Italian (Florentine or Paduan) Painter (Cheyo da Firenze?) (ca. 1307–17)
Tempera on wood, gold ground
24 1/4 x 16 1/2 in. (61.5 x 41.9 cm)
Gift of Robert Lehman, 1947
Not on view
The attribution of this damaged but compelling picture—a work of unusual expressive intensity—has puzzled scholars. It may be by a Paduan follower of Giotto and was perhaps painted about 1310–15—not long after Giotto completed his celebrated fresco cycle in the Arena Chapel, Padua. The painter has tentatively been associated with a cycle of frescoes in the chapter house of the great abbey of Pomposa, near Ferrara. The panel has been cut on all sides.
The Picture: Although somewhat worn, and cut on the left and at the top, which was once pointed, this remains an important picture from the close following of Giotto. The tightly composed figural group, with the Virgin’s firm grasp of her infant, the description of the drapery, and the child’s affectionate gesture of embrace, testify to the artist’s assimilation of some of the most notable aspects of Giotto’s human-based interpretation of the conventional theme of the Madonna and Child. Whether it formed the center of an altarpiece or was an independent panel for private devotion cannot be said with certainty. The hand-inscribed tooling of the haloes as well as the style of The Met’s picture may be taken as indications of an early date, as decorative work employing motif punches rather than freely inscribed decoration became increasingly popular in Tuscany and then, with some time lag, elsewhere in Italy after about 1320–30, depending upon the regional origins of the artist.
The Question of Attribution: The picture has been variously attributed and dated and even the regional origin of its artist has been debated: Florence or Padua. It should be noted that such a circumstance is directly related to Giotto’s activity throughout the Italian peninsula and his employment of local artists as well as, possibly, assistants who would have traveled with him. The point of departure for the discussion of the author of The Met’s picture is two publications by Miklós Boskovits (1986, 1990). He proposed an initial solution that he subsequently expanded upon, arguing that The Met’s picture was by a Paduan follower of Giotto who was responsible for a significant cycle of frescoes in the chapterhouse at the Benedictine abbey of Pomposa, on the coast, east of Ferrara (see Volpe 1999; and C. Muscolino, "Gli affreschi dell’aula capitolare dell’Abbazia di Pomposa: restauri e ritrovamenti," Quaderni di Soprintendenza 5 , pp. 114–20; see Additional Images, figs. 1–3). Accordingly, the picture would date after the completion of Giotto’s frescoes in the chapterhouse of the basilica of the Santo and in the Arena Chapel, Padua (i.e., after 1305), when the abbot of the monastery was Enrico (1302–20). Enrico was also probably patron of the decoration of the refectory carried out by Pietro da Rimini, whose art was also deeply indebted to that of Giotto (see 39.42). Boskovits (1990) went on to assign to the same artist three panels with the story of the life of Christ in the Musée du Louvre and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid (see Additional Images, figs. 4–6). Aside from the panels with the life of Christ, Boskovits’s proposal has gained acceptance among scholars (see especially Benati 1995 and Volpe 1999). What has been questioned is whether he was right in believing the artist to be Paduan as opposed to Tuscan. That he was Tuscan has been advanced by Luciano Bellosi and Andrea De Marchi, both of whom recognized the same artist as the author of a direct copy of a work by Giotto and/or his workshop that was unquestionably done at a later date (De Marchi 2000; see Additional Images, fig. 7).
Most recently, Daniele Benati (2014) has reviewed the various hypotheses and discussed the core group of pictures that we can, with some confidence, ascribe to this anonymous master. These include the frescoes at Pomposa, The Met’s Madonna and Child, and the devotional painting noted by Bellosi and De Marchi. Benati, too, accepts that the author of this small corpus may have been a Florentine: someone who worked with Giotto in Padua and who then proceeded independently to Pomposa. He has further noted that among the witnesses to a document involving the abbot of Pomposa on July 11, 1317, there is listed a "magistro Cheyo pictore de Florentia" (master Cecco [or Francesco], painter from Florence), and he puts forward this otherwise unknown master as the leading candidate for the artist of The Met’s picture and the cycle of frescoes at Pomposa.
[Keith Christiansen 2017]
[Paolo Paolini, Rome, in about 1923]; Philip Lehman, New York (by 1928–d. 1947; cat., 1928, pl. III); his son, Robert Lehman, New York (1947)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Florentine Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," June 15–August 15, 1971, no catalogue.
Rimini. Museo della Città. "Il Trecento Riminese: Maestri e botteghe tra Romagna e Marche," August 20, 1995–January 7, 1996, no. 6 (as by the Maestro del Capitolo di Pomposa).
Robert Lehman. The Philip Lehman Collection, New York: Paintings. Paris, 1928, unpaginated, pl. III, as Florentine School, about 1290; remarks on the influence of the Saint Cecilia Master.
