Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Legend of Cloelia

Guidoccio di Giovanni Cozzarelli (Italian, Sienese, 1450–1516)
ca. 1480
Tempera and gold on wood
Overall 17 3/4 x 45 1/2 in. (45.1 x 115.6 cm); painted surface 15 1/8 x 43 1/4 in. (38.4 x 109.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Frederick C. Hewitt Fund, 1911
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 604
The Roman historian Plutarch (ca. 46–120 A.D.) was a favorite source for artists in seach of exemplars of virtue. In the Life of Publicola, he tells how the Romans, as part of a peace treaty, offered the Etruscan king Lars Porsena ten young noblemen and ten maidens. This event is shown on the left. Subsequently, while bathing in the Tiber, Cloelia urged her companions to escape. In the center they swim to safety and, on the right, escape through the gates of Rome. The panel, which is the front of a chest (cassone), dates from about 1480.
Charles Butler, London (by 1897–d. 1910; his estate sale, Christie's, London, May 25–26, 1911, no. 52, as "The Story of Camilla," by Matteo di Giovanni); [R. Langton Douglas, London, 1911; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Painting in Renaissance Siena: 1420–1500," December 20, 1988–March 19, 1989, no. 51.

Siena. Santa Maria della Scala. "Siena & Roma: Raffaello, Caravaggio e i protagonisti di un legame antico," November 25, 2005–March 5, 2006, no. 2.16.

Bernhard Berenson. The Central Italian Painters of the Renaissance. reprinted 1903. New York, 1897, p. 154, as "Queen Camilla," by Matteo di Giovanni, in the collection of Mr. C. Butler, London.

Bernhard Berenson. The Central Italian Painters of the Renaissance. 2nd ed., rev. and enl. New York, 1909, p. 195, as "Camilla," by Matteo di Giovanni, in the collection of Mr. Charles Butler, London.

G. F. Hartlaub. Matteo da Siena und seine Zeit. Strasbourg, 1910, p. 140.

B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "Matteo di Giovanni." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 6 (October 1911), p. 194, attributes it to Matteo di Giovanni; rejects the story of Camilla as the subject, without suggesting an alternative.

Frank Jewett Mather. Letter. December 15, 1911, suggests that it is much more likely to represent the story of Cloelia than that of Camilla, and identifies the Castel Sant'Angelo in the background.

Frank Jewett Mather Jr. "Three Cassone Panels by Matteo da Siena." Art in America 1 (January 1913), p. 24 n. 4, p. 29, assigns it to Matteo's workshop and calls it "Camilla Swimming the Tiber with Her Companions".

Bernard Berenson. Catalogue of a Collection of Paintings and some Art Objects. Vol. 1, Italian Paintings. Philadelphia, 1913, p. 60, attributes it in part to Cozzarelli and calls it "Camilla Swimming the Tiber".

Tancred Borenius, ed. A History of Painting in Italy: Umbria, Florence, and Siena from the Second to the Sixteenth Century.. By J[oseph]. A[rcher]. Crowe and G[iovanni]. B[attista]. Cavalcaselle. Vol. 5, Umbrian and Sienese Masters of the Fifteenth Century. London, 1914, p. 185 n. 2 (from p. 184), lists it as a work by Matteo and calls it a scene from the story of Camilla.

Paul Schubring. Cassoni: Truhen und Truhenbilder der italienischen Frührenaissance. Leipzig, 1915, text vol., pp. 24, 136, 331–32, attributes the three paintings from the Butler collection, including this work, to Matteo, calling them scenes from the story of Camilla, and confusing ours with the one which belonged to Mr. Woodward.

Bernard Berenson. Essays in the Study of Sienese Painting. New York, 1918, pp. 91–92, fig. 57, attributes it to Cozzarelli, calling it "Roman heroines swimming the Tiber," and notes that the Castel Sant'Angelo is represented in the background.

Paul Schubring. "Cassone Pictures in America: Part Two." Art in America 11 (October 1923), p. 315, mentions the Johnson picture and ours, which he may still be confusing with the Woodward panel [see Ref. 1915], as scenes from the legend of Camilla by Matteo.

[F. Mason] Perkins in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 24, Leipzig, 1930, p. 256, considers it executed in great part by Matteo's assistants, and calls it the story of Camilla.

Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 158, as by Cozzarelli; calls it the legend of a Roman heroine, possibly Cloelia.

Marialuisa Gengaro. "Matteo di Giovanni." La Diana 9, nos. 3–4 (1934), pp. 172, 181, lists it with paintings she dates between about 1480 and 1490, and calls it the story of Camilla; lists it again among paintings variously attributed to Matteo di Giovanni, calling it Roman heroines.

Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 136.

Raimond van Marle. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. Vol. 16, The Hague, 1937, p. 387, fig. 222, attributes it to Cozzarelli.

Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 95–96, ill., as "The Legend of Cloelia," by Cozzarelli.

Barbara Sweeny. John G. Johnson Collection: Catalogue of Italian Paintings. Philadelphia, 1966, p. 25, under no. 111, mentions it as a work related to the panel in the Johnson collection.

Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 99, calls it "Cloelia Swimming the Tiber," and identifies it as the companion of three other panels: "Lucretia Stabbing Herself" (formerly Trotti collection, Paris), "Battle of Camilla and Aeneas" (John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art), and "Camilla Engaged in Battle" (formerly Woodward collection, London); attributes all four works to Cozzarelli.

Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 58, 480, 606, as "Legend of Camilla?" by Cozzarelli.

Denys Sutton. "Robert Langton Douglas, Part III, XIV: Agent for the Metropolitan Museum." Apollo 109 (June 1979), p. 421, fig. 18.

Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sienese and Central Italian Schools. New York, 1980, pp. 9–10, pl. 71, observe that the influence of Matteo di Giovanni seen in this picture suggests that it was painted early in Cozzarelli's career; note that the two other panels, also from the Butler collection, that have in the past been associated with this picture depict the story of Camilla and are by an artist in Matteo di Giovanni's circle but differ in style from the MMA work.

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. 4, 17, 46–48, ill. p. 5 (detail), figs. 40, 41 (color, overall and detail), interpret the scene at left as Cloelia and the other Roman maidens presented as hostages to Porsena (rather than as Publicola returning them to Porsena after the escape); suggest that the circular building at right may be intended to represent the Coliseum; believe that the MMA panel probably formed part of a decorative scheme depicting classical heroines, along with the two other panels formerly in the Butler collection [see Notes] and several additional works.

Laurence B. Kanter in Painting in Renaissance Siena: 1420–1500. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1988, pp. 282–83, no. 51, ill., dates it probably about 1480, and proposes that the banners at the left might identify it as part of a commission from the Sberghieri family of Siena.

Graham Hughes. Renaissance Cassoni, Masterpieces of Early Italian Art: Painted Marriage Chests 1400–1550. Alfriston, England, 1997, pp. 177, 232.

Marilena Caciorgna and Roberto Guerrini in Siena & Roma: Raffaello, Caravaggio e i protagonisti di un legame antico. Exh. cat., Santa Maria della Scala. Siena, 2005, pp. 163, 192, 195–96, no. 2.16, ill. pp. 196–97 (color), and fig. 10 (color detail).

Cloelia was one of ten daughters and ten sons of Roman nobility who were given as hostages by the Roman consul Publicola to the Etruscan king Lars Porsena, as a token of good faith following the conclusion of a treaty between the Romans and the Etruscans. Cloelia led an escape by crossing the Tiber river on horseback and persuading her female companions to swim after her. Publicola returned the girls to the Etruscans, but Porsena, in admiration of Cloelia's courage, presented her with a horse, and freed her and some of her companions. The story of Cloelia is recounted by Plutarch (Life of Publicola, XIX).

This painting depicts the girls swimming across the Tiber in the center and arriving at the gate of Rome on the right. At the left Publicola returns them to the Etruscan camp and Cloelia kneels before Porsena.

This work was for a long time associated with two other cassone panels also from the collection of Charles Butler, London (one now John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art; the other, formerly W. H. Woodward collection, sold at Parke-Bernet, New York, November 15, 1945, no. 25). Along with the Johnson and Woodward pictures, the MMA panel was attributed to Matteo di Giovanni and called a scene from the story of Camilla, another Roman heroine; however, despite the common provenance, the MMA panel is actually by a different artist and depicts a different subject.
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