Together with a scene of the Creation and Expulsion from Paradise, also in the Metropolitan (Robert Lehman Collection), this picture formed the base (predella) of an altarpiece formerly in the church of San Domenico, Siena (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence). Painted in 1445, the two paintings rank among the finest works by the artist. Groups of saints and angels embrace in a rich, tapestry-like garden of Paradise. Giovanni di Paolo was much inspired by paintings he saw in Florence by Fra Angelico, but he rejected the perspectival rationalism of Florentine art in favor of a visionary effect of exquisite intensity. For a reconstruction of the altarpiece, see metmuseum.org/collections.
Widely considered one of the defining masterpieces by the artist, this captivating work and a companion showing the Expulsion from Paradise, also in the MMA (Robert Lehman Collection, 1975.1.31), unquestionably formed part of the same predella. Pope-Hennessy (1937) first proposed that they belonged to an altarpiece in the Guelfi chapel of the church of San Domenico, Siena, described by the seventeenth-century Sienese writer Ugurgieri Azzolini (1649). Ugurgieri Azzolini states that the altarpiece was dated 1445 and that the predella showed the Last Judgment, the Flood, and the Creation of the World; the latter scene would coincide with the painting in the Lehman collection. Pope-Hennessy further proposed identifying the main panels of this altarpiece with a Madonna and Child with Saints Dominic, Peter, Paul, and Thomas Aquinas in the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, signed and dated 1445. From the outset there seemed to be a contradiction in the fact that another, earlier seventeenth-century source (Chigi 1625–26) recorded that the altarpiece in the Guelfi chapel was dated 1426. Thus, the leading Italian specialist on Giovanni di Paolo, Brandi (1941), rejected Pope-Hennessy’s identification (this was one of many cases in which the two scholars crossed swords over issues of the date, reconstruction, and interpretation of various works by Giovanni di Paolo). The matter was thus viewed as unresolved until Bähr (2002) provided evidence that the Uffizi altarpiece was commissioned for a chapel dedicated to Saint Dominic—hence the inclusion of both Dominic and the great Dominican theologian Thomas Acquinas—and was only subsequently moved to the Guelfi Chapel, which was dedicated to Saint Anthony. This would explain the conflict in the recorded dates, which would apply to two different altarpieces. Bähr’s explanation makes it extremely likely that 1) the two fragments in the MMA did, indeed, form part of the predella to the Uffizi altarpiece; and that 2) this is the work described by Ugurgieri Azzolini. The two pieces would have been adjacent to each other, the Expulsion from Paradise being succeeded by Paradise, followed by scenes of the Last Judgment, Hell, and the Flood (lost, but perhaps reflected in a later altarpiece in the Pinacoteca, Siena; see Pope-Hennessy 1937, Strehlke 1988, and Sallay 2010 for detailed discussions of these issues).
Some time during the 1430s Giovanni di Paolo visited Florence and made a series of drawings of compositions that particularly captured his imagination (Ladis 1995). The composition for Paradise was almost certainly inspired by Fra Angelico’s Paradise (Museo di San Marco, Florence). Giovanni di Paolo’s depiction of the Creation and Expulsion from Paradise shows certain affinities with Dante’s Divine Comedy (Strehlke 1988). Among the identifiable figures in the depiction of Paradise are Saint Giles at the upper left, dressed in white, with a deer behind him; Beato Ambrogio Sansedoni, a patron of Siena, at the middle left, dressed in the black and white Dominican habit, with a white dove near his head; Saint Augustine with his mother, Saint Monica, greeting each other at the center, she an old woman in black, he a bishop; Saints Dominic and Peter Martyr at the lower center, both in the Dominican habit; and Saint Anthony Abbot at the bottom right with two Dominican nuns.
The paint surface has been cut on the right side, where a painted border has been added over remnants of the original composition to make the scene appear complete. There are traces of the original border on the other three sides. Despite its nineteenth-century transfer from panel to canvas, the paint surface is well preserved (the original gesso was preserved in the transfer).
