The artist, otherwise known as the Master of the Bargello Tondo or the Master of the Judgement of Paris in the Bargello, takes his name from a desco da parto or post-natal tray depicting the Judgement of Paris in the Carrand Collection in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence (see, for instance, R. van Marle, The Development of the Italian Schools of Paintings, X, The Hague, 1928, p. 199, fig. 129; Antal, op. cit., pl. 160; R. Fremantle, Florentine Gothic Painters from Giotto to Masaccio, London, 1975, p. 597, fig. 1270; or the catalogue of the exhibition, L'età di Masaccio. Il primo Quattrocento a Firenze, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, 7 June-16 Sept. 1990, pp. 102-3, no. 21, illustrated in colour, and p. 259). The first step towards the re-establishment of his artistic personality was made as early as 1910 by Roger Fry (in The Burlington Magazine, XVII, May 1910, p. 126), who observed that the 'purely Florentine painter of the same group as Pesellino' who executed the Carrand Tondo was also responsible for two other deschi da parto, a variant Judgement of Paris formerly in the collections of Martin Le Roy, Paris, and Marquet de Vasselot, Neuilly-sur-Seine (Neri Lusanna, op. cit., figs. 9-10) and a Rape of Helen then in the collection of Sir Frederick Cook, Richmond, Surrey (ibid., fig. 8). In 1928 Roberto Longhi (Ricerche su Giovanni di Francesco, Pinacotheca, 1, July-Aug. 1928, p. 35; reprinted in Opere Complete, IV, Florence, 1968, p. 22), describing the artist as 'un alterego fiorentino di Giovanni di Paolo', added to his oeuvre an anconetta showing The Madonna and Child enthroned with two Saints, The Annunciation, The Nativity and The Visitation in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts (Longhi, op. cit., pl. 45; Neri Lusanna, op. cit., figs. 16-17), an Annunciation now in the Gambier-Parry Collection in the Courtauld Institute of Art (Longhi, op. cit., pl. 48; no. 35, colour pl. II, in the 1965 exhibition) and a Christ on the Cross with the Virgin, the Magdalen and Saint John the Evangelist once with Gualtiero Volterra, Florence (R. van Marle, The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting, IX, The Hague, 1927, fig. 195, as School of Masolino; Longhi, op. cit., pl. 47). The group was further expanded by Pudelko, op. cit., pp. 76-83, with a pair of panels of Angel Musicians now in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (Neri Lusanna, op. cit., fig. 14) and a Madonna of Humility now in the Los Angeles County Museum (ibid., fig. 15). Subsequent attributions include deschi da parto in the Serristori Collection, Florence, probably executed in 1446/7 (ibid., figs. 12-3) and at Avignon (M. Laclotte and E. Mognetti, Avignon, musée du Petit Palais: Peinture italienne, Paris, 1987, p. 141, no. 137, illustrated in colour p. 14), and Enrica Neri Lusanna has recently added to the artist's already siseable oeuvre a Christ on the Cross with the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist in a New York private collection (op. cit., fig. 4), a Madonna and Child enthroned with four Saints in a Florentine private collection (ibid., fig. 18) and manuscript illuminsations in Berlin (ibid., figs. 5-7) and in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana (ibid., figs. 1-2).
The present panel, regarded as the work of Taddeo Gaddi when in the Davenport Bromley Collection, was first published by Raimond van Marle, loc. cit., as the work of Arcangelo di Cola da Camerino, an attribution which was doubted by Berenson, loc. cit., who found it 'too purely Florentine'. It was identified as the work of the painter of the Carrand tondo by Longhi in 1935 (quoted by Pudelko, loc. cit.) and this attribution has never been questioned, Zeri (loc. cit., 1965) describing it as his 'main achievement'. Longhi's suggestion that it formed a diptych with the Gambier-Parry Annunciation, in which the punched decoration around the borders of the gold ground is identical, was, however, immediately dismissed, as the latter is of significantly smaller size; Anthony Blunt (loc. cit., 1960 and 1967) suggested that both may have originally formed parts of a larger complex (the Gambier-Parry panel was included in the 1960 and 1965 exhibitions with the then owner's attribution to Giovanni dal Ponte).
