, 1951: 1:642; 2:1486.
Ragghianti, Carlo Ludovico. Pittura del Dugento a Firenze. Florence, 1955: 127, fig. 186.
Laclotte, Michel. De Giotto à Bellini: les primitifs italiens dans les musées de France. Exh. cat. Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, 1956: 15.
Samek Ludovici, Sergio. Cimabue. Milan, 1956: 42-44, 48, pl. 20.
Marcucci, Luisa. Gallerie nazionali di Firenze. Vol. 1, I dipinti toscani del secolo XIII. Rome, 1958: 56.
Salvini, Roberto. "Cimabue." In Enciclopedia Universale dell’Arte. Edited by Istituto per la collaborazione culturale. 15 vols. Florence, 1958-1967: 3(1960):473.
Boskovits, Miklós. "Cenni di Pepe (Pepo), detto Cimabue." In Dizionario biografico degli italiani. Edited by Alberto Maria Ghisalberti. 82+ vols. Rome, 1960+: 23(1979):542.
Le Musée des Beaux-Arts de Chambéry. Chambéry, 1960: n.p., fig. 15.
Longhi, Roberto. "Giudizio sul Duecento (1948)." In Edizione delle opere complete di Roberto Longhi. 14 vols. Florence, 1961-1984: 7(1974):14, 44, pl. 36.
Hager, Hellmut. Die Anfänge des italienischen Altarbildes. Untersuchungen zur Entstehungsgechichte des toskanischen Hochaltarretabels. Munich, 1962: 111-112.
Berenson, Bernard. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Florentine School. 2 vols. London, 1963: 1:50, fig. 4.
Longhi, Roberto. "In traccia di alcuni anonimi trecentisti." Paragone 14 (1963): 10.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 297, repro., as by Cimabue.
Previtali, Giovanni. La fortuna dei primitivi: dal Vasari ai neoclassici. Turin, 1964: 232.
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 28.
Previtali, Giovanni. Giotto e la sua bottega. Milan, 1967: 26.
Salmi, Mario. "La donazione Contini Bonacossi." Bollettino d’arte 52 (1967): 223, 231 n. 1.
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 21, repro.
Volpe, Carlo. "La formazione di Giotto nella cultura di Assisi." In Giotto e i giotteschi in Assisi. Rome, 1969: 38.
Fredericksen, Burton B., and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972: 54, 403, 440, 645.
Previtali, Giovanni. Giotto e la sua bottega. 2nd ed. Milan, 1974: 26.
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 70, repro., as Attributed to Cimabue.
Fowles, Edward. Memories of Duveen Brothers. London, 1976: 116.
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. Washington, 1979: 1:134-135; 2:pl. 94.
Pietralunga, Fra Ludovico da, and Pietro Scarpellini (intro. and comm.). Descrizione della Basilica di S. Francesco e di altri Santuari di Assisi. Treviso, 1982: 416.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 73, no. 11, color repro.
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 90, repro.
Guerrini, Alessandra. "Maestro di San Gaggio." In La Pittura in Italia. Il Duecento e il Trecento. Edited by Enrico Castelnuovo. 2 vols. Milan, 1986: 2:625.
Simpson, Colin. Artful Partners: Bernard Berenson and Joseph Duveen. New York, 1986: 199.
Marques, Luiz. La peinture du Duecento en Italie centrale. Paris, 1987: 202, 286, fig. 253.
Wheeler, Marion, ed. His Face--Images of Christ in Art: Selections from the King James Version of the Bible. New York, 1988: 128, no. 110, color repro.
Damian, Véronique, and Jean-Claude Giroud. Peintures florentines. Collections du Musée de Chambéry. Chambéry, 1990: 23, 66-67.
Tartuferi, Angelo. La pittura a Firenze nel Duecento. Florence, 1990: 63, 109.
Chiodo, Sonia. "Grifo di Tancredi." In Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon: Die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker. Edited by Günter Meissner. 87+ vols. Munich and Leipzig, 1992+: 62(2009):129.
Boskovits, Miklós. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. Sec. I, Vol. I: The Origins of Florentine Painting, 1100–1270. Florence, 1993: 732 n. 1, 809.
Previtali, Giovanni, and Giovanna Ragionieri. Giotto e la sua bottega. Edited by Alessandro Conti. 3rd ed. Milan, 1993: 36.
"Artaud de Montor, Jean Alex Francis." In The Dictionary of Art. Edited by Jane Turner. 34 vols. New York and London, 1996: 2:514.
Bellosi, Luciano. Cimabue. Edited by Giovanna Ragionieri. 1st ed. Milan, 1998: 287, 289.
Frinta, Mojmír S. Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting. Prague, 1998: 442, 443.
Bagemihl, Rolf. "Some Thoughts About Grifo di Tancredi of Florence and a Little-Known Panel at Volterra." Arte cristiana 87 (1999): 413-414.
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: 472 n. 1.
Tartuferi, Angelo. "Grifo di Tancredi." In Dizionario biografico degli italiani. Edited by Alberto Maria Ghisalberti. 82+ vols. Rome, 1960+: 59(2002):398.
Bellosi, Luciano. "La lezione di Giotto." in Storia delle arti in Toscana. Il Trecento. Edited by Max Seidel. Florence, 2004: 96.
Secrest, Meryle. Duveen: A Life in Art. New York, 2004: 422.
Staderini, Andrea. "Un contesto per la collezione di ‘primitivi’ di Alexis-François Artaud de Montor (1772-1849)." Proporzioni 5 (2004): 38.
Leone De Castris, Pierluigi. "Montano d’Arezzo a San Lorenzo." In Le chiese di San Lorenzo e San Domenico: gli ordini mendicanti a Napoli. Edited by Serena Romano and Nicolas Bock. Naples, 2005: 109.
Bellosi, Luciano, and Giovanna Ragionieri. Giotto e la sua eredità: Filippo Rusuti, Pietro Cavallini, Duccio, Giovanni da Rimini, Neri da Rimini, Pietro da Rimini, Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Matteo Giovannetti, Masso di Banco, Puccio Capanna, Taddeo Gaddi, Giovanni da Milano, Giottino, Giusto de’Menabuoi, Altichiero, Jacopo Avanzi, Jean Pucelle, i Fratelli Limbourg. Florence, 2007: 68, fig. 42.
Tartuferi, Angelo, and Gianluca Tormen. La fortuna dei primitivi: Tesori d’arte dalle collezioni italiane fra Sette e Ottocento. Exh. cat. Galleria dell’Accademia. Florence, 2014: 427-429, repros.
Technical Summary

