Candid (or Candido) was born in Bruges and trained in Florence, where he began his career as painter and designer of tapestries. In this grand altarpiece, the Angel Gabriel along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit rush into Mary’s bedroom in a blaze of light and color as they announce that she will bear a child. The artist painted it for a small church or oratory in the country to the south of Florence soon before he left Italy for Munich, where he became court painter to the Dukes of Bavaria.
The Artist: Pieter de Witte, better known as Peter Candid (in Germany) or Pietro Candido (in Italy)—"candido" being an Italian equivalent for the Dutch "witte", meaning "white"—was an important figure both at the Medici court in Florence and at the Bavarian court of William IV and his successor Maximilian I in Munich. He was born to a tapestry weaver in Bruges, in the Netherlands, but at the age of ten moved with his family to Florence; his father had been hired by the grand ducal tapestry manufactory. His training was thus Italian and he is known to have worked with Giorgio Vasari on such important projects as the decoration of the Sala Regia in the Vatican and the dome of the cathedral of Florence. He also designed tapestries, producing compositions with mythological, allegorical, and genre subjects. He joined the Accademia del Disegno in 1576. Beginning in 1578 he painted a series of three altarpieces for churches in Volterra, including an Adoration of the Shepherds (1580) and a Lamentation over the Dead Christ (1585–86; Pinacoteca Civica).
From July, 1586 his center of activity was Munich, where he had been summoned by William IV on the recommendation of the great sculptor Giambologna—another Netherlander who had moved to Florence and with whom Candid was closely associated. Among his most extensive work are the frescoes and tapestries created to decorate the rooms of the Residenz, Munich and Schleissheim Palace. There are major altarpieces in the church of Saint Michael and the Frauenkirche in Munich. The Annunciation in the church of Saint Michael dates from 1587 and offers a point of reference for The Met’s painting.
The Picture: Almost statuesque in her dignity, the Virgin is shown in her bedroom, kneeling at a prie-dieu, her finger marking a place in her prayer book. The angel kneels on a cloud hovering just above the marble pavement, his garment trailing out behind him. Above, God the Father and cherubs appear in a radiance of pale yellow and pink. Although it has suffered from flaking losses, the quality is extremely high and fully consonant with an attribution to Candid.
The painting must date from the last five years of his time in Florence. Although it was unknown to the literature prior to its sale at public auction in New York in 2011, where it was attributed to the artist, it had been exhibited at the Dinand Library, Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1929 (as by Andrea del Sarto). Importantly, a copy (on canvas), now in the Museo d’Arte Sacra in San Casciano Val di Pesa (south of Florence) but formerly over the main altar of the Oratory of the Confraternity of the Annunciation in San Martino at Argiano (in the outskirts of San Casciano) indicates that it was commissioned for that oratory. (On the copy, at one time attributed to Cesare Dandini, see S. Bellesi, Cesare Dandini, Turin, 1996, pp. 192–93). Nesi (2016), in a study of The Met’s painting, notes that archival documents such as might elucidate the commission are lacking for the years 1575–1634. However, at the time of a pastoral visit in 1575, the oratory was still under construction; it was finished in 1580, and the altarpiece is likely to have been commissioned then or shortly thereafter, and in any case prior to 1586.
When the substitution with a copy was made is difficult to say. The date 1636 is incised on the base of the right-hand semi-column of the altar and probably alludes to a remodeling or restructuring of the oratory. An inventory of 1784, drawn up at the moment of the suppression of confraternities under Grand Duke Pietro Leopoldo, mentions: "tavola rappresentante la SS. Annunciata, di buona mano, con cornice intagliata e dorata" (the painting showing the Holy Annunciation, by a good hand, with a carved and gilded frame; ASF, Patrimonio ecclesastica 46, inserto II, n. 47; see Nesi 2016, p. 9). This could be a reference to either The Met’s painting or the later replacement/copy. On balance it seems likely that the original was sold in the eighteenth century to raise money for needed repairs and substituted with the existing copy.
The accomplished drawing of the painting and its extraordinary range of pastel colors, ranging from raspberry to pale yellow to pistachio is consonant with the date suggested by Nesi of about 1580 or shortly thereafter.
[Keith Christiansen 2016]
See a series of blog posts about the conservation treatment of this picture.
Venuti, Malta (by 1895–1927; sold to Rossetto di Alessandro); Giuseppe Rossetto di Alessandro, Rome, later U.S.A. (from 1927); Rossetto family (by 1929–2011; on loan to College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts, 1929–2010; sale, Christie's, New York, January 26, 2011, no. 120, as Attributed to Pieter de Witte, to Moretti); [Fabrizio Moretti, London, 2011]
Worcester, Mass. Dinand Library, Holy Cross College. "Paintings in the Art Museum," 1929, no. 11 (as by Andrea del Sarto).
Alessandro Nesi. Pietro Candido, L’Annunciazione per S. Martino ad Argiano. Florence, 2016, pp. 1–11, fig. 2 (color, before conservation).
Artist: Peter Candid (Pieter de Witte, Pietro Candido) (Netherlandish, Bruges ca. 1548–1628 Munich)Date: ca. 1601Medium: Pen and black ink, heightened with white gouache, over black and red chalks, on pink-prepared paperAccession: 2014.151On view in:Not on view
Artist: Attributed to Peter Candid (Pieter de Witte, Pietro Candido) (Netherlandish, Bruges ca. 1548–1628 Munich)Date: late 16th centuryMedium: Pen and brown ink and brown-gray washAccession: 2003.510On view in:Not on view
Artist: Peter Candid (Pieter de Witte, Pietro Candido) (Netherlandish, Bruges ca. 1548–1628 Munich)Date: 1604Medium: Pen and black ink, gray wash, over black chalkAccession: 2005.119On view in:Not on view