Lot 107
  • 107

The Master of Pratovecchio

200,000 - 300,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • The Master of Pratovecchio
  • The Madonna and Child Enthroned with Angels and Flanked by Saint Bridget and the Archangel Michael, erroneously known as "The Poggibonsi Triptych"
  • tempera on panel


Possibly Convento del Paradiso, Bagno a Ripoli, commissioned from a certain Giovanni di Francesco in 1439 (according to a contract discovered in State archives [see Literature and note below]);
Possibly with Fungini, Perugia, by 1880;
From whom possibly acquired by Charles Fairfax Murray, London and Florence;
From whom supposedly acquired by Marcello Galli-Dunn, Florence;
With Galerie Sangiorgi, Rome, by 1910 (as Alessio Baldovinetti);
Arthur Sambon, Paris, before 1914;
His sale, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 26 May 1914, lot 221, reproduced in the catalogue with the lateral panels swapped (as School of Verrocchio);
Where acquired by Count René Trotti, Paris and Rome;
Possibly Robert Langton Douglas, London, according to a letter from Edward Fowles of Duveen Brothers to Werner Weisbach, dated 29 June 1948;
With Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, Paris and New York, by 1917 and still in 1953 (attributed to Andrea del Castagno by Lionello Venturi in a letter to Edward Fowles dated 23 July 1942);
Private Collection;
Hugh Satterlee, New York, by 1963;
By whom sold, "The Property of a Gentleman," London, Sotheby's, 5 July 1967, lot 109 (as The Master of Pratovecchio);
Where acquired by The J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu.


New York, Duveen Brothers, Inc., The Poggibonsi Altarpiece, 15 December 1952 - 10 January 1953;
Houston, TX, Museum of Fine Arts, The Human Image, 10 October 1958 - 23 November 1958, cat. no. 22, reproduced with a full set of predella panels below the triptych (as Andrea del Castagno, circa 1444);
New York, Duveen Brothers, Inc., Art of Tuscany, November - December 1963, no. 15 (as Andrea del Castagno).


