Nicola di Maestro Antonio d'Ancona (Italian, Marchigian, active by 1472–died 1510/11)
Tempera on wood, embossed and gilt ornament
Overall, with engaged frame, 24 3/8 x 69 1/8 in. (61.9 x 175.6 cm); painted surface, left 12 7/8 x 14 5/8 in. (32.7 x 37.1 cm), center 12 3/4 x 14 3/4 in. (32.4 x 37.5 cm), right 12 3/4 x 141/2 in. (32.4 x 36.8 cm)
This front of a chest (cassone) treats three episodes from the Bible relating to the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (ca. 605–562 BC). In one, the king has summoned wise men to interpret his dreams, which foretell his fall. In the second, he is driven from Babylon, and in the third he is shown, insane, eating grass "like oxen," as one of his dreams had foretold. Especially beautiful is the gilded oak leaf decoration. Nicola di Maestro Antonio was one of the most eccentric painters of the Renaissance. This work dates about 1490.
Inscription: Inscribed: (left, on architrave) REX·REGVM·DOMINVM [DOMINANTIVM] (King of Kings and Lord [of Lords] [Revelation 19:16].); (center, on entablature) . . . SOR REX ([Nebuchadnez]zar King)
Johann Anton Ramboux, Cologne (by 1832/42–d. 1866; cat., 1862, no. 382, without attribution; his estate sale, J. M. Heberle [H. Lempertz], Cologne, May 23, 1867, no. 382); James L. Loeb, New York (until 1908)
J[ohann]. A[nton]. Ramboux. Katalog der Gemälde alter italienischer Meister (1221–1640) in der Sammlung des Conservator J. A. Ramboux. Cologne, 1862, p. 65, no. 382, lists it in a supplement composed of unattributed works of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "Principal Accessions: A Cassone Front." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 3 (October 1908), p. 191, ill. p. 189, attributes it to an unknown Umbrian painter and dates it about 1500; compares it with panels depicting the life of Saint Bernardino by Fiorenzo di Lorenzo (Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria, Perugia).
Joseph Breck. "Sammlungen: Die Neuerwerbungen des Metropolitan Museum in New York." Der Cicerone 1 (1909), p. 292.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 107–8, attributes it to an unknown Umbrian painter and dates it to the beginning of the sixteenth century.
Gertrude Coor. "Quattrocento-Gemälde aus der Sammlung Ramboux." Wallraf-Richartz-Jahrbuch 21 (1959), pp. 94–95, fig. 40, attributes it to an unknown Umbrian painter and dates it about 1500.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 240, 263, 605, as by an unknown Sienese painter of the fifteenth century.
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, p. 100, pls. 108–9 (overall and detail), tentatively attribute it to an unknown Sienese painter and date it to the early sixteenth century; mention that it shows Umbrian influence.
George Bisacca and Laurence B. Kanter inItalian Renaissance Frames. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1990, p. 24, fig. 19, attribute it to an unknown central Italian painter and date it to the early sixteenth century.
Cecilia Filippini. "Il re Nabucodonosor e il profeta Daniele: una storia biblica illustrata dal Maestro di Marradi." Paragone 43 (January 1992), pp. 34, 37 n. 25, pl. 51, attributes it to a Florentine painter and dates it to the last decade of the fifteenth century; labels it location unknown, stating that it is known to her only through a photograph.
Lust und Verlust. Ed. Hiltrud Kier and Frank Günter Zehnder. Exh. cat., Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. Vol. 2, "Corpus-Band zu Kölner Gemäldesammlungen 1800–1860."Cologne, 1998, p. 594, no. 382, ill., attribute it to a central Italian painter and date it to the fourth quarter of the fifteenth century.
Andrea De Marchi inOro: maestri gotici e Lucio Fontana. Ed. Andrea De Marchi and Alberto Fiz. Exh. cat., Compagnia di Belle Arti. Milan, 1998, pp. 79, 81 n. 20, finds Keith Christiansen's unpublished attribution to Nicola di Maestro Antonio da Ancona to be persuasive.
Jerzy Miziolek. Mity, legendy, exempla: Wloskie malarstwo swieckie epoki Renesansu ze zbiorow Karola Lanckoronskiego. Warsaw, 2003, pp. 252, 372 n. 19, fig. 33.
Matteo Mazzalupi inPittori ad Ancona nel Quattrocento. Ed. Andrea De Marchi and Matteo Mazzalupi. Milan, 2008, pp. 250, 268 n. 31, pp. 293–94, no. 19, ill. (color, overall and details), supports the attribution to Nicola di Maestro Antonio and dates the work about 1490.
Matteo Mazzalupi inLe opere e i giorni: exempla virtutis, favole antiche, e vita quotidiana nel racconto dei cassoni rinascimentali. Ed. Andrea De Marchi and Lorenzo Sbaraglio. Exh. cat., Museo Stibbert, Florence. Signa, 2015, p. 187, ill. (color).
This molding frames a painted triptych panel and formed what was originally the front of a cassone or chest. The piece originated from the coastal Marchigian region of Italy east of Tuscany in approximately 1500. The framework (see Additional Images, figs. 1–3) is made of poplar and water gilded on a gessoed surface with pastiglia relief borders in the form of oak leaves and floral bosses. Though worn thin the background is ornamented in red and blue paint with remnants of color on the relief. Four armorial shields across the top retain some of their delicate punchwork and colored glazes.
[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2015; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
This panel originally decorated a cassone (marriage chest). The three scenes are taken from the book of Daniel in the Bible: at left King Nebuchadnezzar asks for an interpretation of his dream (Daniel 2:2), in the center he is driven from Babylon (Daniel 4:33), and at right he grovels on the ground eating grass (Daniel 4:33).