Lorenzo Monaco (Piero di Giovanni) (Italian, Florence (?) ca. 1370–1425 Florence (?))

ca. 1408–10
Tempera on wood, gold ground
Arched top, 22 3/8 x 17 in. (56.8 x 43.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Gwynne Andrews and Marquand Funds, and Gift of Mrs. Ralph J. Hines, by exchange, 1965
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    These Old Testament prophets date about 1405–10 and are among the masterpieces of Lorenzo Monaco, the leading late Gothic painter in Florence. Each figure holds an identifying attribute and strikes a rhetorical pose. Moses holds the tablets of the Ten Commandments; Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac prefigures that of Christ; David, holding a cither, is considered a direct ancestor of Christ; and Noah's ark prefigures the Church. These intense figures have reminded scholars of the sculpture of Donatello and Ghiberti. It is not certain whether they were arranged single file or were superimposed in pairs or whether they formed an altarpiece or served some other function. A panel showing Saint Peter may have formed the center panel.

  • Catalogue Entry

    The Old Testament prophet and king David is shown crowned, playing a medieval psaltery instead of the harp for which he was celebrated. This exceptionally well preserved picture belongs to an unusual series that included three other paintings in the MMA: Noah, Abraham, and Moses (65.14.1–3). Another picture, of Saint Peter (formerly Lotzbeck collection, now in a New York collection), has sometimes been thought to belong to the same ensemble. What this ensemble might have been remains a matter of speculation. That they could have formed the pinnacles of a large altarpiece, as conjectured by Kanter (1994), can be excluded: three of the prophets (65.14.1–3) are on panels that have not been trimmed or cradled (the panel with David has been both cut and cradled); the panels are rectangular in format and thinner than would be expected for pinnacles for an altarpiece and show no sign of the battens or pegs that would have been necessary to attach them as pinnacles. This leaves the possibility that the panels formed part of an unusual altarpiece with an emphasis on the Old Testament. It has been suggested that they were stacked in pairs on either side of a central image (Meiss 1958) or were set, again in two stacked pairs, into the doors of a custodial enclosing a piece of sculpture or painting (Eisenberg 1989), but it is also possible that the series was arranged in a single register to form a low altarpiece with the Saint Peter at the center (Tartuferi 2006; see Images). In this case, the series would have been enclosed beneath a series of Gothic arches and a straight entablature. The Saint Peter has a candle burn, which would accord with a low altarpiece, but whether it belongs to the series has been contested. Meiss (1958) made much of the foreshortened angle of the benches and the fact that the pavement is green in two of the pictures and pink in the other two (the pavement of the Saint Peter is pinkish), but it remains unclear how important this is to a reconstruction of the ensemble they came from.

    The four prophets are universally recognized as among the finest works by Lorenzo Monaco. They are datable around 1405–10 and, as demonstrated by Meiss (1958), reflect Lorenzo Monaco’s attentive study of the sculpture of Donatello, Nanni di Banco, and Ghiberti (see also Christiansen 1997). A drawing of David from the workshop of Fra Angelico in the British Museum is thought to derive from this painting (Meiss 1958 and Eisenberg 1989).


  • Provenance

    George Augustus Wallis, Florence (until d. 1847; his estate sale, Heberle, Berlin, May 24, 1895, no. 61); Königliche Gemäldegalerie, Kassel (by 1903–29); [A.S. Drey, Munich and New York, 1929]; Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York (1929–d. 1949); Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York (1949–62; sale, Sotheby's, London, June 27, 1962, no. 14); [Wildenstein, New York, 1962–65; sold to MMA]

  • Exhibition History

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Florentine Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," June 15–August 15, 1971, no catalogue.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence 1300–1450," November 17, 1994–February 26, 1995, no. 32a (with 65.14.1–3).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009, online catalogue.

  • References

    Kurzes Verzeichnis der Gemälde in der Königlichen Galerie zu Cassel. 1903, no. 477a [see Ref. Zeri and Gardner 1971], attributes it to Lorenzo Monaco.

    Osvald Sirén. Don Lorenzo Monaco. Strasbourg, 1905, pp. 43–44, pl. X, compares it to the Saint Peter formerly in the Lotzbeck collection, near Munich [see Notes]; believes the two panels are pendants from one of Lorenzo Monaco's earliest large altarpieces, perhaps the one for Cappella Fioravanti in the church of San Pier Maggiore, Florence, mentioned by Vasari.

