oil on panel
F. Bologna, "Il Maestro di San Giovanni da Capestrano", in Proporzioni, III, 1950, p. 92;
F. Bologna, I Pittori alla corte angioina di Napoli, 1266-1414, Rome 1969, p. 286, note 169;
F. Bologna, Napoli e le rotte mediterranee della pittura da Alfonso il Magnanimo a Ferdinando il Cattolico, Naples 1977, pp. 56, 69-70, 75, 77, note 10, reproduced fig. 41;
F. Faranda, La Fondazione Roberto Longhi a Firenze, Milan 1980, p. 257, under cat. no. 51;
F. Bologna, "Colantonio", in Dizionario biografico degli italiani, XXVI, Rome 1982, p. 698;
F. Sricchia Santoro, Antonello e l'Europa, Milan 1986, pp. 28-30, 33, note 17, 153 (as a youthful work by Antonello da Messina, circa 1450);
F. Zeri (ed.), La pittura in Italia: Il Quattrocento, Milan 1987, vol. II, p. 601;
L. Arbace, Antonello da Messina: catalogo completo dei dipinti, Florence 1993, p. 18, reproduced, p. 19;
G. Barbera, Antonello da Messina, Milan 1998, p. 14;
S.C. Martin, "Colantonio", in Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon. Die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker, vol. XX, Munich and Leipzig 1998, p. 203;
C. Savettieri, Antonello da Messina, Palermo 1998, p. 143, note 26;
G. Toscano, La biblioteca reale di Napoli al tempo della dinastia aragonese, Naples 1998;
P. Leone de Castris, Dipinti dal XIII al XVI secolo, Naples 1999, pp. 55-6, under cat. no 24;
A. Galli, "Un'aggiunta alla pala di San Lorenzo a Napoli di Colantonio", in Nuovi Studi, VIII, 2000, pp. 13-16;
A. Galli, in M. Natale (ed.), El Renacimento Mediterranáneo, viajes de artistas e itenerarios de obras entre Italia, Francia y España en el siglo XV, exhibition catalogue, Madrid 2001, pp. 382-3, 387, under cat. no. 58;
G. Curzi, Il polittico di Colantonio a San Lorenzo, exhibition catalogue, Naples 2001, p. 39;
A. Amendola, I Caetani di Sermoneta: Storia artistica di un antico casato tra Roma e l'Europa nel Seicento, Rome 2010, pp. 71-5, reproduced, figs. 45-6.
This small panel once formed part of a complex polyptych, commissioned by Alfonso of Aragon for the Rocchi chapel in the church of San Lorenzo Maggiore, Naples.1 The panels which formed the polyptych are Colantonio's earliest extant works, and they represent an extremely important commission in the history of Neapolitan quattrocento painting. The polyptych, although now broken up and with elements in various collections (see below), was described in great detail by the sixteenth century Neapolitan historiographer Camillo Tutini, thus providing us a fairly detailed idea of what it would have looked like originally:
"si vede nella chiesa di San Lorenzo de'frati conventuali la tavola nella cappella de'Rochi divisa in due parti: in quello di supra si vede un San Francesco in piedi, il quale dà il libro della regola a molti Santi Frati e molte Sante Monache della sua religione che inginocchiati gli stanno intorno; in quella di sotto vi è un San Girolamo in atto di studiare con molti libri dipinti; ne li due pilastri che sono attaccati al quadro, in essi vi sono compartiti molti nichetti finti, dentro de quali vi sono pittati vari santi e beati della religione francescana; et il fondo di detto quadro è tutto d'oro all'uso antico."2
As described, the center section was comprised of two large panels, the upper portion of which was Colantonio's St. Francis of Assisi Giving the Rule to the First and Second Franciscan Orders, today in the Capodimonte, Naples. As Tutini records, the bottom panel was a large painting depicting St. Jerome, though there is some debate as to the identification of the picture. Ferdinando Bologna hypothesized it was the St. Jerome in his Study Removing the Thorn from the Lion's Paw, now also in the Capodimonte. More convincingly, however, Adriano Amendola argues that the Capodimonte St. Jerome cannot be a candidate, based on the fact that Tutini's description omits any mention of a lion, as well as the fact that he describes the original background as covered by gold, which the Capodimonte St. Jerome lacks.3 Despite the debate on the identification of the bottom panel, what is certain is that on either side of the panels were two pilasters, each with niches which contained images of beatified or sainted Francsican friars, including the present Leonard of Assisi.4 The altarpiece was disassembled in 1641, in which year cardinal Luigi Caetani took seven of the original twelve panels into his personal collection, where they remained until after World War II.5 This Blessed Leonard of Assisi was not part of the Caetani collection, though that group, as well as the remaining three known panels survive today and are accounted for in private collections. Silvestro, Pietro da Treia (or da Monticelli), Galbazio Roberto Malatesta, Meffeo and Ranieri all belong to the heirs of Conte Vittorio Cini, Venice; Giovanni da Perugia is located in the Museo Morandi, Bologna; Egidio is located in the Fondazione Roberto Longhi, Florence; and Leo and Morico were recently re-discovered in a private Italian collection.
