This painting belongs to a triptych, which also includes
An inscription, which survives on a fragment of the original frame (now incorporated in a modern support and located beneath the triptych's central panel of
A picture consisting of three parts. The term denotes both the object itself and its compositional form. As an object, the triptych may vary in size and material, but usually consists of a central panel flanked by wings (or shutters), which may be hinged; as a compositional form it is a tripartite structure, often with an emphasized central element. Although its imagery was, until the 19th century at least, predominantly religious, the object as such was not tied to a specific function. —Victor M. Schmidt, Grove Art © Oxford University Press
On the iconography of the Virgin of Hodegetria type, see note 1 in the entry on
In Tuscan panels of the early fourteenth century, the child at times appears naked, at times dressed in a tunic and mantle all’antica, or a garment that recalls the shirt or dalmatic used by celebrants on certain liturgical occasions. Sometimes, however, as in the Maestà by
Cf. George Kaftal, Saints in Italian Art, vol. 1, Iconography of the Saints in Tuscan Painting (Florence, 1952), 717–720.
Cf. George Kaftal, Saints in Italian Art, vol. 2, Iconography of the Saints in Central and South Italian Schools of Painting (Florence, 1965), 255–266.
Apart from the scene of the Annunciation of the Death of Mary, in which Gabriel generally hands a palm branch to her, this attribute is alien to the iconography of the angels; cf. “Engel,” in Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographie, eds. Engelbert Kirschbaum and Günter Bandmann, 8 vols. (Rome, Basel, and Vienna, 1968), 1:626–642. In the present context, the motif probably is meant as a symbol of triumph, as in various biblical narratives—for example, in that relating to the celebration of the feast of Tabernacles (Lev 23:34, 40), or an important military victory of Simon Maccabeus (1 Mac 13:51), or the entry of Christ into Jerusalem (Mt 21:8; Jn 12:12).
Though signed and dated by the artist
It is not clear when or how the fragment containing the inscription of the lost original frame was removed. It already had been removed from the original frame, and was incorporated into the frame that was on the painting when the current frame was commissioned in 1941–1942. The literature long ignored the inscription, probably due to difficulties in reading it. Its transcription was published for the first time in the NGA catalog of 1965, with the date interpreted as MCCCXXI. This was repeated in NGA 1985, although Charles Parkhurst had already sent the transcription to the Frick Art Reference Library and Robert Langton Douglas in 1946 (letters of August 1 and 2, 1946, copies in NGA curatorial files). Parkhurst’s reading was published by Fern Rusk Shapley (1979). See National Gallery of Art, Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture (Washington, DC, 1965), 77; National Gallery of Art, European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue (Washington, DC, 1985), 232; Fern Rusk Shapley,Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols. (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:269–270.
The expertises in question were furnished by such leading art historians of the time as Wilhelm von Bode (“Pietro Lorenzetti . . . ein Hauptwerk”), Georg Gronau (“ein Hauptwerk nicht nur des Pietro Lorenzetti sondern der Sienesischen Malerei”), Detlev von Hadeln (“Pietro Lorenzetti. Since years I have not seen in the market a work of such a high rank by an earlier Italian master”), Roberto Longhi (“una delle creazioni più solenni della maturità di Pietro Lorenzetti”), August L. Mayer (“Pietro Lorenzetti . . . one of the most important works of the Italian School of the Trecento”), and Wilhelm Suida (“eine charakteristische Arbeit des Pietro Lorenzetti . . . Die Erhaltung aller Teile ist eine vorzuegliche”). Restorers Stephen Pichetto (“Pietro Lorenzetti . . . the general state of the painting is almost perfect”) and Hammond Smith (oral opinion, cited by Contini in a letter to Felix Warburg of January 3, 1927: “he [Smith] considered it as one of the most important works of the 1300 Italian period in the finest possible state of preservation”) were no less fulsome in their praise. Documents in NGA curatorial files.
Ernest T. DeWald, “Pietro Lorenzetti,” Art Studies 7 (1929): 162 n. 1.
