The Sienese artist who made this panel is named for the town—Città di Castello— where another of his paintings, bearing another image of the Virgin and Child in “majesty” (maestà in Italian), remains today. The Maestà--especially in this tall format--was frequently commissioned for the meeting places of lay brotherhoods. In Siena, where devotion to the Virgin was particularly strong, it was a highly visible image, dominating the city’s most prominent works of art: a fresco by
What suggests this? This artist is interested in abstraction and in capturing the spiritual world, not in making the Virgin and her divine child conform to what we see around us. Although Mary’s unusual semicircular throne—which relates to her as the Throne of Wisdom—could be found in the few decades on either side of the turn of the 14th century, and the gold striations in her robe would typify Sienese style until the middle of the 1320s, a preference for abstraction over naturalism points to an earlier date for this painting.
This panel, of large dimensions, bears the image of the Maestà represented according to the
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 Gregor Martin Lechner, “Maria,” in Reallexikon zur byzantinischen Kunst, ed. Klaus Wessel (Stuttgart, 2005), 6:58–71. The Maestà is a type of image emphasizing the regal dignity of the Christ child, shown in the arms of his mother, who is enthroned and flanked by angels.
Religious organization of lay people (members of the church who are not clergy), sometimes organized by profession or guild, who undertook charitable roles and duties, such as that of tending the dying or condemned. —Grove Art © Oxford University Press
This is also suggested by the historical vicissitudes of the painting, which seems not to have had any fixed ecclesiastical ownership but to have passed from churches in San Quirico d’Orcia to private owners and back again, without leaving any trace in the inventories relating to the churches in question. But almost all large-size panels of the Maestà painted in central Italy between the thirteenth and early years of the fourteenth century, in general taller than they are wide, were commissioned by lay confraternities. See Hans Belting, Bild und Kult: Eine Geschichte des Bildes vor dem Zeitalter der Kunst (Munich, 1990), 433–446; Miklós Boskovits, in Duecento: Forme e colori del Medioevo a Bologna, ed. Massimo Medica and Stefano Tumidei (Venice, 2000), 274–275.
See below note 15.
The term chrysography (from the Greek chrysographia, meaning writing with gold letters) comes from studies on the decoration of manuscript. Cf. Ronald Baxter, “Chrysography,” in The Dictionary of Art, ed. Jane Turner, 34 vols. (New York, 1996), 7:245–247. In the art historical literature it is used as an alternative to gold grisaille to denote the gilded highlights of garments in paintings. Cf. Otto Demus, Byzantine Art and the West (New York, 1970), 103, 235; Kurt Weitzmann, The Icon: Holy Images, Sixth to Fourteenth Century (London, 1978), 92. This use of gold, especially the golden calligraphy used to highlight the folds of drapery, was borrowed from Byzantine art and spread in Tuscan painting around the mid-thirteenth century but gradually disappeared in the course of the second decade of the following century or shortly thereafter.
Recorded for the first time by the Soprintendenza in Siena c. 1930 as “tavola preduccesca,”
Cf. Provenance note 2.