The handling of this Blessed Leonard of Assisi displays Colantonio's strong associations with Northern painting, particularly the work of Jan van Eyck. The work is executed entirely in oil, a technique which developed in the North and had gained recent popularity in southern Italy. Colantonio's knowledge, and adept use of the preferred medium of his Northern contemporaries emphasizes his key role as an artist partly responsible for synthesizing Northern techniques with Neapolitan religiosity. Colantonio would have had access to great works by Northern artists through the collection of Alfonso of Aragon, which included works by both van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden. Such influences manifested themselves not only through the present example, but in other works from Colantonio's oeuvre, including a Crucifixion (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, inv. no. 94) which is derived from a prototype by van Eyck in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (acc. no. 33.92ab).6 Colantonio is also thought to have painted a Deposition (Naples, S Domenico Maggiore) based on Rogier van der Weyden's tapestries of scenes from the Passion of Christ (untraced), which decorated the 'Hall of Triumph' in the Castelnuovo, Naples. Though scholarship today is in agreement that Colantonio is the author of the present panel, the series of Franciscans to which it belongs have at times previously been given by some scholars to the young Antonello da Messina. Antonello was another artist strongly influenced by Northern traditions, receiving his early training in Colantonio's workshop circa 1450.
We are grateful to Keith Christiansen, Xavier Salomon, and Larry Kanter for supporting the attribution to Colantonio, based on first hand inspection.
1. See Sricchia Santoro, op.cit.
2. trans:"One sees in the church of San Lorenzo of the Conventual Brothers the painting in the chapel of the Rocchi family which is divided in two parts: the upper one shows a Saint Francis standing, who is giving the book of the Rule of the Order to many Monk and Nun Saints of his order who are shown kneeling around him; and below one sees a Saint Jerome who is studying with many illustrated books; and with two pilasters which are joined to the altarpiece, there divided in to many feigned niches, in which are depicted different Sainted and Beatified members of the Franciscan order, and the ground of the said painting is all gilt, in the old fashioned manner". The original manuscript is now housed in the Biblioteca Nazionale, Naples (See B. Croce, Il manoscritto di Camillo Tutini sulla Storia dell'arte napoletana, in Napoli Noilissima, VII, fasc. 8, 1898, p. 121).
3. For an illustrated reconstruction as presented by both Bologna and Amendola, see Amendola, op.cit., figs. 45 and 46.
4. The reconstruction presented by Ferdinando Bologna indicates that only ten panels were part of the original polyptych. Adriano Amendola illustrates a reconstruction which acknowledges the existence of another two, as yet unidentified panels.
5. Amendola, op.cit., p. 73.
6. That picture is currently listed as "Anonymous Valencian Artist", though it has at various times been given to Colantonio. The first to do so was Roberto Longhi in 1955.
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