The apostle Paul holds the sword of his martyrdom and his epistle to the Romans. This is one of the few large-scale panels by Niccolò di Buonaccorso, who seems to have specialized in small works for private devotion. No other panels from this altarpiece are known. It is a late work.
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Artist:Niccolò di Buonaccorso (Italian, active Siena by 1372–died 1388 Siena)
Medium:Tempera on wood, gold ground
Dimensions:Overall, with shaped top and engaged frame, 60 x 16 1/2 in. (152.4 x 41.9 cm); painted surface 52 3/8 x 16 1/2 in. (133 x 41.9 cm)
Credit Line:Bequest of George Blumenthal, 1941
Until recently, there was not consensus concerning the attribution of this work; however, most scholars now agree with Boskovits (1983) that it is by Niccolò di Buonaccorso, who is first documented in Siena in 1372 and whose early work shows a debt to Paolo di Giovanni Fei. He is among the artists working toward the end of the century who looked back to the great figures of Ambrogio Lorenzetti and Simone Martini, attempting to recover something of their ambitious experiments in space and refined surface decoration. Niccolò specialized in small-scale works for private devotion, such as the Coronation of the Virgin in the Robert Lehman Collection (1975.1.21). This panel is from a rare, large polyptych. Paladino (1997) has suggested that a fragment with the head of the Virgin (Städel Museum, Frankfurt) might possibly come from the same ensemble, which must date about 1390.
Keith Christiansen 2012
Inscription: Inscribed (on book): adrom / anos .·. (to the Romans)
[Lelli, Florence, in the early 1920s]; George Blumenthal, New York (by 1926–d. 1941; cat., vol. 1, 1926, pl. XX, as attributed to Lippo Memmi)
Stella Rubinstein-Bloch. Catalogue of the Collection of George and Florence Blumenthal. Vol. 1, Paintings—Early Schools. Paris, 1926, unpaginated, pl. XX, as attributed to Lippo Memmi.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 41, tentatively lists it as by Barna da Siena.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 35.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 52.
Federico Zeri. Letter. March 15, 1958, attributes it to Andrea di Bartolo; states that it was formerly in the Lelli collection in Florence with a companion panel depicting Saint John the Baptist which reappeared on the art market in Florence in about 1943.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 26, tentatively attributes it to Barna da Siena and calls it the right panel of a polyptych.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 240, 437, 608, as by an unknown Sienese painter of the fourteenth 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, pp. 13–14, pl. 21, attribute it to Francesco di Vannuccio, tentatively dating it to the 1370s.
Miklòs Boskovits. "Il gotico senese rivisitato: proposte e commenti su una mostra." Arte cristiana 71 (September–October 1983), p. 274 n. 36, attributes it to Niccolò di Buonaccorso.
Gaudenz Freuler. Letter to Keith Christiansen. October 10, 1990, attributes it to Niccolò di Buonaccorso.
Gaudenz Freuler. "Manifestatori delle cose miracolose": Arte italiana del '300 e '400 da collezioni in Svizzera e nel Liechtenstein. Exh. cat., Fondazione Thyssen-Bornemisza. Lugano, 1991, p. 70, under no. 19, attributes it to Niccolò di Buonaccorso.
Important Old Master Pictures. Christie's, London. April 23, 1993, p. 60, under no. 37.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 48, ill.
Pia Palladino. Art and Devotion in Siena after 1350: Luca di Tommè and Niccolò di Buonaccorso. Exh. cat., Timken Museum of Art. San Diego, 1997, pp. 60, 77 n. 119, fig. 60, dates it to about the same time as Niccolò's Costalpino altarpiece of 1387 (formerly Heinz Kisters collection, Kreuzlingen; sold, Christie's, London, April 23, 1993, no. 37); calls it the sole surviving panel of a large-scale polyptych, but adds that the head of a Madonna in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt, may come from the same altarpiece.
Mojmír S. Frinta. "Part I: Catalogue Raisonné of All Punch Shapes." Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting. Prague, 1998, pp. 109, 232, ill. p. 109 (detail of punch mark), as by Francesco di Vannuccio; classifies the punch marks appearing in this painting.
Andrea De Marchi inLa collezione Salini: Dipinti, sculture e oreficerie dei secoli XII, XIII, XIV e XV. Ed. Luciano Bellosi. Florence, 2009, vol. 1, p. 191, attributes it to Niccolò di Buonaccorso.
Laurence Kanter inItalian Paintings from the Richard L. Feigen Collection. Ed. Laurence Kanter and John Marciari. Exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery. New Haven, 2010, p. 60 n. 7, under no. 17.
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