Lot 6
  • 6

Master of Città di Castello

300,000 - 500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Master of Città di Castello
  • Crucifixion with the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist
  • tempera on panel, gold ground, with a shaped top


Florence art trade;
Where acquired in the 1920s by Adolphe Stoclet (1871-1949), Brussels (as Ugolino Lorenzetti);
By inheritance to Philippe R. Stoclet;
By whom sold, London, Sotheby’s, 24 March 1965, lot 9, where acquired by Agnew’s for £16,000 (as Duccio di Buoninsegna);
With Thos. Agnews & Sons, Ltd., London;
From whom acquired by the present owner.


R. Van Marle, ‘Dipinti sconosciuti della scuola di Duccio’, in Rassegna d’arte senese, XIX, 1926, p. 4 (as Ugolino Lorenzetti);
C.H. Weigelt, Sienese Painting of the Trecento, Florence 1930, p. 70, under note 28 (as fairly near to Duccio’s workshop);
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance, Oxford 1932, p. 294, (as an early work by Ugolino Lorenzetti);
C. Brandi, Duccio, Florence 1951, pp. 154-55, as (Ugolino Lorenzetti); 
E. Carli, Dipinti senesi del contado e della Maremma, Milan 1955, pp. 57-58;
J. H. Stubblebine, Duccio di Buoninsegna and His School, Princeton 1979, vol. I, p. 176, reproduced vol. II, fig, 434 (as Polyptych 39 Master, a follower of Ugolino di Nerio, after the Madonna and Child inv. no. 39 in the Siena Museum; with erroneous provenance of  a further sale at Sotheby’s 11 June 1965);
L. Kanter, “Ugolino di Nerio; Saint Anne and the Virgin”, in National Gallery of Canada Bulletin, 5, 1981-82, pp. 9-28 (as Ugolino di Nerio, the pinnacle to the Madonna and Child in the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, inv. no. 16.65);
L. Kanter, Italian Paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts, vol. 1, Boston 1994, p. 80 (as the pinnacle to a painting in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena also by the Master of Città di Castello);
G. Mazzoni, Quadri antichi del Novecento, Vicenza 2001, pp. 104 - 106, reproduced p. 449, figs. 223 and 224 (as Follower of Duccio);
A. Bagnoli in Duccio, Alle origini della pittura senese, exhibition catalogue, Milan 2003, p. 292, under cat. no. 41.


The following condition report has been provided by Karen Thomas of Thomas Art Conservation LLC., 336 West 37th Street, Suite 830, New York, NY 10018, 212-564-4024, info@thomasartconservation.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. Overall this picture presents itself very favorably. Extant original portions of this fragmentary painting are in relatively good condition in light of the picture's age and having sustained damage when forcibly removed from its original setting and losses, although not insignificant, are expertly restored. The uppermost apex of the angled top – including the upper portions of Christ's arms, the crown of Christ's head, and most of the top half of the cross – and the bottom of the wooden cross excepting the right side of the foot block are non-original. Christ's figure overall, including the translucent perizoma, is relatively well-preserved, with some lacunae. The figures of Mary and St. John the Evangelist display a similar state of preservation, retaining the fine details in the faces and hands. In Mary's figure a vertical loss runs from below her wrist to her hips. The green hue of Mary's mantle is the result of darkening of the blue pigment by an oil or resin applied as part of a restoration. In St. John's garments a roughly triangular loss is found on the bottom left, above which are a few small lacunae. Newer minor losses and lifting lie adjacent to a vertical crack running through the skull at the base of the cross. Sizable repairs in the gold ground are recognizable by slight differences in the crack pattern and brighter tonality of the gilding. The wood support has undergone structural intervention intended to bring the panel closer to its original shape. Given that the quality of the restoration is at the highest level and the picture shows no real need for cleaning, the painting can be hung in its current state. If desired, any marginally off-color restorations in the flanking figures could be adjusted and the discolored coating on the blue mantle thinned, but to this examiner's eye, these would be only slight adjustments to an already well-presented picture.
"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 pinnacle panel is an extremely rare work by the so-called "Master of Città di Castello," one of the two most important painters active in Siena in the immediate wake of Duccio di Buoninsegna.  An initial reconstruction of his oeuvre began in 1908, when Frederick Mason Perkins noted a physiognomic correlation between three Madonnas: that in the central panel of a polyptych now in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena (inv. no. 33); the Madonna and Child in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena; and the eponymous Madonna and Child Enthroned in the Pinacoteca Comunale, Città di Castello (inv. no. 3).1  The group of works attributed to this master grew to approximately seventeen pictures over the 20th century, though there remained much confusion as to their chronology, with some scholars believing his activity to have begun as early as the 1280s, while others dated his works to as late as the 1330s.2 

It seems most credible, as Bagnoli argues, that the artist was active between the last years of the 13th century and the first two decades of the 14th century.3  This painting was first correctly attributed in 1988 by Laurence Kanter (see Literature) who believes it to be the pinnacle of a painting by the Master of Città di Castello in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena (fig. 1); the hypothesis however is yet to be tested by a firsthand examination.  

The Master of Città di Castello was primarily influenced by Duccio; in fact his eponymous polyptych is believed to follow a now lost composition by that master, painted in 1302, for the Nove chapel in the Palazzo Pubblico, Siena.When the present painting was offered at Sotheby's London as Duccio in 1965 (see Provenance), the untreated area at the bottom of the panel (where it would have attached to a larger panel as its pinnacle) had been filled in and the folds of the Madonna's robe had been distinctively outlined with gilding in order to give the work a more "Duccesque" appearance.  Despite his references to Duccio, however, the superb Master of Città di Castello was no mere derivative follower, but was a developed and individual painter who adhered to Byzantine and Sienese Gothic traditions whilst simultaneously displaying a profound knowledge of Giotto di Bondone's progressive style of painting. 

The figure types in this painting are most closely related to those in the painted cross from the church of Madonna delle Grazie a Montecerboli in Pomerance (see A. Bagnoli under Literature, op. cit., cat. no. 41, reproduced p. 291).   The figure of Christ is remarkably similar in both paintings, as the artist masterfully represents the weight of his body suspended from the cross through the tension of his musculature.5  The stance of the two lateral figures, and their placement marginally in front of the cross, create a convincing illusion of depth against the otherwise stark backdrop.  As in the Montecerboli cross, the Master depicts the Madonna and Saint John the Evangelist with extraordinary expressivity, and the detail of Saint John’s clasped fingers and brow, knitted in anguish, evokes profound emotion and pathos.


1.  For the Madonna in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo see A. Bagnoli under Literature, op. cit., p. 296 - 298, cat. no. 42, reproduced; this paintnig forms the central panel of a polyptych, the flanking panels of which are now in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena (inv. nos. 29, 30, 31 and 32).
2.  For a full list of works attributed to the Master of Città di Castello see A. Bagnoli under Literat ure, op. cit., p. 288.
3.  Ibid.
4.  C. Brandi, Duccio, Florence 1951, pp. 141 - 142.
5.  A. Bagnoli, op. cit., p. 289.