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A Contest between the Shepherds Alcesto and Acaten

Master of 1416 (Italian, Florentine, early 15th century)

ca. 1410
Tempera on wood
Twelve-sided, 21 1/8 x 22 1/8 in. (53.7 x 56.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1926
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    This panel and its companion originally formed the front and back of a birth tray (desco da parto). The story they illustrate is from Giovanni Boccaccio's Comedia delle Ninfe Fiorentine, written about 1342. The hunter Ameto, dressed in red, peers over a hill and then approaches some nymphs, attracted by the singing of Lia. In the background they hunt. The nymphs instruct Ameto in the meaning of love in a later episode of the story. In the other panel Ameto and two nymphs judge a musical competition between the shepherds Alcesto and Acaten. The escutcheon at the right appears to be that of the Di Lupo Parra family of Pisa. The tray dates from about 1410.

  • Catalogue Entry


  • Provenance

    private collection, Florence; Charles Fairfax Murray, London; [Paul Bottenwieser, Berlin, until 1926; 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. "Art and Love in Renaissance Italy," November 11, 2008–February 16, 2009, no. 68b.

    Fort Worth. Kimbell Art Museum. "Art and Love in Renaissance Italy," March 15–June 14, 2009, no. 68b.

  • References

    Georg Gronau. Letter to Paul Bottenwieser. 1926, calls the panels two deschi da nozze (marriage salvers) from Florence, and dates them to the first part of the fifteenth century.

    Bryson Burroughs. "Two Italian Marriage Salvers." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 22 (March 1927), pp. 120–22, ill., believes the two panels illustrate unidentified stories; calls them Florentine and dates them 1410–25; attributes to the same painter another salver now in the Staatliche Galerie, Stuttgart.

    Paul Schubring. "Two New 'Deschi' in the Metropolitan Museum." Apollo 6 (July–December 1927), pp. 105–7, ill., discusses them as two separate salvers, dates them about 1420, and tentatively ascribes them to the school of Agnolo Gaddi.

    Bryson Burroughs. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Catalogue of Paintings. 9th ed. New York, 1931, p. 186, as Tuscan; calls the two panels marriage salvers "representing the joys of country life".

    Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 9, as "Two Marriage Salvers representing Hunts and Country Sports"; tentatively lists them as late works of the Sienese artist Andrea di Bartolo.

    Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 8.

    Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 20–21, ill., as "A Rustic Concert".

    Lionello Venturi. The Rabinowitz Collection. New York, 1945, pp. 19–20.

    Frederick Antal. Florentine Painting and its Social Background. London, 1948, pp. 365, 372 n. 7, pl. 155, tentatively attributes them to Mariotto di Nardo; discusses the iconography, calling the seated figures in this picture a bridal pair accompanied by another lady and noting that the motif of the music-making shepherds originates with religious art.

    Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 7.

    Miklós Boskovits. Letter to Everett Fahy. November 23, 1968, attributes them to the Master of 1416.

    Anna Spychalska-Boczkowska. "Diana with Meleagros and Actaeon: Some Remarks on a XV-Century Italian Cassone." Bulletin du Musée National de Varsovie 9, no. 2 (1968), pp. 29, 32, fig. 2, attributes it to Mariotto di Nardo and MMA 26.287.2 to his circle; compares them to a cassone panel depicting the story of Diana with Meleager and Actaeon in the National Museum in Warsaw.

    Paul Fraser Watson. "Virtu and Voluptas in Cassone Painting." PhD diss., Yale University, 1970, pp. 35–36, 77–81, 159, 161, 260–61, no. 5, pl. 5, attributes them to an unknown Florentine painter, dates them about 1420, and analyzes their iconography.

    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. 54–56, ill., as "A Rustic Concert"; call it the reverse from the same salver as MMA 26.287.2 (obverse), and attribute them to the workshop of Lorenzo di Niccolò.

    Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 80, 541, 606, as "Three Persons Listening to Musicians" from the "school, shop, or studio" of Lorenzo di Niccolò Gerini.

    Paul F. Watson and Victoria Kirkham. "Amore e Virtù: Two Salvers Depicting Boccaccio's 'Comedia delle Ninfe Fiorentine' in the Metropolitan Museum." Metropolitan Museum Journal 10 (1975), pp. 35–50, fig. 2, attribute them to Lorenzo di Niccolò and date them about 1406–10; state that the arms on the right belong to the Di Lupo Parra family of Pisa, and suggest that those on the left may belong to the Fortuna family of Florence; identify the subject as scenes from the "Commedia delle ninfe fiorentine," an amatory allegory written about 1342 by Giovanni Boccaccio.

    Everett Fahy. "On Lorenzo di Niccolò." Apollo 108 (December 1978), p. 381 n. 1, accepts Boskovits' [see Ref. 1968] attribution to the Master of 1416.