[Keith Christiansen 2011]
Dominican chapel, church of San Domenico, Siena (1445–about 1525/49); Guelfi chapel, San Domenico (about 1525/49–1628); refectory of the convent of San Domenico (from about 1628); the Palmieri Nuti brothers, Siena (by 1904–6); [Böhler, Munich, 1906]; [Georges Brauer, Florence, 1906; sold to MMA]
Siena. Palazzo della Repubblica. "Antica arte senese," April–August 1904, no. 1545 (as "Il Paradiso," by Giovanni di Paolo, lent by Nob. Fratelli Palmieri-Nuti).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 72.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Giovanni di Paolo: Paintings," August 14–October 8, 1973, no. 4.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Painting in Renaissance Siena: 1420–1500," December 20, 1988–March 19, 1989, no. 32b.
Siena. Santa Maria della Scala, Opera della Metropolitana and Pinacoteca Nazionale. "Da Jacopo della Quercia a Donatello: le arti a Siena nel primo rinascimento," March 26–July 11, 2010, no. C.16b.
London. National Gallery. "Visions of Paradise: Botticini's Palmieri Altarpiece," November 4, 2015–February 14, 2016, unnumbered cat. (fig. 19).
F. Bossio. "Sante visite." Memoriale della visita pastorale. no. 21, 1575, f. 680 [Archivio Arcivescovile, Siena; see Refs. Pope-Hennessy 1937 and Strehlke 1988], mentions that the Guelfi chapel in the church of San Domenico, Siena, is dedicated to Saint Anthony Abbot.
Fabio Chigi. List of paintings, sculpture, and architecture in Siena. 1625–26, c. 221 r. [Biblioteca apostolica vaticana; published in Pèleo Bacci, "L'elenco delle pitture, sculture e architetture di Siena compilato nel 1625–26 da mons. Fabio Chigi poi Alessandro VII," Bullettino senese di storia patria, n.s., 10 (1939), p. 322], under the church of San Domenico, in the Guelfi chapel, lists an "opus Iohannes de Senis 1426".
Isidoro Ugurgieri Azzolini. Le pompe sanesi, o vero relazione delli huomini e donne illustri di Siena, e suo stato. Vol. 2, Sanesi pittori, scultori, architetti, ed altri artefici famosi. Pistoia, 1649, p. 346 [see Refs. Della Valle 1786 and Strehlke 1988], mentions Giovanni di Paolo's altarpiece that had formerly been located in the Guelfi chapel, dating it 1445, and describing the subject as a Madonna with saints, with a predella depicting the Last Judgment, the Flood, and the Creation of the World.
Guglielmo Della Valle. Lettere sanesi. Vol. 3, Rome, 1786, p. 50, quotes Ugurgieri [see Ref. 1649].
Corrado Ricci. Il Palazzo Pubblico di Siena e la mostra d'antica arte senese. Bergamo, 1904, p. 72, fig. 76.
F. Mason-Perkins. "La pittura alla mostra d'arte antica in Siena." Rassegna d'arte 4 (October 1904), p. 149, ill. [same text as Burlington Magazine, September 1904].
F. Mason Perkins. "The Sienese Exhibition of Ancient Art." Burlington Magazine 5 (September 1904), p. 583 [same text as Rassegna d'arte, October 1904].
André Pératé. "Les expositions d'art siennois à Sienne & à Londres." Les arts no. 33 (September 1904), p. 16, ill. p. 3.
Pietro Toesca. "Opere di Giovanni di Paolo nelle collezioni romane." L'arte 7 (1904), p. 305.
Robert Langton Douglas. Exhibition of Pictures of the School of Siena and Examples of the Minor Arts of that City. Exh. cat., Burlington Fine Arts Club. London, 1904, p. 55, under no. 30, attributes it to Giovanni di Paolo and dates it in the same period as the "Annunciation" now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington (1939.1.223).
Luigi Coletti. Arte senese. 1906, p. 109 [see Ref. Wehle 1940].
R[oger]. E. F[ry]. "Paradise, by Giovanni di Paolo." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1 (December 1906), p. 165.
Emil Jacobsen. Das Quattrocento in Siena: Studien in der Gemäldegalerie der Akademie. Strasbourg, 1908, p. 44, pl. XV, no. 2.
Bernhard Berenson. The Central Italian Painters of the Renaissance. 2nd ed., rev. and enl. New York, 1909, p. 178.
Arduino Colasanti. Gentile da Fabriano. Bergamo, 1909, pp. 88–89, ill.
Adolfo Venturi. Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 7, part 1, La pittura del quattrocento. Milan, 1911, p. 501, fig. 280.
Morton H. Bernath. New York und Boston. Leipzig, 1912, pp. 72–73.
