Lot 103
  • 103

NICCOLÒ DI PIETRO GERINI | Christ on the Cross with the Madonna, Saint John and Mary Magdalene

15,000 - 20,000 GBP
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  • Christ on the Cross with the Madonna, Saint John and Mary Magdalene
  • tempera on panel, gold ground, with an arched top
  • 37.5 x 39 cm.; 14 3/4  x 15 3/8  in.


Alfonso Tacoli Canacci (1726–1801) by 1790, Florence, his label affixed to the reverse;
Kotzenberg collection, Frankfurt;
Private collection, Europe.


A. Tacoli Canacci, Catalogo ragionato dei pittori della Scuola Toscana: le cui tavole originali sono state raccolte ordinatamente in serie cronologica & presentate davanti al trono della Sacra Cattolica Reale Maestà di Carlo IV, re delle Spagne, dal marchese Don Alfonso Tacoli Canacci gentiluomo di camera e colonello al servizio di S.A.R. il serenissimo infante duca di Parma, Florence 1790, cat. no. 28 (as Giotto di Bondone);
B. Berenson, 'Quadri senza casa – Il Trecento fiorentino,' in Dedalo, Milan and Rome 1932, vol. I, p. 20, reproduced p. 18 (as a follower of the Gerinis or Lorenzo Pietro Nelli);
B. Berenson, Homeless Paintings of the Renaissance, H. Kiel (ed.), London 1969, p. 134, reproduced p. 135, fig. 229;
R. Offner, Supplement to the Corpus of Florentine Painting. A Legacy of Attribution, H.B.J. Maginnis (ed.), New York 1981, p. 82 (as workshop of Gerini);
M. Boskovits, Pittura fiorentina alla vigilia del Rinascimento, Florence 1975, p. 410 (as Gerini).


The following condition report has been provided by Sarah Walden, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting is on an arched poplar panel, with a certain amount of old worm damage, but no sign of fragility or insecurity near the paint surface. There are two or three very short old cracks in the middle of the top edge, perhaps related to the removal of the panel presumably from the uppermost centre of an original polyptych. There is an even craquelure throughout and the gilding is well preserved in general, with occasional faint wear and one small worn patch exposing the bole near the upper edge at centre left. A few little scratches have been touched in with bole. The figure of Christ is finely intact and pure, as is the figure of St John almost throughout, with only an occasional minor retouching in the beautiful drapery. Even the shell gold remains intact and unrubbed across the whole painting and the azurite of Mary's drapery retains some of its colour. Mary Magdalen's scarlet robe is also fine, with the delicate detail at the base of the cross nearby also intact. There are a few older retouchings scarcely visible under ultra violet light including perhaps in both of the faces of the Madonna and of Mary Magdalen, with some evident strengthening along the Madonna's neckline. Also perhaps a little touch on the forehead of St John and in the beard of Christ. These touches may well date from an earlier period, with other strengthening in places along the arms of the cross and in the foreground on either side. 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

Berenson first published this panel in 1932, placing it alongside another Crucifixion which he believed to be by the same hand whose identity remained elusive to him; 'ci lascia in dubbio se attribuirla a Lorenzo, a Pietro Nelli o a qualche loro ignoto compagno: forse è di Pietro.'1 The present panel, as Berenson also noted, is more impressive however, not only in its inventive use of space but in the expressive faces and gestures of the figures. The Madonna’s pose, forming a diagonal line echoing that of the prostrate Mary Magdalene, provides the scene with a sense of movement which is amplified by the rippling folds of her mantle, falling from her raised arms. It was Miklòs Boskovits who identified the lunette as an autograph work by Niccolò di Pietro Gerini, an attribution also endorsed by Federico Zeri, and dated it between 1395 and 1400.2   By the late eighteenth century the painting was in the collection of the Florentine aristocrat and amateur art historian, Marchese Alfonso Tacoli Canacci. In 1790 Tacoli Canacci compiled a catalogue of his collection of 375 Tuscan paintings which he dedicated to King Charles IV of Spain, stating in the book's title page his intention to commit the collection itself into the hands of the king in the hope it would in turn be offered to the Royal Academy of Parma for the benefit of the public.3 The present painting was included in the catalogue and his label, affixed to the reverse of the panel, is inscribed: Etruria Pittrice / no. 28, with Tacoli Canacci's own attribution: Della prima maniera / Giotto di Bondone / (...) discepolo di Cimabue / nato nel 1276.1306.

Niccolò di Pietro Gerini worked predominantly in Florence but is also known to have completed commissions in Prato and Pisa. Believed to have trained in the workshop of Taddeo Gaddi, the artist closely followed models by Andrea di Cione, called Orcagna, and worked frequently with Andrea's brother, Jacopo di Cione. The majority of the artist's works are collaborations and identifying his hand among those of his partners is somewhat challenging, providing little comparative material for autograph works such as the present one. 

In a letter dated 1 August 2011, the late Professor Miklòs Boskovits re-endorsed the attribution to Niccolò di Pietro Gerini on the basis of photographs.

1 See Berenson 1932, p. 20, reproduced p. 19.
2 See Boskovits 1975and the Zeri Fototeca, under entry no. 3415 (with erroneous bibliography).
3 See Tacoli Canacci, 1790.