Taddeo worked with Giotto for over twenty-four years, during which time he is known to have carried out several important and independent projects, most notably the fresco cycle of the Life of the Virgin in the Baroncelli chapel in the Florentine church of Santa Croce which dates from 1328 and for which he is arguably best known today.1 After the death of his master in 1337, Taddeo took on the mantle as Florence’s leading painter, and though he individualized his own style, his output remained deeply influenced by Giotto’s idiom throughout his career. His work, and that of his sons, particularly Agnolo Gaddi, ensured that the Giottesque tradition and approach to painting were the dominant force in Florence until Agnolo’s death in 1396.
Although the attribution of the present panel is certain, it largely escaped the attention of art historians throughout the 20th century, even overlooked by Andrew Ladis in his 1982 monograph on the artist. In 1981, however, Offner first recognized the hand of this work, sold in 1928 with an attribution of "Florentine School" and an incorrect date of circa 1450, as that of Taddeo Gaddi. He further observed its relationship in both size and format with the Saint Julian formerly in the Rudolf Heinemann collection, but today in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (fig. 1).2 Like Saint Julian, the present work was originally cropped at the same points along the upper edge—the gable above the halo of Saint Anthony Abbot is reconstructed—and has been cut down at the lower edge. Such details suggest that both panels were once of a larger dimensions and originally depicted full-length saints.
In 1959, Roberto Longhi was the first to note the relationship between the Metropolitan Saint Julian and Gaddi's panel of the Annunciation today in the Museo Bandini in Fiesole (fig. 2), a connection that now also extends to include to the present work.3 Today it seems unquestionable that these two saints once formed the outer components of a polyptych, with the Annunciation in Fiesole at center (fig. 3), and they were likely topped by pinnacles with smaller paintings in the upper register and predella scenes along the lower. All three works share the same punchwork and an undulating vine around their borders as well as an identical punched trefoliated shape in the halos of the figures. Some of this punchwork is used frequently by Taddeo, but the trefoliated shape is rare, and appears only on these three works, making their original intended relationship all the more certain. The punchwork also helps to more securely date the panels, for according to Skaug, the stippled texture surrounding the decorative details made of simple points from a stylus, rather than a ring punch that Taddeo used prior, further points to a date of circa 1345-1350.4
This polyptych once likely formed the high altar in the Church of Santa Maria delle Croce al Tempio in Florence. Even though the Annunciation is today in Fiesole, a recent restoration on that work revealed two medallions in the upper corners of its original frame emblazoned with the symbols of this church's confraternity, founded in 1343, further solidifying initial location of that panel as well as the altarpiece as a whole.5 As a result, it seems that this was the altarpiece seen on the high altar of this church by Father Giuseppe Richa in 1755, which he described as una Nunziata assai antica,6 evidence that all three panels likely remained intact and together until at least the 18th century.
1. See A. Ladis, Taddeo Gaddi: A Critical Reappraisal and Catalogue Raisonné, Columbia, Missouri 1982, pp. 88-112, cat. no. 4, with all details of the chapel reproduced.
2. See Offner, in Literature.
3. See R. Longhi, "Qualità a industria in Taddeo Gaddi-I," in Paragone, X, no. 109, 1959, p. 39. Longhi also tentatively suggested a date of the early 1340s and linked it to the now-lost Santissima Annunziata altarpiece. The altarpiece connection was further supported by Parronchi in 1964, but he recognized it as a pinnacle and dated it to circa 1332.
4. See Skaug 2008, in Literature.
5. See M. Scudieri, ll museo Bandini a Fiesoli, Florence 1993, p. 82.
6. G. Riccha, Notizie istoriche delle chiese fiorentine divise ne' suoi quartieri, vol. II, 1755, p. 132.
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