Though little is known of this elusive artist’s life, he trained in Orcagna's workshop in the 1360s and continued his work there following his master’s death in 1368, when the workshop passed to Orcagna's younger brother, Jacopo di Cione.2 He is known to have assisted Orcagna from 1367-1368 with the Saint Matthew triptych, today in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence,3 and he has also been identified as the collaborator in Jacopo’s elaborate, large scale Crucifixion altarpiece of 1369-1370, today in the National Gallery in London.4 With the influence of his two teachers as his foundation, this master developed his own individualized style that is most clearly visible later in his career. As seen in this panel, his visual vocabulary is characterized by his engaging figural types (such as the seated Joseph), his delicate design elements (such as the gold that trims Mary’s veil) and charming anecdotal details (such the pot and staff on the ground, as well as the heads of the animals in the stable).
This panel once formed the left wing of a small devotional triptych, whose central panel would have shown a Madonna and Child with Angels, the right wing a Crucifixion, and the upper pinnacles possibly scenes from The Annunciation. The arrangement within this triptych had its foundation in eminent Florentine examples from generations prior, such as Bernardo Daddi’s triptych today in Florence's Museo del Bigallo (1333)5 and Taddeo Gaddi’s today in the Staatliche Museein, Berlin (1334).6 The reverse of the present panel was painted with a decorative geometric motif in a style known as Costmatesque, which would have been appreciated when the triptych was closed.
We are grateful to Professor Laurence Kanter for endorsing the attribution of the present lot after firsthand inspection and for suggesting a date of circa 1380-1390.
1. Tempera on panel, gold ground, 37.4 by 65.2, inv. no. A47. See The Ashmolean Museum: Complete Illustrated Catalogue of Paintings, Oxford 2004, p. 141, reproduced.
2. L. Kanter, Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence, 1300-1450, exhibition catalogue, New York 1994, p. 193.
3. Tempera on panel, 257 by 264 cm., inv. 1890, no. 3163. See Gli Uffizi: Catalogo Generale, Florence 1979, p. 396, cat. no. P1120, reproduced.
4. Tempera on panel, 154 by 138.5 cm., inv. no. NG1468. See C. Baker and T. Henry, The National Gallery: Complete Illustrated Catalogue, London 1995, p. 118, reproduced.
5. See R. Offner, The Works of Bernardo Daddi, Florence 1989, pp. 170-183, reproduced.
6. See A. Ladis, Taddeo Gaddi, Colombia, Missouri 1982, pp. 127-129, cat. no. 7, reproduced.
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