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Johannes Hispanus
TWO SPALLIERA PANELS DEPICTING THE EARLY LIFE OF ACHILLES: THETIS ENTRUSTS ACHILLES' EDUCATION TO CHIRON AND THETIS TAKES ACHILLES TO SCYROS; ACHILLES DISCOVERED AMONG THE DAUGHTERS OF LYCOMEDES 
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46
Johannes Hispanus
TWO SPALLIERA PANELS DEPICTING THE EARLY LIFE OF ACHILLES: THETIS ENTRUSTS ACHILLES' EDUCATION TO CHIRON AND THETIS TAKES ACHILLES TO SCYROS; ACHILLES DISCOVERED AMONG THE DAUGHTERS OF LYCOMEDES 
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Details & Cataloguing

Old Masters Evening Sale

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London

Johannes Hispanus
ACITVE IN CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN ITALY AT THE BEGINNING OF THE 16TH CENTURY
TWO SPALLIERA PANELS DEPICTING THE EARLY LIFE OF ACHILLES: THETIS ENTRUSTS ACHILLES' EDUCATION TO CHIRON AND THETIS TAKES ACHILLES TO SCYROS; ACHILLES DISCOVERED AMONG THE DAUGHTERS OF LYCOMEDES 
Quantity: 2
a pair, both oil on panel
the former: 59.5 x 144.5 cm.; 23 3/8  x 56 7/8  in.
the latter: 57.5 by 142.5 cm.; 22 5/8  x 56 1/8  in.
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Provenance

With Wildenstein;

Mrs S. Spottiswoode, England, by circa 1900–1910 (according to a Witt Library mount);

Mrs M. Spottiswoode;

Sale, Phillips, Son & Neale, London, 28 September 1954, lot 30, (as manner of Cosimo Rosselli);

With Agnew's until 1961 (as Bartolommeo di Giovanni);

Private collection, UK.

Exhibited

London, Agnew's, Autumn Exhibition of Fine Pictures by Old Masters, 26 October – 3 December 1955, nos 4 and 6 (both as Bartolommeo di Giovanni).

Literature

M. Tanzi, Ioanes Ispanus. La pala di Viadana. Tracce di classicismo precoce lungo la valle del Po, exhibition catalogue, Viadana 1999, pp. 16, 86, 88, note 16, and 93, cat. nos II and III, reproduced colour plates 3, 4, 7–9 and 59;

G. Agosti, Altri quaranta dipinti della collezione Saibene, Verona 2008, p. LXIX, n. 4;

A. Marchi, 'Eccentrici cinquecenteschi accanto ad Aspertini, a Gradara e oltre nelle Marche', in Amico Aspertini a Gradara. Esordi di un artista eccentrico e i suoi compagni, Urbania 2008, p. 26;

M.R. Valazzi, Raffaello e Urbino, exhibition catalogue, Milan 2009, p. 118;

S. Castellana, Johannes Hispanus, Cremona 2017, pp. 120–21, cat. no. 6, reproduced colour plates VI and VII.

Catalogue Note

The artist takes his name from a panel of the Deposition in the Saibene collection in Milan, which is signed IOANES ISPANUS.P.1 Presumably Spanish, he is thought to have been active in central and southern Italy at the very end of the fifteenth century and well into the sixteenth. He was strongly influenced by Pietro Perugino and Piero di Cosimo, but was clearly also aware of artists active in the north of Italy such as Cima da Conegliano, whose work is clearly felt in the Saibene panel.

While these beautifully conserved panels were known to Bernard Berenson and Federico Zeri, in 1999 Marco Tanzi was the first scholar to publish the works (see Literature), on Everett Fahy's recommendation. Tanzi dates the panels to the mid-1490s, noting that the disposition of the architecture is characteristic of the artist's stay in Florence between 1493 and 1495. Spalliere are typical of the fashion in Florence in the fifteenth century for painting secular and mythological subjects on furniture such as headboards or benches, which were often attached to the more common cassone panels. While images of battles, scenes of romance or allegories were commonplace, these particular episodes from Achilles' life before the Trojan War are extremely rare.

As is often the case with Renaissance panels which narrate events from ancient mythology, various sources are used and conflated. In the case of the present works, inspiration is drawn from multiple authors including Statius and Hyginus. The first spalliera shows Achilles being handed over by his mother Thetis to the centaur Chiron, while on the right bank of the river we see the arrival of mother and son among the daughters of Lycomedes, the ruler of Scyros. The central scene in the middle distance has traditionally been interpreted as Achilles' immersion in the River Styx, one of the most celebrated episodes in the young hero's life, when his mother, knowing of his fate, dipped him in the river attempting to make him invulnerable but famously failed to submerge the heel with which she held him. Stefania Castellana (see Literature) has recently argued, however, that this is in fact drawn from a subsequent moment in the narrative and probably shows an intimate moment between Achilles and Deidamia, one of Lycomedes' daughters. Certainly this would account for the different appearance, including hair colour, and clothing of the two figures carrying the different children.

This usefully leads us into the narrative of the second panel: Deidamia and Achilles had become romantically involved while he was hidden among her sisters at Lycomedes' court. Thetis had once more tried to alter her son's destiny by trying to keep him away from the war in Troy. On Ulysses' arrival on Scyros, however, he was quick to discover Achilles, who is seen at the centre of the design, drawing his sword, and indeed wearing the same garments as in the middle distance of the first panel. Achilles was quick to leave Deidamia behind, heart-broken, as he joined the ships in the distance and set sail for the Trojan War. The episode at the far left could be interpreted as Achilles, still dressed as a woman, entrusting to a shepherd for safe-keeping Neoptolemus, the child he had with Deidamia.

1 Castellana 2017, pp. 127–28, cat. no. 13, reproduced in colour plate XIII.

Old Masters Evening Sale

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