    Ellen Callmann. "The Growing Threat to Marital Bliss as Seen in Fifteenth-Century Florentine Paintings." Studies in Iconography 5 (1979), p. 76, attributes them to Lorenzo di Niccolò and dates them about 1406.

    Paul F. Watson. The Garden of Love in Tuscan Art of the Early Renaissance. Philadelphia, 1979, p. 158 n. 23.

    John Pope-Hennessy and Keith Christiansen. "Secular Painting in 15th-Century Tuscany: Birth Trays, Cassone Panels, and Portraits." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 38 (Summer 1980), pp. 6–9, figs. 2, 3 (color, overall and detail), consider them the obverse and reverse of a single birth tray painted by the Master of 1416 in about 1410.

    Paul F. Watson. "A Preliminary List of Subjects from Boccaccio in Italian Painting, 1400–1550." Studi sul Boccaccio 15 (1985–86), p. 163, lists them as the obverse and reverse of one birth salver.

    Enrica Neri Lusanna. "Aspetti della cultura tardogotica a Firenze: il 'Maestro del giudizio di Paride'." Arte cristiana 77 (November–December 1989), p. 414, attributes them to the Master of 1416.

    Jerzy Miziolek. Soggetti classici sui cassoni fiorentini alla vigilia del Rinascimento. Warsaw, 1996, pp. 104–5, pl. 59b, dates them about 1406.

    Cecilia de Carli. I deschi da parto e la pittura del primo rinascimento toscano. Turin, 1997, pp. 23, 72–73, 86–89, no. 12, ill. p. 89, colorpl. III, calls them the obverse and reverse of a marriage salver painted about 1400–1425.

    Graham Hughes. Renaissance Cassoni, Masterpieces of Early Italian Art: Painted Marriage Chests 1400–1550. Alfriston, England, 1997, p. 232.

    Jacqueline Marie Musacchio. The Art and Ritual of Childbirth in Renaissance Italy. New Haven, 1999, pp. 71–72, fig. 55, attributes it to the workshop of Lorenzo di Niccolò.

    Claudia Däubler-Hauschke. Geburt und Memoria: zum italienischen Bildtyp der "deschi da parto". Munich, 2003, pp. 76–77, 226–30, no. 20b, fig. 92.

    Stefan Weppelmann. "Lorenzo di Niccolò e la bottega del 'Maestro del 1416'." Intorno a Lorenzo Monaco: nuovi studi sulla pittura tardogotica. Livorno, 2007, pp. 116, 120 n. 64, fig. 23, includes it in a group of works that he attributes to the "Bottega del 1416," tentatively identifying this group as the product of a collaboration between Lorenzo di Niccolò's son Piero di Lorenzo and nephew Bartolomeo di Piero; dates it to the final years of the workshop, which ceased production at the beginning of the fourth decade of the fifteenth century.

    Jacqueline Marie Musacchio in Art and Love in Renaissance Italy. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2008, pp. 151–52, no. 68b, ill. (color), calls them the obverse and reverse of a birth tray, not a marriage tray, which documentary evidence indicates did not exist; adds that "even when trays were presented at marriage, and even when, as in this case, they illustrated complex texts that seem to have no relationship to childbirth, they were considered birth trays by those who made and bought them," calling this "indicative of the close relationship between marriage and childbirth in the Renaissance mind".

    Silvia Topi. "Il Maestro del 1416: un personaggio minore del primo Quattrocento fiorentino." Arte cristiana 96 (November–December 2008), pp. 429–30, 436 n. 39, fig. 19.

    Old Master Paintings. Christie's, New York. June 8, 2011, p. 36, under no. 37, mentions it in the entry for a triptych of the Madonna and Child attributed to the Master of 1416.

    Andrea G. De Marchi. Revelations: Discoveries and Rediscoveries in Italian Primitive Art. Florence, 2013, pp. 124, 161 n. 134.

  • Notes

    The Master of 1416 is the name given to the painter of an altarpiece of the Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints, dated 1416, in the Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence.

    MMA 26.287.2 and this panel are the obverse and reverse of a marriage salver. They show episodes from the "Commedia delle ninfe fiorentine," an amatory allegory written about 1342 by Giovanni Boccaccio [see Ref. Watson and Kirkham 1975]. Here Ameto and two nymphs judge a musical competition between the shepherds Alcesto and Acaten.

    The arms at the left correspond with those of the Fortuna family of Florence, except for the sword [see G. B. di Crollalanza, "Dizionario storico-blasonico delle famiglie nobili e notabili italiane estinte e fiorenti," vol. 1, 1886, p. 425]. The arms on the right may belong to the Di Lupo Parra family of Pisa [see Ref. Watson and Kirkham 1975 and V. Spreti, "Enciclopedia storico-nobiliare italiana," 1928–36, vol. 4, p. 180].

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History