Famous in Florence as well as Siena, Ugolino was a close follower of Duccio, from whom he derived his remarkable sense of color and use of gesture and expression, creating an effect at once lyrical and tragic. The presence of Saints Francis and Clare indicates that the panel belonged to a Franciscan friar or nun, or possibly to a member of a lay Franciscan group. The gold background has particularly suffered and the head of Christ is a modern reconstruction.
When this damaged but exquisite picture was first published in 1911, it was framed as a triptych with two wings by the Master of Monte Oliveto (41.190.31bc). The triptych must have been a modern creation, for not only are the wings by another master and later in date, but the iconography of the panel, which includes Saints Clare and Francis, is self-sufficient. It was probably painted as an independent devotional panel for a convent of Franciscan nuns, or Poor Clares (the order founded by Clare, the first female follower of Saint Francis). It is a work of extremely high quality. The attribution has been much disputed but the elegantly elongated figures relate in style to the works of Duccio and those of his most faithful follower, Ugolino di Nerio. The picture has, indeed, often been ascribed to a follower or associate of Ugolino. The tooling of the gold is hand-inscribed and this helps to establish a date prior to about 1320, when Sienese artists, following the example of Simone Martini, began to use motif punches to decorate the gold background. The picture may be an early work by Ugolino himself.
[Keith Christiansen 2010]
Inscription: Inscribed (on cross): I·N·R·I·
F. Mason Perkins, Lastra a Signa (by 1911, as by a follower of Duccio); Bernard and Mary Berenson, Villa I Tatti, Florence (in 1912; returned to Perkins); F. Mason Perkins, Lastra a Signa (?sold to Blumenthal); George Blumenthal, New York (by 1916–d. 1941; cat., vol. 1, 1926, pl. XVI, as School of Duccio)
New York. F. Kleinberger Galleries. "Italian Primitives," November 12–30, 1917, no. 41 (with 41.190.31bc, as "Christ on the Cross, and Other Biblical Subjects," by a follower of Duccio [caption reads "Duccio(?)"], lent by George and Florence Blumenthal).
Florence. Galleria dell'Accademia. "L'arte di Francesco: capolavori d'arte italiana e terre d'asia dal XIII al XV secolo," March 30–October 11, 2015, no. 25.
Curt H. Weigelt. Duccio di Buoninsegna. Leipzig, 1911, pp. 193–94, 261, pl. 60 (with 41.190.31bc), with 41.190.31bc, as in the Perkins collection, Assisi; attributes it to a follower of Duccio close to Niccolò di Segna, and notes the connection of the scenes of the life of the Virgin to those in Duccio's Maestà.
V. Lusini. "Catalogo dei dipinti." Rassegna d'arte senese 8 (1912), p. 149, no. 64 [reprinted as "In onore di Duccio di Buoninsegna," Siena, 1913], with 41.190.31bc, as by Segna di Buonaventura, in a private collection, Florence; lists it among paintings of which photographs were included in the Duccio exhibition held in Siena in 1912.
Osvald Sirén. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures in the Jarves Collection, Belonging to Yale University. New Haven, 1916, pp. 32–33, with 41.190.31bc, attributes it to the same follower of Duccio who painted a triptych in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena (no. 35), and a small diptych of the Madonna and Child and the Crucifixion in the Jarves Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery.
F. Mason Perkins. "Some Sienese Paintings in American Collections: Part One." Art in America 8 (August 1920), p. 199.
Raimond van Marle. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. Vol. 2, The Sienese School of the 14th Century. The Hague, 1924, p. 90, fig. 55, with 41.190.31bc, as School of Duccio; tentatively attributes this work and a Crucifixion in the collection of Prince Gagarin, Petrograd [St. Petersburg], to the same artist as the triptych in the Siena museum [see Ref. Sirén 1916]; rejects the connection with Niccolò di Segna [see Ref. Weigelt 1911].
Stella Rubinstein-Bloch. Catalogue of the Collection of George and Florence Blumenthal. Vol. 1, Paintings—Early Schools. Paris, 1926, unpaginated, pl. XVI, with 41.190.31bc, as School of Duccio.
Curt H. Weigelt. Sienese Painting of the Trecento. Florence, 1930, p. 70 n. 28, p. 100 [Italian ed., Bologna, 1930, p. 65 n. 28, p. 95], with 41.190.31bc, attributes it to a follower of Duccio, close to his workshop, by whom no other works are known.
Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, pl. XXI, with 41.190.31bc, as arte duccesca; rejects the attribution to Segna di Buonaventura [see Ref. Lusini 1912].
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 583, with 41.190.31bc, lists it as from the studio of Ugolino da Siena.
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 1, Romanesque and Gothic. New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 26.
Raimond van Marle. Le scuole della pittura italiana. Vol. 2, La scuola senese del XIV secolo. The Hague, 1934, p. 94, fig. 60.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 501.
Edward B. Garrison Jr. "The Oxford Christ Church Library Panel and the Milan Sessa Collection Shutters: A Tentative Reconstruction of a Tabernacle and a Group of Romanizing Florentine Panels." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 29 (June 1946), p. 330 n. 15, mentions the incised haloes.
Esther Rezek Mendelsohn. "The Maestro di Monte Oliveto." Master's thesis, New York University, 1950, pp. 31–32, 37–40, 65–67 nn. 73, 75, 77, 80, attributes only the wings of the triptych to the Master of Monte Oliveto; does not provide an attribution for the central panel, but finds that it is more closely related to Simone Martini and that, although it may date from about the same time as the wings, it is by an artist who was more influenced by later artistic trends than the Master of Monte Oliveto.
Cesare Brandi. Duccio. Florence, 1951, p. 156 n. 34, with 41.190.31bc, attributes it to a follower of Ugolino, perhaps the same artist who painted the Saint Michael in the museum at Grosseto.
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "A Guide to the Picture Galleries." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, part 2 (January 1954), ill. p. 9, with 41.190.31bc, as Workshop of Duccio.
Gertrude Coor-Achenbach. "Contributions to the Study of Ugolino di Nerio's Art." Art Bulletin 37 (September 1955), p. 163 n. 52, tentatively attributes it to the same follower of Ugolino who painted the "Saint John the Baptist Preaching" (Szépmuvészeti Múzeum, Budapest) and the figures of the Virgin, Saint John the Evangelist, and Saint Francis in Ugolino's "Crucifixion" (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena; no. 34), tentatively suggesting that this artist, who assisted Ugolino during the 1320s, might be his brother Guido or Minuccio.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 438.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 207, 291, 388, 396, 608, attribute it to the "school, shop, or studio" of Ugolino; question the identification of the female saint as Clare.
James H. Stubblebine. Letter to Katharine Baetjer. August 14, 1978, writes that in his forthcoming book (1979), he attributes it to a follower of Ugolino that he calls the Polyptych No. 39 Master [after a painting in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena], who collaborated with the Master of Monte Oliveto in the 1320s.
James H. Stubblebine. Duccio di Buoninsegna and His School. Princeton, 1979, vol. 1, pp. 92, 100–101, 176, 178–79; vol. 2, figs. 228 (with 41.190.31bc), 442, accepts it as forming a triptych with 41.190.31bc, calling the work a collaboration between the Polyptych 39 Master (central panel) and the Master of Monte Oliveto (wings) and dating it about 1325; states that the presence of Saints Francis and Clare indicates that the work is of Franciscan origin.
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. 46–47, pl. 11 (with 41.190.31bc), attribute the wings to the Master of Monte Oliveto and the central panel to an assistant or follower of Ugolino da Siena; date the wings to about 1315–20 and the central panel perhaps somewhat later, discussing the possibility that the triptych might be the result of a later reconstruction rather than the product of a collaboration between two artists.
Hayden B. J. Maginnis. The World of the Early Sienese Painter. University Park, Pa., 2001, p. 109, fig. 67, illustrates it with 41.190.31bc as a triptych from the orbit of Ugolino.
Gaudenz Freuler inL'arte di Francesco: capolavori d'arte italiana e terre d'asia dal XIII al XV secolo. Ed. Angelo Tartuferi and Francesco D'Arelli. Exh. cat., Galleria dell'Accademia. Florence, 2015, pp. 218–19, no. 25, ill. (color).
Carl Brandon Strehlke and Machtelt Brüggen Israëls. The Bernard and Mary Berenson Collection of European Paintings at I Tatti. Florence, 2015, p. 759, no. 97, ill. (with 41.190.31bc), include I Tatti in the provenance, noting that it was insured as Ugolino da Siena for £400 in 1912; state that handwritten notes at I Tatti (FB folder 3.7) call it "School of Duccio" and state "B.B. gave back to Perkins, Assisi. Now Blumenthal Collection, New York listed as Ugolino da Siena".