The very powerfully conceived frescoes of angels once decorated a chapel in the Torre della Gabbia in Mantua. The whole composition showed the Madonna and Child with Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Saint Lawrence. The angels were detached in 1870. They may date about 1328, when Luigi Gonzaga became lord of Mantua, and are important testaments to the enormous influence of Giotto in north Italy.
Cappella Bonacolsi, Torre della Gabbia, Palazzo Acerbi, Mantua (as by Giotto); Anselmo Cadenazzi, Torre della Gabbia, Palazzo Acerbi, Mantua (until 1869; sold to Naya); Carlo Naya, Venice (1869–d. 1882); his widow, Ida Lessjak, Venice (1882–d. 1893); her 2nd husband, Antonio Dal Zotto, Venice (1893–d. 1918); his heir, Ferruccio Battaglia (from 1918); Ernesta Stern, Venice and Paris (by 1928–d. 1930; her estate, 1930); [Duveen, Paris and New York, 1930–44; transferred to Fowles, partner in the firm]; Edward Fowles, New York (1944–d. 1971)
Venice. Scuola di S. Giovanni Evangelista. "Arte sacra veneta antica," 1909, no catalogue? (as by Giotto, lent by prof. Dal Zotto) [see Malagola 1909].
New York. Duveen Brothers. September 1–October 30, 1958, no catalogue (as by Giotto) [see Ref. Sawin 1958].
New York. Duveen Brothers. "Art of Tuscany," November–December 1963, no. 12 (as by Giotto).
Carlo d' Arco. Delle arti e degli artefici di Mantova. Mantua, 1857, vol. 2, pp. 7, 287–88, describes the frescoes decorating three walls of a room probably used as a private chapel in the Torre della Gabbia, Mantua, which had belonged to the Bonacolsi family; notes that a number of different artists worked on the frescoes which were by then much damaged; adds that watercolor copies had been commissioned from Giuseppe Razzetti, to be deposited in the local museum.
J[oseph]. A[rcher]. Crowe and G[iovanni]. B[attista]. Cavalcaselle. A History of Painting in North Italy: Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Ferrara, Milan, Friuli, Brescia, from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century. London, 1871, vol. 1, p. 418 n. 1, mention the paintings in the Torre della Gabbia, including the Marriage of Saint Catherine; call them Giottesque and date them to the fourteenth century; note that they are all by different artists, but then wonder if they could be by Stefano da Verona.
Giovanni Battista Intra. Mantova ne' suoi monumenti di storia e d'arte. Mantua, 1883, p. 126, mentions fresco fragments in an oratory of the Torre della Gabbia, dating them slightly after the time of Giotto.
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. Langton Douglas. Vol. 3, The Sienese, Umbrian, & North Italian Schools. London, 1908, p. 256.
Carlo Malagola. "La mostra d'arte sacra nella scuola di S. Giovanni Evangelista in Venezia." Rassegna d'arte 9 (January 1909), p. 11, fig. 4 (a), as by "Giotto (?)".
Pietro Toesca. La pittura e la miniatura nella Lombardia, dai più antichi monumenti alla metà del Quattrocento. Milan, 1912, p. 210, dates the frescoes to the first half of the fourteenth century.
Bernard Berenson. Letter to Edward Fowles. February 17, 1930, attributes the two angels to Giotto; as formerly in the collection of Ernesta Stern.
Emilio Cecchi. Giotto. Milan, 1937, pp. 116–17, pls. 178 (a), 179 (b), attributes them to Giotto; states incorrectly that they have been transferred to canvas and that they must have flanked a Crucifixion.
Roberto Salvini, ed. Tutta la pittura di Giotto. Milan, 1952, pp. 52, 55, incorrectly as still in the Stern collection, Paris; lists them under works attributed to Giotto, noting Cecci's [see Ref. 1937] opinion.
Carlyle Burrows. "Art: Season's First Offerings." Herald Tribune (September 14, 1958), p. ?, ill. (a), in connection with the exhibition at Duveen, attributes them to Giotto, states that they are believed to come from the church of Santa Croce, Florence, and dates them about 1318.
Stuart Preston. "Past to Present." New York Times (September 28, 1958), p. X 15, ill. (a), in reference to the Duveen exhibition, questions the attribution to Giotto.
