Donnino di Domenico del Mazziere (Florence 1460 - after 1515) and Agnolo di Domenico del Mazziere (Florence 1466 - 1513), formerly the Master of Santo Spirito
- Rest on the Flight into Egypt
- tondo, tempera on panel, mounted on mahogany
Thence by descent to the Liechtenstein collection, Schloss Vaduz, Liechtenstein, until 1955;
With Wildenstein, London, by 1962.
E. Fahy, Some Followers of Domenico Ghirlandaio, New York and London 1976, p. 194.
The body of works attributed to the Master of Santo Spirito- so named for three altarpieces in their original destination, the church of Santo Spirito in Florence-was independently recognized by Richard Offner and Federico Zeri in unpublished texts. As Zeri subsequently remarked, this anonymous master's paintings "are based upon a rich and varied inheritance, reflecting the major artists working in Florence at the end of the Quattrocento-from Filippino Lippi and Domenico Ghirlandaio to Perugino and perhaps, Botticelli. The main influence is, however, that of Lorenzo di Credi, with whom this painter must have been in contact."1
In 1988, Anna Padoa Rizzo proposed that the Master of Santo Spirito was actually two documented artists, the sons of one Domenico di Donnino "mazziere" (or mace-bearer), who between 1469 to 1498 is documented in the same quarter, named after Santo Spirito, located in Florence's Oltrarno, or south bank.2 In 1480 Donnino, the eldest, is first documented as a painter's assistant, perhaps to Cosimo Rosselli, with whom, according to Giorgio Vasari's Lives, he was closely associated. In 1496, Donnino and Agnolo excecuted frescos in Pistoia that are no longer extant. Years later, Donnino executed a tondo depticting St. Thomas the Apostle and Thomas Aquinas (also lost) with another painter for the Camera del Gonfaloniere in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio, or town hall. The two brothers' workshop received many commissions, mostly for frescos in and around Florence. In 1508, Agnolo is said to have joined Michelangelo in Rome as an assistant in the frescoing of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, although (as is well known), the master soon afterward dispensed with such outside help.
In a later article, Padoa Rizzo was able to link one of the Master of Santo Spirito's paintings, the Madonna and Child with Two Angels and SS. Lucy and Peter Martyr (Gallerie dell' Accademia, Venice), with a commission from Agnolo and Donnino in 1490 for the chapel of Ospedale di Santa Lucia, Florence. With this information, her original suggestion regarding the identity of the Master of Santo Spirito was confirmed.3
In the present work, the iconography of the kneeling Madonna adoring the seated Infant Christ derives from the circle of Fra Filippo Lippi and was a popular subject for tondo paintings, whose number proliferated in Tuscany from the 1470s onward. Such pictures were most often produced for private devotion. Here, though, the actual subject is the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, as signified by the inclusion of the saddle on which Joseph sits and which, when placed on a donkey, had borne the Holy Family to safety. The sheaf of wheat on which the Christ Child rests is a Eucharistic symbol. Often depicted by early Netherlandish painters, this motif became a popular one with Florentine artists in the circle of Agnolo and Donnino di Domenico, such as Cosimo Rosselli, Piero di Cosimo and Lorenzo di Credi.
As Zeri stated (op.cit.), Lorenzo di Credi seems to have the most in common stylistically with the Master of Santo Spirito. Indeed, in the present tondo the figures of the adoring Madonna and the Christ Child, as well as the soaring rocky landscape, relate it to Lorenzo di Credi's Adoration of the Shepherds (Galleria degi Uffizi, Florence), which was completed for the church of Santa Chiara in 1497 (the latter's date would therefore constitute a terminus post quem for the present painting). Here the Del Mazziere brothers' landscape is actually more naturalistic than any of Lorenzo's. With its winding paths and atmospheric perspective, not to mention its unusually delicate rendering of plants and trees, it provides a powerful suggestion of depth and the outdoors.
In 1955 the present tondo belonged to the princely house of Liechtenstein, whose ancestor, Prince Johan II, made a point of collecting Italian Renaissance paintings, sometimes with the advice of Wilhelm von Bode and often from the premier Italian art dealer at the time, Stefano Bardini of Florence.4 It can therefore be presumed that the present work entered the Liechtenstein collection during the lifetime of Johan II.
1. See F. Zeri, Italian Paintings in the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore 1976, vol. I, p. 198; for an oeuvre list, see, E. Fahy, under Literature, 1976, pp.192-195.).
2. A. Padoa Rizzo, "Agnolo di Donnino: nuovi documenti, le fonti e la possibile identificazione con il Maestro di Santo Spirito," in Rivista d'arte, XL, 1988, pp. 125-168).
3. A. Padoa Rizzo "Indagini sulle botteghe di pittura del '400 in Toscana. Il Maestro di Santo Spirito e i Del Mazziere: una conferma," in Erba d' Arno, no. 46, 1991, pp. 54-63; see also her biographical entry in M. Gregori, Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, Maestri e botteghe: pittura a Firenze alla fine del Quattrocento, exhibition catalogue, 1992-1993, pp. 114,123, 218).
4. See E. Castellani Zahir, "Liechtenstein, House of ... (9) John (Johann) II" in The Dictionary of Art, London 1996, Vol. XIX, p. 339.