Maso di Banco was Giotto’s greatest pupil, and this representation of Saint Anthony of Padua (1195–1231)—an early follower of Saint Francis—has the weight and gravity that are characteristic of his work. Painted about 1340, it is the right-hand panel of an altarpiece painted for a Franciscan church. The central panel of the Madonna and Child is in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.
See metmuseum.org/collections for a reconstruction of the altarpiece.
Portuguese by birth, Saint Anthony of Padua (1195–1231) was an early follower of Saint Francis and a brilliant preacher. He died in Padua, where his tongue is a venerated relic in the basilica of Sant’Antonio. In the fourteenth century he is usually shown with a book, exemplifying his learning, sometimes with a lily or with flames or a flaming heart in his hand, symbolizing his ardor. He is first shown with the Christ Child appearing on an open book in the fifteenth century; this later became his defining attribute.
Maso di Banco is one of the great figures of fourteenth-century Italian painting. Although his career is poorly documented, he is mentioned in Filippo Villani’s lives of famous Florentines (composed ca. 1395) as one of the three outstanding pupils of Giotto. According to Villani, "he painted with marvelous and incredible beauty." In his Commentaries, composed between 1447 and 1455, Ghiberti called him "huomo di grandissimo ingegno" (a man of greatest genius), and praised him as equally knowledgeable in painting and sculpture. Maso’s single surviving fresco cycle, of Constantine and Pope Sylvester, is in a chapel in Santa Croce, Florence (the Bardi di Vernio Chapel). Vasari erroneously ascribed the cycle to another artist, Giottino (the nephew of Giotto), thereby creating a persistent confusion. Maso’s oeuvre has only been reconstructed in the twentieth century, beginning with a groundbreaking article by Offner (1929).
The polyptych to which the MMA panel of Saint Anthony of Padua belongs is one of only two altarpieces by the artist (the other is in the church of Santo Spirito, Florence). The center panel of the Madonna and Child—a work of statuesque beauty—is in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, while two other panels, of Saint John the Baptist and Saint Anthony Abbot, were destroyed during WWII; the MMA panel was sold by the Berlin museum in 1926 and bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum in 1943 by Maitland F. Griggs. All four were owned by the great British merchant-collector Edward Solly, and acquired in 1821 for the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin; the whereabouts and identity of the fifth panel have never been established. Offner (1929) was the first to recognize that the four panels came from the same altarpiece. He proposed the following order: the missing panel, Saint John the Baptist, Madonna and Child, Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Anthony Abbot. Alternatively, it has been suggested (Boskovits 1987) that the Saint Anthony Abbot stood next to the Madonna and Child, while Wilkins (1969, 1985) placed the Saint John the Baptist at the extreme left, with the missing panel on the Madonna’s right. Offner’s reconstruction seems spatially and psychologically the most compelling (see Additional Images, fig. 1). He saw the attitude and psychological characterization of the Saint Anthony of Padua as responsive to the figures of the Madonna and Child, memorably characterizing the saint as "inwardly gathered as if towards some act of pious chivalry. . . . Nevertheless, his soul is so deeply intent upon her [i.e., the Madonna] that one guesses he is acting the theme of the picture."
The altarpiece is generally dated to the late 1330s or ca. 1340, which is to say, more or less contemporary with Maso’s fresco cycle in Santa Croce and before the much damaged polyptych in the church of Santo Spirito. The presence of the Franciscan Anthony of Padua has led to the suggestion that the missing panel showed Saint Francis (Oertel and Eberhardt 1978) and that the altarpiece may have been painted for Santa Croce (Boskovits 1987). The possibility has been raised that it might be the altarpiece for the Bardi di Vernio Chapel, though this would contradict the testimony of Vasari, who mentions the work of another artist (Neri Lusanna 1998). The fact that two of the saints are named Anthony might be thought an allusion to the name of the donor rather than an indication of the picture’s original destination.
A hallmark of Maso’s style was his mastery of space. The placement of the figure of Saint Anthony of Padua—off-center and posed in a three-quarter view—in dynamic relation to the Madonna and Child in the center panel, activates the space. This spatial conception is a direct outgrowth of the late work of Giotto and is reflected as well in the contemporary works of Bernardo Daddi and Taddeo Gaddi (see 1997.117.1). It is therefore worth noting that after the four panels of the altarpiece were acquired by the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, the Madonna and Child was first exhibited as the school of Giotto and was attributed to Bernardo Daddi at the time Offner wrote his article.
The Saint Anthony of Padua is less well preserved than the Madonna and Child and the habit especially has been much reinforced.
