Virgin Adoring the Christ Child with Saint John the Baptist (recto); The Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist (verso)

Agnolo del Mazziere Italian

Not on view

Acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2001, a double-sided sheet of quickly drawn 'Madonna' composition sketches was convincingly attributed by George R. Goldner to the Master of Santo Spirito ("Maestro di Santo Spirito") who is to be identified with either Agnolo, or less probably Donnino di Domenico del Mazziere. The exhibition "Maestri e botteghe. Pittura a Firenze alla fine del Quattrocento" held in 1992 at the Palazzo Strozzi (a project that presented singular contributions by Lisa Venturini and her extraordinary colleagues) was of crucial significance in advancing the state of connoisseurship of Florentine Renaissance paintings and drawings, not the least because it published new archival research on some under-studied artists, and among them the brothers Del Mazziere, Agnolo (1466-1513) and Donnino di Domenico del Mazziere (1460-after 1515).

Due to the precise documentary research by Anna Padoa Rizzo, the oeuvre of the so-called Master of Santo Spirito can be generally identified with that of the brothers Del Mazziere; while the evidence seems to favor Agnolo as the more innovative artist and presumably also the better draftsman, over his older brother, caution nevertheless dictates that presently both artists names be retained at least regarding cases in which attributions can only be made on the basis of style. A corpus of drawings can now also be connected to the Master of Santo Spirito (whose graphic techniques demonstrate the influence of Fillipino Lippi, Piero di Cosimo, Lorenzo Credi, fra' Bartolomeo, Leonardo, and the young Michelangelo), based on some of the proposals by Catherine Monbeig Goguel in 1992-1994. The comparisons securing the attribution of the Metropolitan drawing are most apparent in four sheets that can be unquestionably accepted to be by the Master of Santo Spirito: two double-sided sheets in Paris (Musee du Louvre, inv. nos. 5 and 2704), one sheet in Braunschweig (Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, inv. Z 1694), and another in Liverpool (Central Library).

The motif of the Virgin Adoring the Christ Child on the recto of the Metropolitan Sheet is evocative of at least two pictures attributed to the Master of Santo Spirito by Everett Fahy, while the verso, I would add, in portraying the Madonna with the two kissing holy infants at the lower left (the Christ Child and St. John the Baptist), seems to record a lost invenzione by Leonardo, from the late 1480s or 1490s, which was most often replicated by Leonardo's Lombard followers, and thus one can suppose that it probably became accessible to Florentine artists only after 1500-1501, on Leonardo's return to Florence. The verso of the Metropolitan sheet recalls especially the typology of the figures in the altarpiece by the brothers Del Mazziere today in the Pinacoteca at Volterra, which scholars agree is primarily by Agnolo. To judge based on style and the delightfully confident graphic technique, the newly identified Metropolitan double-sided sheet dates to 1503-1513 (Agnolo was inscribed in the Compagnia di San Luca in 1503, and died in 1513); the verso of one of the Paris sheets by the Master of Santo Spirito (Louvre, inv. 2704 verso) portrays physiognomic studies directly inspired by Leonardo's idealized and grotesque profiles from these years, ca. 1503-1513. Like the new Metropolitan drawing by the Master of Santo Spirito, the other four securely autograph sheets in Paris, Braunschweig, and Liverpool are drawn in a nearly identical technique of loose, but dense hatching in pen and ink, on off-white paper which is tinted with ochre-pink wash.

(Carmen C. Bambach, 2007)

Virgin Adoring the Christ Child with Saint John the Baptist (recto); The Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist (verso), Agnolo del Mazziere (Italian, Florence 1465–1513), Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over traces of black chalk, on off-white paper washed pale ochre-pink

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