Archivio di Stato, Firenze, Memoriale dal 1425 al 1435, Monastero al Paradiso, 1435, vol. 235, c. 17r, c. 24r;
Galerie Sangiorgi, Catalogue des Objets d'Art Ancien pour l'année 1910, Rome 1910, p. 4 (as Alessio Baldovinetti);
Galerie Sangiorgi, Catalogue des Objets d'Art Ancien pour l'année 1912, Venice 1912, no. 1 (as Alessio Baldovinetti);
R. Longhi, "Genio degli anonimi," in Critica d'Arte, 1940, vol. XXIII, pt. 2, p. 100 (as anonymous);
G.M. Richter, "The Beginnings of Andrea dal Castagno," in Art in America, vol. 29 (October 1941) pp. 176-199, reproduced figs. 1, 7, 9, 13, 16, 17, 21-23 (as Andrea del Castagno);
G.M. Richter, Andrea del Castagno, Chicago 1943, pp. 11-12, reproduced plates 11-15B (as Andrea del Castagno);
R. Langton Douglas, "The Reconstruction of Dismembered Altarpieces," in The Art Quarterly, (Autumn 1945) pp. 287-288, reproduced p. 283, figure 2 (as Andrea del Castagno);
M. Brockwell, "The Brigittine Altarpiece by Andrea Del Castagno Erroneously Known as 'The Poggibonsi Altarpiece'," in The Connoisseur, vol. CXXVIII (September 1951) pp. 6-9, 56, reproduced (as Andrea del Castagno);
M. Davies, National Gallery Catalogues: The Earlier Italian Schools, London 1951, p. 406, under no. 584 (as attributed to Giovanni di Francesco);
M. Salmi, "Postille alla Mostra di Arezzo," in Commentari (July-December 1951), p. 195, the central panel reproduced plate LVI, figure 236 (as 'Unknown Florentine artist', Duveen Collection);
G. Kaftal, Iconography of the Saints in Tuscan Painting, Florence 1952, p. 222, reproduced fig. 139;
R. Longhi, "Il Maestro di Pratovecchio," in Paragone, no. 35 (November 1952) pp. 28-29, 37 (note 21) (as Master of Pratovecchio);
M. Salmi, "Fuochi d'artificio o della pseudo critica," in Commentari, vol. 5 (Jan-Mar 1954), p. 72;
F. Hartt, "The Earliest Works of Andrea del Castagno:  Part Two," in Art Bulletin, vol. XLI, (September 1959), p. 234 (note 67) (as Master of Pratovecchio);
M. Davies, National Gallery Catalogues:  The Earlier Italian Schools, London 1961, pp. 523-524 (note 8), (as Master of Pratovecchio);
M. Salmi, Andrea del Castagno, Novara 1961, p. 59 (as Master of Pratovecchio);
F. Zeri, Due dipinti, la filologia e un nome: Il Maestro delle Tavole Barberini, 1961, p. 45 (as Master of Pratovecchio);
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School, New York and London 1963, vol. I, p. 88, reproduced vol. II, pl. 691 (as Giovanni di Francesco [Master of the Carrand Triptych]);
A. Paolucci, Il diffondersi della visione prospettica, no. 257 in the series Maestri del Colore, Milan 1966, unpaginated, under the discussion of the Master of Pratevecchio;
B. Fredericksen, Catalogue of the Paintings in The J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu 1972, pp. 11-12, no. 14 (as Giovanni di Francesco);
B. Fredericksen and F. Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections, Cambridge, MA, 1972, p. 135 (as Master of Pratovecchio);
B. Fredericksen, Giovanni di Francesco and the Master of Pratovecchio, no. 6 in a series published by The J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu 1974, pp. 5-38, reproduced;
B. Fredericksen, The J. Paul Getty Museum:  Greek and Roman Antiquities, Western European Paintings and French Decorative Arts of the Eighteenth Century, London 1975, p. 78, reproduced (as Giovanni di Francesco);
E. Fowles, Memories of Duveen Brothers, New York 1976, p. 184;
M. Horster, Andrea del Castagno: Complete edition with a critical catalogue, Oxford 1980, pp. 194-195, under "Paintings Wrongly Attributed to Castagno";
G. Bacarelli, "Le commissioni artistiche attraverso i documenti:  novità per il maestro del 1399 ovvero Giovanni di Tano Fei e per Giovanni Antonio Sogliani," in Il 'Paradiso' in Pian di Ripoli.  Studi e ricerche su un antico monastero, Florence 1985, pp. 96-102, reproduced p. 98, fig. 88 (as Florentine, first half of the 15th century);
L. Bellosi, Pittura di luce: Giovanni di Francesco e l'arte fiorentina di metà Quattrocento, Milan 1990, exh. cat., pp. 28 -31, reproduced p. 29, no. 19 (as Master of Pratovecchio);
C. Ginzburg, "Ancora su Piero della Francesca e Giovanni di Francesco," in Paragone 29 (September 1991), pp. 26-28 (as Giovanni da Rovezzano);
A. Padoa Rizzo, "Ristudiando i documenti:  Proposte per il "Maestro di Pratovecchio" e la sua tavola eponima," in Studi di storia dell'arte sul Medioevo e il Rinascimento, Florence 1993, vol. II, pp. 579-599, reproduced p. 593, fig. 2:
A. Padoa Rizzo in The Dictionary of Art, London 1996, vol. 20, p. 748, under The Master of Pratovecchio;
D. Jaffé, Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles 1997, p. 51, reproduced (as Giovanni di Francesco);
D. Gordon, National Gallery Catalogues: The Fifteenth Century Italian Paintings, London 2003, vol. 1, p. 122, under no. 584 (as the Master of Pratovecchio, identifiable as Jacopo di Antonio);
K. Christiansen, Biographical entry on The Pratovecchio Master, in From Filippo Lippi to Piero della Francesca: Fra Carnevale and the Making of a Renaissance Master, exh. cat., New York 2005, pp. 286-287.

Catalogue Note

The authorship of this arresting and spirited triptych has in the past been ascribed to numerous artists but has most convincingly been attributed to the as-yet-unidentified Master of Pratovecchio, who worked in and around Florence in the mid fifteenth century, an attribution most recently supported by Miklós Boskovits.1 Roberto Longhi (see Literature) first reconstructed the oeuvre of the master in 1952 and considered him an artist of note who contributed to the Florentine transition from the early fifteenth-century serenity and intimacy of Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi to the more dynamic forms found later in the century, presaged here in the energetic movement of the Archangel Michael. His eponymous work is a dismembered triptych from the Camaldolese monastery of San Giovanni Evangelista in Pratovecchio whose central panel is an Assumption of the Virgin now in Arezzo, and whose lateral panels are in the National Gallery in London.2 Other works attributed to the Master include The Three Archangels in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin and a Madonna and Child with Angels in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York.3

