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The Master of the Fiesole Epiphany (active Florence, 15th century)
The Master of the Fiesole Epiphany (active Florence, 15th century)

The Madonna and Child

Details
The Master of the Fiesole Epiphany (active Florence, 15th century)
The Madonna and Child
tempera and gold on panel, shaped top, in an engaged frame
28¾ x 18¼ in. (73 x 46.3 cm.)
Provenance
Private collection, Europe.

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Lot Essay

This touching representation of the Madonna and Child is a rare, early work by the Master of the Fiesole Epiphany. Sharing the same golden hair and rosy-cheeked complexions, the Christ Child and his mother gaze at the viewer, their expressions tinged with sorrow. Their tender embrace is tempered by the foreknowledge of Christ's future sacrifice--an event alluded to by the altar-like carved stone block on which the child stands. The crucifix on Christ's necklace serves as a further reminder of his destiny, which is rendered all the more poignant by the coral beads, believed in the Renaissance to have apotropaic power. Behind the stone wall, two Cyprus trees are silhouetted against a blue sky. Through this arrangement, the artist places the Virgin and Child within a sacred precinct, yet at the same time situates them within a familiar Tuscan landscape.

First identified by Everett Fahy in 1967, the Master of the Fiesole Epiphany is so named for a large panel representing the Epiphany of Christ in the church of San Francesco in Fiesole (E. Fahy, "Some Early Italian Pictures in the Gambier-Perry Collection", The Burlington Magazine, CIX, No. 768, 1967, p. 128-139). The eponymous work, as Fahy observes, shows the influence of one of the Master's purported teachers, Cosimo Rosselli (1439-1507), and also bears stylistic similarities to works by Jacopo del Sellaio (1441-1493). Fahy has suggested that the anonymous Master may, in fact, be identifiable with Filippo di Giuliano (1449-1503), an artist who shared a workshop with Jacopo in Florence after 1473. Other works by the Master of the Fiesole Epiphany are preserved in the Courtauld Gallery, London and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, as well as in other museums and private collections throughout Europe and America. The artist's work has most recently received significant scholarly attention from Anna Padoa Rizzo in the exhibition catalogue Maestri e botteghe: pitture a Firenze alla fine del Quattrocento (Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, 1992-1993, pp. 163-164).

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