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    Sale 11933

    Old Masters: Part I

    14 April 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 129

    Giovanni dal Ponte (Florence 1385-1437/8)

    The Seven Virtues

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Giovanni dal Ponte (Florence 1385-1437/8)
    The Seven Virtues
    tempera and gold on panel
    17 x 61 1/8 in. (43.2 x 155.3 cm.)


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    This sumptuously decorated cassone panel is a rare and important work by Giovanni dal Ponte. The Seven Virtues was a popular subject for cassoni, which were often commissioned on the occasion of a marriage celebration in Renaissance Florence. Charity occupies the center, presumably with Marcus Amelius Scaurus at her feet. From left to right, the various Virtues are presented alongside their most notable historical or mythological exemplar: Fortitude with Hercules; Justice with Trajan; Faith probably with Marcus Atilius Regulus; Hope with Alexander the Great; Prudence with Solon; and Temperance with Scipio Africanus. Above each Virtue and Master, hovering putti animated with individualized gestures emerge from the sky.

    Giovanni dal Ponte began his training under Spinello Aretino and went on to run a studio near Santo Stefano a Ponte in Florence, which led to his playful sobriquet. The artist’s tax report and inventories from 1420 reveal that he was frequently working on cassone panels of this sort, but few of his marriage chests survive today. Remarkably, both the present work and its companion, The Seven Arts (fig. 1; Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid) survive. In the Prado panel, each of the Liberal Arts is shown with both its personification and a representative allegorical figure: Euclid with Geometry; Pythagoras with Arithmetic; Tubal-Cain with Music; Ptolemy with Astronomy; Cicero with Rhetoric; Aristotle with Dialectic; and Priscian or Donatus with Grammar. Although a small panel showing Dante and Petrarch in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge was formerly thought to be a side panel originally associated with our Seven Virtues, that theory has recently been rejected. Both the present and Prado panels are datable to c. 1434-1435, placing them among the artist’s most mature works.

    The present cassone frontal entered the prestigious collection of the American political leader and financier William Collins Whitney (1848-1904) around 1898, in a sale brokered with the leading Florentine dealer Stefano Bardini by the architect and decorator Stanford White. Whitney’s newly acquired fifty-four room New York mansion at 68th Street and Fifth Avenue was to be renovated, under White’s direction, with “Old World magnificence”, and our panel was certainly acquired with this goal in mind. Indeed, photographs of the mansion’s grand entry hall taken c. 1915-1930 (fig. 2) show the present work in situ at lower right in the grand entrance hall at Whitney’s new home, surrounded by tapestries and elegant Italian furnishings.

    Please note the present work has been requested as a loan for the upcoming exhibition Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-1437): Protagonist of Late Gothic Humanism, which will be held at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence from 22 November 2016-12 March 2017 and is being organized by Angelo Tartuferi.

    Provenance

    Stefano Bardini (1836-1922), Florence; from whom acquired via the architect Stanford White by
    William Collins Whitney (1841-1901), New York, c. 1898, from whom acquired with the contents of his 871 Fifth Avenue home by
    James Henry Smith (d. 1908), New York, from whose estate acquired by William Collins Whitney's son
    Harry Payne Whitney (1872-1930), New York; (†), Sotheby', New York, 29-30 April 1942, lot 295, as Italian School, 15th century.
    Baron and Baroness Cassel (née van Doorn); Paris, Galerie Charpentier, 2 December 1954, lot 15, as 'Florentine School, 15th century', the subject erroneously listed as 'The Virgin and Child surrounded by the Elect'.
    Private collection.


    Literature

    W. Bode, Italienische Hausmöbel der Renaissance, Leipzig, 1902, pp. 7, 9, fig. 7, as 'Florentine School, c. 1440'.
    P. Schubring, Cassoni, Leipzig, 1915, I, p. 226, no. 33; II, pl. V.
    W.M. Odom, A History of Italian Furniture from the Fourteenth to the Early Nineteenth Century, New York, 1918, I, pp. 52, 98-99, fig. 47.
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, XV, no. 5, May 1920, p. 119.
    W. von Bode, Italian Renaissance Furniture, New York, 1921, p. 10, pl. II, fig. 6, as 'Florentine School, c. 1440'.
    E.K. Rand, ‘Dante and Petrarch in a Painting by Giovanni dal Ponte,' Fogg Art Museum Notes, 1923, pp. 32-33, no. 1.
    R. Van Marle, The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting, The Hague, 1927, IX, p. 84.
    F. Antal, Florentine Painting and Its Social Background: The Bourgeois Republic before Cosimo de’ Medici’s Advent to Power: XIV and Early XV Centuries, London, 1917, pp. 356, 361, notes 3, 368.
    B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School, London, 1963, I, p. 92.
    E. Callmann, Apollonio di Giovanni, Oxford, 1974, p. 17, no. 62
    E. Callmann, 'An Apollonio di Giovanni for an Historic Marriage,’ Burlington Magazine, CXIX, no. 888, March 1977, p. 177, no. 9.
    The Architecture of McKim, Mead & White in Photographs, Plans and Elevations, New York, 1990. pl. 144.
    L. Bellosi and M. Folchi, Colección Cambó, exhibition catalogue, Madrid, 1990, p. 148, under no. 7.
    E. Fahy, L’Archivio storico fotografico di Stefano Bardini, dipinti, disegni miniature, stampe, Florence, 2000, pp. 9, 21 no. 22, fig. 4.
    W. Craven, Stanford White, Decorator in Opulence and Dealer in Antiquities, New York, 2005, pp. 83, 85, 233 no. 17, figs. 15, 16.
    L. Sbaraglio, 'Note su Giovanni dal Ponte ‘cofanaio,’' Commentari d’arte, XIII, no. 38, September-December 2007, pp. 37-38, 42-44; 47, nos. 35, 39-41, 45, figs. 20, 21, 27.
    C. Baskins,The Triumph of Marriage: Painted Cassoni of the Renaissance, exhibition catalogue, Pittsburgh, 2008, pp. 96, under no. 1, 102, under no. 2, fig. 1a.
    W. Craven, Gilded Mansions: Grand Architecture and High Society, New York, 2009, p. 280, fig. 185.
    L. Sbaraglio, Virtù d’amore: pittura nuziale nel quattrocento fiorentino, exhibition catalogue, Florence, 2010, pp. 110-111, fig. 9.


    Exhibited

    New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition, 1920.
    London, Helikon Gallery, Exhibition of Old Masters, June-September 1974.