The works attributed to the Master of the Carrand Tondo establish him as a significant artistic personality in late Gothic Florentine culture, active in the orbit of Lorenzo Monaco and the young Masolino. Neri Lusanna, op. cit., points out his links with artists such as Francesco d'Antonio and the painters of the dome above the altar in the Old Sacristy of the church of San Lorenzo in Florence, and suggests that he influenced the young Pesellino. The only attempt to identify him was, however, made by the only scholar, apart from van Marle, not to regard him as purely Florentine. In 1940 Longhi (Fatti di Masolino e di Masaccio, La Critica d'Arte, XXV-XXVI, July-Dec. 1940, p. 186; reprinted in Opere Complete, VIII/I, Florence, 1975, p. 56) tentatively suggested that he might be Cecchino da Verona on the basis of morphological similarities with that painter's only known work, a Madonna and Child with two Saints in the Museo Diocesano at Trent; documented at Verona in 1447 and 1462, Cecchino is known to have been in Siena in 1432 when he was called upon to estimate Sassetta's Madonna delle Nevi. This identification was rejected by Lionello Puppi (Cecchino da Verona e il 'Maestro del Giudizio di Paride al Bargello', Cultura Atesina, 12, 1958, pp. 3-7), followed by all subsequent writers (see M. Lucco in La Pittura in Italia: Il Quattrocento, Milan, 1987, II, pp. 598-9).
In one of his 'conversations' at the Università Cattolica, Milan, published as Behind the Image - The art of reading paintings (op. cit., 1987), Zeri pointed out that the left side of the throne in the present panel was copied in a fake Annunciation sold at Sotheby's, 26 November 1958, lot 153, and included in the exhibition at Wildenstein's in 1965 as no. 102, fig. 95, as the work of Niccolò da Foligno. As Zeri observes, the forger could only have known the present picture from a book illustration, the first of which was provided by van Marle in 1927, loc. cit.
The present panel is first recorded in one of the most distinguished collections in England of early Italian painting formed in the nineteenth century, that of the Rev. Walter Davenport Bromley (1787-1863). The younger son of a prominent Cheshire family, Davenport Bromley first revealed a penchant for collecting pictures during a visit to Florence and Rome in 1844 when he was in his late fifties. During the following sixteen years he acquired more than 170 early Italian panels, almost all of them of religious subjects as befitted his cloth. He began in style, purchasing more than forty paintings at Cardinal Fesch's sale held in Rome in 1845. On his return to England he purchased a dozen pictures from the collection of William Young Ottley and during the following thirteen years acquired paintings at all the major sales at Christie's, including those of Edward Solly (1847), Edward Harman (1847), General Meade (1851), King Louis-Philippe (1853), Joly de Bammeville (1854), James Dennistoun (1855), Samuel Rogers (1856), Lord Northwick (1859) and Samuel Woodburn (1860). Most of Davenport Bromley's collection was housed at Wootton Hall, Staffordshire, while a few paintings were hung in his London house at 32 Grosvenor Street (see G.F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, London, 1854, III, pp. 371-80, and Galleries and Cabinets of Art in Great Britain, London, 1857, pp. 166-8).
At Davenport Bromley's posthumous sale in these Rooms in 1863 only eight of the 174 lots failed to find buyers. Several pictures were bought back for the family, including Taddeo Gaddi's Bromley Davenport Altarpiece, which was sold with four other panels from the collection in these Rooms on 24 May 1991, lots 33-7. The 9th Earl of Southesk purchased ten pictures at the 1863 Sale, including the present panel, Giovanni Bellini's Saint Jerome now in the Barber Institute, Birmingham, paintings by Luis de Vargas and Pedro Villegas Marmolejo (J. Baticle and C. Marinas, La Galerie espagnole de Louis Philippe au Louvre 1838-1848, Paris, 1981, no. 291 and 328, illustrated) and works given to Alessio Baldovinetti, Jacobello del Fiore, Pietro Alemanno and Squarcione.
Samuel Courtauld is best known as the founder of the institute which bears his name and for his collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. Most of this was given and bequeathed by him to the Institute in 1931 and 1947 and now hangs in the galleries at Somerset House, where his activities as a collector were celebrated in an exhibition, accompanied by a catalogue Impressionism for England: Samuel Courtauld as patron and collector, New Haven and London, 1994. The fortune Courtauld made from the textile industry also permitted him to make in 1923 a gift of £50,000 to the nation for the purchase of Impressionist works for the National Gallery.