Emilio Cecchi, Pietro Lorenzetti (Milan, 1930), 37.
(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
Bernard Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: A List of the Principal Artists and their Works with an Index of Places (Oxford, 1932), 293; Bernard Berenson, Pitture italiane del rinascimento: Catalogo dei principali artisti e delle loro opere con un indice dei luoghi, trans. Emilio Cecchi (Milan, 1936), 252; Bernard Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools, 3 vols. (London, 1968), 2:221.
Raimond van Marle, Le scuole della pittura italiana, vol. 2, La scuola senese del XIV secolo (The Hague, 1934), 361.
Giulia Sinibaldi, I Lorenzetti (Siena, 1933), 175.
National Gallery of Art, Book of Illustrations (Washington, DC, 1942), 135, 251; National Gallery of Art, Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture (Washington, DC, 1965), 77; National Gallery of Art, European Paintings and Sculpture: Illustrations (Washington, DC, 1968), 68.
“Reading of the date uncertain,” adds the catalog entry, evidently drawing on information made available by Berenson’s Indices. National Gallery of Art, Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture (Washington, DC, 1965), 77.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections (Cambridge, MA, 1972), 109, 312, 429, 646; Michel Laclotte, “Un ‘Saint Evêque’ de Pietro Lorenzetti,” Paragone 27 (1976): 18 n. 7; Mojmir Svatopluk Frinta, “Deletions from the Oeuvre of Pietro Lorenzetti and Related Works by the Master of the Beata Umilità, Mino Parcis da Siena and Iacopo di Mino del Pellicciaio,” Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz 20 (1976): 290.
There is no historical evidence of this painter other than the fact that he is mentioned in a document drawn up at Arezzo on September 21, 1321, in the role of witness, together with Pietro Lorenzetti. Cf. Andrea Mariotti, “Modulo di progettazione del Polittico di Arezzo di Pietro Lorenzetti,” Critica d’arte 15 (1968): 36, no. 100. But, as far as one is able to judge from the partial publication of the document, this citation implies neither that Mino was Pietro’s assistant nor that he was the father of Jacopo di Mino.
Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols. (Washington, DC, 1979), 1:269–270.
Ernest De Wald to Charles Parkhurst, August 25, 1942, letter in NGA curatorial files.
After the catalog entry written by Shapley (1979), with the exception of Frinta’s volume (1998), in which the triptych continued to be classified as a product of Lorenzetti’s shop, art historians seem to have agreed that the Washington paintings should be recognized as an autograph work by Pietro himself.
Cf. Mojmir Svatopluk Frinta, Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting (Prague, 1998), 61, 97, 336, 483.
National Gallery of Art, European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue (Washington, DC, 1985), 232; Carlo Volpe, Pietro Lorenzetti, ed. Mauro Lucco (Milan, 1989), 195–196; Erling S. Skaug, 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), 1:226, 228; Cristina De Benedictis, “Lorenzetti, Pietro,” in Enciclopedia dell’arte medievale, 12 vols. (Rome, 1996), 7:884, 892; Alessio Monciatti, “Pietro Lorenzetti,” in Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, ed. Chiara Frugoni (Florence, 2002), 80, 82; Keith Christiansen, “Paul Delaroche’s Crucifixion by Pietro Lorenzetti,” Apollo 157 (2003): 14 nn. 17, 19; Rudolf Hiller von Gaertringen, Italienische Gemälde im Städel 1300–1550: Toskana und Umbrien, Kataloge der Gemälde im Städelschen Kunstinstitut Frankfurt am Main (Mainz, 2004), 152 n. 44; Michela Becchis, “Lorenzetti, Pietro,” in Dizionario biografico degli italiani, 82 vols. (Rome, 2005), 65:809; Ada Labriola, in Maestri senesi e toscani nel Lindenau-Museum di Altenburg, ed. Miklós Boskovits and Johannes Tripps (Siena, 2008), 42; Laurence B. Kanter and John Marciari, Italian Paintings from the Richard L. Feigen Collection (New Haven, 2010), 20.
