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PROPERTY FROM A EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTION

Lorenzo di Bicci
SAINT CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA WITH SIX VIRTUES; ABOVE, CHRIST THE REDEEMER, BLESSING
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100,000150,000
LOT SOLD. 352,000 GBP
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39

PROPERTY FROM A EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTION

Lorenzo di Bicci
SAINT CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA WITH SIX VIRTUES; ABOVE, CHRIST THE REDEEMER, BLESSING
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
UK: Greenford Park
Lots marked W will be sent to Greenford Park Fine Art Storage Facility immediately after the auction.
Double Dagger
Indicates that the lot is being sold whilst subject to Temporary Importation, and that VAT is due at the reduced rate
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
100,000150,000
LOT SOLD. 352,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Old Masters Evening Sale

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London

Lorenzo di Bicci
DOCUMENTED IN FLORENCE 1370 - 1427
SAINT CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA WITH SIX VIRTUES; ABOVE, CHRIST THE REDEEMER, BLESSING
 
tempera and gold on panel, shaped top 
overall 182 x 79 cm.; 71 5/8  x 31 1/8  in.
painted area: 131.5 x 70 cm.; 51 3/4  x 27 5/8  in.; trefoil: 14 x 18 cm.; 5 1/2  x 7 1/8  in.
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Provenance

Possibly Charles Somers, 3rd Earl Somers (1819–83), Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire;

Listed in the 'Estate of Charles Somers, Earl Somers, deceased. Inventory of Heirlooms, 7 December 1883', p. 11 (as in the Vestibule, £20.0.0d; Unknown, An Altar Piece with St Catherine enthroned attended by Six Saints and Angels);

Still at Eastnor Castle in 1889 but sold by 1898 as not listed in the inventory of that date;  

Arthur Ruck, London, 1919;

Eliot George Bromley Martin (1866–1946), Ham Court, Upton-on-Severn, Worcester, until 1925;

His sale et al., London, Christie's, 4 December 1925, lot 92 (as early Florentine school), for £183.15s.0d. to 'Belust';

Giuseppe Bellesi (1873–1955), London;

Baron Detlev von Hadeln (1878–1935), Florence, by 1930;

Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 9 July 1937, lot 145 (as Lorenzo di Bicci), for £29.8s.0d. to 'Morson';

Anonymous sale, Lucerne, Fischer, 18–22 June 1963, lot 1116, reproduced pl. 18 (as Bicci di Lorenzo);

Acquired at the above by the father of the present owner;

Thence by descent.

Exhibited

Lugano, Villa Favorita, Fondazione Thyssen-Bornemisza, "Manifestatori delle cose Miracolose": arte italiana del '300 e '400 da collezioni in Svizzera e nel Liechtenstein, 7 April – 30 June 1991, no. 82, reproduced in colour.

Literature

Possibly Lady Henry Somerset (ed.), Eastnor Castle, London 1889, p. 21 (as hanging in the Vestibule, St. Catherine surrounded by Saints and Angels, School of Giotto);

B. Berenson, ‘Quadri senza casa. – Il Trecento fiorentino, III.’ , in Dedalo. 19301931, XI, XVIII, pp. 1292 and 1294, reproduced on p. 1298 (as perhaps by a follower of Giovanni del Biondo); 

H.D. Gronau, 'Lorenzo di Bicci, ein Rekonstruktionsversuch', in Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, January–July 1933, vol. IV, pp. 105–07, reproduced on p. 106, fig 3 (as attributed to Lorenzo di Bicci);

F. Antal, Florentine Painting and its Social Background, London 1948, reprinted Cambridge, MA, 1986, p. 229, n. 178, reproduced pl. 76a (as Lorenzo di Bicci; probably painted in the 1380s);

B.A. Jones, Bob Jones University. Supplement to the Catalogue of the Art Collection. Paintings acquired 1963–68, Greenville 1968, p. 9, nos. 214 and 215 (as Lorenzo di Bicci);

B. Berenson, Homeless Paintings of the Renaissance, London 1969, pp. 118–19, reproduced fig. 194;

M. Boskovits, Pittura Fiorentina alla vigilia del Rinascimento 1370–1400, Florence 1975, p. 334 (as Lorenzo di Bicci);

R. Offner, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine PaintingA Legacy of Attributions, H.B. Maginnis (ed.), New York 1981, p. 40 (as Lorenzo di Bicci);

G. Freuler in "Manifestatori delle cose Miracolose": arte italiana del '300 e '400 da collezioni in Svizzera e nel Liechtenstein, exh. cat., Fondazione Thyssen-Bornemisza, Villa Favorita, Lugano, 7 April – 30 June 1991, pp. 21416 and p. 278, no. 82, reproduced in colour on p. 215 (as Lorenzo di Bicci).

