The Virgin is dressed in gold brocade and is attended by angels in gestures of prayer and respect. From the flight of seraphim above, Christ blesses her and the child at her breast. Mary is honored here as the Queen of Heaven, yet she sits not on a throne but on a simple cushion on the ground. This type of representation, known as the Madonna of Humility, became quite popular after it was introduced in the 1340s, apparently by Sienese painter
The painting belongs to an uncommon genre of Byzantine origin of devotional icons painted on both sides.
See Annemarie Weyl Carr, “Bilateral Icons,” in The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, ed. Aleksandr Petrovich Kazhdan (New York, 1980), 2:980.
This type of panel, painted on both sides, is exemplified by no. 1062B in the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, a work by Francesco di Vannuccio, though there the two sides are reversed: Christ on the Cross Flanked by Mourners and Devotees is painted on what can be considered the obverse, while Madonna and Child with Saints, painted on glass, is on the reverse; Miklós Boskovits, ed., Frühe italienische Malerei: Gemäldegalerie Berlin, Katalog der Gemälde, trans. Erich Schleier (Berlin, 1988), 35–37. According to Laurence Kanter’s plausible hypothesis (written communication), the Washington panel was originally a reliquary, accompanied on the obverse by roundels containing relics.
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
While the presence of angels in adoration alludes to the theme of the regina coeli, the image of the Christus Logos probably refers to that of the Incarnation; cf. Millard Meiss, Painting in Florence and Siena after the Black Death (Princeton, 1951), 153–154; Hendrik W. van Os, Marias Demut und Verherrlichung in der sienesischen Malerei: 1300 – 1450 (The Hague, 1969), 120–121.
Creighton Gilbert (1984) identified the donor as a Dominican nun. From this he inferred that the painting was commissioned by a monastery of this order; various scholars accepted his argument, but Victor Schmidt (2005) refuted it, rightly pointing out the impossibility of recognizing a member of the Dominican order in a lady “wearing a long, white headdress which also functions as a cloak.” The figure can more plausibly be identified as a matron or widow. See Creighton E. Gilbert, “Tuscan Observants and Painters in Venice, ca. 1400,” in Interpretazioni veneziane: Studi di storia dell’arte in onore di Michelangelo Muraro, ed. David Rosand (Venice, 1984), 109–120; Victor M. Schmidt, Painted Piety: Panel Paintings for Personal Devotion in Tuscany, 1250 – 1400 (Florence, 2005), 265 n. 82.
At the time of the panel’s first emergence in Florence in the 1920s, art historians expressed rather disparate views about it. Roberto Longhi, in a manuscript expertise probably dating to the years 1925 – 1930,
Roberto Longhi, who had been a consultant of Contini at least since the early 1920s, presumably wrote his expertise, in Italian, immediately after Contini’s purchase of the panel c. 1925.
Longhi, in his letter to Contini, declared that the Madonna of Humility “è senza dubbio una vera e propria gemma della pittura senese della prima metà del Trecento al seguito immediato di Simone Martini” (“is without a doubt a true and proper gem of Sienese painting of the first half of the thirteenth century in the immediate following of Simone Martini”). The painting, in his view, had been painted by the same hand as the panel with a similar Madonna of Humility in the Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Muzeen zu Berlin (no. 1072), then attributed to Lippo Memmi, or to Simone’s little-known brother, Donato Martini. According to Longhi, the image of Christ on the Cross on the back of the panel was painted by an entirely different hand, some forty years after the Madonna.
(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
See copies of the expertises in the NGA curatorial files. Only Wilhelm Suida’s is dated, to August 1935.
National Gallery of Art, Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture (Washington, DC, 1941), 133–134; National Gallery of Art, Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection (Washington, DC, 1959), 34 repro.
Richard Offner’s long article, written on the occasion of the opening of the National Gallery of Art, only got as far as galley proofs (in August 1941) but was never in fact published. Copies of the proofs are kept in the archive of the Corpus of Florentine Painting, Florence. Commenting on cat. 1, Offner wrote, “The attribution to Lippo can only be accounted a piece of ingenuous wishfulness. The panel is not by Lippo simply because it shares none of his essential artistic characteristics. . . . It lacks . . . any suggestion of Lippo’s facade-like, immobilized composition. . . . How vague . . . are the bases of attribution may be judged from the wide discrepancy of opinion on the authorship . . . between Lippo and Donato (the latter being as shadowy a figure as is known to art history) . . . and Andrea di Bartolo. I should incline to agree with the tendency of the latter opinion, if it implied a later dating than Lippo’s, but one must stand resolutely against the attribution.”
George Martin Richter, “The New National Gallery in Washington,” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 78 (1941): 177.
