This work was the left side of a diptych that probably depicted the Crucifixion on the opposite panel. At the lower left, looking up at a looming vision of the Virgin and Child, is a small, kneeling figure in rapt devotion.
Lippo linked the two panels visually in multiple ways, beginning with our monk-donor’s gaze to the right. Mary places her finger against Jesus’s chest in a traditional gesture that recalls icons of the Hodegetria (as seen in the National Gallery of Art's Byzantine
The green-tinged faces in early Italian pictures sometimes discomfit modern viewers. What we are seeing, in fact, is the green earth pigment of the underpainting coming through as the colors on top have been abraded over time. This is not what the artist intended or what his contemporaries would have seen. The painting’s worn surface also gives us a good chance to see the red clay layer (bole) applied beneath all the gilt areas to give the gold a rich, warm tone.
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
See Christine Angelidi and Titos Papamastorakis, “The Veneration of the Virgin Hodegetria and the Hodegon Monastery,” in The Mother of God: The Representation of the Virgin in Byzantine Art, ed. Maria Vassilaki (Milan and London, 2000), 373–387.
On the motif of the child drawing the Virgin’s hand towards himself and its possible significance, cf. Dorothy C. Shorr, The Christ Child in Devotional Images in Italy during the XIV Century (New York, 1954), 168–169. See also Shorr 1954, 116–117, on the significance of the veil on which the child concentrates his attention.
The painting probably was originally the left wing of a diptych. The half-length Madonna and Child frequently was combined with a representation of the Crucifixion, with or without the kneeling donor. In our panel, the donor, an unidentified prelate, is seen kneeling to the left of the Madonna; his position on the far left of the composition itself suggests that the panel was intended as a pendant to a matching panel to the right. In any case, the image was intended for the donor’s private devotion.
Cf. Wolfgang Kermer, Studien zum Diptychon in der sakralen Malerei: Von den Anfängen bis zur Mitte des sechzehnten Jahrhunderts (Düsseldorf, 1967), 83–89. On the genre of diptychs during this period, see Victor M. Schmidt, Painted Piety: Panel Paintings for Personal Devotion in Tuscany, 1250–1400 (Florence, 2005), 31–71; on the figures of devotees kneeling in prayer, see 107–140.
Ever since its first public appearance at the London exhibition of Sienese painting in 1904, this panel has been recognized as a work by Lippo Memmi. The attribution to the fourteenth-century Sienese master has seldom been placed in doubt since that time.
George Martin Richter (1941) was alone in conjecturing an attribution of the painting to
Scholars who have proposed a dating to the 1320s are: Joseph Polzer (1971), Carlo Volpe (1982), Rainer Brandl (1985), and Eliot W. Rowlands (1996). Those supporting a dating to c. 1330 or shortly after are: Cristina De Benedictis (1974, 1979), Giovanna Damiani (1985), Miklós Boskovits (1986, 1988), Pierluigi Leone de Castris (2003), and Sabina Spannocchi (2009). The date 1335 or after was suggested in the catalogs of the National Gallery of Art (1941, 1965, 1985), as well as by Fern Rusk Shapley (1979), Serenella Castri (1992), De Benedictis (1996), and Meryle Secrest (2004). See Joseph Polzer, “Observations on Known Paintings and a New Altarpiece by Francesco Traini,” Pantheon 29 (1971): 386–387; Carlo Volpe, in Il gotico a Siena: Miniature, pitture, oreficerie, oggetti d’arte (Florence, 1982), 186; Rainer Brandl, Die Tafelbilder des Simone Martini: Ein Beitrag zur Kunst Sienas im Trecento (Frankfurt am Main and New York, 1985), 85 n. 1; Eliot W. Rowlands, The Collections of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: Italian Paintings, 1300–1800 (Kansas City, MO, 1996), 36, 38; Cristina De Benedictis, “A proposito di un libro su Buffalmacco,” Antichità viva 13, no. 2 (1974): 8–9; Cristina De Benedictis, La pittura senese 1330–1370 (Florence, 1979), 21, 93; Giovanna Damiani, in Simone Martini e “chompagni,” ed. Alessandro Bagnoli and Luciano Bellosi (Florence, 1985), 92; Miklós Boskovits, “Sul trittico di Simone Martini e di Lippo Memmi,” Arte cristiana 74 (1986): 76 n. 33; Miklós Boskovits, ed., Frühe italienische Malerei: Gemäldegalerie Berlin, Katalog der Gemälde, trans. Erich Schleier (Berlin, 1988), 78, 81; Pierluigi Leone De Castris, Simone Martini (Milan, 2003), 181, 283; Sabina Spannocchi, “Lippo e Tederigo Memmi,” in La Collegiata di San Gimignano, vol. 2, L’architettura, i cicli pittorici murali e i loro restauri, ed. Alessandro Bagnoli (Siena, 2009), 452; National Gallery of Art, Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture (Washington, DC, 1941), 133; National Gallery of Art, Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture (Washington, DC, 1965), 89; National Gallery of Art, European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue (Washington, DC, 1985), 230, 251; Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols. (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:330–331; Serenella Castri, “Memmi, Lippo (Lippo di Memmo di Filippuccio),” in Dizionario della pittura e dei pittori, ed. Enrico Castelnuovo and Bruno Toscano, 6 vols. (Turin, 1992), 3:581; Cristina De Benedictis, “Lippo Memmi,” in Enciclopedia dell’arte medievale, 12 vols. (Rome, 1996), 7:735; Meryle Secrest, Duveen: A Life in Art (New York, 2004), 458.