Matteo Panzeri (1996) published the expertise dated August 30, 1937, in which Offner proposed that the panel belonged to “un’epoca un po’ più primitiva della Maestà di Duccio, vale a dire il primo decennio del Trecento” (a slightly more primitive period than Duccio’s Maestà, that is to say the first decade of the fourteenth century). Offner compared the panel, which he likely knew only from a photograph, with a series of paintings, thus circumscribing in a convincing way the artistic ambience in which it was painted. He noted its kinship with paintings by artists of the first generation of the followers of
(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
In the posthumous edition of Bernard Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools, 3 vols. (London, 1968), 2:120, the painting was classified as the anonymous work of an artist close to the Master of Città di Castello. Nonetheless, prior to its acquisition by the Kress Foundation, Berenson apparently held a different view. In a letter of January 28, 1953, to his agent Gualtiero Volterra, Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi included photographs of the works of art he intended to sell to the Kress Foundation and informed him “delle impressioni di B.B” (of B. B.’s opinions) about them. The works in question include one attributed to the “Maestro di Badia a Isola quadro importantissimo che diventerebbe uno dei pezzi centrali di qualunque museo,” see Elsa de’ Giorgi, L’eredità Contini Bonacossi: L’ambiguo rigore del vero (Milan, 1988), 197. That this was the Gallery's painting is proven by its description in other letters as “Madonna col Bambino e quattro angeli.” Subsequently (letter of Rush Kress to Contini-Bonacossi, May 14, 1953) the painting was also indicated as “Duccio, Pala d’altare della Madonna of Spoleto,” but clearly this was a mistake on the writer’s part. In fact, the Madonna of Spoleto is the panel generally attributed to the Badia a Isola Master that belonged to the collection of Claudio Argentieri in Spoleto in the 1930s, then circulated on the art market, and finally ended up in the collection of Vittorio Cini in Venice. See Federico Zeri, Mauro Natale, and Alessandra Mottola Molfino, Dipinti toscani e oggetti d’arte dalla Collezione Vittorio Cini (Vicenza, 1984), 10–11. As evinced by the documentation in NGA curatorial files, William Suida also had classified the panel as a work of the Badia a Isola Master at the time of its acquisition by the Kress Foundation, and Sandberg-Vavalà seems to have accepted this attribution as well.
Gertrude Coor, “The Early Nineteenth-Century Aspect of a Dispersed Polyptych by the Badia a Isola Master,” The Art Bulletin 42 (1960): 143 n. 6; Enzo Carli, “Ricuperi e restauri senesi: I, Nella cerchia di Duccio,” Bollettino d’arte 50 (1965): 97, 99 n. 2.
Bernard Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools, 3 vols. (London, 1968), 2:120. James H. Stubblebine, Duccio di Buoninsegna and His School, 2 vols. (Princeton, 1979), 1:89–91, gathered under the name “San Quirico d’Orcia Master” the Gallery Maestà; the Madonna and Child in the Detroit Institute of Arts (no. 24.96) usually given to the Master of Città di Castello; and a fragmentary panel of the same subject, formerly in the storerooms of the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Siena and now in the museum at Buonconvento. Cf. also note 18 below.
Alessandro Conti, La miniatura bolognese: Scuole e botteghe, 1270–1340 (Bologna, 1981), 53 n. 39. Pierpaolo Donati reconstructed the catalog of this anonymous Pistoian master around an altarpiece dated 1310 in the Museum in Avignon; cf. Pier Paolo Donati, “Per la pittura pistoiese del Trecento, 1,” Paragone 25, no. 295 (1974): 4–26; Michel Laclotte and Esther Moench, Peinture italienne: Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon (Paris, 2005), 127–128. Andrea Bacchi (1986), on the other hand, thought the panel in Washington more likely to be the work of a Pisan master of the early fourteenth century. Andrea Bacchi, “Pittura del Duecento e del Trecento nel Pistoiese,” in La Pittura in Italia: Il Duecento e il Trecento, ed. Enrico Castelnuovo, 2 vols. (Milan, 1986), 1:317–318.
See Laura Martini, “Le vicende costruttive della chiesa di San Francesco,” in San Quirico d’Orcia: La Madonna di Vitaleta; Arte e devozione, ed. Laura Martini (San Quirico d’Orcia, 1997), 13–14, 19 n. 5; Alessandro Bagnoli, “I pittori ducceschi,” in Duccio: Siena fra tradizione bizantina e mondo gotico, ed. Alessandro Bagnoli et al. (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2003), 297, 302 n. 23; Victor M. Schmidt, Painted Piety: Panel Paintings for Personal Devotion in Tuscany, 1250–1400 (Florence, 2005), 181, 202 n. 44, 348; and Miklós Boskovits, “Review of Duccio di Buoninsegna and His School by J. H. Stubblebine; and Duccio di Buoninsegna by J. White,” The Art Bulletin 64 (1982): 497. Though he did not specifically discuss the Washington panel, Gaudenz Freuler too included it implicitly in the catalog of the Master of Città di Castello. Cf. Gaudenz Freuler, “Duccio et ses contemporains: Le maître de Città di Castello,” Revue de l’art 134 (2001): 28; Gaudenz Freuler, “Duccio alle origini della pittura senese,” Kunstchronik 57 (2004): 589–590. He argued, in fact, that the works gathered by Stubblebine under the name of the San Quirico Master should be reassigned to the Città di Castello Master.