    Bernhard Berenson. The Florentine Painters of the Renaissance. 3rd ed. New York, 1909, p. 152.

    Katalog der Königlichen Gemäldegalerie zu Cassel. Berlin, 1913, p. 38, no. 478, calls it a fragment from a large altarpiece.

    Raimond van Marle. "Late Gothic Painting in Tuscany." The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. 9, The Hague, 1927, p. 165.

    Katalog der Staatlichen Gemäldegalerie zu Kassel. 2nd ed. Berlin, 1929, p. 44, calls the Lotzbeck Saint Peter a companion piece.

    W. Suida in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. 23, Leipzig, 1929, p. 392.

    Vincenzo Golzio. Lorenzo Monaco: L'unificazione della tradizione senese con la fiorentina e il gotico. Rome, 1931, p. 34, notes that Lorenzo Monaco treated this figure like a manuscript illumination and with the plasticity found also in his larger paintings.

    Bernard Berenson. "Quadri senza casa: Il Trecento fiorentino, IV." Dedalo 12 (1932), pp. 30–31, ill. opp. p. 5, dates it between 1405 and 1410.

    Georg Pudelko. "The Stylistic Development of Lorenzo Monaco—I." Burlington Magazine 73 (December 1938), p. 238 n.13, dates it later than 1405, to the same period as the Lotzbeck Saint Peter.

    Millard Meiss. "Letter: Four Panels by Lorenzo Monaco." Burlington Magazine 100 (October 1958), p. 359, mentions Ugo Procacci's suggestion that the panels were originally intended for the spalliera of the courtroom of the Mercanzia in Florence.

    Millard Meiss. "Four Panels by Lorenzo Monaco." Burlington Magazine 100 (June 1958), pp. 191–96, fig. 8, connects the paintings of Abraham, Noah, Moses, and David (MMA 65.14.1–4) as originally belonging to the same series, suggesting a date of about 1406–10; discusses the style, iconography, and possible arrangement of the panels on an altarpiece, suggesting that they might have been paired in two rows with Abraham and Moses placed above Noah and David; ascribes the Lotzbeck Saint Peter to a follower of Lorenzo Monaco, tentatively rejecting it as part of the same series; notes analogies in the sculpture of Ghiberti, Donatello, and Nanni di Banco, and mentions a drawing of David from the workshop of Fra Angelico (British Museum, London) derived from this painting.

    "Nei musei americani." Sele arte 7, no. 41 (May–June 1959), p. 17.

    Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School. London, 1963, vol. 1, p. 120, pl. 440.

    Millard Meiss. Letter to Thomas Hoving. January 20, 1964, notes that the Vallombrosan order venerated the Old Testament prophets, represented several times in the their church of Santa Trinita, Florence.

    Theodore Rousseau in "Ninety-fifth Annual Report of the Trustees, for the Fiscal Year 1964–1965." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 24 (October 1965), p. 56, ill. p. 41.

    Guy-Philippe de Montebello. "Four Prophets by Lorenzo Monaco." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 25 (December 1966), pp. 155–69 , color ill. on cover, figs. 17, 19 (overall and detail), dates the series about 1406, analyzing the style and technique; repeats Meiss's [see Refs. 1958] suggestions regarding the original arrangement.

    Bernard Berenson. Homeless Paintings of the Renaissance. Bloomington, 1970, pp. 140, 250, fig. 241 [same text as Ref. Berenson 1932], incorrectly gives the accession number as 65.14.1.

    Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Florentine School. New York, 1971, pp. 62–67, ill., date the series to Lorenzo Monaco's middle period, about 1410 or a little earlier, and believe it comes from a larger ensemble that included the Lotzbeck Saint Peter in a central position.

    Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 111, 260, 609.

    Bernard Berenson. Looking at Pictures with Bernard Berenson. New York, 1974, pp. 106–7, ill. [same text as Ref. Berenson 1932], dates the series 1405–10.

    Alte Pinakothek München: Katalog V, Italienische Malerei. Munich, 1975, pp. 66–67, says the series included the Lotzbeck Saint Peter.

    Miklòs Boskovits. Pittura fiorentina alla vigilia del Rinascimento, 1370–1400. Florence, 1975, pp. 349–50, dates the series 1405–10.

    Anthony M. Clark in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York, 1975, p. 80, ill.

    Everett Fahy. "Italian Painting Before 1500." Apollo 107 (May 1978), p. 387.

