Enthroned at the center of this gold-ground panel, in front of brocaded fabric held by two angels, is a monumental Madonna, clad in colorful robes and adorned with a raised crown and a flower-shaped jewel. Her graceful features are echoed in the figure of the Christ Child, who is wrapped in a translucent cloth, as well as in the two saints beside her. To the left is Saint Sebastian, protector of the Plague, and to the right is Saint Bernardino of Siena, who had a cult in Fabriano, where the present artist was active.
The current format of this thin panel suggests that originally formed one face of a double-sided processional standard. Matteo Mazzalupi has recently identified its possible companion as a panel formerly in the Borgia collection, but today in the Capodimonte Museum in Naples (fig. 1).2 That panel depicts an enthroned Saint Augustine, not Saint Eleutherius as once thought, with members of a confraternity kneeling in the lower foreground. It compares closely to the present work in size, composition, and decorative elements, and a similar hollow at the lower center of the reverse of each panel serves to indicate where a standard pole was likely once inserted. Mazzalupi suggests that this double-sided standard was possibly commissioned by the confraternity of Saint Augustine attached to the church of Sant'Agostino in Fabriano at some point after 1450, the year Saint Bernardino was canonized. That there was such a brotherhood in Fabriano, where the present artist was active, might indicate that the figures kneeling in the Naples panel are members of this Fabriano confraternity.
Mazzalupi has also noted that these two panels were likely separated before the late eighteenth century, for an extensive and important old inscription on the reverse of the panel indicates this panel’s earliest known owner: Monsignor Giuseppe Vinci (1736-1795). A native of Fermo in the southern Marche, Vinci served as governor for several cities in the Papal States, including Fabriano, and he also eventually served as president of the Apostolic Chamber in Rome. On the reverse of this panel is a wax seal from the municipality of Fermo, indicating that it may have been gifted to Vinci from his native town.
We are grateful to Dr. Matteo Mazzalupi, Professor Larry Kanter and Dr. Victor Schmidt for their assistance with this entry.
1. As translated: To the most illustrious and most reverend Monsignor Vinci, the president of the Apostolic Chamber, Rome.
2. Tempera on panel, 55 by 37 cm.
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