Painted for a marriage between the Sienese Insegni and Spannochi families (identified by their coats of arms), this front from a chest (cassone) shows the Queen of Sheba departing for Jerusalem and meeting King Solomon in his palace, as recounted in the Bible. The charming and naïve style of this anonymous master owes much to the work of Giovanni di Paolo, who is well represented in the Metropolitan.
Inscription: Inscribed (base): [QV]ESTA SIE LASTORIA QVANDO LAREINA SABA ANDO AVDIRE LASAPIENTIA DELRE [S]ALAMONE INGIERVSALEM (This is the story of how the Queen of Sheba went to hear the wisdom of Solomon in Jerusalem)
the Palmieri Nuti brothers, Siena (by 1897–at least 1904); [Paul Drey, Munich, until 1914; sold to MMA]
Siena. Palazzo della Repubblica. "Antica arte senese," April–August 1904, no. 1542 (as "La Regina Saba visita il Re Salomone," by School of Sano di Pietro, lent by Nob. Fratelli Palmieri-Nuti).
Bernhard Berenson. The Central Italian Painters of the Renaissance. reprinted 1903. New York, 1897, p. 176, as by Sano di Pietro, in the Palazzo Palmieri-Nuti, Siena; identifies it as a cassone panel.
Corrado Ricci. Il Palazzo Pubblico di Siena e la mostra d'antica arte senese. Bergamo, 1904, p. 72, as in the collection of the Palmieri Nuti brothers; identifies it as a cassone.
F. Mason-Perkins. "La pittura alla mostra d'arte antica in Siena." Rassegna d'arte 4 (October 1904), p. 149, attributes it to Sano di Pietro himself and not to his school; calls it a predella.
André Pératé. "Les expositions d'art siennois à Sienne & à Londres." Les arts no. 33 (September 1904), ill. p. 9, as School of Siena, 15th century; as in the Palmieri Nuti collection, Siena.
André Pératé. "Les expositions d'art siennois à Sienne & à Londres." Les arts no. 34 (October 1904), p. 12, identifies it as two cassone panels; notes its resemblance to the style of Sano di Pietro.
B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "A Panel by Sano di Pietro." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 9 (May 1914), pp. 128–29, ill., as by Sano di Pietro, from the third quarter of the fifteenth century; believes it was probably a decoration for a settle rather than a cassone; misidentifies the arms of the Insegni family at left as those of the Luci family.
Paul Schubring. Cassoni: Truhen und Truhenbilder der italienischen Frührenaissance. Leipzig, 1915, text vol., p. 320, nos. 425, 426; plate vol., pl. XCIX, attributes it to Sano di Pietro.
Émile Gaillard. Un peintre siennois au XVe siècle: Sano di Pietro, 1406–1481. Chambéry, 1923, p. 204, pl. 37 (detail, right side), lists it as by Sano di Pietro.
Jörg Trübner. Die stilistische Entwicklung der Tafelbilder des Sano di Pietro (1405–1481). PhD diss., Bayer. Julius-Maximilians-Universität, Würzburg. Strasbourg, 1925, p. 88, lists it as by Sano di Pietro.
Raimond van Marle. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. Vol. 9, Late Gothic Painting in Tuscany. The Hague, 1927, p. 532 n. 2, lists it twice (MMA and ex Palmieri Nuti) as a work of the school of Sano di Pietro.
Piero Misciattelli. "Cassoni senesi." La Diana 4, no. 2 (1929), p. 120, pls. 8 (left side), 9 (right side), attributes it to Sano di Pietro.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 500, lists it as by Sano di Pietro.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 430.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 92–93, ill., as Workshop of Sano di Pietro; misidentifies the arms of the Insegni family at left with those of the Luci family.
Rufus G. Mather. Letter. September 17, 1947, confirms that the coats of arms are those of the Insegni and Spannocchi families, and notes that there is no record of a marriage between these two families in Siena; dates the marriage for which the cassone was made to about 1450 (without having seen the panel).
Cesare Brandi. Giovanni di Paolo. Florence, 1947, pp. 101, 108 n. 22, p. 123, figs. 106 (left side), 107 (right side), attributes it to a follower of Giovanni di Paolo, to whom he also attributes cassone panels depicting the story of Jupiter and Alcmena (formerly Harris collection, London) and the story of Lucretia and Collatinus (formerly Knoedler's, New York); relates it to the frescoes in the portico of the monastery of Lecceto near Siena and to the work of Bernardino Fungai; dates it to the very end of the fifteenth century.