Before discussing the attribution, an effort should be made to define the chronological frame within which the Washington panel was painted. This can best be done by examining what is no doubt its most peculiar feature, the throne on which the Virgin is seated. Elaborate in construction, it is undoubtedly built of marble. This was a novel feature in late thirteenth-century Tuscan paintings. Marble thrones, hitherto used in Roman painting, appear for the first time in Siena in the great rose window designed by
Documents of 1287 and 1288 speak of the great rose window about to be realized for Siena Cathedral, the glass for which was then being bought. Cf. Luciano Bellosi and Alessandro Bagnoli, in Duccio: Siena fra tradizione bizantina e mondo gotico, ed. Alessandro Bagnoli et al. (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2003), 162–179. The throne of the Coronation of the Virgin represented in the center of the window’s upper tier recalls the type of throne in the Madonna Rucellai in the Uffizi, Florence, commissioned in 1285, but in contrast it is no longer of wood but of marble. The new type of throne, which would inspire Sienese painters of the following decades, is characterized by its high concave back placed between two robust quadrangular pillars, and by a seat flanked by projecting elements and adorned with panels of Cosmatesque ornament. It is heralded by the thrones of the four Evangelists in the rose window’s spandrels. It seems to me improbable that this type of throne could have been borrowed from some work of the youthful
None of the panels with which the Gallery painting has been compared
Apart from the panels that Offner cited as comparanda (cf. note 6 above) and the small Maestà now in the Cini collection in Venice (cf. note 7), we should also cite those that Stubblebine attributed to a so-called San Quirico d’Orcia Master (cf. note 9), as did Alessandro Bagnoli, “I pittori ducceschi,” in Duccio: Siena fra tradizione bizantina e mondo gotico, ed. Alessandro Bagnoli et al. (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2003), 297, 302 n. 23. The latter accepted, it seems, the proposition that the master who painted the Washington panel was also responsible for the one now at Buonconvento. To these two paintings he added a fresco (fig. 4) in the church of San Lorenzo al Colle Ciupi at Monteriggioni, a painting of fine quality and great interest that undoubtedly belongs to the milieu of the master of the Washington panel, but I am unable to recognize in it a work by the same hand. I wonder whether it belongs to the earliest phase of the Goodhart Duccesque Master (alias Master of the Gondi Maestà).
Cf. Giovanna Damiani, in Mostra di opere d’arte restaurate nelle province di Siena e Grosseto (Genoa, 1981), 2:20–24; Alessandro Bagnoli, “Museo della Collegiata,” in Museo archeologico e della Collegiata di Casole d’Elsa, ed. Alessandro Bagnoli and Giuseppina Carlotta Cianferoni (Florence, 1996), 61–62; Julian Gardner, “Duccio, ‘Cimabue’ and the Maestro di Casole: Early Sienese Paintings for Florentine Confraternities,” in Iconographica: Mélanges offerts à Piotr Skubiszewski, ed. Robert Favreau and Marie-Hélène Debiès (Poitiers, 1999), 110–111; Alessandro Bagnoli, “La cappella funebre del Porrina e del vescovo Ranieri e le sue figurazioni murali,” in Marco Romano e il contesto artistico senese fra la fine del Duecento e gli inizi del Trecento, ed. Alessandro Bagnoli (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2010), 92–111. Of the two kneeling donors depicted in the fresco, the one to the left is Bernardino called Porrina, a famous lawyer of the time, who had died by 1309; the one to the right, his brother Ranieri, who was bishop of Cremona and died in 1312. It cannot be excluded that, as Bagnoli believed, the fresco postdates 1312, with a commemorative intention; but far more probable seems the hypothesis of Damiani and Gardner that the chapel, site of the fresco, was erected, as was often the case, to enhance the importance of the donors while still alive, probably shortly after Ranieri’s preferment to the see of Cremona in 1296.
