Lot 10
  • 10

Lorenzo di Bicci

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
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  • Lorenzo di Bicci
  • A portable triptych showing the Madonna and Child enthroned with saints, with the Annunciation, Nativity, and Crucifixion depicted on the wings
  • tempera on panel, gold ground, pointed tops


Annunziata Berlincioni (according to an inscription on the reverse), by 1805;
Believed to have passed down by inheritance in the present owner's extended family since the late 19th century.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Lorenzo di Bicci. Triptych, the Madonna and Child with Saints, with the Nativity, the Crucifixion and the Annunciation, on the wings. This beautifully preserved triptych, made up of poplar panels, has remained structurally stable and is finely intact, evidently having had a calm historical background without atmospheric disturbance, and with minimal intervention. The gold leaf is unworn throughout, including in the fine tooling of the background, of the haloes and throughout, with the richly patterned drapery intricately decorated with shell gold detail. The Madonna's azurite robe has blackened as has almost always happened, given the effect of varnish on the pigment, but the other pigments can be seen immaculately preserved across the various brocaded drapery. Only the green copper resinate in the landscape of the Nativity has been mistakenly seen as old varnish, and removed. Just two small incidental damages can be seen in the central panel; a small area in St John the Baptist and in the hand of the Evangelist at lower right. The Annunciation is almost perfectly preserved, with just a little thinness in the wings of the angel, being more vulnerable over the gold leaf, while the Virgin Annunciate is complete and untouched throughout. The Crucifixion is also remarkably intact. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"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

The arrangement and combination of subjects in this previously unknown devotional triptych were common throughout the Florentine Trecento and early Quattrocento, a tried and tested formula which found its origin in Bernardo Daddi's Bigallo Triptych of 1333, in the Museo del Bigallo, Florence. The left wing depicts the Nativity; the right wing shows the Crucifixion. The pinnacles above each wing form a single narrative representing the Annunciation. At centre, below a blessing Christ, the Virgin sits on a Gothic throne, adorned with a red and gold cloth of honour. A corporeal Christ Child sits upon her lap and, with an innovative gesture of tenderness, clutches her finger. Surrounding them are a group of six saints, which include John the Baptist and John the Evangelist.

Lorenzo di Bicci's hand is visible in the simple compositional structure, accuracy of execution and the clear and lively use of luminous colour, as well as the round, inexpressively rendered faces, particularly evident here in the Virgin, who characteristically turns her head to the side. The figure of the Madonna and the shape of her drapery are echoed by Lorenzo's large triptych in the Museo della Collegiata, Empoli.1 The basis of Lorenzo's style is to be found in a group of late fourteenth-century artists influenced by Orcagna, such as his son Jacopo di Cione and Niccolò di Pietro Gerini, as well as in Orcagna himself.Lorenzo was principally active in Florence, where he enrolled in the painters guild in 1370 and helped with the decoration of the Duomo in 1387, although he is also recorded as having worked in other cities in the Tuscan diaspora, such as Empoli and Pisa. Probably active until the late 1420s, Lorenzo can be considered to be one of the most significant artists of the late Trecento, a fact born out by the importance of his known commissions. He ran a highly successful workshop which passed from him to his son, Bicci di Lorenzo, and finally to his grandson, Neri di Bicci.

The presence of Saint John the Baptist, a patron saint of Florence, suggests that this triptych was commissioned by a family of that city and indeed the two coats-of-arms visible on the exterior of the wings appear to belong to prominent Florentine families. The six silver tourteaux on a black field are those of the Foraboschi family, citizens of Florence since 1266, the year of their return from exile in Lucca. The lion rampant, half gold, half black, on a red field, would seem to be that of the Bartolini Salimbeni family, although their lion is depicted as half silver, half black in the Archivo di Stato, Florence. Significant patrons of the arts, their most lasting legacy in Florence is the Bartolini Salimbeni Chapel in Santa Trinità, decorated by Lorenzo Monaco in the 1420s. Their imposing palazzo still stands on the Via de' Tornabuoni.

We are grateful to Dottoressa Sonia Chiodo for endorsing the attribution to Lorenzo di Bicci, on the basis of images.

1. R. Fremantle, Florentine Gothic Painters, London 1975, p. 411, reproduced fig. 837.

2. M. Boskovits, Pittura Fiorentina alla vigilia del Rinascimento: 1370-1400, Florence 1975, pp. 55 and 108.