Bearing in mind the triptych’s state of preservation, made almost unrecognizable by
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.
For the document of the commission, see Gaetano Milanesi, Documenti per la storia dell’arte senese, 3 vols. (Siena, 1854–1856), 1:194.
The date can now be read as M.CCC.X, but the nineteenth-century restoration integrated the inscription, with the result that various readings of it have been proposed (1315, 1316, 1340, 1341). In 1799, however, when the painting entered the Uffizi, Florence, the date 1343 reportedly was visible in the inscription. Cf. Carlo Volpe, Pietro Lorenzetti, ed. Mauro Lucco (Milan, 1989), 166. The stylistic data confirm that the work must have been painted around 1340 or shortly after.
Often ascribed to the bottega or school of Pietro Lorenzetti, the work was claimed as an autograph of Pietro himself by Carlo Volpe (1951). In his monograph (1989), Volpe dated the painting to the years 1340–1345, but the close kinship in style with Ambrogio would, in my view, make a dating in the late 1330s more plausible. See Carlo Volpe, “Proposte per il problema di Pietro Lorenzetti,” Paragone 2, no. 23 (1951): 13; Carlo Volpe, Pietro Lorenzetti, ed. Mauro Lucco (Milan, 1989), 197–198.
A detail that has hitherto escaped attention could offer a clue as to the triptych’s original destination: it was perhaps commissioned for a church not in Siena but in Pisa, where apparently the motif of the Christ child eating cherries was popular in the fourteenth century.
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
Cf. Giorgio Vasari, Le vite dei più eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architettori, ed. Gaetano Milanesi, 9 vols. (Florence, 1878–1885), 1:473. On the otherwise rare motif of the cherries in Trecento painting, cf. note 1 above. Recently, Laurence Kanter noted that five of the six punches used in the Washington painting “do not recur in any other painting by Lorenzetti, nor in any other Sienese painting,” and he wondered if it could have been painted in Florence, based on the fact that at least one of the punches is found there as early as 1337 and that the shape of the panels in the Washington altarpiece is more commonly encountered in Florentine than in Sienese carpentry. Laurence B. Kanter and John Marciari, Italian Paintings from the Richard L. Feigen Collection (New Haven, 2010), 20.
Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011)
March 21, 2016
Probably the art market, Florence, by 1924; (Alessandro Contini, Rome), by 1926; sold 1927 to Felix M. Warburg [1871-1937], New York; by inheritance to his wife, Frieda Schiff Warburg [1876-1958], New York; gift 1941 to NGA.
- Masterpieces of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300-1800, New York World's Fair, 1939, no. 221, pl. 5.
- DeWald, Ernest T. "Pietro Lorenzetti." Art Studies 7 (1929): 162 n. 1, pl. 101.
- Cecchi, Emilio. Pietro Lorenzetti. Milan, 1930: 37, pl. 106.
- Berenson, Bernard. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: A List of the Principal Artists and their Works with an Index of Places. Oxford, 1932: 293.
- Marle, Raimond van. Le scuole della pittura italiana. 2 vols. The Hague and Florence, 1932-1934: 2(1934):361.
- Sinibaldi, Giulia. I Lorenzetti. Siena, 1933: 175.
- Berenson, Bernard. Pitture italiane del rinascimento: catalogo dei principali artisti e delle loro opere con un indice dei luoghi. Translated by Emilio Cecchi. Milan, 1936: 252.
- Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 251, repro. 135.
- Einstein, Lewis. Looking at Italian Pictures in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1951: 25 n. 1.
- Becchis, Michela. "Lorenzetti, Pietro." In Dizionario biografico degli italiani. Edited by Alberto Maria Ghisalberti. 82+ vols. Rome, 1960+: 65(2005):809.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 77.
- Berenson, Bernard. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Central Italian and North Italian Schools. 3 vols. London, 1968: 2:221.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 68, repro.
