CECCO DI PIETRO | SAINT PETER; SAINT SIMON
Property from a Distinguished Private Collection, New York
CECCO DI PIETRO
Documented in Pisa from 1364 to 1399 - died before 1402
a pair, both tempera on panel, gold ground
the former panel: 36⅞ by 13¼ in.; 93.8 by 33.7 cm.
the latter panel: 36¾ by 13⅜ in.; 93.3 by 34 cm.
both framed: 46 by 24 in.; 116.8 by 61 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 pair of saints is in good condition overall, especially in light of their age and having been removed from their original setting. A thick, discolored varnish, along with a layer of dirt and grime, coats both panels, suppressing the overall tonality. The dirt and vanish have settled into the punchwork applied to the halos and garment edging, undermining their intended textural effect. It appears the figures were framed within arched openings, and the top corner regions where the framework was removed have been restored with a loose, brushy application of toned bronze paint.
The faces of both figures remain very well preserved; in Saint Simon the frowning visage is in very good condition with only a few minor losses and a small planar distortion at his temple, while in Saint Peter some losses are found along the edges of cracks crossing the forehead, nose and neck, and a scratch runs from the middle of the nose to the hairline. Both panels display cupping following a network of strong horizontal age cracks. Wear along the edges of the cracks in both panels, scattered tiny losses in the garments of Saint Peter and a worn passage in the blue paint in Saint Peter's torso suggest possible strong cleaning in the past. Tiny losses are visible in Saint Peter's arm and chest and the upper glazes in his pinkish garment are broken. Broad discolored retouching in Saint Simon's pinkish garment appears to overcompensate for scattered dents and scratches.
Both of the vertically grained panels appear to retain their original thickness and verso surfaces. Three pieces of wood have been screwed into the reverse of the Saint Peter panel, along the entire top, right, and bottom edges, with two smaller blocks screwed in near the left edge. Both panels are planar and appear stable.
Conservation treatment to remove the old discolored varnish and restoration is advisable and would improve the overall appearance considerably. New retouching to address losses and wear would refocus attention on the quality of the painting technique, and in the Saint Peter panel would elevate the appearance closer to that of Saint Simon.
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These elegant, full-length saints are rare examples of the work of Cecco di Pietro, the foremost painter in Pisa in the late 14th century. Saints Peter and Simon would likely have formed part of a larger altarpiece complex flanking a central panel, along with the panels in the following lot, depicting Saint Rainerius and a bishop saint. Saint Rainerius is the patron saint of Pisa and is shown here as a young pilgrim in his characteristic hair shirt.
The facial types of these figures, with their knitted brows and heavy lower eyelids are typical of the artist's style, recalling the physiognomy of the saints by Cecco di Pietro in the Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon (inv. nos. MI 398-401). The details surrounding Cecco di Pietro's artistic development are unclear, though we do know he assisted in the restoration of frescoes in Pisa's Camposanto in 1370 and it can be assumed he was a young man when first documented in that city in 1364.