The peculiar motif of the pronouncedly forward-projecting sides of the throne, forming a semicircle around the seat on which the Madonna is enthroned and supporting a high concave backrest, must have characterized the Madonna no. 565 in the National Gallery in London before the lower part of the panel was sawn off. Julian Gardner (1999) argued for a relatively late date for this painting, c. 1315, because he believed that the figure of the blessing Christ child standing on his mother’s knees derived from
Returning to the problem of the hand that painted the panel in Washington, it should be premised that the attribution to the Badia a Isola Master, which the art historical literature has since abandoned, did have the merit of suggesting an early date for our painting. Recent studies recognize the Badia a Isola Maestà as the work of an exponent of the first generation of followers of Duccio. A late dating, to the second decade of the fourteenth century or after, does not seem justified for the painting discussed here, whose “halo style” recalls the Badia a Isola Maestà.
Enzo Carli, “Ricuperi e restauri senesi. I. Nella cerchia di Duccio,” Bollettino d’arte 50 (1965): 97, considered the Washington panel “a sequel” to the former Argentieri Maestà (now in the Cini collection in Venice) and seemed to imply for it—since he believed that the Cini Maestà had been executed “forse ancora entro il Duecento” (perhaps still within the thirteenth century)—a dating no later than the first decade of the fourteenth century. Fern Rusk Shapley (1966, 1979), too, followed by subsequent catalogs of the National Gallery of Art, proposed “early 14th century,” while James Stubblebine (1979) detected in the panel some familiarity with the works of
A similar position of the child is frequently found in Italian paintings of the thirteenth century. In Siena, we find it as early as 1262 (cf. the Madonna and Child no. 16 in the Pinacoteca Nazionale of Siena). The motif was abandoned in the phase of Duccio’s full maturity and that of his followers at the turn of the century. It was replaced by a more modern motif of the Christ child who expresses affection for his mother or pulls toward himself a hem of her veil, or raises his hand in the gesture of blessing frontally, with his arm shown in foreshortening.
On the other hand, the Washington Maestà should not be retained in the stylistically incoherent group collected under the name of San Quirico d’Orcia Master.
James H. Stubblebine, Duccio di Buoninsegna and His School, 2 vols. (Princeton, 1979), 1:89–91, noted the Washington Madonna’s affinity with the half-length Madonna in the Detroit Institute of Arts (no. 233), which most art historians have attributed to the Città di Castello Master. He also gave a panel now in the Museum at Buonconvento to his San Quirico Master. Not easily classifiable in stylistic terms, the latter, decidedly Duccesque in composition (to which Victor Schmidt compared the small Madonna no. 873 in the Kunstmuseum of Bern), is distinguished by aristocratically elongated forms and by some peculiar harshness in the definition of the faces. Cf. Victor Schmidt, in Duccio: Siena fra tradizione bizantina e mondo gotico, ed. Alessandro Bagnoli et al. (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2003), 180. These are characteristics it shares with a vaguely Duccesque Madonna now in the Salini collection in Siena—a work undeniably of far earlier date—published by Gaudenz Freuler (2001) as marking the exordium of the Città di Castello Master. See Gaudenz Freuler, “Duccio et ses contemporains: Le maître de Città di Castello,” Revue de l’art 134 (2001): figs. 1, 30. As for the Maestà in Monteriggioni cited in note 13 above, Bagnoli rightly compared the richly articulated mantle and dress of the Madonna with Duccio’s gravely damaged Maestà in Massa Marittima, a painting probably produced by the middle of the second decade. But despite its massive forms, the timidly gothicizing architecture of the throne in the Monteriggioni fresco suggests a significantly later date for the fresco than for the Washington panel. See Alessandro Bagnoli, “I pittori ducceschi,” in Duccio: Siena fra tradizione bizantina e mondo gotico, ed. Alessandro Bagnoli et al. (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2003), 297.