Traditionally attributed to Francesco Traini, the panel in the Pisan church of Santa Caterina was later reduced to anonymity by the creation of an eponymous Master of the Triumph of Saint Thomas by Millard Meiss, “The Problem of Francesco Traini,” The Art Bulletin 15 (1933): 97–173, an artist perhaps identifiable with “Barna,” according to Hermann Beenken, “Notizien und Nachrichten. Malerei: Italien 14 Jahrundert,” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 3 (1934): 73. It was then reattributed, albeit cautiously, to Lippo Memmi by Luigi Coletti, I Primitivi, vol. 2, I senesi e i giotteschi (Novara, 1946), xxx, lxv n. 90. Long ignored in the art historical literature, this hypothesis was resuscitated and reinforced in more recent years by Antonio Caleca, “Tre polittici di Lippo Memmi, un’ipotesi sul Barna e la bottega di Simone e Lippo, 1,” Critica d’arte 41 (1976): 49–59; Antonio Caleca, “Tre polittici di Lippo Memmi, un’ipotesi sul Barna e la bottega di Simone e Lippo, 2,” Critica d’arte 42 (1977): 55–80; Miklós Boskovits, “Il gotico senese rivisitato: Proposte e commenti su una mostra,” Arte cristiana 71 (1983): 264; Miklós Boskovits, ed., Frühe italienische Malerei: Gemäldegalerie Berlin, Katalog der Gemälde, trans. Erich Schleier (Berlin, 1988), 75, 202; Luciano Bellosi, in Simone Martini e “chompagni,” ed. Alessandro Bagnoli and Luciano Bellosi (Florence, 1985), 94–98; Giovanni Previtali, “Introduzione ai problemi della bottega di Simone Martini,” in Simone Martini: Atti del convegno; Siena, March 27 – 29, 1985, ed. Luciano Bellosi (Florence, 1988), 153, 156; Joseph Polzer, “The Triumph of Thomas Panel in Santa Caterina, Pisa: Meaning and Date,” Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz 37 (1993): 29–70; Cristina De Benedictis, “Lippo Memmi,” in Enciclopedia dell’arte medievale, 12 vols. (Rome, 1996), 7:732.
(c. 1225–March 7, 1274) Italian saint and theologian. He studied at Monte Cassino and the University of Naples, and in 1244 he joined the Dominicans. In 1256, after further study under Albert the Great (1200–1280) in Paris and Cologne, he became a master of theology. He worked in Paris and Italy for the rest of his life. His contemporaries and immediate successors regarded him as a very important theologian, but it was not until the 16th century that he came to be thought pre-eminent among Catholic systematic thinkers. He produced two major works, the Summa contra Gentiles and the Summa theologiae, the latter unfinished at his death. His emblem in art is a star. —John Marenbon, Grove Art © Oxford University Press
Cf. Luciano Bellosi, in Simone Martini e “chompagni,” ed. Alessandro Bagnoli and Luciano Bellosi (Florence, 1985), 100. Hitherto, Lippo’s stylistic development had often been interpreted merely as a gradual approximation of Simone’s style. For example, Bonnie Apgar Bennett wrote, “Lippo Memmi’s artistic career into the 1320s can be most accurately characterized as a progressive acceptance of Simone’s style.” Bonnie Apgar Bennett, Lippo Memmi, Simone Martini’s “fratello in arte”: The Image Revealed by His Documented Works (PhD diss., University of Pittsburgh, 1977), 114.
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
The two artists must have worked in partnership since the second decade, as implied by their presence during the same years in various Tuscan and Umbrian towns. At San Gimignano, Lippo signed the fresco of the Maestà in 1317, and Simone painted one of his youthful altarpieces. Cf. Cristina De Benedictis, in Simone Martini e “chompagni,” ed. Alessandro Bagnoli and Luciano Bellosi (Florence, 1985), 47–50; and Dillian Gordon, “Simone Martini’s Altarpiece for S. Agostino, San Gimignano,” The Burlington Magazine 133 (1991): 771. In Pisa, Lippo painted his Triumph of Saint Thomas in the church of Santa Caterina not long after Simone’s polyptych in the same church (1319–1320); and in Orvieto, Simone executed polyptychs in part preserved in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in the town, and Lippo was commissioned to paint his Madonna dei raccomandati for the cathedral.
