When this Madonna and Child was published by Boskovits in 1968 he noted that an attribution to Agnolo is supported by the rich floral and animal ornamentation of the Virgin’s gown, whose motifs of leaping rabbits and foliage are reproduced exactly in other pictures by the artist, for example in the background of the Madonna from the Contini Bonacossi Collection and now in the Uffizi, Florence.1 When Boskovits published this panel for a second time in 1975, he proposed that it may have been the central panel of a polyptych, and that it might well have been flanked by the two pairs of saints that are currently framed as one altarpiece with the aforementioned Contini Bonacossi Madonna (see fig.1). Boskovits proposed a dating of the polyptych to the artist’s youthful period around the years 1375-80.2
The theory placing the present panel with the Contini Bonacossi saints has been supported most recently by Gaudenz Freuler. Like Berenson, however,3 Freuler proposed a later dating of the altarpiece to the 1390s during which period Gaddi’s paintings display an increased linearity, a more substantial volume to his figures, an increased attention to the detailed handling of the gold elements and their decoration, all balanced with a harmonious palette of pastel tones.4 These qualities of his later works were the distinctive traits that paved the way for the next generation of Florentine artists such as Starnina (to whom the present panel was erroneously attributed by Quintavalle in 1939, see Literature) and Lorenzo Monaco. Freuler also writes of the possible connection between this Madonna and Child and the accompanying Contini Bonacossi saints, and an altarpiece for the Church of San Miniato al Monte in Florence, for which Agnolo received payment during the last years of this activity (1394-96). Due to the inclusion of the figure of Saint Benedict in the Contini Bonacossi panels, it has been thought that this may be the altarpiece created for the Benedictine Church of San Miniato. As Freuler notes, this must remain speculative as there are fragments of another altarpiece by Agnolo preserved at San Miniato, which have also been associated with the documents noting the payments to the artist in the mid-1390s.
1. Cole 1977, p. 76, reproduced fig. 4.
2. For the erroneously paired Contini Bonacossi Polyptic see Cole 1977, fig. 3. For Boskovits’ proposed arrangement see Boskovits 1975, figs. 75/a-c and 75/b.
3. Berenson 1963, p. 69.
4. Freuler 1991, p. 203-204.
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