[Keith Christiansen 2012]
?Edward Solly, Berlin (until 1821; sold to Kaiser Friedrich Museum); Kaiser Friedrich Museum, Berlin (?1821–1926; cats., 1837, 1898, 1921, all no. 62, as "Der heilige Franciscus," by Schule des Giotto; sold to Hutton); [Edward Hutton, London, 1926; sold to Griggs]; Maitland F. Griggs, New York (1926–d. 1943)
New York. Century Association. "Italian Primitive Paintings," February 15–March 12, 1930, no. 22 (lent by Maitland F. Griggs).
Florence. Palazzo degli Uffizi. "Mostra Giottesca," April–October 1937, no. 152 (as Attributed to Maso di Banco, lent by the Griggs collection, New York) [1943 ed., no. 152].
New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300–1800," May–October 1939, no. 240 (lent by Maitland F. Griggs, New York).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Maitland F. Griggs Collection," Winter 1944, no catalogue.
Hartford. Wadsworth Atheneum. "An Exhibition of Italian Panels & Manuscripts from the Thirteenth & Fourteenth Centuries in Honor of Richard Offner," April 9–June 6, 1965, no. 4.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Florentine Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," June 15–August 15, 1971, no catalogue.
G. F. Waagen. Verzeichniss der Gemälde-Sammlung des Königlichen Museums zu Berlin. Berlin, 1837, p. 284, no. 62, attributes it to the school of Giotto and identifies it as Saint Francis.
foreword by [Wilhelm von] Bode. Königliche Museen zu Berlin: Beschreibendes Verzeichnis der Gemälde. 4th ed. Berlin, 1898, p. 407 [8th ed., 1921, p. 601], attributes it to the school of Giotto and identifies it as Saint Francis.
Mary Logan Berenson. Letter. January 18, 1927, calls it close to Giotto.
Richard Offner. "Four Panels, a Fresco and a Problem." Burlington Magazine 54 (May 1929), pp. 224, 229–30, pl. 1 (reconstruction), as in the Griggs collection, New York; reconstructs the polyptych to which it belonged, placing the panels in the following order, left to right: missing panel, Saint John the Baptist, Madonna and Child, Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Anthony Abbot; relates it to a polyptych in the church of Santo Spirito and frescoes in the church of Santa Croce (both in Florence) representing the miracles of Saint Sylvester and the Coronation of the Virgin; attributes all these works to Maso di Banco.
W. Suida inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 24, Leipzig, 1930, p. 209, attributes it to the painter of the Saint Sylvester frescoes in Santa Croce and mentions it as part of a polyptych with the panels grouped by Offner [see Ref. 1929].
Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, pl. XXVIII, accepts Offner's reconstruction and attribution to Maso [see Ref. 1929].
Bernard Berenson. "Quadri senza casa: Il Trecento fiorentino, I." Dedalo 11 (1931), pp. 986, 988 n. 3, calls it a Franciscan saint and attributes it to Maso.
Bernardo Berenson. "Quadri senza casa: il Trecento fiorentino, II." Dedalo 11 (1931), p. 1073 n. 5, accepts Offner's (1929) reconstruction.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 337, lists it as a work of Maso di Banco, and calls it "Franciscan Saint holding Book".
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 3, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century. New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 35, accepts Offner's reconstruction and attribution to Maso [see Ref. 1929].
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 299.
Mostra Giottesca. Exh. cat., Palazzo degli Uffizi. Bergamo, 1937, p. 54, no. 152, pl. 90, as Attributed to Maso di Banco; call it part of a polyptych with the panels in Berlin.
H. D. Gronau. Andrea Orcagna und Nardo di Cione. Berlin, 1937, pp. 81 n. 82, p. 83 n. 118, accepts Offner's attribution and reconstruction [see Ref. 1929]; dates it early 1340s, about the time of Maso's frescoes in Santa Croce.
Luigi Coletti. "La mostra giottesca." Bollettino d'arte 31 (August 1937), p. 67, fig. 20, mentions it among other works by Maso.
Emilio Cecchi. Giotto. Milan, 1937, p. 121, calls it a Franciscan saint by Maso.
Alfred M. Frankfurter. "The Maitland F. Griggs Collection." Art News 35 (May 1, 1937), p. 29, ill. p. 34, notes the Giottesque style and the Sienese influence.
Giulia Sinibaldi and Giulia Brunetti, ed. Pittura italiana del duecento e trecento: Catalogo della mostra giottesca di Firenze del 1937. Exh. cat., Galleria degli Uffizi. Florence, 1943, pp. 481–83, no.152, ill., attribute it to Maso.
Francis Henry Taylor. "The Maitland F. Griggs Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 2 (January 1944), ill. p. 158.
Pietro Toesca. Il Trecento. Turin, 1951, p. 628, erroneously as still in the Griggs collection, New York; mentions it as part of a dispersed polyptych, dating it to the time of Maso's frescoes in Santa Croce or somewhat later.
Roberto Longhi. "Qualità e industria in Taddeo Gaddi, I." Paragone 9 (January 1959), p. 34, accepts Offner's reconstruction and attribution of the original polyptych [see Ref. 1929].
