Lot 11
  • 11

The Master of Marradi

300,000 - 400,000 USD
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  • The Master of Marradi
  • The Expulsion of King Tarquinius, Superbus and his son Sextus from Rome
  • inscribed at right: TARQVI[NUS] and SESTI
  • tempera, gilt and silver on panel


Anonymous sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot [Me Briest], 30 May 1988, lot 2 (as Workshop of Apollonio di Giovanni).


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting has been quite recently restored and should be hung as is. The reverse of the panel has a cradle which is supporting the panel well; it is flat and the paint layer is stable. The painting is clean, lightly varnished and retouched. Under ultraviolet light no broad retouches are visible. There are a few spots here and there in the brown colors in the diagonal rocks on the right side which have been applied. There are also a few spots in the white horse on the right, in the brown horse in the center, attending to some cracks in the lower left and some very random little dots. Presumably there are also a few spots here and there which correspond to retouches. However, the painting is under-restored yet has been accurately restored, and is in beautiful condition. The gilding to the armor seems likely to be original.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This painting once formed part of the decoration of a piece of furniture, either a cassone (a marriage chest) or part of a lettuccio (an elaborate wedding bed).  Both of these forms of furnishings were popular in aristocratic homes in Florence during the 15th and 16th centuries, and were often made en suite.  They were  presented to couples at the time of their nuptials (the cassoni generally in pairs) and were highly prized objects which were as much displays of wealth as utilitarian items.   The present panel is exceptionally well preserved, with very fine retention of detail and decoration throughout.  The use of gold and silver leaf on the armor in particular must have made a strong impression and clearly indicates that this came from an especially fine piece of furniture destined for a very sophisticated patron.  

Although there are a number of such examples with this particular subject, recent examination demonstrates that this panel belongs to a specific group, all depicting different episodes from the Lucretia story:  the Rape and the Funeral of Lucretia, both in the Lehman collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv. 1975.1.75 and 1975.1.76, see figs. 1 and 3) and a Suicide of Lucretia in a private collection, New York (see fig. 2).  Together with the present panel, all represent the major events in the story, and are painted in the same manner with the same details throughout.  Not only are the figures in the Lehman pictures identified with the same block capital inscriptions as in the present work, but there are other parallel details as well.  The odd winged helmet worn by the fleeing Sextus in this panel, for example, is seen in the Lehman Rape of Lucretia, and his horse is caparisoned with the same gilt punchwork.  All of the panels, including the present one, are of approximately the same height, and thus it is possible to suggest that the group were part of the same pair of cassoni (or the same lettuccio).  The sequence of the images would have been consistent with the chronology of the story, with first the Rape of Lucretia in the Lehman collection, followed by the Suicide in the New York collection.  This would have been the make-up of the first panel from left to right, confirmed by the fact that the hem of the dress of the woman at the extreme left of the Suicide episode continues and is found at the right of the Lehman panel.  The second panel was the Lehman Funeral of Lucretia on the left, with the present Expulsion to the right.  Technical examination of the Funeral reveals that the top, bottom and left edges of the image are all original, and that the picture is cut at right.This fits perfectly with the Expulsion, where the left edge of the image depicts the other half of the triumphal pillar (clearly based on Trajan's Column) seen in the Funeral, and the rest of the bright pink palazzo with the red roof seen at the extreme upper right of the Lehman Funeral is continued at the upper left.  In fact, a recent confrontation of the two panels was done, and the two halves line up perfectly.   The shared French provenance of all of these Lucretia panels only serves to underlie their relationship; the Lehman and other New York panel were all in the collection of Artaud de Montor in the 19th century, and the present work was in a French collection until acquired by the present owner.

The subject of this panel represents one of the key moments in the history of ancient Rome: the expulsion of King Tarquinius Superbus ("the Proud") and his son Sextus from the city.  According to Livy, the overthrow of the monarchy was caused by the actions of Sextus, who raped the noblewoman Lucretia.2 This event, and Lucretia's subsequent suicide, kindled an already festering resentment against the royal family, who were chased from the city, and thus occasioned the foundation of the Republic.   The story was a natural choice for a cassone or lettuccio as Lucretia became identified as one of the exemplars of wifely virtue during the Renaissance; in Florence, her connection to the republican form of government must have had a particular resonance. 

We are grateful to Roberta Bartoli for first suggesting an attribution to the Master of Marradi.

1.  See J. Pope-Hennessy, Italian Paintings in the Robert Lehman Collection, New York 1986,  p. 196, cat. no. 83.
2.  Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita, Book I.57-60.