This beautiful and superbly decorated panel appears to belong to group of paintings given to Venetian painter, Quirizio di Giovanni da Murano, and bears a striking resemblance to another Madonna and Child ascribed to that artist, now in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.1 Little is known of this artist besides his employment in the workshop of Antonio Vivarini, and his earliest signed work is the Santa Lucia altarpiece in the Accademia dei Concordi, Rovigo (Inv. no. 139), dated 1462 and inscribed OPUS QUI/RICIUS DE/JOANES VE/NECIIS.2 Despite the Venetian's presumed familiarity with the work of Vivarini and Jacopo Bellini, his oeuvre reveals a proclivity toward a more antiquated mode than that preferred by his contemporaries.
Stylistically, this panel also bears an affinity with a group of pictures ascribed to another figure active in Veneto circa 1460 known as "Pantaleon." Rodolfo Pallucchini was first to unite the limited oeuvre of this somewhat obscure painter, based on an Adoration found in a Parisian private collection which sold at Sotheby's, New York in January 2011 (see fig. 1).3 The panel is signed and dated; M...US PANTALEON PINSIT 1460, thus providing the scholar with the surname of the artist. Pantaleon created comparably structured compositions to those of Quirizio; within fantastical, mountainous landscapes, both posit miniature animals and birds in the immediate foreground and place the Christ child lower left before a kneeling Madonna who, with hands clasped, turns to the left with head reclining in adoration. Indeed, such is the resemblance of the two hands that the Berlin Madonna by Quirizio has been attributed by Mauro Lucco to Pantaleon.4
The present panel and the Gemäldegalerie variation, however, share certain features which do not correspond entirely with the Pantaleon pictures. While in the majority of Pantaleon's compositions the Madonna kneels upright with the child on the ground before her, in both Quirizio works the Madonna kneels down with the child placed tenderly in her lap. The sumptuous drapery, in the present panel edged with pearls and adorned throughout with elaborate punch tooling, tumbles in convincing folds about the elbows and knees, in contrast with Pantaleon's vertical creases falling straight to the floor; in addition, the headdress is convincingly rendered, with the fabric rippling into pleats along the hairline, rather than a singular layer draped over the head. Finally, the mountainous backgrounds of the Quirizio panels share a jagged quality, with flat pathways and platforms at intervals, rather than the regular rounded points of the Venetic painter. While Quirizio and Pantaleon are analogous in many respects, these slight variations in both artists' works allow us to distinguish between the two hands.
1. Gemäldegalerie Berlin, Gesamtverzeichnis, museum catalogue, Berlin 1996, p. 487, cat. no. 1111°, reproduced fig. 2284.
2. "Quirizio di Giovanni da Murano" in Dizionario Enciclopedico dei Pittori e degli Incisori Italiani dall'XI al XX Secolo, vol. IX, Milan 1990, p. 285.
3. R. Pallucchini, "Pantaleon Pinsit" in Arte Veneta, XIII-XIV, 1959-60, pp.195-196, reproduced, fig. 266; New York, Sotheby's, 27 January 2011, lot 215.
4. Gemäldegalerie Berlin, Gesamtverzeichnis, op. cit., p. 487, cat. no. 1111°, reproduced fig. 2284.
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