J[oseph]. A[rcher]. Crowe and G[iovanni]. B[attista]. Cavalcaselle. A History of Painting in Italy: Umbria, Florence and Siena from the Second to the Sixteenth Century. Ed. Tancred Borenius. Vol. 5, Umbrian and Sienese Masters of the Fifteenth Century. London, 1914, p. 178 n. 1 (from p. 177), Borenius erroneously lists it as still in the Palmieri-Nuti collection, Siena.
Joseph Breck. "Some Paintings by Giovanni di Paolo: I." Art in America 2 (April 1914), pp. 177, 185–86, dates it about 1445 based on its similarity to the Paradise section of Giovanni di Paolo's "Last Judgment" in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena [which he assumes to be the predella from the Guelfi altarpiece of 1445], and mentions the influence of Sassetta seen in both works.
Langton Douglas. Histoire de Sienne. Paris, 1914, vol. 2, p. 363, detects the influence of Pisanello.
Luigi Dami. Siena e le sue opere d'arte. Florence, 1915 [see Ref. Gengaro 1932].
[Curt H.] Weigelt inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Ulrich Thieme and Fred C. Willis. Vol. 14, Leipzig, 1921, p. 135.
F. Mason Perkins. "Some Sienese Paintings in American Collections: Part Four." Art in America 9 (February 1921), p. 46, calls it an early work.
Pietro Rossi. "L'ispirazione dantesca in una pittura di Giovanni di Paolo." Rassegna d'arte senese 14 (1921), p. 149, ill. opp. p. 149.
Edward Hutton. The Sienese School in the National Gallery. London, 1925, p. 58.
Raimond van Marle. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. Vol. 9, Late Gothic Painting in Tuscany. The Hague, 1927, p. 419, fig. 272, compares it with the "Last Judgment" in Siena, which he identifies as the predella of the Guelfi altarpiece of 1445.
Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, pl. CXXIX.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 246, lists it as an early work.
George Harold Edgell. A History of Sienese Painting. New York, 1932, p. 220, fig. 314, relates it to the "Last Judgment" in Siena, which he dates 1453.
Marialuisa Gengaro. "Eclettismo e arte nel Quattrocento senese." La Diana 7 (1932), p. 31.
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 1, Romanesque and Gothic. New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 157, considers it earlier than the "Last Judgment" in Siena; calls it the left wing of a triptych, of which the right wing and central panel have disappeared.
Cesare Brandi. La regia pinacoteca di Siena. Rome, 1933, p. 85, suggests that this painting and the one in Siena are both replicas of a lost prototype, and rejects the identification of the Siena work with the Guelfi altarpiece.
Cesare Brandi. "Ricostruzione di un'opera giovanile di Giovanni di Paolo." L'arte, n.s., 5 (November 1934), p. 462–64, 467.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 212.
Edward S. King. "Notes on the Paintings by Giovanni di Paolo in the Walters Collection." Art Bulletin 18 (June 1936), p. 226 n. 22.
John Pope-Hennessy. Giovanni di Paolo, 1403–1483. London, 1937, pp. 17–23, 39, 49–50 nn. 37, 38, 44, 49, pp. 67, 154, 172, pl. VIII A, dates it 1445; considers this picture and the "Expulsion" also now in the MMA (Robert Lehman Collection, 1975.1.31) to be part of the predella of the Guelfi altarpiece, and suggests that the "Madonna and Child with Saints" in the Uffizi, signed and dated 1445, may be the central panel of that altarpiece; proposes dependence on a lost prototype by Fra Angelico.
F. Mason Perkins. Letter. March 24, 1938, notes that he had first attributed it to Giovanni di Paolo in 1899.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 89–90, ill.
Cesare Brandi. "Giovanni di Paolo, II." Le arti 3 (June–July 1941), pp. 317–18, 334, rejects Pope-Hennessy's [see Ref. 1937] identification of the "Madonna and Child with Saints" in the Uffizi as the main panel of the Guelfi altarpiece, with the Lehman "Expulsion" and this panel as parts of the predella; dates these paintings about 1445 while noting that Chigi [see Ref. 1625–26] recorded that the altarpiece was dated 1426; observes that the Uffizi panel does not include Saint Anthony to whom the Guelfi altar was dedicated.
Cesare Brandi. Giovanni di Paolo. Florence, 1947, pp. 34–36, 55–56, 76 n. 47 [same text as Ref. Brandi 1941].