Mojmir S. Frinta (1998) stated that the punches used in the decoration of the Gallery's painting also appeared in works by Simone Martini, such as the youthful polyptych now divided among the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles (punch 16 a, according to Frinta’s enumeration); the polyptych in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Orvieto; the Annunciation in the Uffizi, Florence (Frinta’s I 70); the polyptych in Pisa dating to 1319–1320; and the folding Orsini altarpiece, now divided among the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, the Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen, Berlin, and the Musée du Louvre, Paris. See Mojmir Svatopluk Frinta, Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting (Prague, 1998), 310–311, 321, 487–488; and, for the Orsini altarpiece, Pierluigi Leone De Castris, Simone Martini (Milan, 2003), 362–363.
Given these observations, a date for the National Gallery of Art’s Madonna of slightly later than the Triumph of Saint Thomas Aquinas can be supported with some confidence. This conclusion is also reinforced by stylistic considerations, for the clear-cut and energetic design of the Pisan painting is still exempt from such features as the accomplished curvilinear rhythms and delicate chiaroscuro modeling proposed in the painting being discussed here. A terminus ante quem, on the other hand, is provided by the Madonna
Type of object with several panels, usually an altarpiece, although it may also fulfil other functions. The polyptych normally consists of a central panel with an even number of side-panels, which are sometimes hinged to fold. Although in principle every object with two panels or more may be called a polyptych, the word is normally used as a general term for anything larger than a triptych. As with diptychs and triptychs, the size and material can vary. —Victor M. Schmidt, Grove Art © Oxford University Press
Cf. Antonino Caleca, Mostra del restauro di opere delle province di Pisa e Livorno (Pisa, 1971), 22–25; Joanna Cannon, “Simone Martini, the Dominicans and the Early Sienese Polyptych,” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute 45 (1982): 85–86. The close stylistic affinity between the polyptych of Casciana Alta and the panel in Washington was already pointed out by Cristina De Benedictis, “A proposito di un libro su Buffalmacco,” Antichità viva 13, no. 2 (1974): 8–9; Carlo Volpe, Il gotico a Siena: Miniature, pitture, oreficerie, oggetti d’arte (Florence, 1982), 186; Angelo Tartuferi, “Appunti su Simone Martini e ‘chompagni,’” Arte cristiana 74 (1986): 85, 91–92 n. 29; and Miklós Boskovits, ed., Frühe italienische Malerei: Gemäldegalerie Berlin, Katalog der Gemälde, trans. Erich Schleier (Berlin, 1988), 78.
Lippo, we may infer, embarked on a new stylistic phase in the years around 1325. This led him not only to dedicate ever-growing attention to reserved elegance of pose but also to refine his technique. He now tried to accentuate the realistic effects of his images. His efforts in this direction are testified by the acutely characterized portrait of the donor
Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011)
March 21, 2016
Private collection, Paris; purchased c. 1896 through (Thos. Agnew and Sons, Ltd., London) by Robert Henry [1850–1929] and Evelyn Holford [1856–1943] Benson, London and Buckhurst Park, Surrey; sold 1927 with the entire Benson collection to (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); purchased 15 December 1936 by The Andrew W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.
- Exhibition of Pictures of the School of Siena, Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1904, no. 19.
- Loan Exhibition of the Benson Collection of Old Italian Masters, City of Manchester Art Gallery, 1927, no. 101.
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The panel is composed of a single piece of wood trimmed along the lower edge. At some point in the painting’s history, the original triangular gable was cut just above the Virgin’s halo. The gable was reconstructed with modern wood during an undocumented restoration, probably conducted in 1927–1928.
A photograph (Braun & C., Paris, no. 29710), probably taken on the occasion of the London exhibition in 1904, shows the painting in the same condition (with the gable cut and the major losses only roughly inpainted) as in the reproduction in Robert Langton Douglas’s note (1927) published on the occasion of the sale of the Benson collection. The painting presumably was restored soon after its acquisition by Duveen Brothers, Inc., whose policy was to restore paintings immediately, and sometimes rather drastically, after their acquisition. See Robert Langton Douglas, “I dipinti senesi della Collezione Benson passati da Londra in America,” Rassegna d’arte senese e del costume 1, no. 5 (1927): 103 repro; Meryle Secrest, Duveen: A Life in Art (New York, 2004), 334.
Attaching a woodent grid to the reverse of a panel to prevent the panel's warping.
A mixture of finely ground plaster and glue applied to wood panels to create a smooth painting surface. —Grove Art © Oxford University Press
The layer or layers used to prepare the support to hold the paint.
A colored priming layer used to establish the tonality of the painting.
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.