Charles Seymour and Hanns Swarzenski, “A Madonna of Humility and Quercia’s Early Style,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts, ser. 6, no. 30 (1946): 139.
Millard Meiss, “The Madonna of Humility,” The Art Bulletin 18 (1936): 437, n. 8; Millard Meiss, Painting in Florence and Siena after the Black Death (Princeton, 1951), 22–23, n. 34; National Gallery of Art, Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture (Washington, DC, 1965), 7; National Gallery of Art, European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue (Washington, DC, 1985), 18; Fern Rusk Shapley, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XIII–XV Century (London, 1966), 66, 67.
After the delivery of the present text to the Gallery, I realized with pleasure that Gaudenz Freuler, in La collezione Salini: Dipinti, sculture e oreficerie dei secoli XII, XIII, XIV e XV, ed. Luciano Bellosi, 2 vols. (Florence, 2009), 1:252, also considered
The date of the painting, however, has given rise to considerable divergence of opinion. It was thought to have been executed by Memmi as early as c. 1330–1340 in the first catalog of the Gallery (1941).
National Gallery of Art, Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture (Washington, DC, 1941), 133–134.
National Gallery of Art, Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture (Washington, DC, 1965), 7; National Gallery of Art, European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue (Washington, DC, 1975), 10; Fern Rusk Shapley, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XIII–XV Century (London, 1966), 67.
Millard Meiss, Painting in Florence and Siena after the Black Death (Princeton, 1951), 22–23, n. 34; Hendrik W. van Os, Marias Demut und Verherrlichung in der sienesischen Malerei: 1300–1450 (The Hague, 1969), 18, 120, 187; Hendrik W. van Os, “Andrea di Bartolo’s Madonna of Humility,” M: A Quarterly Review of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts 6, no. 3 (1974): 21, 25.
Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols. (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:3.
Gilbert believed that the woman represented as donor was a Dominican nun, who appeared in “an ‘undress’ costume, without the outer elements worn in public,” that is, the black mantle. “Hence it is very attractive to suggest [he continued] that the Washington panels [the images painted on obverse and reverse] are the survivors of the very set blessed by Cardinal Dominici in 1394, at the [consecration of the] new observant convent in Venice.” Creighton E. Gilbert, “Tuscan Observants and Painters in Venice, ca. 1400,” in Interpretazioni veneziane: Studi di storia dell’arte in onore di Michelangelo Muraro, ed. David Rosand (Venice, 1984), 114–116. Some later authors considered this hypothesis, advanced by the scholar “with caution,” almost a demonstrable fact.
Gaudenz Freuler, “Andrea di Bartolo, Fra Tommaso d’Antonio Cafarini, and Sienese Dominicans in Venice,” The Art Bulletin 69 (1987): 577; Hendrik W. van Os et al., eds., The Early Sienese Paintings in Holland, trans. Michael Hoyle (Florence, 1989), 29, 32; Hendrik W. van Os, Sienese Altarpieces 1215–1460: Form, Content, Function, vol. 2, 1344–1460 (Groningen, 1990), 76; Daniele Benati, in Da Bernardo Daddi a Giorgio Vasari, ed. Maria Pia Mannini (Florence, 1999), 56.
Hendrik W. van Os et al., The Art of Devotion in the Late Middle Ages in Europe, 1300–1500, trans. Michael Hoyle (London, 1994), 74.
See note 4 above.
Some help in establishing the panel’s date can, however, be derived from an analysis of its punched decoration, undertaken by Mojmir S. Frinta (1998).
Mojmir Svatopluk Frinta, Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting (Prague, 1998), 44, 48, 224, 230, 351, 479.
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
Sources mention the fragmentary polyptych now in the Museo d’arte sacra della Val d’Arbia at Buonconvento as an altarpiece signed by Andrea di Bartolo and also furnished with a fragmentary date that could still be deciphered in the second half of the nineteenth century as 1397; Serena Padovani, in Serena Padovani and Bruno Santi, Buonconvento, museo d’arte sacra della Val d’Arbia (Genoa, 1981), 23–25. There is now no trace of the inscription, but the proposed reading of the date is quite compatible with the stylistic features of the work.
We may cite as paintings belonging to Andrea’s debut the Stories of Saint Galgano now divided between the Museo Nazionale in Pisa and the National Gallery in Dublin; the altarpiece in Buonconvento (see above note 23); and the portable triptychs in the Pinacoteca Nazionale of Siena and the National Gallery in Prague. See, respectively, Enzo Carli, Il Museo di Pisa (Pisa, 1974), 61–62; Homan Potterton, Illustrated Summary Catalogue of Paintings (Dublin, 1981), 6; Piero Torriti, La Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena, vol. 1, I dipinti dal XII al XV secolo (Genoa, 1977), 203; Olga Pujmanová, Italienische Tafelbilder des Trecento in der Nationalgalerie Prag (Berlin, 1984), pl. 20.