Ferdinando Bologna. I pittori alla corte Angioina di Napoli, 1266–1414. Rome, 1969, pp. 224, 233 n. 265, attributes it to an artist active in about 1330, to whom he also attributes a Crucifix (Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin), a Saint John the Baptist (Christ Church, Oxford), a Coronation of the Virgin (Museo de Belles Artes, Valencia), and a Crucifixion (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid).
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Florentine School. New York, 1971, pp. 16–17, ill., attribute it to a Florentine painter and date it to the second quarter of the fourteenth century; state that it was probably the center of a large altarpiece; remark on the stylistic similarity to the work of the Master of Saint Cecilia, Lippo di Benivieni, and the later Jacopo del Casentino; tentatively propose an attribution to the Master of the Fogg Pietà; suggest that the work may have been painted for the Franciscan order.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 128, 312, 608, as Attributed to the Master of the Fogg Pietà.
Miklós Boskovits in Richard Offner et al. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. Vol. 1, section 3, The Fourteenth Century. new ed. Florence, 1986, p. 180 n. 1, attributes each of the works grouped by Bologna (1969) to a different painter, tentatively ascribing this work to the possibly Paduan Master of the Chapter Hall of Pomposa Abbey.
Miklós Boskovits and Serena Padovani. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection: Early Italian Painting, 1290–1470. London, 1990, pp. 154, 156, attribute it to the Master of the Pomposa Chapterhouse, whom they identify as possibly Paduan, but not Florentine; date the picture between about 1306 and 1317/18, close to the date of the frescoes the artist painted in the chapterhouse of Pomposa.
Miklós Boskovits. "Insegnare per immagini: dipinti e sculture nelle sale capitolari." Arte cristiana 78 (March–June 1990), p. 138 n. 34 [reprinted in "Immagini da meditare: ricerche su dipinti di tema religioso nei secoli XII–XV," Milan, 1994, p. 125 n. 34], attributes this picture and the Thyssen Crucifixion to the Master of the Pomposa Chapterhouse.
Gaudenz Freuler. "Manifestatori delle cose miracolose": Arte italiana del '300 e '400 da collezioni in Svizzera e nel Liechtenstein. Exh. cat., Fondazione Thyssen-Bornemisza. Lugano, 1991, p. 120, under no. 42, of the works grouped together by Bologna (1969), finds that only the MMA picture has close stylistic similarities to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Crucifixion, which he attributes to a Paduan painter and dates about 1320–30.
Daniele Benati inIl Trecento riminese: maestri e botteghe tra Romagna e Marche. Ed. Daniele Benati. Exh. cat., Museo della Città, Rimini. Milan, 1995, pp. 158–60, no. 6, ill. (color), attributes it to the Master of the Pomposa Chapterhouse and dates it about 1310–15; believes the painter was Paduan.
Alessandro Volpe inPomposa: storia, arte, architettura. Ed. Antonio Samaritani and Carla di Francesco. Ferrara, 1999, pp. 128–29, ill.
Andrea De Marchi inTrecento: pittori gotici a Bolzano. Ed. Andrea De Marchi et al. Exh. cat., Museo Civico, Bolzano. [Trent], 2000, p. 72 n. 37, notes that Bellosi attributes it to the same artist as an unpublished "Madonna and Child with Saints Paul, Peter Martyr, Peter, Dominic, and Two Angels" in a private collection, Turin.
Daniele Benati. "Ancora sul Maestro del Capitolo di Pomposa." Paragone 65 (March–May 2014), pp. 27–28, fig. 34, attributes both this picture and the Madonna and Child with saints in Turin (fig. 35) to the Master of the Pomposa Chapterhouse, whom he suggests may be identified with a "magistro Cheyo pictore de Florentia" recorded in a document of 1317 drawn up at Pomposa.
Selected Renaissance and Mannerist Works of Art Assembled by Fabrizio Moretti. Sotheby's, New York. January 29, 2015, p. 50, under no. 126, calls it tentatively attributed to the Master of the Pomposa Chapterhouse and dates it about 1310–15.
Andrea De Marchi. "Le milizie tebane e altri affreschi ritrovati in Santa Maria Novella: una traccia per Bruno di Giovanni?" Ricerche a Santa Maria Novella: gli affreschi ritrovati di Bruno, Stefano e gli altri. Ed. Anna Bisceglia. Florence, 2016, pp. 115–16, 120–21 nn. 36–37, figs. 27, 30, 32, 34 (color, overall and details), describes it as by a Florentine follower of Giotto, close to Jacopo del Casentino and Lippo di Benivieni, and dates it to the 1320s, tentatively attributing it, as well as the Madonna formerly with Giancarlo Gallino, Turin (see De Marchi 2000 and Benati 2014), and frescoes in Santa Maria Novella, Florence, to Bruno di Giovanni; attributes the frescoes at Pomposa, by contrast, to a follower of Giotto from the Veneto.