This work was painted in Italy by an unknown artist whose style is indebted to the richness and refinement of Valencian art at the beginning of the fifteenth century. Saint Michael wears a brightly colored brigandine embellished with gold foliate decoration and wields a great sword with almost balletic grace against the seven-headed dragon of the Apocalypse. The idealized beauty of the youthful archangel contrasts with the monstrous, bat-winged creature sprawled at his feet. Their violent and timeless struggle is staged against a finely inscribed gold ground that emphasizes the celestial setting of the battle.
William Drury Lowe, Locko Park, Derbyshire (in 1901); [Sulley and Co., London, in 1912, sold for £1200 to MMA]
Jean Paul Richter. Catalogue of Pictures at Locko Park. London, 1901, pp. 83–84, no. 203, ill., attributes it to the Florentine painter, Neri di Bicci, and dates it 1453–75; states that it is said to have come from a church in Lucca, Italy.
Bryson Burroughs. Catalogue of Paintings. 1st ed. New York, 1914, p. 130, attributes it to the Italian school, 15th century.
Stephen V. Grancsay. "The Mutual Influence of Costume and Armor: A Study of Specimens in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum Studies 3 (June 1931), p. 198 n. 7, mentions its depiction of a brigandine, or early plate of armor, covered with patterned fabric.
C. R. Post. Letter. October 12, 1936, is less inclined to see it as Spanish and tends to assign it to the international movement as practiced in Venice or in some other part of Northern Italy.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 215–16, ill., attributes it to an unknown Valencian painter, first quarter of the 15th century; notes that this picture originally formed the top element in a large retable and that its peak has been lost.
Stephen V. Grancsay. "The Interrelationships of Costume and Armor." The interrelationships of costume and armor in Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin VIII (February 1950), pp. 179–80.
Helmut Nickel. "The Art of Chivalry." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 32, no. 4 (1973/1974), inside front cover, ill. (color), calls it a fourteenth-century Spanish panel; identifies Saint Michael's armor as typical of the mid-fourteenth century.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 181, 190, fig. 353 (color).
Antoni José i Pitarch. Letter to Dulce Roman. January 14, 1998, notes its derivation from Tuscan panels of 1380–90; finds similar refinement and lyricism in a Valencian retable of Saint Michael at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons; comments on the importance of the type of wood support used in ascertaining this painting's origins: white poplar or birch would definitely indicate it is Italian, whereas redwood or mountain pine would most likely mean it is Valencian, dated about 1400; if it is Valencian, he attributes it to the Master of the Retable of the Holy Cross, the attribution he suggested for the MMA painting of Saint Giles [76.10].
Antoni José i Pitarch. Letter to Dulce Román. January 14, 1998, asserts that the pictorial style of this panel goes back to Tuscany between 1380 and 1390; associates its lyrical elegance most closely with the painting of Saint Michael in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons; states that the type of wood used as a support is essential for the attribution: if it is white poplar, poplar, or birch, the picture would almost certainly be Italian; if it is red or black pine, it must be Valencian, directly connected with our paintings of Saint Giles and Christ Triumphant [MMA 76.10] and dating from about 1400.
José Gómez Frechina inEl retablo de San Martín, Santa Úrsula y San Antonio abad: Museo de Bellas Artes de Valencia. [Madrid?], 2004, pp. 62–63, fig. 44 (color), attributes this panel to Alcañiz, finding it especially close to his Saint Michael at Lyons (Musée des Beaux-Arts).
Fernando Benito Domenech and José Gómez Frechina. El retaule de sant Miquel Arcàngel del Convent de la Puritat de València: Una obra mestra del gòtic internacional. Valencia, 2006, pp. 22–25, fig. 7 (color), attributes it to Alcañiz and compares the portrayal of the dragon to the winged creatures in the Lyons retable of Saint Michael, which is also given to Alcañiz.
Carl Brandon Strehlke. E-mail to Keith Christiansen. September 29, 2006, notes that Matilde Miguel Juan gave him a draft of the article she is working on, in which she confirms Gómez Frechina's [Ref. 2004] attribution of this picture to Alcañiz; reports that in a document of October 30, 1421 Bartolomé Terol, cleric of Jérica, commissioned Alcañiz to paint a retable of Saint Michael Archangel, asking him to copy a retable in the cartuja de Portaceli; adds that Miguel Juan has discovered that the now lost Portaceli retable was by Starnina, and notes that Alcañiz's retable in Jérica is usually identified with the panel with stories of Saint Michael in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons; suggests that our panel was also part of the Jérica work, observing that its iconography is the same as that of the upper panel in Lyons.
This painting originally formed the principal panel of a retable dedicated to the archangel Saint Michael. Initially attributed to the Italian school, it is now generally considered by an unknown Valencian master.