Lot 403
  • 403

Master of the Nevin Polyptych

30,000 - 50,000 USD
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  • Master of the Nevin Polyptych
  • Saint Mary Magdalene;Saint Lawrence
  • a pair, both tempera on panel, gold ground
  • Each panel: 54.5 x 26.5 cm


Anonymous sale, Zurich, Koller, 16 March 2005, lot 3012;
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's, 6 December 2007, lot 230.


F. Zeri in F. Zeri and A.G. De Marchi (eds.), La Spezia, Museo Civivo Amedeo Lia, Dipinti, Milan 1997, p. 386, reproduced figs. a-b;
M. Minardi, "Sulle tracce di Ansuino da Forlì", in Arte Cristiana, no. 785, 86, p. 109, note 39;
A. De Marchi, "Problemi aperti su Squarcione pittore e sui romagnoli a Padova", in Francesco Squarcione, Padua 1999, p. 125, note 39;
A. Tambini in N. Ceroni (ed.), Pinacoteca Comunale di Ravenna, Museo d'arte della Città, La collezione antica, Ravenna 2001, p. 32;
S. Facchinetti, Mantegna e il Rinascimento in Valpadana, Florence 2007, p. 96;
A. Tambini, Il Rinascimento: pittura, miniatura, artigianato, Faenza 2009, p. 21;
M. Minardi, "Studi sulla collezione Nevin, I dipinti veneti del XIV e XV secolo", in Saggi e memorie di storia dell'arte, 36, 2012 (2013), p. 333, reproduced figs. 34-35, 37;
M. Minardi, "Master of the Nevin Polyptych", in S. Chiodo and S. Padovani (ed.), The Alana Collection, Italian Paintings from the 14th to 16th Century, Florence 2014, pp. 184-195, cat. no. 26, reproduced pp. 186, 187, 189.


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 pair of saints is in sound condition overall with a level of wear that may result in part from their having been removed from their original setting and separated from their original framing elements. Normal age-related cracks, some with mild cupping, have developed primarily in the horizontal direction. A degree of overall abrasion has led to softening of the contours and modeling, more so in the Mary Magdalene panel. In the Magdalene picture, much of the garments have been rubbed, leading to a loss of definition in the folds; the left side of the red garment is better preserved. Larger losses have been restored with a well-executed tratteggio technique (see the background to the left of St. Lawrence, parts of St. Lawrence's gridiron, and scattered losses in Mary Magdalene's face and red garment). More subtle evidence of wear, such as losses along the cracks and pinpoint flake losses, has been left alone. Each panel displays a mild transverse convex warp. The varnish on both pictures has a low, even gloss level.
"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 charming pair of panels once formed part of the upper tier of the eponymous altarpiece (fig. 1) of the Master of the Nevin Polyptych.  The anonymous artist takes his name from Robert J. Nevin, in whose Roman collection the principal panels of the altarpiece belonged in the late 19th and early 20th century.  The central comprises an Assumption of the Virgin at its center, flanked by full-length figures of Saints Monica, Blaise and Nicholas of Tolentino at left and Saints Augustine, Anthony Abbott and Giustina of Padua at right.  All six of those panels are in the Art Institute of Chicago (inv. nos. 1984.24a-g).  When Federico Zeri first published the present saints in 1997 (see Literature), he assumed them to have once formed full-length lateral panels that had later been truncated.  It was Mauro Minardi who more recently recognized them as being in their original half-length format and as originating from the upper register of the Nevin polyptych. 

Alongside the present pair of half-length saints, Zeri published a further two panels from the upper tier of the altarpiece: an apostle, whose whereabouts are currently unknown, and a Saint John the Baptist, now in the Museo Civico Amedeo Lia, La Spezia (see Literature).  The remaining three panels of the upper panels have yet to be traced.  As Minardi indicates in his extensive study of the paintings (see Literature), the pose of Saint John the Baptist suggests he would have been placed to the immediate left of the central upper panel.  The saint looks directly at the viewer while pointing with his right hand to the adjacent panel which would doubtless have included a depiction of Christ.  Given its placement above the Assumption of the Virgin, Minardi proposes that a likely subject for the upper central panel would have been a Coronation of the Virgin.  Furthermore, Sonia Chiodo notes that the apostle, Saint Lawrence and the Magdalene each face left and would therefore likely have been placed to the right of the central panel. 

In the lower section of the Assumption of the Virgin are three male donors and a tonsured friar of the Augustinian order.  The inclusion of the friar along with the lateral Saints Monica, Augustine and Nicholas of Tolentino, suggests the altarpiece was commissioned by an Augustinian church.  Minardi hypothesizes that the Nevin polyptych may have been destined for a chapel dedicated to the Virgin of the Holy Girdle or to Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, to whom the order dedicated particular devotion.  Andrea G. De Marchi further conjectures that it may have been intended as the high altar for the church of Sant’Agostino, Faenza (see Literature).