Henry A. La Farge. "Fourteenth- and Fifteenth-century Frescoes." Art News 57 (October 1958), p. 12, ill. (a).
Martica Sawin. "In the Galleries: Early Frescoes." Arts 33 (October 1958), p. 53.
Giovanni Paccagnini, ed. Mantova: Le arti. Vol. 1, Il medioevo. Mantua, 1960, pp. 147, 267–68, dates the Torre della Gabbia frescoes to the first half of the fourteenth century; notes the influence of Giotto and attributes them to a Lombard painter who may also have worked at Solaro; reproduces (fig. 333) Razzetti's watercolor after the Marriage of Saint Catherine [see Notes].
S[tella]. Matalon. Affreschi lombardi del Trecento. Milan, 1963, pp. 460–61, mentions the Torre della Gabbia frescoes as examples of fourteenth-century Lombard works from Mantua; adds that they have been detached and transported to Venice.
Roberto Salvini. All the Paintings of Giotto. New York, , vol. 1, p. 63; vol. 2, p. 95, as Attributed to Giotto; incorrectly as still in the Stern collection.
Edi Baccheschi inThe Complete Paintings of Giotto. New York, , p. 123, nos. 173 (a), 174 (b), ill. [Italian ed., 1966, 4th ed., 1970, p. 123, nos. 173–74, ill.], relates them to the Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine and to the male saint (here identified as Lawrence) [see Notes], but not to the Torre della Gabbia.
Federico Zeri. Letter. May 26, 1973, identifies them as fragments of the Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine from the Torre della Gabbia; apparently rejects the attribution to Giotto.
Italo Bini. "Ipotesi di ricostruzione di un affresco giottesco che decorava la 'Cappella dei Bonacolsi'." Civiltà mantovana, n.s., no. 1 (1983), pp. 35–42, figs. 4 (a), 5 (b), 7 (reconstruction) [similar text appears in Italo Bini, "Gli affreschi giotteschi della cappella Bonacolsi," Cronache mantovane (1983), p. 16, ill. (reconstruction)], reconstructs the composition of the Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine, combining the two MMA fragments and those in Florence and Frederikssund [see Notes].
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, North Italian School. New York, 1986, pp. 76–77, pls. 4 (a), 5 (b), attribute them to a north Italian painter and date them about 1340; note that they are influenced by Giotto's frescoes in the Arena Chapel, Padua, and to a lesser extent by the work of Giuliano and Pietro da Rimini.
Ugo Bazzotti inPittura a Mantova dal Romanico al Settecento. Ed. Mina Gregori. Milan, 1989, p. 211.
Ugo Bazzotti et al. Indizii di castigato disegno, di vivaci colori: Gli affreschi trecenteschi della Cappella Bonacolsi. Exh. cat., Palazzo Te. Mantua, 1992, pp. 11–118, colorpls. 22 (a), 23 (b), pl. 27c (reconstruction), give detailed provenance information; publish letters and official documents relating to the chapel and to the removal of the frescoes in 1870; reproduce drawings of the frescoes by Razzetti (in addition to his watercolors), photographs and drawings of the current appearance of the walls of the chapel, and reconstructions of their former appearance including the decorative elements; relate the date of the frescoes to the accession to power and marriage of Luigi Gonzaga in 1328.
Chiara Spanio. "Appunti per una storia della pittura mantovana tra Duecento e Trecento." Arte cristiana 85 (November–December 1997), pp. 410, 420 n. 65, fig. 17 (b), attributes them to an unknown artist and dates them to the second quarter of the fourteenth century.
Ugo Bazzotti inTrecento: pittori gotici a Bolzano. Ed. Andrea De Marchi et al. Exh. cat., Museo Civico, Bolzano. [Trent], 2000, pp. 76, 78–79, under no. 5.
These two fragments were originally located in the upper left and right corners of a fresco depicting the Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine in the Cappella Bonacolsi, Torre della Gabbia, Mantua. The fresco has been detached and the major part is now in the Galleria Luigi Bellini, Florence. A figure of a male saint, possibly Lawrence, originally on the right, is now in the J. F. Willumsens Museum, Frederikssund, Denmark. A nineteenth-century watercolor (Museo di Palazzo Ducale, Mantua) by Giuseppe Razzetti records the original disposition of the elements of the composition.