    Rolf Kultzen in Alte Pinakothek München. Munich, 1983, p. 300 [English ed., 1986, p. 303], dates the series to about 1410 and says it included the Lotzbeck Saint Peter.

    Enza Biagi in La pittura in Italia: il Duecento e il Trecento. revised and expanded ed. Milan, 1986, vol. 2, p. 592, dates the series to about 1404.

    Marvin Eisenberg. Lorenzo Monaco. Princeton, 1989, pp. 22–23, 79, 109, 112, 148–49, 151–53, 168, fig. 43, dates the series about 1408–10 and rejects the inclusion of the Lotzbeck Saint Peter; accepts Meiss's suggestion [see Ref. June 1958] regarding the original arrangement, and proposes that the series could have been inserted into the doors of a custodial, enclosing a work of sculpture or painting.

    Laurence B. Kanter in Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence: 1300–1450. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1994, pp. 234, 253–61, no. 32a, ill. (color), rejects Eisenberg's [see Ref. 1989] proposal for the original placement of the series, and reconstructs it as part of an elaborate altarpiece, arranged in two pairs above the lateral panels of the Coronation of the Virgin in the National Gallery, London, here dated to 1407; dates the Lotzbeck Saint Peter before 1404 and considers it part of a different complex.

    Erling S. Skaug. Punch Marks from Giotto to Fra Angelico: Attribution, Chronology, and Workshop Relationships in Tuscan Panel Painting. Oslo, 1994, vol. 1, pp. 284, 286; vol. 2, punch chart 8.13, identifies a punch mark that the series shares with works by the Master of Saint Ives.

    Dillian Gordon. "Renaissance Painting and Illumination at the Metropolitan." Apollo 140 (February 1995), p. 51, argues against Kanter's [see Ref. 1994] association of the series with the London Coronation of the Virgin.

    James Czarnecki in The Dictionary of Art. 19, New York, 1996, p. 680.

    Keith Christiansen. "Mattia di Nanni's Intarsia Bench for the Palazzo Pubblico, Siena." Burlington Magazine 139 (June 1997), p. 383, rejects Kanter's suggestion [see Ref. 1994] that the four panels may have formed the pinnacles of the altarpiece of the London "Coronation of the Virgin".

    Mojmír S. Frinta. "Part I: Catalogue Raisonné of All Punch Shapes." Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting. Prague, 1998, p. 519, classifies a punch mark appearing in this painting.

    Charlotte Hale. "The Technique and Materials of the 'Intercession of Christ and the Virgin' Attributed to Lorenzo Monaco." The Fabric of Images: European Paintings on Textile Supports in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries. London, 2000, p. 37.

    Paul Jeromack. "Getty Buys Northumberland Raphael—Met Nets Lorenzetti." The Art Newspaper.com. 2002 [www.theartnewspaper.com/news/article.asp?idart=10234].

    Anna Bisceglia in Lorenzo Monaco: A Bridge from Giotto's Heritage to the Renaissance. Exh. cat., Galleria dell'Accademia. Florence, 2006, p. 160, under no. 21.

    Laurence Kanter in Lorenzo Monaco: A Bridge from Giotto's Heritage to the Renaissance. Exh. cat., Galleria dell'Accademia. Florence, 2006, pp. 186, 189–90, no. 29d, ill. (color), revises his earlier opinion [see Ref. 1994] and includes the Lotzbeck Saint Peter in the same complex as the four MMA panels.

    Angelo Tartuferi in Lorenzo Monaco: A Bridge from Giotto's Heritage to the Renaissance. Exh. cat., Galleria dell'Accademia. Florence, 2006, pp. 29, 168, under no. 23, supports the hypothesis that the four prophets originally formed part of a small polyptych with the Lotzbeck Saint Peter in the center, although adding that the "stylistic moment" of the four New York panels does not seem to coincide exactly with the Saint Peter.

    Angelo Tartuferi in Dagli eredi di Giotto al primo Cinquecento. Florence, 2007, pp. 64, 66–68 nn. 1, 2, 4, pp. 70–73 nn. 1, 2, 4, fig. 1, reconfirms his belief, following the exhibition in Florence and seeing three of the panels together, that the Saint Peter belonged to the series, which formed an altarpiece dating from around 1405–10.

  • Notes

    The panel, which is one-half-inch thick, has been cut on all sides and cradled.

  • See also
    In the Museum