32
32
Pietro Lorenzetti and Workshop
THE CRUCIFIXION WITH THE VIRGIN, AND SAINTS MARY MAGDALENE, JOHN THE EVANGELIST AND A FRANCISCAN FEMALE SAINT
Estimate
300,000400,000
JUMP TO LOT
32
Pietro Lorenzetti and Workshop
THE CRUCIFIXION WITH THE VIRGIN, AND SAINTS MARY MAGDALENE, JOHN THE EVANGELIST AND A FRANCISCAN FEMALE SAINT
Estimate
300,000400,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

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Pietro Lorenzetti and Workshop
SIENA 1276 - 1348
THE CRUCIFIXION WITH THE VIRGIN, AND SAINTS MARY MAGDALENE, JOHN THE EVANGELIST AND A FRANCISCAN FEMALE SAINT
tempera on panel, gold ground
16 1/8  by 10 1/4  in.; 40.9 by 26.1 cm.
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Provenance

Achillito Chiesa, Milan, by 1926;
His sale, New York, American Art Association, 16 April 1926, lot 12, (acquired by E. Conessa, as Pietro Lorenzetti);
With Albrighi, Florence, 1946-1950;
With Frascione, Florence, 1950 (according to the Zeri  photo archive);
With Wildenstein and Co., New York, by 1974;
From whom acquired by the present collector.

Exhibited

London, Helikon Gallery, Exhibition of Old Masters, June - September 1974, no. 1.

Literature

E.T. Dewald, Pietro Lorenzetti, Cambridge Mass. 1930, p. 38 (as Lorenzetti);
R. Longhi, "Una crocefissione di Pietro Lorenzetti," in Paragone, 23 November 1951, pp. 26-27, reproduced plate 15 (as Lorenzetti, dating between 1330 and 1335);
M. Meiss, "Nuovi dipinti e vecchi probelmi," in Rivista d'Arte, 1955, vol. XXX, p. 135 (as close to Lorenzetti);
G. Algranti (ed.), Exhibition of Old Masters, London 1974, cat. no. 1 (as Lorenzetti, dating between 1330 and 1335);
B. Nicholson, "Current and Forthcoming exhibitions," in The Burlington Magazine, CXVI, 1974, p. 418 (as Lorenzetti);
E. Skaug, "Notes on the chronology of Ambrogio Lorenzetti and a new painting from his shop," in Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, XX, 1976, pp. 313 (as an anonymous pupil of Lorenzetti);
M. Seidel, "Das frühwerk von Pietro Lorenzetti," in Städel-Jahbruch, N.S., VIII, pp. 79-158;
G. Chelazzi Dini, Il gotico a Siena, exhibition catalogue, Florence 1982, p. 255 (as Lorenzetti, dating to just before 1335);
M. Boskovits, "Considerations on Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti," in Paragone, XXXVII, 439, September 1986, p. 5 (as Lorenzetti);
M. Laclotte, "Quelques tableautins de Pietro Lorenzetti," in Il se rendit en Italie, Etudes offertes à André Chastel, Rome 1987, p. 37 (as Lorenzetti, dating between 1330 and 1335);
C. Volpe, M. Lucco (ed.), Pietro Lorenzetti, Milan 1989, p. 209-210, cat. no. A28 (as an artist very close to Lorenzetti);
M.J. Frinta, Punched Decoration On Late Medieval Panel Painting and Miniature Painting, Prague 1998, vol. I, p. 114 (as an artist close to Lorenzetti, possibly identifiable as Simone di Gheri);
A. Labriola in M. Boskovits (ed.), The Alana Collection, vol. I, Florence 2009, pp. 168-171, reproduced (as Lorenzetti).

Catalogue Note

We are grateful to Andrea De Marchi, who attributes this intimate Crucifixion scene to Pietro Lorenzetti and his workshop, considering it to be a late work, executed shortly before the artist's death in 1348.1  Pietro Lorenzetti was one of the foremost figures in Sienese painting of the early fourteenth century.  Working both alone and in collaboration with his brother, Ambrogio, Pietro was charged with some of the city’s most prestigious commissions, including the altarpiece for Chapel of San Savino in Siena’s cathedral and frescoes for the façade of the Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala.2  The panel has survived with its original engaged framing element intact and would have once formed half of a diptych, most likely flanked to the left by a Madonna and Child.3 The painting was traditionally dated between 1330 and 1335, though more recent scholarship suggests it may have been painted as late as the middle of the next decade, on the basis of the profuse punch decoration that characterized the artist’s later works.4 

Immediately striking is the quality and diversity of the tooling, with different punches employed in the decoration of the various haloes.  The most complex pattern is reserved for that of Christ, whose halo combines marks used in those of each of the four saints.  The tooled border is particularly ornate, comprising rows of alternating lozenge, rosette and roundel motifs.  In the lower section the figures’ drapery extends to the outer frame, overlapping the border, providing the otherwise flat pictorial field with a sense of depth.  The heavy drapery lends a certain monumentality of form to the mourners, which recall the figures at the foot of the Cross in Pietro’s Crucifixion now in the Pincoteca di Siena (inv. no. 147, fig. 1). The identity of the female figure to the right of the cross remains somewhat elusive; when Longhi published the panel in 1951 (see Literature), he identified her as possibly Saint Scholastica, Saint Monica or Saint Clare.  In more recent literature it has been suggested that the nun's austere habit would fit with the traditional iconography of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, who is often portrayed in the brown habit of her Franciscan order.5

A curious feature in the depiction of the Virgin is her long, golden hair, loosened and escaping from her mantle where it falls across her chest.  This highly unusual detail is perhaps an allusion to the custom frequently described in texts from classical antiquity, where women would tear at their hair, face and clothing when overcome with grief.6  Indeed, in Pietro’s fragmentary detached fresco of the Crucifixion, in the basilica di San Francesco, Siena (fig. 2) the giottesque angels nearest to the cross wrench at their clothes, exposing their chests in anguish.  When Miklós Boskovits published the present panel in 1986 (see Literature), he compared it to both the San Francesco fresco of circa 1330 and the small Crucifixion with the Virgin, Saints John the Evangelist, Clare and Francis of circa 1320 in the Harvard Art Museums, Boston (inv. no. 1943.119).  He noted the similar verticality of Christ’s form on the cross, and the manner in which his sunken cheeks are framed by the hair. 

While scholars are united in their praise of this painting’s high quality, support for its attribution to Pietro Lorenzetti has not been unanimous during the history of its publication and today remains divided (see Literature).  Some scholars, including Millard Meiss, Carlo Volpe and Erling Skaug considered the painting to be by an artist closely influenced by the Lorenzetti brothers, while Mojmir Frinta and Cristina De Benedictis both placed the painting among a heterogeneous group of works ascribed to Simone di Gheri (see Literature).  The painting was published by Ada Labriola in 2009 as an autograph work, an opinion shared, among others, by Ernest DeWald, Roberto Longhi, Michel Laclotte, Giulietta Chelazzi Dini, Miklós Boskovits and Andrea De Marchi.

 

1.  Private written communication, dated 6 December 2015.
2.  The altarpiece is now in the Museo dell’opera del Duomo, Siena; the frescoes are now lost.
3.  A. Labriola, under Literature, p. 168.
4.  Ibid., pp. 168 and 170.
5.  Ibid., p. 168.
6.  Ibid.

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