These two scenes from the life of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, a thirteenth-century Augustinian priest, were part of the base (predella) of an altarpiece in the Muzzarelli chapel in the church of Sant’Andrea in Ferrara, at the center of which was a sculpture of the saint. They show two of the saint’s many miracles, one in which he revived a child who had died before being baptized, and another in which, as a vegetarian, he refused to eat cooked partridges, making the sign of the cross over them as they came to life and flew away. The scenes are noteworthy for their effects of light and the beauty of the simple spaces in which the saint carries out his miracles.
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Fig. 1. Altarpiece reconstruction
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Title:Saint Nicholas of Tolentino Reviving the Birds
Artist:Garofalo (Benvenuto Tisi da Garofalo) (Italian, Ferrara 1481–1559 Ferrara)
Medium:Oil on canvas, transferred from wood
Dimensions:12 7/8 x 26 in. (32.7 x 66 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Muzzarelli chapel, church of the convent of Sant'Andrea Apostolo, Ferrara (until at least 1787); Prince Eugène de Beauharnais, Herzog von Leuchtenberg, Munich (until d. 1824; cat., 1825, no. 40); Herzogen von Leuchtenberg, Munich and St. Petersburg (from 1824; cat., 1851, no. 36); George, Herzog von Leuchtenberg, Prince Romanovsky, St. Petersburg (until at least 1903); [Sulley and Co., London, until 1907]; J. Pierpont Morgan, New York (1907–d. 1913; his estate, 1913–17)
New York. American Federation of Arts. "Saints (circulating exhibition)," January 1951–September 1952, no catalogue?
Staten Island Community College. October 9–12, 1969, no catalogue?
Vatican City. Braccio di Carlo Magno. "Immagine e mistero: il sole, il libro, il giglio; iconografia di san Nicola da Tolentino nell'arte italiana dal XIV al XX secolo," June 8–October 9, 2005, no. 46a.
Cesare Barotti. Pitture e scolture che si trovano nelle chiese: Luoghi pubblici, e sobborghi della città di Ferrara. Ferrara, 1770, p. 175, mentions little paintings depicting scenes from the life of Saint Nicholas as being set into the wall of the chapel to that saint in the church of Sant'Andrea, Ferrara, one of the pictures being by Giacomo Parolini and the rest by Garofalo.
Giuseppe Antenore Scalabrini. Memorie istoriche delle chiese di Ferrara e de' suoi Borghi. Ferrara, 1773, p. 305, notes four little paintings depicting acts by Saint Nicholas set in the wall of the chapel, three of which are by Garofalo and one by Parolini.
Cesare Cittadella. Catalogo istorico de' pittori e scultori ferraresi e delle opere loro con in fine una nota esatta delle più celebri pitture delle chiese di Ferrara. Vol. 2, Ferrara, 1782, p. 31.
Antonio Frizzi. Guida del forestiere per la citta' di Ferrara. Ferrara, 1787, p. 128.
[Johann Nepomuk] Muxel. Catalogue des tableaux de la galerie de feu son Altesse Royale Monseigneur le Prince Eugène Duc de Leuchtenberg à Munich. 1st ed., 1825. Munich, 1843, p. 31, no. 40, identifies the scene as Saint Benedict blessing birds.
[Johann Nepomuk] Muxel. Verzeichniss der Bildergallerie seiner koeniglichen hoheit des Prinzen Eugen, Herzogs von Leuchtenberg in Muenchen. Munich, 1843, p. 29, no. 40.
Girolamo Baruffaldi. Vite de' pittori e scultori ferraresi. Ed. Giuseppe Boschini. Vol. 1, Ferrara, 1844, pp. 335–36, writing between 1697 and 1722, mentions paintings showing miracles of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino by Garofalo in the Muzzarelli chapel in Sant'Andrea, and dates them after 1523.
J. D. Passavant. Gemälde-Sammlung Seiner Kaiserl. Hoheit des Herzogs von Leuchtenberg in München. 2nd ed. Frankfurt am Main, 1851, p. 8, no. 36, pl. 36 (engraving by Muxel) [English ed., 1852, p. 7, no. 36, pl. 36].
Mrs. Jameson. Legends of the Monastic Orders, as Represented in the Fine Arts. Boston, 1866, p. 238 [5th ed., 1872, p. 198], identifies the scene depicted.
G[ustav]. F[riedrich]. Waagen. Die Gemäldesammlung in der Kaiserlichen Eremitage zu St. Petersburg. 2nd ed. St. Petersburg, 1870, pp. 371–72, no. 40, identifies it as a miracle of Saint Benedict.
Fritz Harck. "Notizen über italienische Bilder in Petersburger Sammlungen." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 19 (1896), p. 429, relates the two MMA works to a panel depicting the mass of Saint Nicholas (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Ferrara) from Sant'Andrea; believes the three pictures formed a predella and dates them to the 1520s.
Gustave Gruyer. L'art ferrarais à l'époque des princes d'Este. Paris, 1897, vol. 2, p. 676, dates it about 1520; agrees with Harck [see Ref. 1896] that the two MMA works and the Ferrara panel formed a predella.
