Meiss identified the present panel as forming the right-hand wing of a diptych, uniting it with a Madonna and Child enthroned with saints, formerly in the Foresti collection, Milan.3 Not only are the panels of identical size and shape, but indeed the tondo in the cusp of the present painting, showing the Madonna Annunciate, is matched in the Foresti panel by the Archangel Gabriel, his right side shown in profile in order to face her. Freuler notes the pose of the Madonna as being derived from Simone Martini’s full-length figure in the San Ansano altarpiece, now in the Uffizi, Florence (inv. no. 451-453); her torso facing forwards, she turns her head over her right shoulder with a lowered gaze to face the Archangel.4 The diptych’s composition and construction recalls that of a similar diptych in Konopištĕ Castle, near Prague, and their small scale suggests both were intended for private devotion.5
The panel is beautifully painted, capturing the moment in which the Madonna, overcome with anguish, collapses and is caught by her pious companions. The artist masterfully conveys the emotion and drama of the scene and the figures at the foot of the cross and angels surrounding the body of Christ are each endowed with a singular expression of personal grief. The drapery is convincingly represented and elegantly arranged: the mantle of Saint John the Evangelist is draped loosely over his shoulder, falling in deep heavy folds from his clasped hands while Christ’s cloth is folded over itself at the waist, falling in tight creases denoting the fine, translucent fabric.
Scholarship remains divided as to the chronology of this artist’s œuvre. The master’s earlier works, such as the Crucifixion in a private collection also published by Freuler, adhere stylistically to models from the 1350s, showing an intensity of emotion and drama reminiscent of Lippo Memmi. The present panel, however, belongs to the group of panels assigned to the latter part of his career; while still drawing heavily from models by Simone Martini, these later works, likely dating between 1360 and 1375, show a greater affinity with Luca di Tommé and the brothers, Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti.6 The later typology of this Crucifixion corresponds with paintings by Luca di Tommé executed in the late 1360s, thus suggesting a date of circa 1370 for the present work.7
1 See Meiss 1946, p. 8, reproduced figs 14 and 15, respectively.
2 See C. De Benedictis 'Il Maestro della Pietà. Iconografia e Devozione', in K. Bergdolt and G. Bonsanti (eds), Opera e giorni. Studi su mille anni di arte europea dedicati a Max Seidel, Venice 2001, pp. 163–66, reproduced fig. 1.
3 See Meiss 1946, p. 7, reproduced fig. 12.
4 See Freuler 1991, p. 58.
5 See Meiss 1946, reproduced fig. 5.
6 See Freuler 1991, pp. 55–57, cat. no. 13, reproduced.
7 See Freuler 1991, p. 59.
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