Lot 2
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Luca di Tommè

100,000 - 150,000 USD
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  • Luca di Tommè
  • Christ blessing
  • tempera on panel, gold ground, with a shaped top, the corners of which are made up


The church of Santa Mustiola alla Rosa, Siena, as the pinnacle of an altarpiece;
From where removed, along with the rest of the altarpiece, to the Capuchin convent of San Quirico, Ossena;
From where detached from the altarpiece and passed to Jean Anton Ramboux, Cologne, by 1862;
His sale, Cologne, J.M. Heberle (H. Lempertz), 23 May 1867, lot 105 (as Taddeo di Bartolo);
Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, by 1889 and by whom sold in 1925;
With Ehrlich Galleries, New York, in 1926;
Anonymous sale, ("The Property of a Private Collector"), New York, Christie's, 31 May 1991, lot 11;
Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby's, 25 January 2001, lot 1;
There purchased by the present collector.


Katalog der Gemälde alter italienischer Meister (1221-1640) in der Sammlung J.A. Ramboux, Cologne 1862, p. 14;
J. Niessen, Verzeichniss der Gemälde-Sammlung des Museums Wallraf-Richartz in Köln, Cologne 1869 (reprinted 1873, 1874, 1877 and 1888), p. 40, cat. no. 767 (as Taddeo di Bartolo);
H. Thode, "Pitture di maestri italiani nelle galerie minori di Germania," in Archivio storico dell'arte, vol. II, 1889, p. 51 (as Taddeo di Bartolo);
F. Mason Perkins, "Appunti sulla mostra Ducciana a Siena," in Rassegna d'Arte, vol. XIII, 1913, p. 38, cat. no. 4 (as a contemporary follower of Bartolo di Fredi or Luca di Tommè);
B. Berenson, "Quadri senza casa: Il Trecento senese," in Dedalo, vol. XI, 1930, p. 263, reproduced p. 266 (as Niccolò di Segna);
B. Berensen, "The Missing Pictures of the Sienese Trecento," in International Studio, vol. 97, October 1931, p. 31, reproduced fig. 2 (as Niccolò di Segna);
B. Berenson, Homeless Paintings of the Renaissance, Bloomington 1970, pp. 20-21 and 244, reproduced fig. 10 (as Niccolò di Segna);
J.H. Stubblebine, Duccio di Buoninsegna and his school, Princeton 1979, vol. I, p. 154, reproduced vol. II, fig. 486 (as Niccolò di Segna);
S.A. Fehm, Luca di Tommé, A Sienese Fourteenth Century Painter, Carbondale 1986, pp. 35 and 101, reproduced figs. 23-1 and 23-2 (as Luca di Tommé).


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. This painting is in very good condition overall despite having been removed from its original altarpiece setting and altered to function as a standalone painting. The original portion of the painting is a roughly hexagonal shape with a narrowly pointed top; the format has been altered to create an arched top within a rectangular support, extending the gilding outward and completing the punched halo to be a full circle. Along the bottom, the original image has been extended to create a straight edge. The original gold ground and the paint layers remain overall in very good condition, and the areas where the image has been extended are extremely well integrated. A few spots of restoration no longer match their surroundings, notably in the blue garment. A handful of scattered minor losses are found throughout, including a cluster of small losses in forehead as well as a few along the collarbone. The punched edging of the garments and the gold leaf of the initial capital in the open book are worn, revealing the redorange bole. A superficial scratch in the varnish arcs across the red garment, right of center. The varnish is dull and yellowed. The support is essentially planar with three areas of tenting associated with cracks in the bottom half, the result of tension created by the cradle. An old, open crack is found on the back of the panel, following the vertical wood grain and running approximately 2/3 of the way down the panel, with no apparent reflection of this crack on the front of the picture. In addition to the aforementioned alterations, a separate 1cm wide addition has been attached to the right edge and a cradle has been attached to the expanded support. A later cross-grain, 13mm high, extension has been nailed into the bottom edge. While cleaning would improve the tonality and overall appearance, this painting has a fairly strong presence in its current 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

Working in Siena in the wake of Simone Martini and the Lorenzetti brothers, Luca di Tommè was one of the city’s leading painters by the mid-fourteenth century.  This beautiful representation of the Blessing Christ was initially conceived as one of the pinnacles to a polyptych now in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena, which is signed and dated 1367 (see red box, fig. 1).1  The polyptych's central panel depicts the Madonna and Child with Saint Anne and is flanked by four wings showing Saints Catherine of Alexandria, John the Baptist, Anthony Abbot and Agnes.  The Blessing Christ would once have crowned the central Madonna and Child, but was detached by the middle of the 19th century and replaced with a representation of Saint Andrew from an unrelated altarpiece.2  The lateral saints, meanwhile, have retained their original pinnacles, each depicting one of the evangelists.  

Sherwood Fehm (see Literature) identified the Blessing Christ as belonging to the Siena altarpiece in 1986, matching the width of the present panel with that of the Madonna and Child and recognizing the punch work in Christ’s drapery as corresponding with that in the relating panels.  Why the Blessing Christ should have been removed when the other pinnacles remained in place is something of a mystery.  The altarpiece was presumably intact when it was moved from its original location in the church of Santa Mustiola alla Rosa, Siena to the Capuchin convent of San Quirico, Ossena (see Provenance).  Yet, while the polyptych remained at Ossena until at least 1867, the Blessing Christ was separated from it and by 1862 was in the collection of the artist and connoisseur, Jean Anton Ramboux (see Provenance).  The rest of the altarpiece, meanwhile, found its way into Siena's Pinacoteca Nazionale by 1872.

Like the other Siena pinnacles, the Blessing Christ originally had an acutely pointed top, whose edge cropped in close to the figure’s shoulders and head, leaving only a small part of the halo visible.  At either side of the triangular point, the wood along the two edges of the point would have been exposed, intended to be covered by its framing element.  The original angle of the pointed top is still perceptible but was later made up with additions to reformat the panel into an arched shape and the halo was extended with similar punch tooling.  The alterations may have been carried out in an attempt to match the arch-tops of the four saints by Niccolò di Segna with which the Blessing Christ was rather unharmoniously married to form a contrived altarpiece while in the Ramboux collection.  The five panels were acquired in that format by the Walraff-Richartz Musuem, Cologne but were divided following their deaccession in 1925 (see Provenance).3

1.  S.A. Fehm, under Literature, pp. 98-100, cat. no. 22, reproduced plate 22-1 and in detail plate 22-2, 22-3, 22-4 and 22-5. 
2.  Ibid., p. 35. 
3.  Ibid., p. 35, note 22.