Alvaro Pirez (Portuguese, Évora, active 1411–34 Italy)
probably ca. 1430
Tempera and gold on wood
13 3/8 x 15 7/8 in. (34 x 40.3 cm)
The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 537
In conformity with the Jewish rite of purification, forty days after giving birth Mary took Jesus to the Temple; the old prophetess Anna (holding a scroll) recognizes him as the redeemer of Israel. The panel is from the base (predella) of a complex altarpiece that was painted for a church in Pisa, perhaps about 1405–15. Its quality is superior to most of the paintings by Alvaro Pirez, a Portuguese painter active in Tuscany. Clearly, the artist knew the work of the leading painters in Florence, including Lorenzo Monaco, to whom the picture was once ascribed.
John Rushout, 2nd Lord Northwick, Thirlestane House, Cheltenham (until d. 1859; his estate sale, Phillips, Thirlestane House, July 26ff., 1859, no. 841, as by Giotto, for £74.11, bought in by Northwick); his nephew, George Rushout Bowles, 3rd Lord Northwick, Northwick Park, Gloucestershire (1859–d. 1887; cat., 1864, no. 90, as by Giotto); his widow, Elizabeth Augusta Bowles, Lady Northwick, Northwick Park (1887–d. 1912); her grandson, Captain Edward George Spencer-Churchill, Northwick Park (1912–d. 1964; cat., 1921, no. 48, as by Lorenzo Monaco; his estate sale, Christie's, London, May 28, 1965, no. 11, as by Lorenzo Monaco, to Linsky); Mr. and Mrs. Jack Linsky, New York (1965–his d. 1980); Mrs. Jack (Belle) Linsky, New York (1980–82)
Worcester. Exhibition Building. "Worcestershire Exhibition," 1882, no. 81 (as by Giotto, lent by Lord Northwick).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Italian Art, 1200–1900," January 1–March 8, 1930, no. 65 (as by Lorenzo Monaco, lent by Captain E. G. Spencer-Churchill) [commemorative ed., 1931, no. 48].
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Italian Art and Britain," Winter 1960, no. 272 (as by Lorenzo Monaco, lent by Captain E. G. S. Churchill).
A Catalogue of the Pictures, Works of Art, &c. at Northwick Park. n.p., 1864, p. 12, no. 90, as by Giotto.
Arundel Club. Publications 10 (1913), unpaginated, no. 1, ill., as "The Dedication in the Temple," by Lorenzo Monaco, in the collection of E. G. Spencer-Churchill.
Tancred Borenius. Catalogue of the Collection of Pictures at Northwick Park. London, 1921, p. 25, no. 48, as by Lorenzo Monaco.
Roberto Longhi. "Uno sguardo alle fotografie della Mostra 'Italian Art and Britain'." Paragone 11 (May 1960), p. 60, pl. 42, rejects the attribution to Lorenzo Monaco, calling it an early work by Paolo Schiavo.
Patrick Lindsay inGreat Private Collections. Ed. Douglas Cooper. New York, 1963, pp. 42, 44, 49, ill. (color), accepts the attribution to Lorenzo Monaco; states that many people believe it to be the most outstanding work in the Spencer-Churchill collection.
Federico Zeri. "Qualche appunto su Alvaro Pirez." Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz 17, no. 2–3 (1973), pp. 364, 366–70, figs. 6, 9 (overall and detail), calls it a predella panel from an altarpiece of which he identifies five additional parts: two pinnacles depicting the Annunciation (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin) and three panels from the pilasters depicting Saint Jerome (Musée du Louvre, Paris), Saint Ranieri (formerly Gentner collection, Florence), and a figure he tentatively identifies as the Blessed Lucchese (Museo Nazionale, Pisa); notes that the presence of Saint Ranieri, patron saint of Pisa, indicates that the altarpiece was probably made for that city; attributes this work to an unknown artist, near, but superior to, Alvaro Pirez, influenced by Lorenzo Monaco and Paolo Schiavo, and very similar to the Master of the Bambino Vispo.
Arnauld Brejon de Lavergnée and Dominique Thiébaut. Catalogue sommaire illustré des peintures du musée du Louvre. Vol. 2, Italie, Espagne, Allemagne, Grande-Bretagne et divers. Paris, 1981, p. 255, tentatively include this panel and the Berlin Annunciation in the reconstruction proposed by Zeri [see Ref. 1973], attributing the Louvre Saint Jerome to a Tuscan painter possibly close to Alvaro Pirez and dating it to the first quarter of the fifteenth century.
Miklós Boskovits. Letter to Keith Christiansen. March 19, 1983, attributes it to Pirez, along with the Berlin Annunciation and the other panels from the same altarpiece.
Keith Christiansen inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1983–1984. New York, 1984, p. 45, ill. (color), attributes it to the Master of the Linsky Presentation in the Temple and dates it about 1430; states that the artist could be Alvaro Pirez, but that the painting "shows a greater attention to descriptive detail and volume than normally encountered in his pictures"; accepts Zeri's reconstruction.
Keith Christiansen inThe Jack and Belle Linsky Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, pp. 24–26, no. 3, ill., as by the Master of the Linsky Presentation in the Temple, noting that an attribution to Pirez cannot be excluded.
Miklós Boskovits. Gemäldegalerie Berlin, Katalog der Gemälde: frühe italienische Malerei. Ed. Erich Schleier. Berlin, 1987, pp. 4–5, under no. 2, fig. 5 (reconstruction), accepts Zeri's reconstruction and states that the altarpiece is very probably by Pirez; calls it an early work, dating it about 1405–15.
Pier Paolo Donati. "Il Maestro di Bibbiena: tra Lorenzo Monaco e Alvaro Pirez." Paragone 42 (November 1991), p. 61, states that Luciano Bellosi connects Zeri's group of pictures with the Master of Bibbiena.
Michael Kimmelman. "At the Met with Roy Lichtenstein: Disciple of Color and Line, Master of Irony." New York Times (March 31, 1995), p. C27.
Andrea De Marchi inSumptuosa tabula picta: Pittori a Lucca tra gotico e rinascimento. Ed. Maria Teresa Filieri. Exh. cat., Museo Nazionale di Villa Guinigi, Lucca. Livorno, 1998, pp. 282, 285 n. 39, finds the altarpiece reconstructed by Zeri superior to the work of Pirez and calls it the debut of an unidentified student; identifies the panel in Pisa as Beato Gherardo da Villamagna, noting that this suggests a Franciscan origin for the altarpiece, but that the presence of Saint Ranieri discourages such a conclusion.
This picture is from the predella of an altarpiece of which five additional parts are known (see Zeri 1973): two pinnacles depicting the Annunciation (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin; inv. IIII) and three standing figures from the pilasters depicting Saint Jerome (Musée du Louvre, Paris; inv. 839), Beato Lucchese[?] (Museo Nazionale, Pisa), and Saint Ranieri (formerly Gentner collection, Florence).