Umbrian School, circa 1480
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Umbrian School, circa 1480

Study for the tomb of the humanist Niccolò Perotti

Details
Umbrian School, circa 1480
Study for the tomb of the humanist Niccolò Perotti
inscribed with the letters of the alphabet and with date 'M·CCCCLXXX:'
pen and brown ink and point of the brush, black ink and wash, heightened with white on green prepared paper
11½ x 7¼ in. (29 x 18.5 cm.)
Provenance
Giancarlo Baroni (1926-2007); Sotheby's, New York, 29 and 30 January 2013, lot 80.
Special notice

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Iona Ballantyne
Iona Ballantyne

Lot Essay

An extremely rare example of tomb design executed towards the end of the 15th century, this is a modello for the funerary monument of the celebrated Renaissance humanist Niccolò Perotti (1429/30-1480), as identified by Dr. Paul Taylor in 2013. Having died away from Rome on 14 December 1480, Perotti was probably buried in the cathedral of Manfredonia, Puglia, where he served as archbishop of Siponto from 19 October 1458 , appointed by Pope Callixtus III. A refined collector, the humanist owned reliquaries and works of art from Constantinople, still preserved in the cathedral of Manfredonia (see R. Cecchitelli-Ippoliti, ‘Reliquiari dell’archivescovo Sipontino’, Arte e Storia, XIII, 9, May 1894, pp. 66-7), and because of his friendship with Cardinal Bessarion he was portrayed by Antoniazzo Romano in the frescoes of the Cardinal’s funerary chapel in SS. Apostoli, Rome (1464-8). The present work provides a crucial record of the original appearance of Perotti’s tomb, destroyed during the 1688 local earthquake that nearly devastated the entire church (see G. Mercati, Per la cronologia della vita e degli scritti di Niccolò Perotti, arcivescovo di Siponto, Vatican City, 1925). The floor tomb is shown from above, the body of Perotti resting on a pleated cloth: his eyes are closed and his hands are crossed over a large book, while another book lies under his feet. Below, the inscription in Roman numerals MCCCCLXXX records the year of death (1480), preceded by a series of capital letters in alphabetical order referring to Perotti’s most celebrated publication, Rudimenta grammatices printed in 1473 and commonly considered the earliest and most popular Renaissance Latin grammar.

Carefully drawn with a pen and with the tip of the brush and brown ink (with some additions in black and white bodycolour) on green prepared paper, the sheet stands out for its refined technique. Despite its finished appearance, it does not constitute the ultimate modello for the tomb, as it shows six different alternatives for the ornamental design of the border of the tomb, and two variations (embroidered or plain) for the cloth on which Perotti is resting. This design is probably the presentation drawing submitted by the artist to his patron, possibly Perotti himself. To judge from the refined drawing of the figure, the sheet appears to be the work of a painter, rather than a sculptor or an architect.

Previously attributed to an anonymous Ferrarese master, the sheet retains strong stylistic bonds with the work of early Renaissance masters active in Umbria and Central Italy like Giovanni Boccati, Benedetto Bonfigli and Bartolomeo Caporali, all active in Perugia when Perotti was sent there as Papal governor between 1474 and 1477. Further similarities can be found in a series of metalpoint drawings in the British Museum from the workshop of Vecchietta, which were previously given by Bernard Berenson to Benedetto Bonfigli (e.g. inv. 1952,0405.2; B. Degenhart and A. Schmitt, Corpus der italienischen Zeichnungen, 1300-1450, Süd-und Mittelitalien, Berlin, 1968, no. 254, pl. 242d, as Umbro-Sienese School).

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