Lot 26
  • 26

The Master of 1336 (formerly known as the Master of Popiglio)

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
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  • The Master of 1336 (formerly known as the Master of Popiglio)
  • The Madonna della Misericordia
  • tempera and gold on panel


(Probably) Ferdinand von Quast, Schloss Radensleben (1807–1877);

Baron Wilfried von Quast, Murnau (as Giovanni da Milano);

With Julius Böhler, Munich (on commission from the above for 25,000 DM, as Allegretto Nuzi, on 26 September 1951, inv. no. 86-51);

Returned unsold to Wilfried Quast on 13 April 1953;

With Julius Böhler, Munich;

Acquired from the above by the father of the present owner on 18 April 1953, for 6,000 DM;

Thence by inheritance.


Bregenz, Künstlerhaus, Palais Thurn und Taxis, Meisterwerke der Malerei aus Privatsammlungen im Bodenseegebiet, 1 July – 30 September 1965, no. 72, p. 60, reproduced fig. 37 (as Allegretto Nuzi);

Lugano, Villa Favorita, Fondazione Thyssen-Bomemisza, Manifestatori delle cose Miracolose, 7 April – 30 June 1991, no. 69.


T. Fontane, Wanderungen durch die Mark Brandenburg, 1880, reprinted Berlin 1998, vol. I, chapter 7 (as Giovanni da Milano);

B. Klesse, Seidenstoffe in der italienischen Malerei des 14. Jahrhunderts, Bern 1967, p. 92, reproduced fig. 120 (as anonymous); 

M. Boskovits, Pittura fiorentina alla vigilia del Rinascimento 1370–1400, Florence 1975, p. 250, n. 254 (as 'Maestro di Popiglio', now called Master of 1336);

P.P. Donati, 'Per la Pittura Pistoiese del Trecento – II. Il Maestro del 1336', Paragone, 321, 1976, p. 14, n. 1;

G. Freuler in Manifestatori delle cose Miracolose, exhibition catalogue, Lugano 1991, pp. 186–89, p. 278, cat. no. 69, reproduced in colour on p. 187 and details on p. 188.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: The Master of 1336. Madonna and Saints. This painting is on a poplar panel in one piece. It has remained largely flat, although there appears to have been some movement and flaking down the centre in the past, with a minor crack rising from the lower left base. Quite widespread worm damage appears long in the past, and has also apparently been treated at some time. There is a narrow added strip down each side. The craquelure is consistent and even throughout, including across the gold background. There has been some fracturing down the centre of the Madonna's white brocaded drapery, which has clearly been secured long ago. The present restoration probably dates from the middle of the last century, with retouching down this central area visible under ultra violet light, as also some narrow strengthening down each side of the central brocade, which has darkened visibly. The beautiful red outer brocaded drapery has been beautifully preserved, as has the greater part of the Madonna's central white robe. Her face is almost entirely untouched by any movement lower down, and in beautiful overall condition, with one small mark on her forehead and a little line of retouching in her lower throat. Her upper blue drapery has apparent surface retouching which has darkened so that it is not clear whether this was originally lapis lazuli. The dark robes of the saints were almost certainly in azurite, which does tend to blacken. There is some possibly superficial retouching in one of the female heads on the right, and some small retouchings on the hand of the Madonna on the left above the male saints, but the figures throughout have been extremely finely preserved, as has the finely tooled gold background. 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

Painted in Pistoia around 1340–50, this beautiful and early panel gives a highly elegant and decorative form to one of the most important early devotional images dedicated to the Virgin Mary. That of the Madonna della Misericordia or 'Madonna of Mercy' was especially widespread in Italy between the thirteenth and the sixteenth centuries, particularly in the art associated with the monastic orders. The cloak was a symbol of protection dating back to Antiquity, and beneath it the diminutive penitents seek the Madonna's protection against misfortune and her intercession for divine judgement. The serene figure of the Madonna is seen clad in raiment of beautiful and richly patterned fabrics. The rich brocade of both the dress and the cloak itself seems to be embroidered with the stylised motif of a bird, perhaps the pelican or storck as a symbol of motherly love. She dominates the pictorial space and protects the faithful, who are divided between the sexes as they gather around her, men to the left and women to the right. The intermingling of religious and lay persons of all ranks of society may be intended to be representative of all mankind. The presence of a friar and nun at the forefront hints at a possible Dominican commission.

The artist takes his name from a fresco in Santa Maria delle Grazie, Pistoia, which was painted to give thanks for a miracle attributed to the Virgin Mary in the year 1336. At this date, Pistoia's situation at the foot of the Apennines made it an important crossroads in the commercial interchange between Tuscany and the north of Italy, and as the host to a relic of Saint James, an important pilgrimage site. Artists in Pistoia benefited from the proximity of Florence to the south-east and were thus able to stay up-to-date with the stylistic developments of the major artistic centres. Giotto's influence, for example, was transmitted to Pistoia through the work of Maso da Banco and Puccio di Simone, both of whom worked in Pistoia for a while. It is no doubt thanks to these artistic cross-currents that the Master of 1336's paintings are characterised by a remarkable expressiveness and figurative language. The œuvre of this as-yet unidentified but intriguing master was first formally gathered by Pier Paolo Donati in 1976, expanding an initial grouping by Miklós Boskovits, who initially named him after a work formerly in the church of Popiglio and today in the Museo Civico in Pistoia. Gaudenz Freuler proposed that the earliest known work by the artist is the polyptych in the Museo della Collegiata in Empoli, followed by the aforementioned Popiglio panel, and then the Madonna in the Acton Collection in Florence. As he further notes, the pre-eminence of the two Dominicans in the ranks of the supplicants supports the possibility that this panel may originally have formed part of an altar in the Church of San Domenico in Pistoia, where the Master of 1336 also painted a fresco of the Madonna and Child.