THE MASTER OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES | THE REPENTANCE OF SAINT AUGUSTINE; SAINT AUGUSTINE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE HOLY TRINITY
Estimate: 100,000 - 150,000 USD
THE MASTER OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES
active in Ferrara circa 1520 - 1542
THE REPENTANCE OF SAINT AUGUSTINE; SAINT AUGUSTINE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE HOLY TRINITY
a pair, both oil on panel
each: 29⅛ by 57 in.; 74 by 145 cm.
Private collection, Venice.
G. Bargellesi, Notizie di opere d'arte Ferrarese, Rovigo 1955, p. 104, reproduced figs. 33a and 33b (one panel incorrectly titled The Doctors of the Church);
Cultura figurativa ferrarese tra XV e XVI secolo: in memoria di Giacomo Bargellesi, Venice 1981, p. 104 and 478;
Rovigo, Museo dei Grandi Fiumi, Tesori dalle dimore storiche del Veneto: capolavori dal '400 al '700, 30 January - 13 June 2010, nos. 6-7 (as circle of Giovanni Luteri, called Dosso Dossi).
P. Fantelli, Tesori dalle dimore storiche del veneto. Capolavori dal ‘300 al ‘700, exhibition catalogue, Padua 2009, p. 120, cat. nos. 6-7, reproduced (as Circle of Giovanni Luteri, called Dosso Dossi).
Widely unknown until their recent reappearance, these panels are important additions to the corpus of the Master of the Twelve Apostles, an anonymous artist active in Ferrara and Rovigo during the second quarter of the 16th century. Savonuzzi was the first to identify this artist, whom he named after a group of twelve panels depicting half-length apostles in the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Ferrara,1 and whose works impart the influence of Garofolo, Mazzolini, and Dosso and Battista Dossi. While a substantial body of work has been formed around this artist in the past few decades, the present panels compare closely to the eponymous works in Ferrara, particularly in the physiognomy and faces of the figures (fig. 1). The interesting iconography of the panels includes episodes from the life of Saint Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430 AD), an early Christian theologian and Father of the Latin Church. One panel recounts the story of Augustine's repentance, unfolding from left to right in sequence. At the far left stands Saint Paul, whose letters Augustine turned to when contemplating the weakness of his own will towards worldly and physical pleasures. After throwing himself to the ground under a fig tree in his garden as punishment for his immoral flaws, Augustine heard a young voice saying tolle, lege! or take up and read. Allowing his book to open on its own, Augustine came upon a verse in Saint Paul's letter to the Romans (Romans 13: 13-14) where he exhorts readers to turn away from physical indulgences and towards a faithful life. Augustine immediately turned to the heavens to repent, changed his ways and became a Christian, soon receiving the sacrament of Baptism from Saint Ambrose, an event that is illustrated in the center of the background. After becoming a priest years later, he was appointed the Bishop of Hippo. He appears in this role in the second panel, which illustrates a popular legend and is set within a similarly vast and richly colored landscape. As Augustine walked upon the seashore contemplating the Holy Trinity, he came upon a small child using a seashell to pour the entire ocean into small hole in the sand. In response to Augustine's comment on the futility of this task, the child, who represents Christ, replied that the task was no more impossible than trying to comprehend mystery of the Holy Trinity.
An extended expertise from Alessandra Pattanaro (September 2019), to whom we are grateful, is available upon request.
1. C. Savonuzzi, "Il maestro dei Dodici Apostoli," in La critica d'arte, vol. VIII, 6, fasc. XXXII, March 1950, pp. 477-80.