This small panel once decorated the predella of an altarpiece along with nine other small portraits of apostles, three of which are in the collection of the National Gallery of Art:
This panel and its three companions at the Gallery—
The horizontal graining of the wood of the support in all ten panels suggests they are fragments of a
As for the painter of these busts of apostles, an attribution to the Sienese master
The attempts in recent decades to unite the catalogs of paintings previously assembled respectively under the names of Lippo Memmi and Barna da Siena, as well as under the nebulous formulae “Companions of Simone,” “Lippo and Tederico Memmi,” or “shop of Memmi” have complicated the matter of distinguishing among the paintings executed within the orbits of Simone Martini and Lippo Memmi and have made Lippo’s artistic development difficult to understand.
Of the series of apostles of which the four panels in the Gallery form part, the Saint Andrew now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
Might the reduced emphasis on agitated rhythms and elegant gestures in the busts of apostles in the Gallery and in their companion panels imply a dating for them prior to the Pisa polyptych? Unfortunately, “objective data” deriving from the use of punch marks help us little in this case, since according to Mojmir S. Frinta’s survey (1998), the punched motifs present in the panels now divided between the Metropolitan Museum of Art
These considerations raise the question of identifying the altarpiece of which the ten busts of apostles formed part. Michael Mallory (1974) argued that the four Washington panels, together with their six companion panels in other collections, were in origin the predella of the polyptych by Lippo Memmi of which
In conclusion, the ten panels of the apostles can, I believe, be firmly attributed to Simone Martini. In the past scholars have generally undervalued these panels, not as a consequence of any intrinsic mediocrity but because of the loss of the pictorial finishes in some of them, flattening the modeling of the figures, and the unhappy result of successive restorations that have obscured many of the more exquisite touches of the pictorial technique, especially in the busts of Saints Bartholomew, Matthias, and Thomas now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. However, the better-preserved passages in our panels, in particular in the faces of Saints Thaddeus and James Major, still retain qualities that, in the view of the present writer, seem fully worthy of the hand of Simone.
Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011)
March 21, 2016
on the left side of the Saint: .SA[NC]TVS.; on the right side of the Saint: YACOBVS.
Acquired between 1832 and 1842 by Johann Anton Ramboux [1790-1866], Cologne, together with six other components of the same series, presumably in Siena; (his estate sale, J.M. Heberle, Cologne, 23 May 1867, no. 75 [all ten panels], as by Lippo Memmi); the whole series purchased by the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, which deaccessioned it in 1922-1923; the four NGA panels, 1952.5.23-.26, purchased together with a fifth panel of the same series, by Philip Lehman [1861-1947], New York, by 1928; the four NGA panels sold June 1943 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1952 to the NGA.
- Recent Additions to the Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1946, no. 822.
This painting and its three companions,
The painted surfaces of all four panels are slightly worn but in fair state apart from a number of small, scattered losses largely associated with the damages to the supports and the removal of parts of the original engaged frames and moldings along the borders. Two small repairs are visible in the gold ground in Saint Matthew, and retouchings around the saint’s throat, chest, and shoulders have discolored. Retouching in Saint Simon mostly affects the saint’s right cheek and left shoulder. Vertical and diagonal cracks, with attendant minor paint loss, are more prominent along the bottom edge of Saint James Major, while retouching in Saint Judas Thaddeus is largely confined to the saint’s face and book. The lettering of the inscriptions in all four panels has been reinforced. When he applied the cradles in 1944, Stephen Pichetto also “cleaned, restored, and varnished” the paintings. Robert Lehman (1928) mentioned an earlier cleaning, probably in the early 1920s.
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- Natale, Mauro, Alessandra Mottola Molfino, and Joyce Brusa. Museo Poldi Pezzoli. Vol. 1, Dipinti. Milan, 1982: 145.
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- Previtali, Giovanni. "Problems in the Workshop of Simone Martini." Center, Research Reports and Record of Activities 7 (1987): 83-84, repro.
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- Baetjer, Katharine. European Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born before 1865. A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995: 42.
- Frinta, Mojmír S. Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting. Prague, 1998: 205, 311, 321, 444, 453.
- Kier, Hiltrud, and Frank Günter Zehnder, eds. Lust und Verlust. Vol. 2 (of 2), Corpus-Band zu Kölner Gemäldesammlungen 1800-1860. Cologne, 1998: 551, repro.
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- 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):135, repro. 138.
- Boskovits, Miklós. Italian Paintings of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries. The Systematic Catalogue of the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2016: 351-369, color repro.
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