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Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011), “Bernardo Daddi/Madonna and Child with Saints and Angels/c. 1345,” Italian Thirteenth and Fourteenth Century Paintings, NGA Online Editions, http://purl.org/nga/collection/artobject/41676 (accessed June 27, 2016).

 

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Overview

The Virgin and Child are seated in majesty on a gabled throne, whose shape echoes a tabernacle used to hold the reserved portion of the sacrament, the divine mystery of the bread and wine that is at the very heart of the Eucharist. Yet this Virgin and Child are also in joyous and very human interaction with the angels and saints surrounding them. These holy figures exhibit a gentle playfulness that is characteristic of Bernardo Daddi’s narrative sensibility and a natural fit for a painting that was once part of a portable triptych meant for the intimacy of private devotion.

Mary looks down with tenderness toward Jesus, who is twisting in her arms to reach for the small bird perched on the finger of an angel. His eyes widen with delight and his lips open in a smile. Standing to one side, another golden-haired angel plucks at a psaltery, a zither-like instrument. Opposite, a third angel, cheeks puffed, fingers the flared shaft of a shawn, a forerunner of the oboe. Kneeling before the throne, two more angels add to the musical harmony with a fiddle and an organ. Hovering above are angels of a higher order: red-winged seraphim and blue-winged cherubim.

Eight saints complete this heavenly hierarchy. Not all of them can be securely identified, but we can recognize most by the attributes they hold. In the row below the standing angels, Apollonia, at the far left, raises one of the teeth yanked from her mouth as she was tortured. The crowned saint holding the book at the far right might be Catherine of Alexandria, patron of scholars. Below them, on the left, Lucy—a name derived from lux, Latin for light—supports a brass lamp. John the Baptist wears his camel's hair tunic, and Andrew lifts the cross on which he was martyred. On the right, Paul holds the sword of his own beheading and a book representing the Epistles. The bright yellow robe of Peter, leader of the apostles, symbolizes the church’s revelation of the faith. And, finally, Agnes cradles a lamb to recall the purity she maintained throughout her torture and martyrdom.

Entry

The painting, which formed the central panel of a portable triptych for domestic devotion,[1] represents the Madonna and Child, in larger proportions than the other figures in the composition, seated on a raised throne. The throne is in the form of a tabernacle or ciborium;[2] its crocketed triangular gable is framed by the inner trefoil arch of the panel, and its inner canopy is decorated with an azure star-studded “sky.” Mary supports her child with both hands. The Christ child is holding a fruit, perhaps a pomegranate,[3] in his left hand and is stretching out his right to take the small bird perched on a finger of the angel closest to him.[4] The throne is flanked on both sides by a red seraph and an azure cherub [5] and, below these, by two pairs of angels, of which the one to the far left plays a shawm — ​​the medieval precursor of the oboe — ​​and that on the opposite side a psaltery; the concert of angels is completed by the portative organ and the viol played by two angels kneeling in the foreground.[6] Of the four saints to the sides of the throne we can identify, to the left, Apollonia, with a tooth in her hand,[7] and, more doubtfully, Catherine of Alexandria to the far right,[8] while the six saints in the foreground are Lucy, John the Baptist, Andrew, Paul, Peter, and Agnes.[9]

The painting has always been recognized as an autograph work by Bernardo Daddi, to whom Richard Offner (as cited in Sinibaldi and Brunetti 1943) was the first to attribute it.[10] Subsequently, however, the same scholar (1958) conjectured the hand of assistants in its execution, but this proposal has found little or no support in the more recent literature.[11] Indeed, the only interventions alien to Daddi in the execution are those of modern restorers. Stylistic affinities have been observed between the panel in the National Gallery of Art and the triptych dated 1338 [fig. 1] now in the Seilern collection of the Courtauld Institute Gallery in London,[12] and there are also various shared features of ornamentation. Thus, some of the motifs punched in the gold ground of the Washington painting are present both in the Seilern triptych and in other dated works by Daddi of the following year.[13] Similar, too, are the decoration of the cloth of honor [14] and some aspects of the garments.[15]

The details in question suggest for our panel a date either close to or probably slightly after 1340. In this phase the artist tended to add more spaciousness to his compositions, while his figures gain in grandeur thanks both to their expanded forms and the amplitude of the mantles that envelop them. At the same time, however, they become more relaxed in posture, more spontaneous in gesture [fig. 2]. Not only spectators but participants in the action, they confer a certain air of naturalness on the scene. Typical examples of this interpretive approach are the female saint in our panel, who with a friendly, caressing gesture rests one hand on Mary’s throne;[16] the Christ child, who twists impulsively away from his mother to grasp the small bird that the angel, smiling, is offering to him;[17] and the two female saints portrayed below this angel and the two angels on the other side of the throne, who exchange glances, commenting in silent complicity on the child’s joyful reaction. Other characteristic aspects of this phase in Daddi’s art are a tendency toward simplification of the drawing: for example, the mantle of Saint Agnes that falls in an unbroken perpendicular line from head to ground; the preference for faces drawn in profile; and the clarity of the compositional structure. The modeling, too, is softer than in Daddi’s previous works, dated before c. 1335, anticipating developments that would be expressed more powerfully in the last years of the artist’s life.

Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011)

March 21, 2016

Provenance

According to a tradition reported by a previous owner, Virgoe Buckland, the panel comes from the Vallombrosa abbey near Florence and in 1872 it was given by the abbot to the painter and restorer J. Stark;[1] purchased from Stark by Sir Henry Doulton [1820-1897];[2] his heirs;[3] by inheritance to Commander Virgoe Buckland [d. 1949], Hove, Sussex;[4] (sale, Sotheby’s, London, 2 November 1949, no. 76, as by Bernardo Daddi); (Mannenti), probably the agent for (Count Alessandro Contini-Bonaccossi, Florence); sold July 1950 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York;[5] gift 1952 to NGA.

Exhibition History
1937
Mostra Giottesca, Palazzo degli Uffizi, Florence, 1937, no. 165A (no. 157 in the 1943 catalogue of the exhibition, edited by Sinibaldi and Brunetti).
1949
Possibly loan to display with permanent collection, Hove Museum and Art Gallery, England (according to 1949 sale catalogue).[1]
2012
Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination, 1300-1350, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 2012-2013, not in catalogue (shown only in Toronto).
Exhibition History Notes

[1] See the Provenance of the painting for details about the 1949 sale. The Hove Museum is now unable to locate a record of the painting being lent to them (e-mail, 6 June 2011, Karen Wraith to Anne Halpern, in NGA curatorial files).

Bibliography
1941
Duveen Brothers. Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941: nos. 15-16, repros.
1943
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: 498 (repro.), 499, no. 157.
1944
Frankfurter, Alfred M. The Kress Collection in the National Gallery. New York, 1944: 16, repro.
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: 182 n. 1.
1951
Einstein, Lewis. Looking at Italian Pictures in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1951: 20-23, repro.
1951
Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation 1945-1951. Introduction by John Walker, text by William E. Suida. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1951: 32, no. 4, repro., as Madonna and Child Enthroned, Surrounded by Angels and Saints.
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: xxiii, 15-17, pl. 3.
1958
Paccagnini, Giovanni. "Daddi, Bernardo." In Enciclopedia Universale dell’Arte. Edited by Istituto per la collaborazione culturale. 15 vols. Florence, 1958-1967: 4(1961):183.
1959
Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 19, repro.
1960
Damiani, Giovanna. "Daddi, Bernardo." In Dizionario biografico degli italiani. Edited by Alberto Maria Ghisalberti. 82+ vols. Rome, 1960+: 31(1985):624.
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.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 36.
1966
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XIII-XV Century. London, 1966: 25-26, fig. 61.
1967
Klesse, Brigitte. Seidenstoffe in der italienischen Malerei des 14. Jahrhunderts. Bern, 1967: 454 no. 471c.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 29, repro.
1972
Fredericksen, Burton B., and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972: 63, 318, 647, 666.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 90, repro.
1979
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. Washington, 1979: 1:153-154; 2::pl. 108.
1984
Brown, Howard Mayer. "Catalogus. A Corpus of Trecento Pictures with Musical Subject Matter, pt. 1." Imago Musicae 1 (1984): 242-243.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 73, no, 15, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 111, repro.
1986
Ford, Terrence, compiler and ed. Inventory of Music Iconography, no. 1. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York 1986: 1.
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: 87, 391.
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: 1:104, 114 n. 186; 2:punch chart 5.3.
1996
Rowlands, Eliot W. The Collections of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: Italian Paintings, 1300-1800. Kansas City, MO, 1996: 53.
1998
Frinta, Mojmír S. Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting. Prague, 1998: 382, 411, 445.
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: 394 n. 1.
2003
Modestini, Dianne Dwyer. "Imitative Restoration." in Early Italian Paintings: Approaches to Conservation. Proceedings of a Symposium at the Yale University Art Gallery, April 2002. Edited by Patricia Sherwin Garland. New Haven, 2003: 215.
Technical Summary

The painting was executed on a single plank of wood, 2.6 cm thick with vertical grain. The outer edges of the wooden support and of the engaged frame, which were originally covered with gesso, have been scraped and smoothed down. Long, red, concave channels were cut into the outer edges on both sides of the frame, from the base to the spring of the arch. A continuous layer of gesso was applied to the front of the panel, including the colonettes and molding, and to the back of the panel, which was then covered with dark red paint. Areas to be gilded were prepared with red bole. The gold ground was embellished with punch marks in the halos and around the edges of the arched termination of the painted surface. The figures were placed on the panel by incising their outlines into the wet gesso. The paint was applied with discrete brushstrokes, with green underpainting in the flesh areas. The trim on the robes was mordant gilded.

The panel has not been thinned and retains its original reverse coating. In spite of the coating, the panel has a convex warp. A blackened hollow area at the bottom of the frame on the left side may be the result of a candle burn. By the mid-1930s, the panel appeared much darkened by dust and opacified varnishes, and the face of the Virgin had been heavily inpainted, while some areas of the painted surface appeared worn.[1] Mario Modestini treated the panel in Italy in 1948.[2] The paint layer is somewhat abraded, especially in the Madonna’s face and the Christ child. There is some inpainting in the shadowed portions of some of the figures’ blue robes, in the profile of Saint Paul, and in the face of the female saint (Margaret?) standing close to the throne on the right side.[3]