Wolfgang Loseries, in Maestri senesi e toscani nel Lindenau – Museum di Altenburg, ed. Miklós Boskovits and JohannesTripps (Siena, 2008), 66–72.
Gaudenz Freuler, Bartolo di Fredi Cini: Ein Beitrag zur sienesischen Malerei des 14. Jahrhunderts (Disentis, 1994), 260–272.
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, no. 37.1018; Federico Zeri, Italian Paintings in the Walters Art Gallery, ed. Ursula E. M. Cracken, 2 vols. (Baltimore, 1976), 1:48–50.
It may be added that the composition of the Madonna of Humility evidently enjoyed considerable success. The artist replicated it many times.
Hendrik W. van Os, Marias Demut und Verherrlichung in der sienesischen Malerei: 1300–1450 (The Hague, 1969), 187–188, figs. 62–74, cited and reproduced several versions of the composition. One of them, however, formerly belonging to the Stoclet collection in Brussels (fig. 66), is of dubious authenticity.
Bernard Berenson, “Lost Sienese Trecento Paintings, 4,” International Studio 98, no. 404 (1931): 30–31.
As in the panel signed by Andrea, formerly in the Ehrich Gallery in New York. See Hendrik W. van Os, Marias Demut und Verherrlichung in der sienesischen Malerei: 1300–1450 (The Hague, 1969), fig. 67.
Hendrik W. van Os, Marias Demut und Verherrlichung in der sienesischen Malerei: 1300–1450 (The Hague, 1969), figs. 62, 63, as well as the panel formerly with Moretti in Florence: Daniele Benati, in Da Bernardo Daddi a Giorgio Vasari, ed. Maria Pia Mannini (Florence, 1999), 56–61.
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
Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011)
March 21, 2016
Private collection, Italy, c. 1920. (Alessandro Contini, Rome [from 1930, Count Alessandro Contini Bonacossi]); sold October 1927 to Samuel H. Kress [1863-1955], New York; transferred 1929 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1939 to NGA.
The support (contrary to Shapley 1966, 1979) is a single piece of wood, with a vertical grain and about 1 cm thick, painted on both sides.
Stephen Pichetto examined this picture in 1940 in response to a request made to him by the Gallery’s then chief curator, John Walker. Pichetto was the restorer for the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and he was specifically asked to clear up whether the Madonna of Humility and the Christ on the Cross were painted on the same panel. Pichetto’s notes indicate that he determined that the support was one piece of wood, painted on both sides. (Walker’s letter of October 1940 and Pichetto’s documentation are in NGA curatorial files.) It is unclear why Fern Rusk Shapley stated that the paintings were executed on separate panels. See Fern Rusk Shapley, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XIII–XV Century (London, 1966), 66, 67; Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols. (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:3–4. The painting was examined again in 1988, 2008, and 2011, and it was consistently determined to be one panel; see report dated August 31, 1988, in NGA conservation files.
The painting was executed on the usual gesso ground, over which a thin red bole was applied in the gilded areas of the obverse. The reverse was silver gilt.
Using x-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF), the NGA scientific research department analyzed the gilding, and it was found to be silver (see forthcoming report in NGA conservation files).
This photo, probably taken sometime before the acquisition of the painting by Samuel H. Kress in 1927 (see Provenance), belonged to Roberto Longhi and is now in the archive of the Fondazione Roberto Longhi in Florence.
During his 1940 examination of the painting, Pichetto removed the modern engaged frame and made sketches of the placement of the image on its wooden support, indicating also the pieces of new wood added to the panel in the upper corners (see NGA curatorial files).
Infrared reflectography was performed using a Hamamatsu c/1000-03 Vidicon camera.
- Meiss, Millard. "The Madonna of Humility." The Art Bulletin 18 (1936): 437, n. 8.
- Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 133-134, no. 131, as by Lippo Memmi (?).
- 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: 242, repro. 153, as by Lippo Memmi (?).
- Pope-Hennessy, John. "A Madonna by Andrea Vanni." The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 83, no. 484 (1943): 177.
- Meiss, Millard. "Italian Primitives at Konopištĕ." The Art Bulletin 28 (1946): 6, fig. 4.
- Seymour, Charles, and Hanns Swarzenski. "A Madonna of Humility and Quercia’s Early Style." Gazette des Beaux-Arts Ser. 6, vol. 30 (1946): 139, fig. 9.