John Pope-Hennessy. Sienese Quattrocento Painting. Oxford, 1947, pp. 12, 26–27, pls. 26, 27 (detail), dates it about 1445.
Harry B. Wehle. "Notes on the Cover." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 6 (January 1948), inside front cover, ill. (overall, and color detail on cover), accepts Pope-Hennessy's [see Ref. 1937] identification of it as part of the predella of the Guelfi altarpiece; tentatively identifies some of the people represented.
Millia Davenport. The Book of Costume. New York, 1948, vol. 1, p. 255, no. 716, ill. p. 256.
Cesare Brandi. Quattrocentisti senesi. Milan, 1949, pp. 102, 260.
Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1952, p. 223, no. 72, colorpl. 72.
John Pope-Hennessy. Fra Angelico. New York, 1952, p. 195, suggests that since the motifs that seem to derive from Fra Angelico in this work and in the "Last Judgment" in Siena cannot be traced to any of Angelico's surviving works, they must originate in a lost work by Angelico, perhaps the prototype for the Angelico workshop painting of the "Last Judgment" in Museo di San Marco, Florence.
Stefano Bottari. Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 2, Il rinascimento (Parte I): l'arte del Quattrocento. Milan, 1956, p. 250, fig. 327 (detail).
Roberto Salvini and Leone Traverso. The Predella from the XIIIth to the XVIth Centuries. London, 1960, pp. 97–99, ill. (overall and color detail), date it about 1445 on stylistic grounds, and state that although it and the Lehman "Expulsion" must come from the same predella it is not certain that that predella belonged to the Guelfi altarpiece.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, pp. 177–78, lists it as a companion to the Lehman "Expulsion" and the Uffizi "Madonna and Child with Saints".
Denys Sutton, ed. Letters of Roger Fry. New York, 1972, vol. 1, p. 25, fig. 32.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 90, 546, 605, call it a fragment.
John Pope-Hennessy. Fra Angelico. 2nd ed. Ithaca, N.Y., 1974, p. 192.
George Szabó. The Robert Lehman Collection. New York, 1975, p. 48, agrees that this work and the Lehman "Expulsion" come from the same predella, which he believes was probably the predella of the Guelfi altarpiece.
Michel Laclotte and Élisabeth Mognetti. Peinture italienne. Paris, 1976, unpaginated, under no. 89, date it 1445.
Mirella Levi d'Ancona. The Garden of the Renaissance: Botanical Symbolism in Italian Painting. Florence, 1977, pp. 292, 541, fig. 161, states that the row of orange trees in the background symbolizes redemption.
Piero Torriti. La Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena: I dipinti dal XII al XV secolo. Genoa, 1977, p. 323.
Denys Sutton. "Robert Langton Douglas, VI: An 'annus mirabilis'." Apollo 109 (April 1979), p. 315, fig. 45.
Denys Sutton. "Robert Langton Douglas, Part II, XII: Siena and France." Apollo 109 (May 1979), pp. 384, 386.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sienese and Central Italian Schools. New York, 1980, pp. 20–21, pl. 39, date it about 1445 on stylistic grounds, and tentatively accept the identification of this work and the Lehman "Expulsion" with the predella of the Guelfi altarpiece.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 226, 232, fig. 400 (color).
Frances Spalding. Roger Fry: Art and Life. Berkeley, 1980, p. 97, pl. 32.
Giulietta Chelazzi Dini inIl gotico a Siena: miniature pitture oreficerie oggetti d'arte. Exh. cat., Palazzo Pubblico, Siena. Florence, 1982, p. 358, dates it 1445.
John Pope-Hennessy. "Roger Fry and The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Oxford, China, and Italy: Writings in Honour of Sir Harold Acton on his Eightieth Birthday. Ed. Edward Chaney and Neil Ritchie. London, 1984, p. 234.
Ingeborg Bähr. "Die Altarretabel des Giovanni di Paolo aus S. Domenico in Siena: Überlegungen zu den Auftraggebern." Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz 31, no. 2/3 (1987), p. 366 n. 27.
Michel Laclotte and Élisabeth Mognetti. Avignon, musée du Petit Palais: Peinture italienne. 3rd ed. Paris, 1987, p. 109, under no. 89.
