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.
Though 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. It has been variously attributed and dated (see Refs.) and even the regional origin of its artist has been debated: Florence or Padua. In 1986 Miklós Boskovits proposed a solution that he expanded upon four years later, arguing that the picture was by a Paduan follower of Giotto responsible for a significant cycle of frescoes in the chapter house at the Benedictine abbey of Pomposa (for which, see Volpe 1999; and C. Muscolino, “Gli affreschi dell’aula capitolare dell’Abbazia di Pomposa: restauri e ritrovamenti,” in Quaderni di Soprintendenza 5 , pp. 114–20). Accordingly, the picture would date between about 1306—that is, after Giotto’s completion of his frescoes in the Arena Chapel, Padua, and the chapterhouse of the basilica of the Santo—and 1316/17. That the artist was Paduan as opposed to Florentine has been questioned by Luciano Bellosi and Andrea De Marchi, both of whom recognized another devotional painting by the same artist with strong echoes of Giotto’s Florentine paintings (see De Marchi 2000). Most recently, Daniele Benati (2014) has reviewed the various hypotheses and discussed the pictures that can with some confidence be ascribed to this anonymous master—for him, the frescoes, the MMA Madonna and Child, and the devotional painting noted by Bellosi and De Marchi. He has argued that the author of this small corpus may indeed have been a Florentine who worked with Giotto in Padua and who then proceeded 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), suggesting that this otherwise unknown master is the leading candidate for the artist of the MMA picture and the cycle of frescoes. The hand-inscribed tooling of the haloes as well as the style of the MMA picture certainly suggest an early date (decorative work employing motif punches rather than freely inscribed decoration becomes increasingly popular after about 1320–30, depending upon the regional origins of the artist).
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.
[Keith Christiansen 2015]
[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 [see Ref. 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, who 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.
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 [see Ref. 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.
"Quattordici opere di antichi maestri pittori, 1310–1565," a volume of reproductions published by Antichi Maestri Pittori di Giancarlo Gallino in conjunction with the exhibition "Un nuovo dipinto dell'Angelico" held in Turin in 1998, illustrates a Madonna and Child attributed to the Maestro della Madonna Lehman (Florentine, ca. 1310–15). The head of the Madonna is almost identical to that of the Madonna in the MMA painting.