- Fredericksen, Burton B., and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972: 109, 312, 429, 646.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 198, repro.
- Frinta, Mojmir Svatopluk. "Deletions from the Oeuvre of Pietro Lorenzetti and Related Works by the Master of the Beata Umilità, Mino Parcis da Siena and Iacopo di Mino del Pellicciaio." Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz 20 (1976): 290.
- Laclotte, Michel. "Un ‘Saint Evêque’ de Pietro Lorenzetti." Paragone 27 (1976): 18 n. 7.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. Washington, 1979: 1:269-270; 2:pl. 185.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 232, repro.
- Volpe, Carlo. Pietro Lorenzetti. Edited by Mauro Lucco. Milan, 1989: 195-196, fig. 175.
- De Benedictis, Cristina. "Lorenzetti, Pietro." In Enciclopedia dell’arte medievale. Edited by Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana. 12 vols. Rome, 1991-2002: 7(1996):884, 892.
- 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: 1:226, 228; 2:punch chart 7.5.
- Frinta, Mojmír S. Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting. Prague, 1998: 61, 97, 336, 483.
- Monciatti, Alessio. "Pietro Lorenzetti." In Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti. Edited by Chiara Frugoni. Florence, 2002: 80, repro. 82.
- Christiansen, Keith. "Paul Delaroche’s Crucifixion by Pietro Lorenzetti." Apollo 157 (2003): 14 nn. 17, 19.
- Hiller von Gaertringen, Rudolf. Italienische Gemälde im Städel 1300-1550: Toskana und Umbrien. Kataloge der Gemälde im Städelschen Kunstinstitut Frankfurt am Main. Mainz, 2004: 152 n. 44.
- Hoenigswald, Ann. "Stephen Pichetto, Conservator of the Kress Collection, 1927-1949." in Studying and Conserving Paintings: Occasional Papers on the Samuel H. Kress Collection. London, 2006: 30 (repro.), 37.
- Boskovits, Miklós, and Johannes Tripps, eds. Maestri senesi e toscani nel Lindenau-Museum di Altenburg. Exh. cat. Santa Maria della Scala, Siena, 2008: 42.
- Kanter, Laurence B., and John Marciari, eds. Italian Paintings from the Richard L. Feigen Collection. Exh. cat. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 2010: 20.
Stephen Pichetto transferred this image and its companions
Photographs in NGA curatorial files show the paintings during the transfer performed by Stephen Pichetto. The photographs show four layers of fabric between the gesso and the panel. A single layer of fabric typically would have been used to prepare panels in Trecento Italy.
The examination report of the NGA painting conservation department states, “There are at least two or three generations of retouching hidden below the discolored varnish layer” (see report dated September 9, 1988, in NGA conservation files). Unfortunately, no documentation exists of the various restorations of the triptych that took place prior to the 1941–1942 treatment, one of which may have occurred after its acquisition by Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi in 1926. Correspondence between Contini-Bonacossi and Stephen Pichetto discussed the possible treatment of the paintings at this time, but it is unclear if they were actually treated. See Ann Hoenigswald, “Stephen Pichetto, Conservator of the Kress Collection, 1927–1949,” in Studying and Conserving Paintings: Occasional Papers on the Samuel H. Kress Collection (London, 2006), 30, 37. At some point, the paintings apparently were energetically cleaned and generously retouched, in order to render the much-abraded forms more easily readable. Emilio Cecchi’s monograph (1930) reproduced the triptych probably before this treatment (figs. 2, 3, and 4). The inpainting in this reproduction appeared to be more discreet than in the illustration published in the monograph by Ernest De Wald (1929); he apparently used a more recent set of photographs. In De Wald’s publication, the three panels still were separated, and the modeling appeared reinforced by further retouching. Cf. Emilio Cecchi, Pietro Lorenzetti (Milan, 1930), pls. 104–106; Ernest T. De Wald, “Pietro Lorenzetti,” Art Studies 7 (1929): pls. 99–101.