John Pope-Hennessy. "Giovanni di Paolo." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 46 (Fall 1988), pp. 14, 17, 46, color figs. 18, 68 (detail), reconfirms his identification, first made in 1937 [see Ref.], of this work, the Lehman "Expulsion," and the Uffizi "Madonna and Child with Saints" with the Guelfi altarpiece; relates it to the London codex of Dante's "Paradiso".
Carl Brandon Strehlke inPainting in Renaissance Siena: 1420–1500. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1988, pp. 192, 198–200, no. 32b, ill. (color), discusses it as part of the Guelfi altarpiece, along with the Lehman "Expulsion" and the Uffizi "Madonna and Child with Saints"; in addition to other people previously identified, mentions Saint Giles in white at the upper left, depicted with his symbol, the doe.
Andrea De Marchi. Gentile da Fabriano: Un viaggio nella pittura italiana alla fine del gotico. Milan, 1992, p. 195.
Andrew Ladis. "Sources and Resources: The Lost Sketchbooks of Giovanni di Paolo." The Craft of Art: Originality and Industry in the Italian Renaissance and Baroque Workshop. Ed. Andrew Ladis and Carolyn Wood. Athens, Ga., 1995, p. 81, fig. 37.
Eliot W. Rowlands. The Collections of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: Italian Paintings, 1300–1800. Kansas City, Mo., 1996, pp. 100, 105, accepts its identification as part of the predella of the Guelfi altarpiece.
Giovanna Damiani inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 12, New York, 1996, p. 715, fig. 2, states that both this work and the Lehman Expulsion may have come from the Guelfi altarpiece, but expresses doubt that the central panel of this altarpiece can be identified as the Uffizi Madonna and Child.
Ingeborg Bähr. "Zum ursprünglichen Standort und zur Ikonographie des Dominikaner-Retabels von Giovanni di Paolo in den Uffizien." Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz 46, no. 1 (2002), pp. 74–75, 82, 92, 96–97, 101, 104, 110, 112–13 n. 5, p. 117 n. 91, p. 120, figs. 4 (color), 28 (reconstruction), although noting that in the literature the work is often called the Guelfi altarpiece, argues that it was commissioned by the convent of San Domenico in Siena to replace a polyptych attributed to the Workshop of Duccio (now Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena) in a chapel dedicated to Saint Dominic, with a secondary dedication to Saints Peter and Paul; states that the altarpiece was only moved to the neighboring Guelfi chapel in the second quarter of the sixteenth century, and then later to the refectory of the convent.
Miklós Boskovits inItalian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. Washington, 2003, pp. 324, 331 n. 31, calls it a masterpiece and states that it "originally may have belonged to the Uffizi polyptych of 1445".
Stefano Valeri. "Il tema della Concordia nelle 'Tavole Barberini'." Bartolomeo Corradini (Fra' Carnevale) nella cultura urbinate del XV secolo. Ed. Bonita Cleri. Urbino, 2004, p. 276, dates it about 1460 and connects it with the Last Judgment in Siena.
Michel Laclotte and Esther Moench. Peinture italienne: musée du Petit Palais Avignon. new ed. Paris, 2005, p. 112, under no. 103, date it 1455, relating it to a Virgin of the Annunciation in the pinnacle above a panel depicting Saint Clement in Avignon.
Pierre Rosenberg. Only in America: One Hundred Paintings in American Museums Unmatched in European Collections. Milan, 2006, p. 231, ill. p. 32.
Dóra Sallay inAllgemeines Künstlerlexikon: die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker. Vol. 55, Munich, 2007, p. 57, agrees (see Bähr 2002) that the altarpiece was made for the Dominican altar in San Domenico, and later moved to the Guelfi altar.
Dóra Sallay. "Early Sienese Paintings in Hungarian Collections, 1420–1520." PhD diss., Central European University, Budapest, 2008, pp. 95–96.
Dóra Sallay inDa Jacopo della Quercia a Donatello: le arti a Siena nel primo rinascimento. Ed. Max Seidel. Exh. cat., Santa Maria della Scala et al., Siena. Milan, 2010, pp. 220–21, no. C.16b, ill. (color).
Andrea De Marchi. La pala d'altare dal polittico alla pala quadra. Florence, 2012, p. 102.
Jennifer Sliwka. Visions of Paradise: Botticini's Palmieri Altarpiece. Exh. cat., National Gallery. London, 2015, pp. 34, 111, fig. 19 (color).
Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, p. 140, no. 129, ill. pp. 107, 140 (color).