- Meiss, Millard. Painting in Florence and Siena after the Black Death. Princeton, 1951: 22-23, n. 34, 134, fig. 131.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 34, repro., as by Lippo Memmi (?).
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 7.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XIII-XV Century. London, 1966: 66-67, fig. 173.
- Berenson, Bernard. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Central Italian and North Italian Schools. 3 vols. London, 1968: 2:8.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 1, repro.
- Os, Hendrik W. van. Marias Demut und Verherrlichung in der sienesischen Malerei: 1300-1450. The Hague, 1969: 18, 120, 187, pl. 10a, fig. 64.
- Os, Hendrik W. van. "Andrea di Bartolo’s Assumption of the Virgin." Arts in Virginia 2 (1971): 4 (repro.), 5.
- Fredericksen, Burton B., and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972: 6, 228, 346, 645.
- Os, Hendrik W. van. "Andrea di Bartolo’s Madonna of Humility." M: A Quarterly Review of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts 6, no. 3 (1974): 21, 24 (repro.), 25
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 10, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. Washington, 1979: I:3-4, II:pl. 1.
- Il gotico a Siena: miniature, pitture, oreficerie, oggetti d’arte. Exh. cat. Palazzo Pubblico, Siena. Florence, 1982: 292.
- Kasten, Eberhard. "Andrea di Bartolo." In Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon: Die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker. Edited by Günter Meissner. 3 vols. Leipzig, 1983-1990: 2(1986):976.
- L’Art gothique siennois: enluminure, peinture, orfèvrerie, sculpture. Exh. cat. Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon. Florence, 1983: 274.
- Gilbert, Creighton E. "Tuscan Observants and Painters in Venice, ca. 1400." in Interpretazioni Veneziane: studi di storia dell’arte in onore di Michelangelo Muraro. Edited by David Rosand. Venice, 1984: 111 (repro.), 114-116.
- Os, Hendrik W. van. Sienese Altarpieces 1215-1460. Form, Content, Function. 2 vols. Groningen, 1984-1990: 2(1990):repro. 76.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 18, repro.
- Maderna, Valentina, ed. Il polittico di Andrea di Bartolo a Brera Restaurato. Exh. cat. Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan. Florence, 1986: 10-11, 17.
- Freuler, Gaudenz. "Andrea di Bartolo, Fra Tommaso d’Antonio Cafarini, and Sienese Dominicans in Venice." The Art Bulletin 69 (1987): 577.
- Os, Hendrik W. van, J. R. J. van Asperen de Boer, C. E. de Jong-Janssen, and Charlotte Wiefhoff, eds. The Early Sienese Paintings in Holland. Translated by Michael Hoyle. Florence, 1989: 29, 32.
- Kasten, Eberhard. "Andrea di Bartolo." In Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon: Die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker. Edited by Günter Meissner. 87+ vols. Munich and Leipzig, 1992+: 3(1992):514.
- Os, Hendrik W. van, Eugène Honée, Hans M. J. Nieuwdorp, and Bernhard Ridderbos. The Art of Devotion in the Late Middle Ages in Europe, 1300-1500. Translated by Michael Hoyle. London, 1994: 74, repro.
- Frinta, Mojmír S. Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting. Prague, 1998: 44, 48, 224, 230, 351, 479.
- Holmes, Megan. Fra Filippo Lippi, The Carmelite Painter. New Haven and London, 1999: repro. 209.
- Mannini, Maria Pia, ed. Da Bernardo Daddi a Giorgio Vasari. Exh. cat. Galleria Moretti, 26 September 1999. Florence, 1999: 56.
- Hyman, Timothy. Sienese Painting: The Art of a City-Republic (1278-1477). London, 2003: 124, fig. 97.
- Schmidt, Victor M. Painted Piety: Panel Paintings for Personal Devotion in Tuscany, 1250-1400. Florence, 2005: 222-223, 265 n. 82.
- Bellosi, Luciano, et al., eds. La collezione Salini: dipinti, sculture e oreficerie dei secoli XII, XIII, XIV e XV. 4 vols. Florence, 2009, 2015: 1(2009):250, 252, repro. 253.
- Bowron, Edgar Peters. “Samuel H. Kress and His Collection of Italian Renaissance Paintings.” In A Market for Merchant Princes: Collecting Italian Renaissance Paintings in America ed. Inge Reist. (The Frick Collection Studies in the History of Art Collecting in America, 2) University Park, Pennsylvania, 2015: 110, color fig. 47.
- Boskovits, Miklós. Italian Paintings of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries. The Systematic Catalogue of the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2016: 7-13, color repro.