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ROMAN SCHOOL, c. 1275-1300
ROMAN SCHOOL, c. 1275-1300
ROMAN SCHOOL, c. 1275-1300
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ROMAN SCHOOL, c. 1275-1300
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Property from a Distinguished Private Collection
ROMAN SCHOOL, c. 1275-1300

Eight Scenes from the Life of Christ

Details
ROMAN SCHOOL, c. 1275-1300
Eight Scenes from the Life of Christ
inscribed 'AVE [M]ARIA GRI. / PLENE ONE / TE CUM' (above the Angel of the Annunciation and the Virgin); 'NATIVI / TAS TONI MR' and 'JOSEP' (upper center, to the left of the seated Joseph figure); 'ONI NP' and 'JOSEP' (upper left, above the leftmost figure in the scene); 'BATINUN [...] IUM IOI OAN' (upper center); 'CENA [...] MAI' (upper center); 'NO POTESTIS / UNA ORA VIGILARE / ME CU.' (on the rock between Christ and his disciples)
tempera and gold on panel
21 ¾ x 31 1/8 in. (55.3 x 79 cm.)
(8)
Provenance
Charles Butler (1815-1911), Warren Wood and London.
Charles Fairfax Murray (1848-1919), London.
Robert Langton Douglas (1864-1951), Dublin.
Adolphe Stoclet (1871-1949), Brussels, by 1923, by whom bequeathed to his daughter
Raymonde Feron-Stoclet (1897-1963), until at least 1956, and by whom passed to her son
Denis Lucien Emile Feron (1928-2015), Beerse, Belgium, by 1998.
with Artemide S.A., Lugano, until July 2002, where acquired by the present owner.
Literature
P. Bautier, 'I primitivi italiani della collezione Stoclet a Bruxelles', Cronache d'Arte, V, 1927, p. 1, as Pisan School, circa 1300.
R. van Marle, 'Italian paintings of the Thirteenth Century in the collection of Monsieur Adolphe Stoclet in Brussels', Pantheon, IV, 1929, pp. 318, 320.
E. Sandberg Vavalà, La croce dipinta italiana e l'iconografia della Passione, Rome, 1929, pp. 430, 450.
R. van Marle, Le scuole della pittura italiana, A. Buitoni, ed., I, The Hague, 1932, p. 563.
E.B. Garrison, Italian Romanesque Panel Painting. An illustrated index, New York, 1949, p. 146, no. 382, as Umbro-Marchigian or Abruzzo School, 1315-1325.
D. Lion-Goldschmidt, Collection Adolphe Stoclet, Brussels, 1956, pp. 15-21.
L.C. Marquez, La peinture du Duecento en Italie centrale, Paris, 1987, pp. 84, 208, 291-292, as Circle of Salerno di Coppa.
A. Tartuferi, 'Un libro e alcune considerazione sulla pittura del Duecento in Italia centrale', Arte Cristiana, LXXVI, 1988, p. 442, as Umbro-Marchigian School.
D. Rigaux, A table du Seigneur. L'Eucharistie chez les Primitifs Italiens 1250-1497, Paris, 1989, p. 38.
A. Tambini, 'In margine alla pittura riminese del Trecento', Studi romagnoli, XLVII, 1996 (published 1999), pp. 448, 451-452, as Circle of Salerno di Coppa.
M. Boskovits, ed., The Alana Collection: Italian paintings from the 13th to 15th century, Florence, 2009, pp. 176-182, no. 31, illustrated (cat. by A. Labriola).
Exhibited
Paris, Muse´e Jacquemart-Andre´, La collection Alana: Chefs-d'oeuvre de la peinture italienne, 13 September 2019-20 January 2020, no. 1 (cat. by A. Carelli).

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Lot Essay

Dating between 1270 and 1300, this sublime painting of Scenes from the Life of Christ constitutes a precious and exceptionally rare example of thirteenth-century panel painting. While Tuscan examples from this period exist today in greater numbers, such panel paintings appear to have been in less demand in Rome, where frescoes were preferred, making the survival of this panel all the more extraordinary.

The panel would originally have formed part of a much larger, elongated dossal, with the present scenes forming the left side, perhaps with a Madonna and Child or Crucifixion at the center, flanked at right by eight further scenes, most likely from the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. A similar dossal with twelve Scenes from the Life of Christ surrounding a Madonna and Child, produced a little later than the present painting and by two Florentines, the Master of the Magdalen and Grifo di Tancredi, can be found in the Timken Museum of Art, San Diego, and gives an idea of what the present panel would have looked like when intact (fig. 1). In 1949 Edward B. Garrison recognized a Dormition of the Virgin, at that time in a Roman private collection, as having formed part of the missing right-hand section of the present complex (loc. cit.). Garrison did not publish an image, however, and the Dormition has sadly not been identified or located since. The scenes in this Roman example are arranged in two rows of four and incisions in the preparatory ground and traces of color suggest that fine strips of wood originally divided the episodes one from the next. The left side of the panel has been cut slightly but at the right side a slender strip of black paint has been preserved which would at one time have outlined all eight scenes.