The wooden supports of Saint Peter and Saint James Major are single-member poplar panels with horizontal grain.[1] The upper 6.5 cm of the top, the curved sides of the gables, and the 1.3 cm-wide wooden strips on all sides are later additions. Both panels have been thinned and have had a mahogany cradle applied to the reverse. Christ Blessing was painted on a two-member wooden support, also with horizontal grain. The join is located approximately 10.3 cm from the top of the panel. This is above the tops of the panels depicting the saints, which explains why they do not have similar joins. The upper 4 cm of Christ Blessing and 0.8 cm–1.3 cm-wide strips on all sides are also modern additions. This panel, too, has been thinned and cradled. Examination of the x-radiographs and the backs of the panels reveals evidence of three nail holes vertically aligned down the center of each painting, indicating that the panels once had vertical battens. A piece of the top nail remains in Saint James Major. Line drawings published in the catalog of the Artaud de Montor collection [2] prove that the three figures, probably painted originally on one single panel,[3] had already been divided at the time they were acquired by the French collector in the early years of the nineteenth century. At that time, Christ Blessing still retained its original triangular gable, whereas the others had curvilinear gables terminating in triangular tops. After the 1851 sale (see Provenance), the gables were truncated, possibly in order to frame the panels together. The panel now in Chambéry (see below) still preserves the appearance given to it following the cutting of its gable, whereas the tops of the ones now in Washington have been altered, probably after their acquisition by Duveen Brothers, Inc., with the clumsy reconstruction of the gables of Saint Peter and Saint James Major.[4] A very fine layer of fabric had been applied to all panels under the traditional gesso ground. A green layer is present under the flesh tones.[5] The ground against which the figures are set is gilt and decorated with punched and hand-incised motifs. The present gold decorations on the drapery of Christ and the inscription on the book are modern, but an older layer of gold is visible under the inscription on the book.

The panels are generally in fine condition, but with many small, inpainted losses. The ornamental borders of the gables are in large part modern.[6] The surface coating is slightly discolored.

Altarpiece Reconstruction

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.

Reconstruction of a dispersed polyptych by Grifo di Tancredi

a. Saint Peter
b. Saint John the Baptist (Entry fig. 2)
c. Christ Blessing
d. Saint James Major
e. After Grifo di Tancredi, line drawing of a lost image of Saint Ursula