The great Dominican theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) is shown twice: consulting a book, and seated between Saints Peter and Paul, who miraculously appeared to help him interpret sacred texts. The narrative is mentioned in Aquinas’s first biography, written by William of Tocco, a Dominican prior who was part of the effort to promote his canonization. The panel belongs to an altarpiece painted for a chapel in the church of San Domenico in Modena. Bartolomeo degli Erri and his brother Agnolo were the key artistic personalities in Modena during the second half of the fifteenth century and painted three altarpieces for the church of San Domenico.
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Title:Saint Thomas Aquinas Aided by Saints Peter and Paul
Artist:Bartolomeo degli Erri (Italian, Modena, active 1460–79)
Medium:Tempera on wood
Dimensions:17 x 12 in. (43.2 x 30.5 cm)
Credit Line:Fletcher Fund, 1923
the church of San Domenico, Modena (until about 1708–10); Alphonse Kann, Paris; [Oswald Sirén, Stockholm, until 1923; sold to The Met]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Saints and Their Legends," March 1–September 3, 1974, exh. brochure.
Giorgio Vasari. Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori. Ed. Gaetano Milanesi. 1906 ed. Florence, 1568, vol. 6, p. 481, mentions four altarpieces by an anonymous Modenese artist of the mid-fifteenth century in the church of San Domenico, Modena, including one dedicated to Saint Dominic, on the high altar, and three others in chapels of the rood screen.
Lodovico Vedriani. Raccolta de' pittori, scultori, et architetti modenesi più celebri. Modena, 1662, pp. 23–24, notes that of the four altarpieces seen by Vasari, the three in chapels of the rood screen are dedicated to Saints Thomas, Peter Martyr, and Vincent Ferrer.
Girolamo Tiraboschi. Notizie de' pittori, scultori, incisori, e architetti natii degli stati del serenissimo signor Duca di Modena. Modena, 1786, pp. 133–34 [reprinted in Biblioteca modenese 6 (1786), pp. 345–46], concerning the altarpieces seen by Vasari and Vedriani, records that some of the paintings with stories of Saint Peter Martyr were then in the palace of the Infante Duke of Parma at Colorno, others were scattered through Modena, and some were still in the church; considers the works to be in the style of Serafino de' Serafini.
B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "A Fifteeth-Century Italian Panel." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 18 (November 1923), pp. 242–44, ill., identifies the subject, calls it an Italian work of the fifteenth century by the same hand as "Saint Dominic Resuscitating Napoleone Orsini" (MMA 22.60.59) and panels in the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Osvald Sirén. Letter to Bryson Burroughs. June 2, 1923, attributes it to Baldovinetti.
B[ernard]. Berenson. "Nove pitture in cerca di un'attribuzione." Dedalo 5 (1925), pp. 601–42, 688–722, 745–75, ill. p. 603 [reprinted in "Three Essays in Method," Oxford, 1927, pp. 1–71, fig. 2], attributes it and the other pictures in the group he discusses to the Veronese painter Domenico Morone and dates them between 1480 and 1490; considers it part of an altarpiece that probably showed a figure of Saint Thomas Aquinas flanked by scenes of his life, five more of which he identifies.
Wilhelm Suida. "Einige italienische Gemälde im Landesmuseum zu Brünn." Belvedere 8 (1929), p. 256, ascribes it tentatively to Agnolo degli Erri.
Raffaello Brenzoni inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 25, Leipzig, 1931, p. 164, lists it among works attributed to Domenico Morone.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 377.
Evelyn Sandberg Vavalà. "Francesco Benaglio." Art in America 21 (December 1932), p. 61 n. 12, attributes the Saint Thomas Aquinas series to Agnolo degli Erri.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 323.
[Carlo Ludovico] R[agghianti]. "Sul problema Erri–D. Morone." Critica d'arte, part 2, 4 (January–March 1939), pp. I–IV [reprinted in "Miscellanea minore di critica d'arte," Bari, 1946, pp. 84–90], rejects the attribution of Berenson's [see Ref. 1925] group to Morone, assigning the pictures instead to the degli Erri brothers and dating them between 1460 and 1480; suggests that they may have belonged to the altarpieces in San Domenico.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 134, ill.
Roberto Longhi. Ampliamenti nell'officina ferrarese. Florence, 1940, p. 39 n. 3 [reprinted in Longhi 1956], rejects the attribution of Berenson's group to Domenico Morone; attributes the Preaching of Saint Thomas (now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington) to Agnolo degli Erri and the rest to Bartolomeo degli Erri.
Alberto Mario Chiodi. "Bartolomeo degli Erri e i polittici domenicani." Commentari 2 (1951), pp. 19–21, attributes five paintings depicting scenes from the life of Saint Thomas Aquinas to Bartolomeo degli Erri (assigning the sixth, the Preaching of Saint Thomas, to Agnolo degli Erri [see Ref. Longhi 1940]), and identifies them as fragments from the altarpiece from San Domenico; suggests that a painting formerly in the Schweitzer collection, identified by Ragghianti [see Ref. 1939] as an episode of Saint Dominic, may be a seventh scene of the Saint Thomas series; dates the altarpiece between 1474 and 1479.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 70.
