GIOVANNI DI SER GIOVANNI GUIDI, CALLED SCHEGGIA
San Giovanni Valdarno near Arezzo 1406 - 1486 Florence
TWO BOYS AT PLAY, A DESCO DA PARTO
tempera and oil on panel, a tondo
diameter: 25 in.; 63.5 cm.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's.
This painting is in sound condition, with retouching throughout that knits together abrasion apparently resulting from past strong cleaning. The retouching is not noticeable with the naked eye and is also not entirely obvious under ultra-violet illumination. In the dark green foliage, the original details have been reduced and the passage is peppered with tiny dots where the light preparatory layers are visible. Normal age-related cracks are visible throughout the painting, most of which follow the direction of the wood grain. The wood grain of the circular wood panel support is close to horizontal, rotated approximately 15 degrees counter-clockwise. Old wood worm damage is visible on the reverse of the panel. The panel displays a very mild warp and appears to be structurally sound.
"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."
Stefan von Auspitz collection, Vienna, by 1910;
Adolf von Beckerath, Berlin;
Anonymous sale, Berlin, Rudolph Lepke, 23-26 May 1916, lot 311 (as Manner of Piero della Francesca);
Emil Weinberger, Vienna;
His sale, Vienna, C.J. Wawra & Glückselig, 22-24 October 1929, lot 451 (as Central Italian (Sienese) School, c. 1480);
Kurt Walter Bachstitz, The Hague, by 1938;
By whom sold, Paris, Galerie Charpentier, 27 March 1952, lot 11 (as Domenico di Michelino);
With the Arcade Gallery, London;
Where acquired by Wildenstein & Co., New York, 1953;
By whom anonymously sold, New York, Christie's, 25 January 2012, lot 3, for $482,500.
London, Knoedler House, Great Masters of the 14th-18th Century from the Collection of N.V. Bachstitz Gallery, 's-Gravenhage, 1938 - 1939, no. 1 (as Andrea da Firenze);
Allentown, Pennsylvania, Allentown Art Museum, Beyond Nobility. Art for the Private Citizen in the Early Renaissance, September 1980 - January 1981, no. 5 (as Florentine School, 1460-80).
C. Brandi, Quattrocentisti senesi, Milan 1949, p. 210 (as Sienese School);
L. Collobi Ragghianti, "Domenico di Michelino," in La Critica d'Arte, vol. VIII, no. 5, xxxi, January 1950, p. 374, note 22 (as Domenico di Michelino);
E. Callmann, Apollonio di Giovanni, Oxford 1974, pp. 58-59, under no. 14 (without attribution);
E. Callmann, Beyond Nobility. Art for the Private Citizen in the Early Renaissance, exhibition catalogue, Allentown 1980, p. 7, cat. no. 5 (as Florentine School, 1460-80), reproduced fig. II;
C. de Carli, I deschi da parto e la pittura del primo Rinascimento toscano, Turin 1997, pp. 120-121, cat. no. 25 (as Florentine School, c. 1450);
J.M. Musacchio, The Art and Ritual of Childbirth in Renaissance Italy, New Haven and London 1999, pp. 130-131, reproduced fig. 123;
E. Fahy, L'Archivio storico fotografico di Stefano Bardini: dipinti, disegni, miniature, stampe, Florence 2000, pp. 40 and 190, cat. no. 296, reproduced fig. 296;
C.C. Wilson, "Leo Planiscig and Percy Straus 1929-1939: Collecting and Historiography," in Small Bronzes in the Renaissance, New Haven and London 2001, p. 267, note 31 (as dated 1460 - 1480).
This panel originally decorated the reverse of a desco da parto, or birth tray. During the Renaissance, the birth of a child was immensely celebrated and led to the production of numerous commemorative objects, such as the present example. Its coat of arms, which were probably repainted before the Weinberger sale according to the art historian Ellen Callmann (see Literature), symbolize the union between two families. The crest to the right, which traditionally represents those of the bride's family, is from the Masi family, who moved to Florence from the Tuscan town of Montecatini in the late 14th century, while the other possibly belongs to the Del Guanto family. We are grateful to Dr Matteo Mazzalupi for his assistance in identifying the families related to the crests.
Although perhaps no longer recognizable, the specific iconography of these trays is imbued with symbolic significance, likely relating to fertility. The trays were both decorative and functional, as they were used to carry fruit, sweetmeats, and wine to mothers after they had given birth. Given the objects' repeated contact with surfaces, their reverses were often damaged. This panel is a rare survival from the mid-fifteenth century. Like other surviving birth trays, it may have originally been geometrically shaped with 12 edges, but at some point the original moldings must have been removed and the panel separated from the other side.
Licia Collobi-Ragghianti had previously identified this tondo as being the work of Domenico de Michelino, but Jacqueline Marie Musacchio most recently attributed it to Scheggia (see Literature), a prolific Florentine artist and brother to Masaccio (1401-1428). Stylistically, the panel is much closer to that of another reverse of a desco da parto by Scheggia, in the Palazzo Davanzati, Florence.1 In that work, two nude boys stand on a similarly verdant field and wrestle with each other, grabbing their opponent's hair and genitals. Although the boys’ anatomies are portrayed with less sophistication in comparison to the present work, the scene offers several stylistic similarities between both compositions, including its use of luminous colors and perspective.
1. Tempera on panel, diameter: 59 cm. See A. Bayer, Art and Love in Renaissance Italy, exhibition catalogue, New Haven and London 2008, pp. 157-158, no. 71.