Millia Davenport. The Book of Costume. New York, 1948, vol. 1, p. 260, nos. 724–25, ill. p. 259 (split).
Cesare Brandi. Quattrocentisti senesi. Milan, 1949, p. 206 n. 69.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 376, lists it as from the workshop of Sano di Pietro.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 160, 261, 606, as from the "school, shop, or studio" of Pellegrino di Mariano.
Paul F. Watson. "The Queen of Sheba in Christian Tradition." Solomon & Sheba. Ed. James B. Pritchard. London, 1974, p. 127, pl. 55 (detail, right side), attributes it to Sano di Pietro and dates it about 1450–60.
Michel Laclotte and Élisabeth Mognetti. Peinture italienne. Paris, 1976, unpaginated, under no. 305, attribute this work to the same anonymous painter of a panel depicting a scene from the story of Lucretia [see also Ref. Brandi 1947] and four panels depicting the story of Dido (all Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon; nos. 305, 306–9); note the influence of Sano di Pietro and similarity to Pellegrino di Mariano, and date the activity of the painter about 1450–80.
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. 101–2, pls. 76 (overall, with border), 77 (both sides, separately), attribute it to an unknown Sienese painter, third quarter of the fifteenth century; concur with Brandi [see Ref. 1947] and Laclotte and Mognetti [see Ref. 1976] in attributing several other cassone panels to the same artist: four scenes from the story of Jupiter and Alcmena (formerly Henry Harris collection, London), four scenes from the story of Dido (Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon), and two scenes from the story of Lucretia (art market, New York, in 1974; Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon).
John Pope-Hennessy and Keith Christiansen. "Secular Painting in 15th-Century Tuscany: Birth Trays, Cassone Panels, and Portraits." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 38 (Summer 1980), pp. 17, 42–43, 45, figs. 37, 38 (color, overall and detail), date it to the third quarter of the fifteenth century, attribute it to the same anonymous painter of the frescoes at Lecceto (detail, fig. 39), and christen this artist the Lecceto Master; discuss the influence of Giovanni di Paolo and the archaic style.
Diane Cole Ahl. "Renaissance Birth Salvers and the Richmond 'Judgment of Solomon'." Studies in Iconography 7–8 (1981–82), p. 159, fig. 3, discusses the relevance of the story of the Queen of Sheba to Renaissance marriage rituals, and notes that this subject matter appears often on cassoni.
Michel Laclotte and Élisabeth Mognetti. Avignon, musée du Petit Palais: Peinture italienne. 3rd ed. Paris, 1987, p. 142, under no. 137bis.
Linda Seidel. Jan van Eyck's Arnolfini Portrait: Stories of an Icon. Cambridge, 1993, p. 115, fig. 56.
Ellen Callmann inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 6, New York, 1996, p. 4.
Graham Hughes. Renaissance Cassoni, Masterpieces of Early Italian Art: Painted Marriage Chests 1400–1550. Alfriston, England, 1997, p. 232.
Michel Laclotte and Esther Moench. Peinture italienne: musée du Petit Palais Avignon. new ed. Paris, 2005, p. 217, under no. 307.
This original “molding” frames a cassone panel which formed part of the front of a chest from Siena and dates to about 1460 (see Additional Images, figs. 1–3). The panel is made of poplar and the framing elements are formed in raised gesso or pastiglia and water gilded. The stylized leaf and floral running ornament have a punchwork background and are delineated with a small bead. Panels at either end contain armorial crests with arabesques above and below, no doubt relating to the families who requested the original commission.
[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2015; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
This panel is painted by the same anonymous artist responsible for frescoes in the portico of the church at the Augustinian abbey of Lecceto, just southwest of Siena. Several other cassone panels have been attributed to this same artist: four scenes from the story of Jupiter and Alcmena (formerly Henry Harris collection, London), four scenes from the story of Dido (Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon), and two scenes from the story of Lucretia (art market, New York, in 1974; Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon). [see Brandi 1947, Laclotte and Mognetti 1976, and Zeri and Gardner 1980]