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Giovanni di Ser Giovanni, lo Scheggia (1406-1486)
Giovanni di Ser Giovanni, lo Scheggia (1406-1486)

The Battle of Issus and the Family of Darius before Alexander - a cassone front

Giovanni di Ser Giovanni, lo Scheggia (1406-1486)
The Battle of Issus and the Family of Darius before Alexander - a
cassone front
tempera, gold leaf and silver leaf on panel
18 3/8 x 60 5/8 in. (46.5 x 154cm.)
Jean-Alexis-François Artaud de Montor (1772-1849); sale, Seigneur & Schroth, Paris, 16-17 January, 1851.
J.-A.-F. Artaud de Montor, Considérations sur l'état de la
peinture en Italie dans les quatre siècles qui ont précédé
celui de Raphael
, Paris, 1808.
J.-A.-F. Artaud de Montor, Peintres primitifs: collection de tableaux rapportés d'Italie, Paris, 1843, pl. 37 (lithograph of the left

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Lot Essay

In 1994 Everett Fahy, on the basis of a transparency, identified this cassone front as by Scheggia. The younger brother of Masaccio, Scheggia specialized in the production of cassone and deschi da parto (birth trays), as well as small devotional panels. He also made designs for intarsie.

Although Scheggia's authorship was not recognized until 1969, Longhi had in 1926 attributed a coherent oeuvre to his Master of the Adimari Marriage, part of which was assigned by van Marle to his Master of Fucecchio, named after the altarpiece by the artist in the museum of that town. Subsequently the painter was generally known as the Master of the Adimari Cassone until his identity as Scheggia was recognized by Luciano Bellosi in 1969. Scheggia was a personal friend of Brunelleschi and worked for the Medici and other prominent Florentine families. Many of Scheggia's other cassoni are of subjects drawn from classical history, of which he had at least a degree of knowledge. Here the artist depicts an episode from the history of the Greek commander Alexander the Great. On the right the Greeks conquer the Persians in the battle of Issus, while the richly decorated tents of the Persian encampment may be seen on the left. The picture revolves around a famous act of mercy, the forgiveness by Alexander of the mistake made after the battle by Darius's mother who offered obeisance to Alexander's companion, Hephaestion, rather than to the victorious commander himself. Alexander kindly helps the lady to her feet in the foreground. The scene is depicted in a lively if anachronistic manner, with the figures in contemporary renaissance dress, a banner carrying the Imperial eagle of Rome fluttering in the background and Darius's mother depicted wearing a distinctive headdress which echoes that of the Emperor John VIII Paleologus, who had visited Italy when trying to secure aid against the Ottomans in 1438.

(Jean-) Alexis-François Artaud de Montor (1772-1849) was a pioneer in the revival of interest in the Italian 'primitives' in the nineteenth century. Trained as a diplomat, he went to Rome in 1799 as the secretary to François Cacault (1742-1805), who headed the French Legation to the Holy See. Cacault was an obsessive collector, whose twelve hundred pictures, assembled over a period of thirty years, are now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes. Both men became acquainted with Seroux d'Agincourt (1730-1814), who had moved to Italy in 1779 to write a multi-volumed history of Italian art from the fall of the Roman Empire to the sixteenth century; it was through this vast book, which eventually began to appear in 1811, that the Italian 'primitives' became known to the rest of Europe. Artaud de Montor began collecting in earnest after his appointment as first secretary of the French Legation to Florence in 1805, buying twenty-five paintings from the collection of the great artist-collector-dealer Ignazio Enrico Hugford (1703-1778). By the time of his death he had gathered 150 panels. After Artaud de Montor's return to Paris he made his collection accessible to artists, to enthusiastic response, and made it known to a wider audience through his publications cited above. Many of his pictures are now in great European and American public collections. Thirteen were purchased at his posthumous sale by Thomas Jefferson Bryan and entered the collection of the New York Historical Society, from which the desco da parto of Lorenzo il Magnifico, the Giovanni da Milano Crucifixion, the Master of San Martino alla Palma panels, the Nardo di Cione altarpiece and the Bartolomeo di Fruosino desco da parto were sold at Sotheby's, New York, 12 January 1995.

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