The painted episodes are beautifully preserved and, despite their Byzantinesque style, have a lively quality of immediacy. A charming detail is the inclusion of inscriptions captioning each scene: AVE MARIA GR[ATI]A PLENA D[OMI]N[V]S TECUM for the Annunciation; NATIVITAS D[OMI]NI I[ESU] C[H]RI[STI] for the Nativity and Adoration of the Magi; T[EMPLUM?] D[OMI]NI N[OST]R[I] / IOSEP[H] for the Presentation in the Temple; BA[P]TI[SM]V[S] D[OMI]NI N[OSTRI] I[N] FLVM[INE] IORDAN for the Baptism; CENA D[OMI]N[I] N[OST]RI for the Last Supper; and NO[N] POTESTIS VNA ORA VIGILARE MECV[M] for the Agony in the Garden. The lettering in the two final scenes is now lost. As Ada Labriola notes, these inscriptions, along with the archaicizing iconography 'suggests that the anonymous artist had a cultural background influenced by Byzantine art.' (loc. cit., p. 178). She cites, among others, details such as the Virgin’s side-lying position in the Nativity as evidence of Byzantine influence and compares her shrinking gesture in the Annunciation to that produced by an anonymous Byzantine illuminator in the mid-thirteenth century in the Monastery of Iviron, Mount Athos (Cod. 5, fol. 222v). She also finds parallels in the white cloth winding through the pinnacles of the portico in the background of the Last Supper with similar elements in the illuminations of the Paleologian Gospels of the period produced in Constantinople (Gospel gr. 54, Bibliotèque Nationale, Paris).

The painting’s exact date and location of execution has been the subject of much scholarly debate since its first publication in 1927 by Pierre Bautier (loc. cit.). Bautier considered it to be the work of a Pisan painter active around 1300 but, two years later, Robert van Marle countered that the artist was in fact Roman (loc. cit.), an opinion more recently shared by Ada Labriola (2009) and Fabiana Carrelli (2019). Evelyn Sandberg Vavalà, who published the panel in 1929, did not venture an opinion on the artist’s origin, but in 1949, Edward B. Garrison proposed the painter to have been Umbro-Marchigian or perhaps from the Abruzzi, and dated it a little later, between 1315 and 1325 (loc. cit.). In her catalogue of the Feron-Stoclet collection, Daisy Lion-Goldschmidt returned to the Roman classification and placed the panel once more in the thirteenth century (loc. cit.), as did Dominique Rigaux in 1989. IN 1987 Luis C. Marques specified a date of 1270-80 and considered the painter to have been Florentine, from the circle of Salerno di Coppo, a view shared by Anna Tambini (1996). Angelo Tartuferi disputed this hypothesis in 1988, however, aligning himself instead with the Umbro-Marchigian proposal made by Garrison, followed also by Pia Palladino (loc. cit.).

At the time of the painting’s first publication in 1927, it was in the renowned collection of the Belgian engineer and financier Adolphe Stoclet. Stoclet worked on the development of the European railroads and owned dozens of companies, including factories, banks and also mines in the Belgian colonies. He inherited a vast fortune upon the death of his father in 1904. In 1907 he commissioned the celebrated Viennese architect Josef Hoffmann to design a villa for him in Brussels. Given carte blanche and an unlimited budget, Hoffmann produced the lavish Stoclet Palace in Brussels (fig. 2) and entrusted the decoration of its interior to Fernand Khnopff and Gustav Klimt, whose exquisite, monumental mural remains intact in the palace’s dining room (fig. 3). The central motif of the golden frieze is the stylized Tree of Life, with its sprawling branches peppered with symbolism inspired by the Ancient Egyptian, Classical and Byzantine works (such as the present painting) in Stoclet’s own collection. Stoclet had amassed a sensational art collection comprising Medieval metalwork, enamels, Pre-Columbian and Asian works of art, Egyptian sculpture and Byzantine and late-Medieval Italian paintings. Among the most notable early Italian paintings owned by Stoclet is Duccio di Buoninsegna’s Madonna and Child of circa 1290-1300, sold in these Rooms in 2004 and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (fig. 4).

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