Several artists have been proposed in the many attempts to identify the Master of Pratovecchio. The matter seemed to have been resolved in 1974 when Fredericksen (see Literature) proposed to associate the triptych with a painting - documented to have included the figures of Saint Bridget and the Archangel Michael - commissioned in 1439 for the Bridgetine convent at Pian di Ripoli.4 Payment for that work was made to a Giovanni di Francesco del Cervelliera da Rovezzano (1412/28-1459) whom Vasari records as a student of Andrea del Castagno. Fredericksen thus proposed that the Master of Pratovecchio could in fact be the youthful Giovanni di Francesco, an idea that has since been rejected by most scholars of early Italian painting.5 However, as Fredericksen himself noted, this theory is not without flaws as the styles of the two artists are quite dissimilar, as has been more recently observed by Bellosi (see Literature). Moreover, the figure of Bridget in the present work differs from the documented stipulation that there were to be several figures surrounding her, and in the end Fredericksen felt compelled "to leave the matter open."6 Padoa Rizzo (see Literature) and Bellosi add another objection to Fredricksen's proposal on the grounds that 1439 is too early a date of execution for this triptych, preferring a dating on stylistic grounds to circa 1450.

These difficulties and inconsistencies led Padoa Rizzo to suggest that the Master of Pratovecchio could be more appropriately associated with Jacopo di Antonio (1427-1454) (see Literature).  Antonio was a cousin of Giovanni di Francesco and was employed with him in the workshop of their uncle Giuliano di Jacopo.  It is assumed that Jacopo di Antonio took over the commission for this altarpiece even though it is Giovanni who is named in the convent's documents.  Padoa Rizzo's theory has gained the support of many scholars, including Dr. Laurence Kanter; however, it is not without its own problems.7  The elaboration of Jacopo di Antonio's oeuvre rests on the association of one documented work with his hand:  in 1451 he is supposed to have added cherub heads to the frame of Giotto's Badia altarpiece in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.  These angels are, however, stylistically distinct from both the corpus of works assembled under the Master of Pratovecchio and also those grouped under Giovanni di Francesco.  In fact, the heads seem closest to Pesellino and many believe them to be the work of that artist rather than of Antonio.8  Again, it seems safest to stop short of a definitive identification of the altarpiece with this artist, although further research could prove fruitful in linking Jacopo di Antonio to the Master of Pratovecchio.

In his entry on the Master in the 2005 Fra Carnevale exhibition catalogue, Christiansen suggests that it is safe to associate this triptych with the one described in the 1439 document, since the inclusion of the figures of Bridget and the Archangel Michael are clearly specified, but he stops short of identifying the Master of Pratovecchio with either Giovanni di Franceso or Jacopo di Antonio (see Literature).  Whoever the Master of Pratovecchio might have been, it is clear from the present triptych that he must have come into contact with, and been influenced by, not only Domenico Veneziano but also Donatello.  Veneziano's influence can be detected in the artist's use of deep bright colors and the sculptural quality of the Archangel's hair, with each ringlet individually rendered, recalls the work of Donatello.  The Master's style also betrays an awareness of the paintings of Andrea del Castagno, whose name was for many years associated with this triptych,9 and Piero della Francesca, whose curtain behind the Madonna di Monterchi is echoed by the red cloth behind the Virgin and Child here, and whose drapery in the Madonna della Misericordia is repeated here in Bridget's tunic.10

We are grateful to Keith Christiansen, Laurence Kanter and Miklós Boskovits for their assistance with the present lot.

1. Private communication, 12 August 2010.
2. See Christiansen, under Literature, pp. 172-73, cat. no. 14, reproduced in colour.
3. Idem, pp. 170-71, cat. no. 13, reproduced in colour.
4. The triptych's proposed more recent provenance before its appearance in the Sangiorgi catalogue of 1910 (see Literature) is nebulous and is based on information which Fredericksen (see Literature under 1974) considers to be unreliable.
5. See Christiansen, op. cit. and in private communication, 16 August 2010, Dr. Laurence Kanter echoed the same opinion.
6. Fredericksen, 1974, p. 13.  
7.  Private communication, 16 August 2010.
8. See Boskovits et al., Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century, Washington 2003, pp. 572-73, under note 11.
9.  This work was first attributed to Castagno while it was wtih Duveen Brothers and was first published as such by Richter in a 1941 article in Art in America (see Literature).  Although Duveen and Richter both traced the altarpiece back to the Badia di San Michele at Poggibonsi, thus christening the work the "Poggibonsi Altarpiece," Maurice Brockwell effectively refuted this assumption in his 1951 article in The Connoisseur, although he did not at the time question the attribution to Castagno (see Literature).
10. See P. De Vecchi, Piero della Francesca, l'opera completa, Milan 1967, p. 98, cat. no. 17, reproduced in colour plate XVIII and p. 88, cat. no. 7H, reproduced in colour plate VI.