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Apollonio di Giovanni (Florence c. 1416–1465)
Apollonio di Giovanni (Florence c. 1416–1465)
Apollonio di Giovanni (Florence c. 1416–1465)
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TUSCAN RENAISSANCE CASSONE PANELS FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION (LOTS 12-19)
Apollonio di Giovanni (Florence c. 1416–1465)

The Triumph of Scipio Africanus: a cassone panel

Details
Apollonio di Giovanni (Florence c. 1416–1465)
The Triumph of Scipio Africanus: a cassone panel
tempera and gold on panel
16 1/8 x 24 ¾ in. (41 x 62.8 cm.)
inscribed '·SCIPIONE·AFC·' (upper centre); and '·M·AGRIPPA·L·P·C·III·' (upper left, on temple architrave)
Provenance
Thomas Gambier-Parry (1816–1888), Highnam Court, Gloucester.
Anonymous sale [Dr. Gustav Rau, Stuttgart]; Sotheby’s, London, 20 April 1988, lot 1, as 'Attributed to Apollonio di Giovanni' to the following,
with Hazlitt, London, from whom acquired by,
Property from the Estate of Jan Mitchell; (†) Sotheby’s, New York, 27 January 2011, lot 118.

Lot Essay

Apollonio di Giovanni, who worked in partnership with Marco del Buono, was, to judge from his extant work, the most successful cassone painter of mid-quattrocento Florence. The hero of republican Rome, Scipio, who defeated the Carthaginians, had an obvious appeal in ostensibly republican Florence, and it is not surprising that five cassoni fronts celebrating him by Apollonio are known. This panel, which to judge from its exceptional condition may be from a spalliera rather than a chest, is almost certainly the pendant to the Triumph of Caesar (fig. 1), formerly in the Faringdon collection, which was sold at Christie’s, New York, 25 January 2002, lot 21 (E. Callmann, Apollonio di Giovanni, Oxford, 1974, p. 73, no. 52, pl. 205).

The two panels are of almost identical size and the views of Rome in the backgrounds are closely related to the schematic views of the city in the Triumph of Scipio at Cambridge (ibid., no. 10) and one of a pair of scenes from the Aeneid at New Haven (ibid., no. 6). The Column of Trajan and the Pantheon, here partly accurately inscribed ‘M.AGRIPPA.C.P.C.III ‘, are grouped in the same way in the Cambridge picture, in which the Claudian Aqueduct is placed to the left of these and the rotunda of San Stefano is omitted, while Scipio enters through the gate beside the Tiber, and the Castel Sant’Angelo with the gate west of this are shown on the nearer side of the river, but the Pyramid of Cestius is omitted. In the New Haven panel, the Castel Sant’Angelo and the walls at either side are shown, and within these, from the left, a large rotunda, the Column of Marcus Aurelius, Santa Maria in Aracaeli with its steps, the Capitol and the Pantheon. Part of the Pantheon (also with Agrippa’s dedicatory inscription) and the Column appear in the ex-Faringdon picture, in which the steps to Santa Maria in Aracaeli, the stairs to the Capitol (their positions reversed as in the New Haven panel), a narrow stretch of the city wall and the Colosseum are shown in the same positions as in the Cambridge picture. Apollonio clearly assumed that his patrons would have some specific knowledge of Roman monuments and sought to use these to give specific meaning to his narratives. Callmann never saw the ex-Faringdon picture but noted that it must have been among Apollonio’s ‘more ambitious works’ (op. cit.) and this may fairly be said of the panel under discussion.

Thomas Gambier-Parry (1816-1888), painter and connoisseur, who inherited a substantial sugar fortune, formed the remarkable collection of early Italian and other pictures, the bulk of which passed to the Courtauld Institute. A number of pictures remained at Highnam, including at least one ostensibly complete cassone.

Dr. Rau was an energetic collector with wide-ranging interests and his possessions were sold to support philanthropic causes. Jan Mitchell, whose business interests included a number of distinguished restaurants, had a serious interest in the fine arts; his collection of pre-Columbian gold was presented to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and encouraged by his friend, Lord Weidenfeld, he endowed the Mitchell Prize for art historical publications.

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