A[lexandre]. Néoustroïeff. "I quadri italiani nella collezione del duca G. N. von Leuchtenberg di Pietroburgo." L'arte 6 (1903), p. 333, fig. 4, identifies the two MMA works and the Ferrara panel as the pictures mentioned by Baruffaldi [see Ref. 1844].
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 218, calls it a predella panel.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 188.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 147, ill., states that the two MMA works and the Ferrara panel probably formed the predella of a lost altarpiece dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, and accepts their identification with the pictures mentioned by Baruffaldi [see Ref. 1844].
Roberto Longhi. Ampliamenti nell'officina ferrarese. Florence, 1940, p. 29, fig. 78, relates it to L'Ortolano; considers the two MMA works part of the series to which the Ferrara panel belonged.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 40.
Roberto Longhi. Opere complete di Roberto Longhi. Vol. 5, Officina ferrarese: 1934. repr. 1968. Florence, 1956, p. 157, fig. 375, reprints text of Ref. 1940.
Herbert Friedmann. "A Painting by Pantoja and the Legend of the Partridge of St. Nicholas of Tolentino." Art Quarterly 22 (Spring 1959), p. 49, fig. 5.
Alberto Neppi. Il Garofalo, Benvenuto Tisi. Milan, 1959, pp. 34, 55, dates the series shortly after 1530.
Giuseppe Mazzariol. Il Garofalo, Benvenuto Tisi. Venice, 1960, p. 28, connects the two MMA works with the Ferrara panel, states that they come from Sant'Andrea, and dates them to the 1530s.
Amalia Mezzetti. Mostra di opere d'arte restaurate. Exh. cat., Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara. Bologna, 1964, pp. 46–47, under no. 21, dates the three pictures to about 1534.
Giuliano Frabetti. L'Ortolano. Milan, 1966, pp. 30, 35 n. 83, accepts Mezzetti's [see Ref. 1964] dating of about 1534.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, pp. 154, 156, lists the two MMA pictures as predella panels from the Muzzarelli chapel in Sant'Andrea and as companions to the Ferrara painting.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 78, 436, 606.
Amalia Mezzetti and Emanuele Mattaliano. Indice ragionato delle "Vite de' pittori e scultori ferraresi" di Gerolamo Baruffaldi. Vol. 2, Ferrara, 1981, p. 22, claim that the series was originally composed of four pictures, one of which, Saint Nicholas transforming bread into roses, was stolen and replaced with a work of the same subject by Parolini [see Ref. Barotti 1770]; erroneously state that Garofalo's two paintings of Saints John the Baptist and Michael flanked a statue of Saint Michael in this chapel.
Jadranka Bentini and Eugenio Riccomini. La Pinacoteca Nazionale di Ferrara: Notizie storiche e informative. Bologna, 1982, p. 51, dates the series to the mid-1530s.
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. 24–25, pl. 52, state that "it is likely, but not certain" that the three pictures formed the predella of the altarpiece in the Muzzarelli chapel; date the complex to about 1530.
Anna Maria Fioravanti Baraldi inLa Pinacoteca Nazionale di Ferrara: Catalogo generale. Ed. Jadranka Bentini. Bologna, 1992, p. 133, under no. 153, dates the series shortly after 1519.
Anna Maria Fioravanti Baraldi. Il Garofalo, Benvenuto Tisi, pittore (c. 1476–1559): catalogo generale. Rimini, 1993, pp. 155–57, no. 91, ill.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 114, ill.
Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 60 (Spring 2003), pp. 53–55, fig. 35 (color), believes that the two MMA works, the Ferrara painting, and the lost fourth panel probably formed a predella.
Anna Tambini inImmagine e mistero: il sole, il libro, il giglio; iconografia di san Nicola da Tolentino nell'arte italiana dal XIV al XX secolo. Ed. Maria Giannatiempo López. Exh. cat., Braccio di Carlo Magno, Vatican City. Milan, 2005, pp. 134–35, no. 46a, ill. (color).
Anna Tambini inSan Nicola da Tolentino nell'arte: corpus iconografico. Ed. Valentino Pace and Roberto Tollo. Vol. 1, Dalle origini al Concilio di Trento. Tolentino, 2005, pp. 382–83, no. 297, colorpl. LXVIII, ill. p. 384.
Caroline Elam. Roger Fry and Italian Art. London, 2019, p. 67 n. 143.
The scene depicts Saint Nicholas on his sick bed resuscitating two partridges or doves which had been cooked for him to eat.
This painting, Saint Nicholas of Tolentino Reviving a Child (The Met 17.190.24), and the Mass of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Ferrara), form a series originally located in the Muzzarelli chapel of the church of Sant'Andrea, Ferrara. A scene by Giacomo Parolini (1663–1733) is recorded in eighteenth-century sources and may copy a lost, fourth panel from the series. At the center of the altarpiece in this chapel was a statue of Saint Nicholas (Museo di Casa Romei, Ferrara) by Alfonso Lombardi, flanked by paintings of Saints John the Baptist and Michael (both lost) by Garofalo. The paintings depicting miracles of Saint Nicholas probably formed the predella of the altarpiece, although this is not certain. The pictures are recorded in the chapel by Baruffaldi (1844), writing between 1697 and 1722, without a specific location, and by Barotti (1770), by which time they are described as being set into the wall of the chapel.
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