Though they reconstructed the career and oeuvre of the artist in different ways, the recent studies by Freuler and Bagnoli concurred in assigning some key works of the Master of Città di Castello to the first decade of the fourteenth century. These include the namepiece itself, the Maestà in the Pinacoteca Comunale in Città di Castello; the dismantled polyptych presumably comprising the figures of saints nos. 29–32 in the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Siena; the Madonna and Child in the Museo dell’Opera, Siena; and polyptych no. 33, also in the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Siena. These prestigious commissions indicate, of course, that the anonymous master was already at this precocious date a well-established artist. See Gaudenz Freuler, “Duccio et ses contemporains: Le maître de Città di Castello,” Revue de l’art 134 (2001): 27–50; Gaudenz Freuler, “Duccio alle origini della pittura senese,” Kunstchronik 57 (2004): 576–594; Alessandro Bagnoli, “La cappella funebre del Porrina e del vescovo Ranieri e le sue figurazioni murali,” in Marco Romano e il contesto artistico senese fra la fine del Duecento e gli inizi del Trecento, ed. Alessandro Bagnoli (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2010), 92–111.
Gaudenz Freuler, “Duccio et ses contemporains: Le maître de Città di Castello,” Revue de l’art 134 (2001): 35–37 and fig. 10. Perhaps rightly, he dated the painting to c. 1300; Alessandro Bagnoli preferred an immediately preceding phase. See Alessandro Bagnoli, in Duccio: Siena fra tradizione bizantina e mondo gotico, ed. Alessandro Bagnoli et al. (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2003), 315.
Mojmir S. Frinta identified the same penta-lobe rosette punchmark in the Maestà no. 565 in the National Gallery in London and in the Maestà no. 18 in the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Siena, both paintings usually attributed to the Casole Master, and in the Maestà in the picture gallery at Città di Castello and numerous other paintings attributed to the Master of Città di Castello. Cf. Mojmir Svatopluk Frinta, Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting (Prague, 1998), 442. Alessandro Bagnoli (2003) admitted the presence of the same punch mark in the two stylistic groups but did not think that this necessarily implied they were the work of a single master: it would prove, he argued, “semmai, l’uso comune dello stesso strumento o l’appartenenza ai due pittori di un utensile identico” (if anything, the common use of the same instrument or the possession by the two painters of an identical tool). However, the circumstance that this punch appears only in these works and not in the paintings of other contemporary masters seems to support the identification between the Casole Master and the Città di Castello Master. See Alessandro Bagnoli, “I pittori ducceschi,” in Duccio: Siena fra tradizione bizantina e mondo gotico, ed. Alessandro Bagnoli et al. (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2003), 294. Again according to Frinta (1998, 489), the hexa-rosette motif used in the Washington panel recurs in the Madonna no. 583 of the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Siena and in a Madonna della Misericordia from the parish church of Vertine in Chianti, now on loan to the same Pinacoteca. Recent studies have underlined the affinity of these two works and have related them to Simone Martini’s formative period; indeed, many scholars now consider the former to be a work of the young Simone himself. The other is a more problematic painting: though some attribute it to Simone, it was probably produced in the shop of Memmo di Filippuccio. Cf. Bagnoli 2003, 422–424; Pierluigi Leone De Castris, Simone Martini (Milan, 2003), 344. It is not easy to evaluate with any precision the significance of this data, still less to explain the fact, ascertained by Frinta, that the same hexa-rosette punch also appears in the Pietro Cavallini-attributed Epitaph of Bishop Umbert d’Ormont now in the collection of the Arcivescovado of Naples.