William E. Suida. The Samuel H. Kress Collection. San Francisco, 1955, pp. 44, 46, attributes the two pictures in San Francisco to Bartolomeo degli Erri; notes that the white eagle appearing on two of the panels in the series indicates a connection with the Este family.
Raffaello Brenzoni. Domenico Morone. Florence, 1956, pp. 42–43, notes that the paintings grouped by Berenson are by the same artist.
Roberto Longhi. Opere complete di Roberto Longhi. Vol. 5, Officina ferrarese: 1934. repr. 1968. Florence, 1956, pp. 169–70 n. 3, pp. 185, 219, reprints Ref. Longhi 1940.
Mario Salmi. Pittura e miniatura a Ferrara nel primo rinascimento. Ferrara, 1961, p. 37.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 280.
Fern Rusk Shapley. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. Vol. 2, Italian Schools: XV–XVI Century. London, 1968, pp. 9–10, attributes the series to Bartolomeo except for the Washington panel, which she attributes to Agnolo; dates the altarpiece about 1470.
Charles Seymour Jr. Early Italian Paintings in the Yale University Art Gallery. New Haven, 1970, p. 220, under no. 164, dates the altarpiece 1466–74.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 68, 439, 443, 452, 606, as by Agnolo and Bartolomeo degli Erri.
Christopher Lloyd. A Catalogue of the Earlier Italian Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum. Oxford, 1977, pp. 20–21 n. 6, attributes the series to Bartolomeo degli Erri.
George Kaftal with the collaboration of Fabio Bisogni. Iconography of the Saints in the Painting of North East Italy. Florence, 1978, cols. 973, 980, fig. 1264, attribute it to Bartolomeo degli Erri.
Fern Rusk Shapley. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. Washington, 1979, vol. 1, pp. 174–75.
Keith Christiansen. "Early Renaissance Narrative Painting in Italy." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 41 (Fall 1983), pp. 21, 24, fig. 17 (color).
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, North Italian School. New York, 1986, pp. 15–17, pl. 12, accept the panels in New Haven, San Francisco, Washington, and France as parts of the same altarpiece, and add that the ex-Schweitzer scene and the work in Brno probably also belong to this group; agree with Christiansen [see Ref. 1980] that there may have been a total of nine scenes and that the altarpiece probably dates from before 1467.
Olga Pujmanová. Italské gotické a renesancní obrazy v ceskoslovenských sbírkách. Exh. cat., Šternberský Palác. Prague, 1986, p. 41.
Daniele Benati et al. La bottega degli Erri e la pittura del Rinascimento a Modena. Modena, 1988, pp. 72–75, 93, 96, 101–2, 167–68, fig. 77 (color), attribute it to Angelo [Agnolo] and Bartolomeo degli Erri; reject Christiansen's [see Ref. 1980] suggestion that the altarpiece was painted before 1467 based on Angelo's absence from Modena after that time, publishing documents establishing his presence there; note the presence of the Rangoni coat of arms on several scenes and suggest connecting the commission with a will drawn up by Gaspare Rangoni on September 29, 1467.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 112, ill.
Joseph Manca inItalian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. Washington, 2003, pp. 257–58, 260 nn. 7, 8, 19, fig. 3, includes the ex-Schweitzer and Brno panels in this altarpiece; attributes the Washington panel to Agnolo degli Erri and calls it "A Dominican Preaching"; dates all the Saint Thomas panels about 1470.
Dessins & tableaux anciens et du XIXe siècle. Drouot-Richelieu, Paris. November 15, 2013, p. 12, under no. 22.
The picure depicts Saint Thomas twice: on the left he takes a book from a shelf, and on the right he is seated between Saints Paul and Peter, who have appeared to him in order to explain a passage in Isaiah. The monk shown at the upper left is probably Brother Rinaldo, to whom Saint Thomas dictated the exposition (see Acta Sanctorum, Martii, vol. 1, 1865, p. 668).
The panel is one of a group of perhaps nine scenes that originally surrounded an image of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The altarpiece was painted for a chapel in the church of San Domenico, Modena. The central panel is lost, but at least five other scenes depicting the life of Saint Thomas are known:
The Birth of Saint Thomas (Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven) Saint Thomas at the Court of King Louis (formerly private collection; sold, Drouot-Richelieu, Audap & Mirabaud, commissaires-priseurs, Paris, November 15, 2013, no. 22) The Debate with the Heretic and Christ Approving Saint Thomas's Work (de Young Museum, San Francisco) The Vision of Fra Paolino dell'Aquila (de Young Museum, San Francisco) The Preaching of Saint Thomas (National Gallery of Art, Washington)
Two more scenes may be part of this group: The Childhood of Saint Thomas (formerly Schweitzer collection; sold, Christie's, New York, January 11, 1979, no. 53) The Death of Saint Thomas (Moravská Galerie, Brno)
San Domenico once contained three altarpieces by Bartolomeo, dedicated to Saints Dominic, Thomas Aquinas, and Vincent Ferrer; a fourth altarpiece dedicated to Peter Martyr (signed and dated by Simone Lamberti, 1450) is now in the Galleria Nazionale, Parma (no. 499).
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