Saint John the Baptist and Saint Michael
inscribed on the scroll, centre: ECCE· ANGN / DEI · QUI TO
tempera on panel, gold ground
80.6 x 58.3 cm.; 31¾ x 23 in.

Price Available Upon Request

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The Convent of S. Agata, Florence;
The Rev. Walter Davenport Bromley (1787-1863), Wootton Hall, Staffordshire;
Thence by descent in the Bromley-Davenport family, Capesthorne Hall, Cheshire;
By whom sold ('The Property of the Bromley-Davenport family'), London, Christie's, 3 December 2013, lot 18 (as Lorenzo di Bicci), where acquired.

B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance, Florentine School, London 1963, vol. I, p. 203 (as Spinello Aretino).


T his work would once have formed part of the left-hand section of a polyptych - an altarpiece formed of multiple panels, in which the Madonna and Child enthroned, or the Annunciation, would most likely have been positioned in the centre, flanked by saints. The distinctive pattern of tooling in the figures’ foliate haloes and the decorative background around their feet, have recently led Professor Frank Dabell, to whom we are grateful, to identify a corresponding part of the original complex - a Bishop Saint and Saint Catherine of Alexandria, which was last recorded in a sale at Christie's, London, 21 January 1927, lot 57, when attributed to Spinello Aretino (as the present panel was formerly).1

Bicci di Lorenzo was a leading figure in Florence during the early 15th century. He trained under his father, Lorenzo di Bicci (d. 1427), eventually taking over the highly successful family workshop which he went on to pass onto his own son, Neri di Bicci (1419-92). Bicci developed his father's style, itself borne out of the Giottesque tradition of painting of the 14th century, producing a large number of works over a career that spanned four decades.

The present work, which is datable to the mid-1420s, exemplifies the artist's luminous palette, particularly in the pink robe of the Baptist, and the delicately-rendered green boots and variegated wings of Saint Michael. Bicci's work is characterised by an adherence to a more traditional Gothic treatment of his subjects, albeit with a greater sense of modelling, demonstrated here particularly in the Baptist's drapery, and in Saint Michael's beautifully-detailed lorica (the leather corslet worn over his chest), which recalls the inspirational Strozzi altarpiece of the previous century, executed by Andrea di Cione, called Orcagna, in 1354-57.2 Bicci's interest in the fine rendering of fabrics may be attributed in large part to Gentile da Fabriano, one of the greatest exponents of the International Gothic style, who was working in Florence during the mid-1420s, and exerted an influence over many artists in the city.

We are also grateful to Professor Larry Kanter, Professor Andrea de Marchi, and Dott.ssa Cecilia Frosinini for endorsing the attribution to Bicci di Lorenzo on the basis of digital images.

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