Daniele Simonelli recently recognized the hand of this predella illustrating scenes from the life of the Virgin as belonging to Tommaso d'Arcangelo Bernabei, called il Papacello. A sixteenth-century artist active in Cortona, il Papacello was a disciple of Giulio Romano, with whom he studied in Rome as a young artist, and also possibly Luca Signorelli. Around January 1525, after returning from Rome, he was commissioned to complete an altarpiece depicting The Assumption of the Virgin
(fig. 1) for the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie al Calcinaio in Cortona, which took him about three years to complete.1
Within the contract for this commission, the client specifies that as part of the altarpiece he would like a predella depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin. The central panel of the altarpiece, The Assumption,
remains today in the church, and Simonelli has securely identified the present work as its missing predella, which was likely removed from the church in the 19th century.2
The two works share a similar source of lighting and are nearly identical in width.3
The scenes visible from left to right in the predella include The Annunciation to Joachim
, which was a scene specifically requested in the commission contract, The Meeting of Joachim and Anne at the Golden Gate
, The Birth of the Virgin
, The Presentation of Mary in the Temple
, The Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary,
and The Visitation of Elizabeth
. Christ as the Man of Sorrows, with blood from his wounds dripping into a golden chalice, stands in a decorative niche at center.
We are grateful to Daniele Simonelli for his assistance in the cataloguing of the present lot.
1. See D. Simonelli, in Literature, reproduced color plate XII.
2. For a hypothetical reconstruction of the altarpiece, see ibid., fig. 156
3. The present work measures 180 cm., and the Assumption around 179.