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The Madonna and Child enthroned with Four Angels

The Madonna and Child enthroned with Four Angels
tempera and gold on panel
14 x 9 in. (35.6 x 22.8 cm.)
Presumably acquired by Robert Curzon, 14th Baron Zouche of Haryngworth (1819-1873), Parham Park, Midhurst, Sussex, and by inheritance through his son,
Robert Nathaniel George Curzon, 15th Baron Zouche (1851-1914) and his sister Diana Curzon (1860-1917), Baroness Zouche to her first cousin once removed,
Mary, née Curzon (1875-1965), wife of Sir Frederick Frankland, 10th Bt. and Baroness Zouche (17th holder of the title); Christie’s, London, 28 July 1927, lot 18, as ‘Jacobello Flores’ (to Leger).
With a private collection, Bologna, by 1984.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, Rome, 18 June 2002, lot 778, as 'Attributed to Lippo di Benivieni'.
with Moretti Galleria d'Arte, Florence, where acquired by the present owner in 2002.
C. Volpe, ‘Frammenti di Lippo di Benivieni’, Paragone, XXIII, no. 267, 1972, p. 9, pl. 1.
M. Boskovits, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Paintings, Section III, IX, The Painters of the Miniaturist Tendency, Florence, 1984, pp. 29, 169, no. 1, pl. XLII.
M. Boskovits, ed., The Alana Collection, Newark, Delaware, USA: Italian Paintings from the 13th to 15th Century, I, Florence, 2009, pp. 82-83, no. 15, illustrated (entry by A. Labriola).

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Lot Essay

An early, intimate work by a significant master of the Florentine trecento, this panel was first identified as the work of Lippo di Benivieni by Carlo Volpe in 1972 (loc. cit.). According to Miklós Boskovits, it was likely the central panel of a small tabernacle, flanked by shutters displaying Passion scenes and saints, and probably painted in the last decade of the fourteenth century (loc. cit.).

Although little is known of Lippo’s chronology and career, it is documented that in 1296, he took on as a pupil one Nerio di Binduccio, proving the existence of an active workshop. Richard Offner was the first to offer a reconstruction of his oeuvre, placing him within a Florentine style that he termed the ‘miniaturist tendency’, such as the Master of Santa Cecilia and the Master of the S. George Codex, who excelled particularly on an intimate scale, producing private devotional images of great sensitivity (see R. Offner, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting, 1956, The Fourteenth Century, pp. III-IX, 27-45). These poetic skills are certainly palpable in the present work, in which the infant Christ reaches up to pull at his mother’s mantle.

Although active in Florence contemporaneously with Giotto, these painters did not work solely within the Giottesque aesthetic, their works displaying a tension between Sienese and Florentine inclinations. The influence of Siena’s Duccio di Buoninsegna has been marked in Lippo’s work; here, it is visible in the Virgin’s lengthened features and aquiline nose. Lippo was at one time associated with a religious company which met in Santa Maria Novella in front of Duccio’s masterful Rucellai Madonna of 1285 (Boskovits, loc. cit.).

A note on provenance:

This picture and six other early Italian works were among a group of nineteen sold for Lady Zouche in 1927 and had presumably been retained by her in 1921 when she sold Parham and most of its historic collection to the Hon. Clive Pearson. The character of the pictures in question, the present work sold as by Jacobello ‘Flores’ [del Fiore], others catalogued as Byzantine, and more given to Giotto and Matteo [di Giovanni?], strongly suggests that these had been acquired by Lady Zouche’s great-uncle, who as Robert Curzon made a pioneering study of Byzantine manuscripts. He visited Mount Athos in 1837 and published his highly successful Visit to the Monasteries of the Levant in 1849, which would be followed by Armenia in 1854. He formed a significant collection of Byzantine manuscripts, now in the British Museum. After his marriage in 1850 he travelled in pursuit of Byzantine manuscripts in Italy, making important discoveries recorded in his Account of the most celebrated Libraries in Italy of 1854. This picture and its erstwhile companions were no doubt purchased as a result of his Italian researches. In 1870 he succeeded his father as Baron Zouche.

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