Catalogue Note

The magnificently clad figure of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, blessed by Christ in the trefoil above, dominates this well preserved panel by Lorenzo di Bicci, head of one of Florence's foremost painting dynasties. Represented here as patron saint of learning, Saint Catherine (feet resting on the wheel of her martyrdom), is surrounded by six female figures that personify the Virtues. She holds the martyr’s palm in one hand while the fingers of her left hand partly cover a disc inscribed with seven small circles, each naming one of the Liberal Arts.1 Federico Zeri was the first to connect the present altarpiece to two panels with attendant saints at the Bob Jones University Museum and Gallery, Greenville, South Carolina (figs. 1 and 2). This work is datable to about 1400.

The altarpiece was originally conceived as a triptych, this central panel flanked by those at the Bob Jones Museum.2 In a fitting hierarchy of importance the saints are depicted on a smaller scale than the central seated figure of Saint Catherine: on the left Saints Lucy and Mary Magdalene, with Saint James the Greater in the pinnacle trefoil above; and on the right Saint Luke and Saint Christopher, with Saint Francis of Assisi above. The plausibility of this reconstruction is attested not only by the panels’ correspondence in shape and structure but also, as Gaudenz Freuler has pointed out, by the matching pastiglia decoration on all three pinnacles, each inset with a tri-lobed painting. Furthermore all three panels were once at Eastnor Castle in the collection of Earl Somers. The altarpiece’s predella panels have not yet been identified.

The six figures of the Virtues depicted here have in the past been described as (clockwise from left to right): Prudence with her attribute of a mirror; Hope; Obedience wearing a yoke; Fortitude holding a pillar; Faith with chalice and host; and Charity with a tower.3 However this iconography does not quite accord with that of the four cardinal virtues (Justice, Prudence, Fortitude and Temperance) and the three theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity). Here Obedience has replaced Justice; and since the tower is more commonly the attribute of Temperance, the figure at the lower right is more likely to represent that virtue, not Charity. Charity – the foremost of the theological virtues – is embodied in Christ, who nourishes wisdom. In his analysis Freuler discusses this fundamental precept of Augustinian theology and the important part played by Saint Catherine in Augustinian iconography, reinforcing the order’s emphasis on theological learning. His arguments support the idea that this was an Augustinian commission. Accordingly, in this panel, Saint Catherine, mother of science and the embodiment of wisdom, guided by Christ, leads the virtues to the benefit of all.

Hans Gronau was the first in the literature to recognize Saint Catherine with six Virtues as a work by Lorenzo di Bicci, an attribution with which all subsequent scholars have concurred.4 In particular Gronau compares it in terms of its stylistic traits and colouring to Saint Martin dividing his cloak with the beggar, the predella of a work commissioned in 1380 by the wine-merchants’ guild for Orsanmichele, today at the Accademia, Florence. Frederick Antal suggests the Saint Catherine was painted in the 1380s. Subsequent authorities, however, have favoured a later dating: Miklòs Boskovits dates the panel to about 1390–95, while the wings he considers to be slightly later, c. 1400–05. Most recently Freuler has argued for a dating around 1400 on the basis of the panel’s stylistic similarity to his triptych for the altar of the church of Sant’Andrea at Empoli, where Lorenzo is documented in about 1399.5  

 

1 Grammar, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, Astronomy and Dialectics.

2 Inv. nos 7.1 and 7.2; Jones 1968, p. 9, nos 214 and 215, reproduced in black and white on p. 71. The side panels were acquired from Wildenstein in 1963.

3 Maginnis (ed.) Offner 1981, p. 40.

4 Berenson expressed a considerable degree of uncertainty over his attribution of the work to Giovanni del Biondo, wavering between the possibility of it being an early work or the work of a follower; Berenson 1930–31, pp. 1292, 1294.

5 Fondazione Zeri, Fototeca, no. 4701.

 

 


 

Old Masters Evening Sale

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London