SCHOOL OF PISTOIA, CIRCA 1350 | Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Property from an English Private Collection
SCHOOL OF PISTOIA, CIRCA 1350
Saint Catherine of Alexandria
tempera on panel, gold ground, pointed top
overall dimensions: 112.3 x 42.5 cm.; 44¼x 16¾in.
painted surface: 107 x 38.3 cm.; 42 x 15 in.
The following condition report has been provided by Henry Gentle, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's:
The reverse of the soft wood support has had earlier worm infestation; this has been treated and compromised wood removed and replaced. Some of the worm holes have come through to the paint surface where they have been filled and restored out. The paint surface is raised, particularly to the lower section, but has been consolidated and is now stable.
The gold ground is well preserved; there are small areas of minor abrasion and some small loss, but overall, this layer is in good original condition.
The flesh tones are generally in good condition; there has been some thinning of the flesh colours and these areas have been augmented where the ground colour has come to dominate. Some of the larger dark shrinkage cracks have been reduced.
The red of Saint Catherine's dress has been substantially augmented. The raised paint layer has been abraded and the vulnerable pigment and glazing compromised, revealing the pale ochre ground beneath. Restoration has been applied here to reduce effect of the ground layer.
The spiked wheels have, likewise, been strengthened, although the spikes themselves are mostly original. The golden hems of the draperies are in good original condition and many finer details are well preserved.
The colours saturate well beneath a varnish that is not discoloured.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
Acquired by Baron Kraus Alexander in the 18th century;
Thence by descent until offered, London, Sotheby's, 9 July 2009, lot 135, acquired by the present owner post sale.
The authorship of the present panel, depicting the elegant full-length figure of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, remains at present a mystery. However, there can be no doubt that the unknown author was active in Tuscany, but in all likelihood not in one of the three major artistic centers: Florence, Siena and Pisa (although he must have been responsive to the artistic developments in these major cities, particularly to those in Florence).
Saint Catherine’s broad and rounded face and the slightly distracted, yet sensitive facial expression resulting from the finely drawn slit eyes, as well as the pale flesh tones, are traits that seem to have been born from a tradition initiated by the early Pistoian painters such as the so-called Master of 1310(1) and the Master of 1336(2) The anonymous painter responsible for this Saint Catherine appears to have tried here to soften the incisive drawing of the above mentioned Pistoian masters in order to attain a somewhat softer appearance, as if he aimed at a harmonization of his art with the Florentine tendencies of Bernardo Daddi's late works of around 1347-48. It is to Bernardo Daddi’s invention of the depiction of Saint Catherine of Alexandria that the composition of the present panel is indebted; the author of our Saint Catherine followed Bernardo Daddi’s unique placement of the saint between two wheels that are arranged as if they are the thorny arms of a throne - the throne of her martyrdom.
We are grateful to Gaudenz Freuler for his assistance in cataloguing this lot, and for dating the panel to the 1350s, and for noting that the artist created here an image which seems to anticipate artistic solutions noticeable only considerably later, in the late gothic paintings in Siena and Florence towards the turn of the century.
1 See, for example, his Saint Irene, in the panel with scenes from the life of St. Irene, New York, private collection; G. Freuler, Künder der Wunderbaren Dinge, Frühe Italienische Malerei in der Schweiz und Liechtenstein, Lugano 1991 p. 184, cat. no. 68, reproduced p. 185.
2 G. Freuler 1991, p. 186, cat. no. 69.