Lot 11
  • 11

Cola di Petruccioli da Orvieto

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • Cola di Petruccioli da Orvieto
  • The Madonna and Child enthroned, flanked by Saint Catherine of Alexandra, Saint Veronica, Saint Mustiola and Saint Lucy
  • signed lower centre: COLA DE URBIUETERI / PINXIT
  • tempera on poplar panel, gold ground with a shaped top




G. Rosini, Storia della Pittura Italiana Esposta coi Monumenti, Pisa 1841, vol. III, p. 168;

R. Longhi, 'Tracciato Orvietano', in Paragone, May 1962, no. 149, pp. 9–11, reproduced fig. 7, and in colour plate I and II;

F. Todini, La Pittura Umbra dal Duecento al primo Cinquecento, Milan 1989, vol. I, p. 281, reproduced vol. II, p. 214, reproduced fig. 452 (in reverse).


The following condition report is provided by Hamish Dewar who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Structural Condition The shaped gold ground panel appears structurally sound and secure. Paint surface The paint surface has a rather dull and opaque varnish layer and should respond well to cleaning. It is very encouraging to note that the fine detail of the composition appear well preserved. There are some fine lines of hairline craquelure which are stable and one very small paint loss which is approximately 6.5 cm in from the left vertical framing edge and 28.5 cm above the lower horizontal framing edge. There are also some minor surface abrasions and deposits. Inspection under ultraviolet light shows small, scattered retouchings, some of which appear to cover flake losses. The largest retouching identifiable under ultraviolet light is on the Madonna's left shoulder. There may be other retouchings beneath old, opaque varnish layers that are not identifiable under ultraviolet light. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in essentially very good and stable condition and should respond well to cleaning and revarnishing.
"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

Cola di Petruccioli, a native of Orvieto, was first recorded as the author of a fresco of The Crucifixion, signed and dated 1380, in the crypt under the tribune of the Duomo in Orvieto.1 Cola is known to have been one of several pupils working under Ugolino di Prete Ilario, the first well-known figure in the school of Orvieto, who was charged with much of the decoration of the Duomo between 1372–78. Ugliono appears to have been significantly influenced by the Sienese master Luca di Tommé and indeed documentation exists that confirms Luca’s presence in Orvieto at this time, and Ugolino’s acquaintance with him.2 Since Sienese masters such as Luca di Tommé travelled to neighbouring towns and often far further into the Italian peninsular, the particular artistic style of the Sienese that had developed from the radical and progressive works of masters such as Giotto and Simone Martini (who himself had worked in Orvieto around 1320), had an influence that extended far beyond Siena’s own city walls. Here, in Cola’s enthroned Madonna and Child, we see proof of that influence on a charming, provincial Umbrian artist. Bernard Berenson was the first to endeavour to define Petruccioli's œuvre,3 and was able to give a name to this new small body of work on the basis of a signed diptych, at that time in the Spello Library and now in the Pinacoteca Communale, Spello.4 The two Spello panels represent The Coronation of the Virgin and The Crucifixion. As in the present work, the pinnacles of the Spello panels are separated from the lower part by an ornamentation in relief, and the gables above depict the Annunciation. For Berenson, the common indicators of Cola’s style were ‘the saucy female faces, with their pointed little noses, sensitive mouths, and mad eyes, […] their quaint piquancy gave me pleasure.’5 The present work is, like the Spello diptych, a rare signed example by Cola. In this panel he signs his name COLA DE URBIUETERI, 'Urbiueteri' being the Latin name for the town of Orvieto, providing us with primary evidence of Cola's origin.

As with the Spello panels, the present work has a decorated gable featuring a small depiction of The Crucifixion contained within a roundel supported by three angels; Cola acknowledges the predestined scene of Christ’s suffering in his representation of a small bird flying away from the Christ Child, yet tethered to his finger by a fine thread. Since pagan antiquity the motif of the bird has signified the soul of a man that flies away at his death – a meaning that is retained in Christian iconography. The little–known Saint Mustiola was first identified in this painting by Roberto Longhi in 1962.6 Saint Mustiola was the patron saint of Chiusi, an Umbrian town only fifty kilometres from Orvieto and Perugia. Her cult is strongly linked with the cult of the Santo Anello (the holy quartz ring that Saint Joesph is said to have given the Virgin Mary upon their marriage) which had been kept at different locations in Chiusi, at one time alongside the remains of the Saint. Longhi speculates that the inclusion of Saint Mustiola in the present work might indicate that it was commissioned by a patron from Chiusi.


1. R. van Marle, The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting, New York 1970, vol. V, p.  101, reproduced fig. 60.

2. Van Marle 1970, p. 100.

3. B. Berenson, ‘A Sienese little master in New York and elsewhere’, in Essays in the study of Sienese painting, New York 1918, pp. 43–51.

4. See F. Todini, La Pittura Umbra dal Duecento al primo Cinquecento, Milan 1989, vol. II, p. 212, reproduced fig. 446.

5. Berenson 1918, p. 45.

6. Longhi 1962, p. 10.