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Vincenzo di Bertone Civitali

Saint Vincent; Saint Stephen:

Property from the Martello Collection

Vincenzo di Bertone Civitali

Vincenzo di Bertone Civitali

Saint Vincent; Saint Stephen:

Saint Vincent; Saint Stephen:

Property from the Martello Collection

Vincenzo di Bertone Civitali

Lucca, first documented 1488 - circa 1530

Saint Vincent;

Saint Stephen: 

a pair, both tempera on panel, unframed

each panel: 64 ¾ by 17 ¾ in.; 164.4 by 45.1 cm.  

The following condition report has been provided by Matt Hayes of Pietro Edwards Society of Art Conservation, 119 West 23rd Street, Suite 400, New York, NY 10011, 212-457-8956,, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's.

Both panels are in generally good condition for works of this period

St. Stephen

The picture preserves its original dimensions, with a barbe of gesso relating to the original framing visible at the top, left, and right edges. The paint is in good condition and beautifully displays the broadly hatched technique of late tempera painting of the fifteenth century. The opaque passages, such as the saint's face, are well preserved, as are the transparent red glazes of the garment—most subject to damage through cleaning.

Elsewhere, as in the green decoration of the book, some thinning has occurred. Retouching is minimal, and generally relegated to peripheral areas of the robe and background and to cracks. Traces of an old coating are evident in light areas. The uppermost varnish, a thin natural resin, is not appreciably discolored, though its gloss is slightly uneven. A pentimento is present at the saint's left shoulder.

The panel, a single vertical plank, preserves its original thickness of about 3 cm; tool marks from its finishing can be seen on the reverse. The support has been trimmed minimally at the left, right and lower edges, and has a slight overall curvature. There are signs of earlier woodworm activity, however this is no longer active. Two old cracks extend upward from the lower edge: here old restoration material is lifting and needs to be secured.

St. Vincent

The paint is relatively well preserved except for local injuries. In both opaque and glazed passages, the crisp brushstrokes of the tempera paint are intact. A few points of mechanical damage are visible, most notably a dent in the chest and book. Retouching is generally minute and localized. Larger losses along the cracks, especially at right, have likewise been filled and retouched; some of this material shows recent loss. Fine flaking has occurred in certain colors, as at the ornament at the neck of the saint's red robe. The varnish is clear and minimally discolored, through somewhat uneven through the presence of whitish drip marks.

The thick single-plank panel also essentially preserves its original dimensions, with minimal trimming. It has a slight convex curvature. A few old cracks traverse the wood, extending from both the top and bottom at left (to the left of the halo) and along the entire length at right (about 10 cm from the edge).

The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.

Commissioned on 22 January 1488, for San Frediano, Lucca, where installed on the south wall of the clerestory until at least the late 18th century;

Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby's, 28 January 1999, lot 430 (as Giovanni di Piamonte);

There acquired by the present collector. 

R. Massagli “Baldassarre di Biagio del Firenze e Matteo Civitali pittore:
qualche novità sulla pittura lucchese del secondo Quattrocento,” in Arte cristiana, vol. LXXXVIII, no. 799 (2000), p. 290, fig. 22 (as Baldassarre di Biagio?);
R. Massagli, “Fra opere e documenti: alcuni aspetti della cultura artistica lucchese dal 1440 al 1480,” in Lucca città d’arte e i suoi archive: Opere d’arte e testimonianze documentarie, ed. Max Seidel and Romano Silva, Venice 2001, p. 205 note 24 (as Baldassarre di Biagio?);
R. Massagli, “Michele Angelo di Pietro Membrini e l’arte a Lucca dal 1480 al 1520,” PhD Dissertation, Florence, Univeristà degli studi di Firenze, 2007, p. 162 (as Vincenzo Civitali?);
C. Daly, Painting in Lucca in the Late Fifteenth Century: A Problem in Artistic Geography, Phd Dissertation, Baltimore, Md., Johns Hopkins University, in progress, Appendix 7, cat. no. 1 (as Vincenzo Civitali).

As Riccardo Massagli and Christopher Daly have both independently proposed, these large panels showing the deacon saints Vincent and Stephen are important works within the small painted oeuvre presently known of the Lucchese artist Vincenzo di Bertone Civitali, the nephew of the celebrated Matteo Civitali. In 1488, Vincenzo and Matteo were commissioned by the Augustinian Friars of San Frediano, Lucca, to paint a hanging altar on the south wall of the clerestory of their church. The contract drawn up in February of that year outlined the tasks required of the two artists for this altarpiece: Matteo was to polychrome an old statue of San Frediano to be set into a niche at the center of the altarpiece, while Vincenzo was asked to paint Saints Stephen and Vincent as laterals to the central niche as well as a lunette of Saint Lawrence in glory.1 The present lots are almost certainly the two lateral panels discussed in this 1488 contract.  

The altarpiece remained in-situ until at least the late 18th century, and it faced a fresco from 1275 illustrating the martyrdom of the same three deacon saints. The original format and appearance of the altarpiece is preserved in an 18th-century drawing published by Romano Silva where the saints are described simply as deacons, probably because the height of the altarpiece prevented a clear identification of each figure, as Daly suggests.2 In the present panels, Saint Stephen is easily recognizable with the stone in his head, while Saint Vincent lacks any clear identifying features. As such, Vincent was later repainted to represent Saint Lawrence, but the gridiron that appeared at his feet when the present panels last appeared at auction was a later addition that was easily removed when the panels were cleaned.  

We are grateful to Christopher Daly and Riccardo Massagli for independently endorsing an attribution to Vincenzo Civitali. We are also grateful to Christopher Daly for his invaluable assistance in this catalogue entry. These panels are to be included in his forthcoming PhD Dissertation Painting in Lucca in the Late Fifteenth Century: A Problem in Artistic Geography (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md., in progress). 

1. This contract was originally published by R. Silva, La Basilica di San Frediano in Lucca, Lucca 1985, pp. 43-46.

2. An image of this drawing is available upon request within the department.