Lot 12
  • 12

Master of the Latin Bible 18, possibly identifiable as Jacopino da Reggio, painted circa 1285

1,800,000 - 2,500,000 USD
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  • Master of the Latin Bible 18, possibly identifiable as Jacopino da Reggio, painted circa 1285
  • The Crucifixion with Saint Francis
  • tempera on panel, gold ground


Private collection, Florence, by 1966;
Mondadori Collection, Milan;
There purchased through an agent by the present collector in 2003.


New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, on loan, 3 July 2006 to 27 August 2010. 


R. Longhi, 1947, ed. 1978, p. 24 (as excellent work by an anonymous Byzantine master, 14th century)
E.B. Garrison, Italian Romanesque Panel Painting, An Illustrated Index, Florence 1949, p. 101, cat. no. 259a (as an anonymous Venetian master painting in the second quarter of the 14th century);
R. Longhi, "Postilla all'apertura sugli Umbri", in Paragone, 195, 1966, pp. 3 - 8, reproduced fig. 3 (detail) and 4;
R. Longhi, Giudizio sul Duecento e Ricerche sul Trecento nell'Italia Centrale, 1939 - 1970, Florence 1974, p. 161, reproduced fig. 61 (as Master of the Lat. 18 Bible, possibly identifiable as Franco Bolognese);
D. Benati, "La città sacra. Pittura murale e su tavola  nel Duecento Bolognese", in Duecento, Forme e Colori del Medioevo a Bologna, exhibition catalogue, M. Medica ed., Bologna 2000, pp. 97, 99 - 100, reproduced p. 101;
M. Medica, "La città dei libri e dei miniatori", in  Duecento, Forme e Colori del Medioevo a Bologna, exhibition catalogue, M. Medica ed., Bologna 2000, pp. 132 - 135, reproduced p. 101;
M. Medica, "Jacopino da Reggio", in Treccani: Dizionario biografico degli italiani, vol. 62, 2004, online edition.


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. A picture in excellent condition overall, particularly remarkable in light of its early date. The extraordinarily well-preserved paint layers throughout are notable for their intact brushwork and bright, high-key palette. Minimal restoration to address scattered losses is visible under ultraviolet illumination. Areas of retouching in Christ's body and in the darker portions of Mary's blue mantle are recognizable by their slightly altered hue. The losses (restored) in Christ's body may reflect the picture's function as an object of veneration, and thus may be evidence of wear from kissing or touching the figure of Christ. The flesh passages of Saint Julian, standing to the right of the crucifixion, display a diffuse quality that may be due to an age-related change to the paint; this could easily be addressed, if desired, with a small amount of retouching. Despite wear in the gold ground, the neutral ground layer below allows the background to have a cohesive appearance. The gilded inscription on the horizontal member of the cross is also abraded. The wood panel support is planar, retains its original thickness and displays typical wear on the back. Although adjusting the discolored retouching would make a slight improvement to the image, the picture may be hung and enjoyed in its current, excellent state.
"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

Dating to circa 1285, this remarkable panel is representative of a fascinating and vivacious period of thirteenth century Bolognese painting, when the city was heavily influenced by the exoticism of Constantinopolitan culture.  Roberto Longhi was first to publish the panel in 1947, believing it at the time to be the work of an anonymous Byzantine master of exceptional skill (see Literature).  It was not until 1966 (see Literature) that the scholar recognized the hand as that of a Bolognese miniaturist, whose illuminations appear in a bible created for Pope Clement VII, now in the Bibliotèque Nationale, Paris (BN Ms Lat. 18).  Longhi compared the present composition with a crucifixion scene illustrating a leaf of the Gospel of Saint Matthew (see fig. 1).  The two scenes are unmistakably the same hand.  Not only is the Christ figure surprisingly similar, but the cross is treated in the same manner, planed into six facets to create a geometric effect.  There are also striking parallels between the group of female figures here lower left and a group featured in illustrations of the Life of Christ in the Bible Lat. 18 (see fig. 2).

The present Crucifixion is a rare example of panel painting from this period in Bologna.  As Longhi recognized, this was not the work of a Byzantine master inspired by Western painting, but rather a Bolognese artist enthralled by influences of the Orient.  As Massimo Medica asserts, this Crucifixion is an exceptionally rare example of the pictorial productivity of the Master of the Bible Lat. 18  who, alongside the Master of the Gerona Bible, pioneered the so-called “second style” of Bolognese manuscript decoration in the latter part of the 1200s.  Much like in Venice and Siena, the circulation of Byzantine devotional images would have been diffuse in Bologna at this time.  Byzantine tendencies therefore bled into traditional Bolognese painting, with local artists creating a hybrid style visible in literary illuminations, devotional pictures and even monumental decoration.  The result was a rich and intricate synthesis of highly decorative oriental models with the pathos and complexity injected by the Florentine and Bolognese masters.  Here, the Greek inscription on the lateral bar of the cross is an overt reference to the Eastern world.  The sharp, geometricized folds in the drapery, the elongated, stylized limbs, all recall Byzantine paradigms.  Yet the treatment of the Christ figure is testament to the influence of Cimabue and Duccio and, similarly, the poignancy of Saint Francis’ emotion as he clings to the base of the cross is entirely Emilian.

In the same 1966 Paragone article, Longhi further ventured that this artist, whom he referred to as Maestro della Bibbia Parigina (Master of the Paris Bible, or Master of the Bible Lat. 18 for our purposes), may be identifiable as Franco Bolognese, a miniaturist in service to the pope.  In his epic poem, The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri describes meeting Franco in Purgatory, though amusingly the artist was still very much alive at the time of Dante’s writing.

In 1951, however, Pietro Toesca proposed an alternative identification of the Master of the Bible Lat. 18, considering him to be the Bolognese painter Jacopino da Reggio (not to be confused with the author of lot 13, who was active in Reggio Emilia with his brother, Bartolomeo, later in the century).  Toesca suggested that the artist’s output was not merely restricted to panel and fresco painting but, in fact, extended further to manuscript illumination.1  This hypothesis was based on an inscription reading, Ut rosa flos florum sic liber iste librorum/ quem Jacobinus depinxit manu Reginus (As the rose is the flower of flowers so is this of books / which is painted by the hand of Jacopino da Reggio) in a copy of the Decretum Gratiani decorated by the same hand, now in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vatican City (Vat. lat., 1375).  Toesca’s identification was later backed by Alessandro Conti in 1979.2

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this painting will be given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, European Paintings department, to be used for future acquisitions. 

1.  P. Toesca, “Il Trecento”, in Storia dell’Arte Italiana, vol. II, Turin 1951, p. 838.
2.  A. Conti, “Problemi di miniatura bolognese”, in Bollettino d'arte, VI, 64, 1979, pp. 1-28.