Roberto Longhi. "Qualità e industria in Taddeo Gaddi ed altri, II." Paragone 9 (March 1959), p. 6, lists it with works attributed to Maso.
V. N. Lazarev. The Origins of the Italian Renaissance. Vol. 2, Russian ed. Moscow, 1959, p. 101, pl. 138, accepts the attribution to Maso and the reconstruciton.
Evelyn Sandberg Vavalà. Studies in the Florentine Churches. Vol. 1, Florence, 1959, pp. 129–30, compares it to the Saint Stephen attributed to Giotto in the Museo Horne, Florence.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School. London, 1963, vol. 1, pp. 135–36, lists it as from the same polyptych that contained the Berlin panels.
Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. An Exhibition of Italian Panels & Manuscripts from the Thirteenth & Fourteenth Centuries in Honor of Richard Offner. Exh. cat., Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Hartford, 1965, pp. 12–13, no. 4, ill.
Maria Adelaide Bianchini. Maso di Banco. Milan, 1966, unpaginated, colorpl. XIII, dates the polyptych about 1340–45.
Bernhard Degenhart and Annegrit Schmitt. Corpus der italienischen Zeichnungen, 1300–1450. Vol. 1, part 1, Süd- und Mittelitalien. Berlin, 1968, p. 67, fig. 106, date it to the time of Maso's polyptych in Santo Spirito, Florence, about 1340.
David George Wilkins. "Maso di Banco: A Florentine Artist of the Early Trecento." PhD diss., University of Michigan, 1969, pp. 100–105, 137 n. 43, 187, 189, no. A-36, figs. 62 (reconstruction), 65–66, compares Maso's figure style to that of Giotto and notes the influence of Sienese art; tentatively dates it about 1335 and reconstructs the original polyptych with Saint John the Baptist on the far left.
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. 21–22, ill., date it towards the end of the 1330s, about the time of Maso's frescoes in Santa Croce.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 123, 373, 608.
Miklòs Boskovits. Pittura fiorentina alla vigilia del Rinascimento, 1370–1400. Florence, 1975, pp. 22, 196 n. 48, dates it soon after 1337–38.
Robert Oertel and Hans-Joachim Eberhardt inCatalogue of Paintings, 13th–18th Century. 2nd, rev. ed. Berlin-Dahlem, 1978, p. 263, under no. 1040, mention it with the other panels from the same polyptych; say the missing panel may have depicted Saint Francis [see Notes].
Keith Christiansen. "Fourteenth-Century Italian Altarpieces." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 40 (Summer 1982), pp. 28–29, figs. 26 (color), 27 (reconstruction), reproduces Offner's reconstruction of the original polyptych [see Ref. 1929] and calls it contemporary with Maso's frescoes in Santa Croce.
David G. Wilkins. Maso di Banco. New York, 1985, pp. 66–77, 180–81, 183–84, figs. 72 (reconstruction), 75 (before restoration), 76, [text and reconstruction adapted from Ref. Wilkins 1969].
et al. Gemäldegalerie Berlin, Gesamtverzeichnis der Gemälde. Berlin, 1986, p. 47, mention it with the other panels from the original polyptych.
Miklós Boskovits. Gemäldegalerie Berlin, Katalog der Gemälde: frühe italienische Malerei. Ed. Erich Schleier. Berlin, 1987, pp. 107–8, under no. 41, fig. 162 (reconstruction), dates it to the second half of the 1330s and suggests that the altarpiece may have been painted for Santa Croce; reconstructs the altarpiece with Saint Anthony Abbot next to the Madonna and Child and Saint Anthony of Padua on the far right
Ferdinando Bologna. "Conclusioni (e proposte)." Simone Martini: atti del convegno. Ed. Luciano Bellosi. Florence, 1988, pp. 249–50, fig. 9, says it belongs to a dismembered polyptych and dates it 1340; observes stylistic relationships with works of Simone Martini, suggesting Simone's influence on Maso
Colin Eisler. Masterworks in Berlin: A City's Paintings Reunited. Boston, 1996, p. 23, erroneously identifies it as Saint Anthony Abbot.
Carola Hicks inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 20, New York, 1996, p. 552, erroneously calls it the only surviving panel of the original polyptych [see Notes].
Enrica Neri Lusanna inMaso di Banco: la cappella di San Silvestro. Ed. Cristina Acidini Luchinat and Enrica Neri Lusanna. Milan, 1998, pp. 37–38, ill. (reconstruction), follows Offner's [see Ref. 1929] reconstruction; suggests that it may be the altarpiece painted for the Bardi di Vernio chapel in Santa Croce, although this contradicts the testimony of Vasari.
Stefan Weppelmann. Spinello Aretino e la pittura del Trecento in Toscana. Florence, 2011, p. 191 n. 4.