If, as I am inclined to believe, the Washington panel was a product of the same workshop, it should be assigned the earliest possible date in the master’s career: it is the result, presumably, of an initial phase in the artist’s development in which not all the characteristic features of his fully fledged style have yet appeared. This, as well as the much compromised condition of the panel, may explain some stylistically anomalous features, such as the angels that flank the Virgin’s throne: with their long necks, melancholy expressions, and thin yet incisive contours, they lack the corporeal, almost sculptural modeling and the typically soft chiaroscuro we associate with the Master of Città di Castello. On the other hand, better preserved passages, in particular the face of the angel in the upper left and the bust of the child, are comparable to corresponding details in panels in the Casole Master group, for example the Maestà in London and the Madonna no. 592 in the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Siena. The placid undulation of the contours of the figure of the enthroned Mary also recalls paintings usually included in the same oeuvre. Some compositional devices found in the oeuvre of the Casole Master that recur in the Washington panel also seem significant. I allude to the distinctive undulating curves of the exposed pale silk lining that enlivens the large, uniform expanse of the Madonna’s dark blue mantle. The Virgin’s conduct is also worth noting: she is draping a precious embroidered cloth around the body of her son, and pressing a hem of the fabric between her right forefinger and thumb in both the London and Washington versions of the Maestà
The Virgin’s gesture of draping the body of the infant Jesus, who wears a transparent chemise, in a precious red cloth, is repeated in the fresco in Casole.
Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011)
March 21, 2016
Possibly the church of San Francesco in San Quirico d’Orcia (Siena). Pompeo Lemmi (or Lammi?), San Quirico d’Orcia; Giacobbe Preziotti, San Quirico d’Orcia, by c. 1930; (Italian art market); Baron Alberto Fassini, Tivoli; Corinna Uberti Trossi, Livorno, by 1949; (Ettore Sestieri, Rome), by 1951; (Count Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi, Florence), by 1953; sold 1954 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1961 to NGA.
- Ramboux, Johann Anton. Sammlung von Umrissen dienend zur Geschichte der bildenden Künste des Mittelalters in Italien in den Jahren 1818-1822 und 1833-1843 aufgenommen. 10 vols. Städelsches Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt am Main, n.d.: 3:fol.20, no. 507.
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- Davies, Martin. National Gallery Catalogues: The Earlier Italian Schools. 2nd ed. London, 1961: 177.
- Carli, Enzo. "Ricuperi e restauri senesi. I. Nella cerchia di Duccio." Bollettino d’arte 50 (1965): 97, 99 n. 22, fig. 39.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 44.
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- Boskovits, Miklós. "Review of Duccio di Buoninsegna and His School by J. H. Stubblebine; and Duccio di Buoninsegna by J. White." The Art Bulletin 64 (1982): 497.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 137, repro.
- Bacchi, Andrea. "Pittura del Duecento e del Trecento nel Pistoiese." In La Pittura in Italia. Il Duecento e il Trecento. Edited by Enrico Castelnuovo. 2 vols. Milan, 1986: 1:317, 318.
- Davies, Martin, and Dillian Gordon. National Gallery Catalogues. The Earlier Italian Schools. Rev. ed. London, 1988: 75.
- De' Giorgi, Elsa. L’eredità Contini Bonacossi: l’ambiguo rigore del vero. 1st ed. Milan, 1988: 197, 206-209.
- Torriti, Piero. La Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena: i dipinti. 3rd ed. Genoa, 1990: 46.
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- Martini, Laura. "Le vicende costruttive della chiesa di San Francesco." In San Quirico d’Orcia. La Madonna di Vitaleta: arte e devozione. Edited by Laura Martini. Exh. cat. Chiesa di S. Maria in Vitaleta, San Quirico d’Orcia, 1997: 13-14, 15 (repro), 19 n. 5.
- Frinta, Mojmír S. Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting. Prague, 1998: 489.
- Gardner, Julian. "Duccio, ‘Cimabue’ and the Maestro di Casole: Early Sienese Paintings for Florentine Confraternities." In Iconographica: mélanges offerts à Piotr Skubiszewski. Edited by Robert Favreau and Marie-Hélène Debiès. Poitiers, 1999: 112.
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The painting was executed on a panel composed of four boards with vertical grain, on which strips of woven fabric were laid. The panel, which has a gable of obtuse angle shape, is enclosed in an engaged frame whose left-hand vertical section seems to be original. The panel maintains what seems to be its original thickness (2.4 cm). The reverse of the panel is covered with remains of a
A mixture of finely ground plaster and glue applied to wood panels to create a smooth painting surface. —Grove Art © Oxford University Press
The NGA scientific research department analyzed the painting using x-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) and scanning electron microscopy/energy dispersive spectrometry (SEM/EDS) of cross-sections. This analysis determined that the preparation layers are calcium sulfate (see report dated January 19, 2010, in NGA conservation files).
