Lot 1
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FLORENTINE SCHOOL, CIRCA 1530 | Portrait of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), bust length, facing left

20,000 - 30,000 USD
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  • Florentine School
  • Portrait of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), bust length, facing left
  • inscribed upper center: DANTE
  • oil on panel, in an enclosed frame
  • sight: 8 1/2  by 6 in.; 21.6 by 15.3 cm.


Private collection, France. 


The following condition report has been provided by Karen Thomas of Thomas Art Conservation LLC., 336 West 37th Street, Suite 830, New York, NY 10018, 212-564-4024, info@thomasartconservation.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting is in sound condition overall. Based on the presence of an aged and very discolored varnish the painting has not been cleaned in quite some time. The paint layers appear to be well preserved overall. Retouching visible under UV light addresses scattered small losses in the figure and around the perimeter, and a few moderate losses in the dark background. Older restoration beneath the strongly fluorescing varnish is more difficult to detect but includes touches in the cheek on the right and possibly reinforcement of the red lake glazes in the garment to compensate for typical age-related fading in the red glazes. A regular pattern of tiny spots of light wear in the background, noticeable only under close examination, is typical of a canvas support. This suggests that either a layer of cloth lies beneath the paint and preparatory layers but atop the wood panel or the painting has been transferred from a canvas support to a new wood panel. The frame is not original to the painting although the construction is well executed. The painting would benefit from cleaning and a new restoration, which would reveal the proper tonality of the picture and improve the sense of depth and contrast.
"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

This small yet powerful portrayal of Dante Alghieri (1265-1321) is a visual testament to the Florentine poet’s enduring reputation.  It dates to the early sixteenth century, when posthumous portraits of this illustrious figure became increasingly popular in his hometown.  Although an attribution for the present lot remains elusive, the refined detail with which it was executed, from the modelling of his expressive face to the individual eyelashes of his contemplative eyes, points to an accomplished and skillful hand of circa 1530.  Dante proved a popular subject for many of Florence's most esteemed artists, and he can be recognized in various works by his signature red cloak and cap, his long and angular face seen in full or partial profile, his hooked nose, often his laurel wreath, and sometimes a copy of his Divine Comedy.  His sixteenth century likeness arose from an iconographic tradition established by leading artists of generations prior.  For example, he features in Giotto’s Paradise fresco of circa 1332-1337 (Podestà Chapel Palazzo Bargello, Florence)1 in Domenichino di Michelino’s La commedia illumine Firenze of 1456 (Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence),2 and in Sandro Botticelli’s portrayal of the poet in profile from circa 1495 (Private collection).3  A comparable example from the early sixteenth century is Bronzino’s allegorical portrait of Dante of circa 1532-1533 (Private collection, Florence).4

In size and composition, the present work compares closely to two other panels dated to the sixteenth century: one ascribed to the Florentine School, though formerly attributed to Bachiacca (Musée Condé, Chantilly),5 and one ascribed to the Tuscan School, though formerly attributed to Perugino and Vasari (Uffizi Gallery, Florence).6  


1.  See S. Bandera Bistoletti, Giotto: Catalogo Completo, Florence 1989, p. 151, cat. no. 41, reproduced.
2. See F. Guerrieri, Domenico di Michelino: Dante, la "Divina Commedia" e Firenze, Florence 2017, reproduced fig. 1.
3.  Oil on canvas, 54.7 by 47.5 cm., Private collection, Geneva.  See R. Lightbown, Sandro Botticelli: Life and Work, New York 1989, p. 261, reproduced plate 106.
4.  See C. Falciani & A. Natali, Bronzino, Florence 2010, reproduced p. 207.
5.  Oil on panel, 19.5 by 16 cm., inv. no. 593.
6.  Oil on panel, 22 by 17 cm., inv. no. P1562. See Gli Uffizi: catalogo generale, Florence 1979, p. 508, reproduced.