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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY FROM THE THYSSEN-BORNEMISZA COLLECTION (LOTS 15, 16, 17 & 18)

Madonna and Child with two angels

Madonna and Child with two angels
signed 'Barnabas de muntina pinxit in janua' (lower centre)
tempera on gold ground panel
18 7/8 x 13 5/8 in. (48 x 34.5 cm.)
inscribed 'Beati q / audiunt / verbum / dei cus / todiunt / illud' (lower right, on the scroll)
with Marco Grassi, New York, 18 April 1989.
Baron Hans-Henirich Thyssen-Bornemisza, and by descent.
M. Boskovits, The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection: Early Italian painting 1290-1470, London, 1990, pp. 30-31, illustrated.
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Lot Essay

This signed Madonna, evidently intended for private devotion, is a characteristic latish work by Barnaba da Modena. Born to a Milanese family at Modena, he was active by 1361 in Genoa, where for over two decades he was the dominant painter and his influence would be felt until well into the quattrocento. His style reflected both his Emilian origins and a knowledge of contemporary painting in Venice, Genoa’s great rival as a maritime power. In addition to major undertakings in the Palazzo Ducale and churches in Genoa, he received commissions for Alba, for Lavagnola near Savona, for Rivoli in neighbouring Piedmont, for Pisa and for the cathedral at Murcia is south-eastern Spain. Barnaba’s sense of his significance as an artist is attested by the large number of signed panels, sixteen of which were known before the emergence of this Madonna, and were first published by Miklós Boskovits in 1990.
Boskovits, who commented that the picture stands out in Barnaba’s oeuvre for its ‘jewel-like beauty and fine workmanship’, convincingly proposes a date about 1374, pointing out that the angels supporting the cloth of honour are similar to those behind the Madonna in one of the panels of the wings of 1374 in the National Gallery, London (no. 2927), in the Alba Madonna of 1377 and other late works at Pisa and Ventimiglia. In this panel, the pattern of the brocade itself is of particular subtlety, with cartouches framed by hexafoil flower heads and iris heads. As Roberto Longhi (Paragone, 131, 1960, p. 32) observed, Barnaba in his earlier pictures had used the Bolognese miniscule for his inscriptions on haloes, citing the London panels as the first in which he employed the ‘maiuscolo gotico’, that is found in this Madonna. Boskovits observed that the linear character of Barnaba’s earlier works diminished from 1370 onwards, commenting that the pictures of the 1370s ‘are characterised by dense shadows round the eyes, along the nose and under the lower lip and chin, shadows which, together with the intense highlights, emphasise the elongation of the fingers and the rotundity of the faces, and give an almost illusionistic sharpness to the image. Mary’s gold-striated robe … is no longer an abstract symbol of majesty, but a means of giving luminosity to the material and, through its gathers and folds, of defining the volume and movement of the figure’ (op. cit., p. 32). There is a notable development in style between this panel and the Madonna of 1370 at Turin (Galleria Sabauda), which is a compositional recapitulation of this, in which the Child holds a scroll with the same text. Particularly close stylistically to the Thyssen panel is the Saint Catherine enthroned which Longhi published when in the collection of Carlos Cruz at Santiago, Chile (op. cit., fig. 27), the cloth of honour in which is of much the same pattern as that in the London wing.
At the time this Madonna was painted, Barnaba was working on a number of commissions for dispatch to Spain, including two polyptychs, now united, in the Cathedral at Murcia, evidently painted for Juana Manuel (1335-1381), wife of Henry II, King of Castille, in which she and her father, Don Juan Manuel, adelantado de Murcia, conde de Carrión, builder of the Cathedral are shown as donors. Dillian Gordon (National Gallery Catalogues, The Early Italian Schools before 1400, London, 1988, p. 8) suggests that they also appear before the Madonna in the London panel, and that all three works were completed in 1374. The ownership of the Santiago altarpiece suggests that this also may have been intended for Spain. So it should not necessarily be assumed that this Madonna was intended for an Italian patron. Its distinction reminds us that, although Genoa is not always thought of as a major artistic centre in the medieval period, its enduring wealth and commercial links enabled it to support an artist of Barnaba’s calibre.

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