A photographic or digital image analysis method which captures the absorption/emission characteristics of reflected infrared radiation. The absorption of infrared wavelengths varies for different pigments, so the resultant image can help distinguish the pigments that have been used in the painting or underdrawing.
Infrared reflectography was performed with an infrared hyperspectral camera operating at 960–1680 nm and a Mitsubishi M600 focal plane array camera operating at 1 to 5 microns.
The use of black, yellow, and white pigments in the verdaccio was confirmed by the abovementioned analysis (see report dated January 19, 2010, in NGA conservation files).
The side of a coin or medal that carries the main design (often a portrait head). —Grove Art © Oxford University Press
The layer or layers used to prepare the support to hold the paint.
In the earliest known photograph of the painting
The reference is to a photograph made when the panel still belonged to a private collector in San Quirico d’Orcia c. 1930 (see Provenance). A print of the negative, from the Archive of the Soprintendenza of Florence (no. 11273), is in the NGA curatorial files.
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.
A layer of paint that covers original paint.
The NGA scientific research department analysis showed zinc, indicating areas of restoration, in many spectra and samples (see report dated January 19, 2010, in NGA conservation files).
A very clumsy and apparently early restorer, possibly as early as the fourteenth century, reinforced the design of the faces and the child’s drapery; added a flower to his left hand; overpainted the Virgin’s coif, transforming it into a veil; and modified the structure of the throne, covering the convex shape of its central part behind the Madonna’s legs with a plain checkered surface.
Some of the retouches illustrated by the photograph referred to above are so rough (especially the drapery of the Christ child and the flower in his hand) as to make one wonder if it is not the work of an amateur realized in a relatively recent period; however, a detail like the checkered front side of the throne would seem to be hardly later than the fourteenth century. In any case the painting is documented in this state by the 1930 photograph and in a sketch (fig. 2) made by Johann Anton Ramboux (1798–1866), whose Sammlung von Umrissen dienend zur Geschichte der bildenden Künste des Mittelalters in Italien in den Jahren 1818–1822 und 1833–1843 aufgenommen, consisting of ten volumes of copies and sketches and now in the library of the Städelsches Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt am Main, contains a drawing of the Washington painting (vol. 3, fol. 20, no. 507). During his first Italian visit (1818–1822), Ramboux was able to visit Siena and neighboring territories only briefly; therefore, the sketch of the Washington Madonna probably dates to his later visit in the years 1833–1843. Cf. Hans Joachim Ziemke, “Ramboux und die sienesische Kunst,” Städel Jahrbuch 2 (1969): 255–300.
The arched top of the panel, already in a fragmentary state, is visible in the Soprintendenza photograph (mentioned in note 4 above), as well as in Ramboux’s sketch. The unusual doubling of the halos is probably a consequence of the need to regild them and yet to be sparing with the gold.
The painting, in a state still similar to that shown by the photo of c. 1930, appears without the arched top and with a few cleaning tests in the faces of the Virgin and the child, in the hand of the lower right side angel, and in the left side of the throne in a set of photographs probably made by the mid-1930s (copies in NGA curatorial files). In his expertise dated August 30, 1937 (see Entry note 6 and Panzeri 1996), Richard Offner stated that the photo of the picture he had in hand “scopre solamente in parte la superficie originale la quale è . . . ancora molta ridipinta” (only partly reveals the original surface, which is still heavily repainted). The same photograph had been sent to Bernard Berenson by Wildenstein’s, New York (to whom the panel may have been offered for sale), on November 3, 1937 (copy in the Berenson Library at Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Florence). The restoration is credited to Pellicioli by Panzeri. Photos of the painting during cleaning are in the Giannino Marchig collection of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles (ND 614, box 933, photos 114497–114500).
See Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols. (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:173. The person in question was in all probability Ferruccio Vannoni, a frame maker who worked for Stephen Pichetto. See Gianni Mazzoni, Quadri antichi del Novecento (Vicenza, 2001), 21, 40 note 20 and passim.