Trained in Pisa, Giovanni di Balduccio is noted for bringing the innovations of Tuscan sculptors to northern Italy. With quiet monumentality, this panel depicts the standing image of the bearded Saint Peter Martyr (d. 1252) wearing Dominican garb. The head wound, his primary attribute, is clearly visible along with a (restored) palm of martyrdom in his right hand. The saint's cloak, held open by his outstretched arms, frames three praying donor figures, while he places his hands on the heads of the oldest and the youngest of them. This relief is carved in a white fine-grained marble set into a frame of slightly coarser, grayer marble.
The sculpture is one of three marble panels to survive from a tomb originally in the Milanese church of Sant'Eustorgio. The damaged central panel (Castello Sforzesco, Milan) depicts the Enthroned Virgin and Child between two angels, and the relief originally on the viewer's left (Saint'Eustorgio, Milan) shows Saint John the Baptist with four kneeling donors in a composition that mirrors the Museum's panel, which must have been on the right. Details such as the molding beneath the ledge supporting the figures and the buttons on the undersides of the sleeves suggest that the reliefs were intended to be above eye level.
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Title:Presentation Scene with Saint Peter Martyr and Three Donors
Artist:Giovanni di Balduccio (Italian, active 1318–49)
Geography:Made in Milan, Lombardy, Italy
Dimensions:Overall: 31 1/2 x 33 7/8 x 5 11/16in. (80 x 86 x 14.5cm)
Credit Line:The Cloisters Collection, 2001
The Dominican, Saint Peter Martyr, stands dressed in the garb of his order, his bearded head is turned to his right while three young men kneel before him, all facing to their right, creating a pyramidal composition. The gash of the ax wound is clearly visible on his head and he holds the martyr’s palm in his right hand. The kneeling figures appear to be arranged in order of age, with the tallest on the viewer’s left, descending to the smallest on the right. The saint’s arms are outstretched with his right hand resting on the head of the oldest figure and his left on the head of the youngest as the martyr’s long cloak falls around the shoulders of the youth. The first and last of the kneeling figures have their hands clasped in prayer while the middle figure crosses his arms over his chest. They are dressed similarly with close fitting caps over their hair tied under their chins while each has placed a fashionable hat on the ground before him. Their tightly fitted sleeves closed with a series of small buttons extend through openings in their cloaks. The pupils of the eyes of all four figures have been drilled and filled with lead. The scene takes place before a cloth suspended from a curtain rod placed horizontally behind the saint’s head. This figural relief panel is carved in an unidentified, fine-grained marble which has been set into a deeper frame carved of coarser, Dokymaean marble. The frame has an outer border of acanthus with an inner border of dentils. Some losses have been restored with plaster, notably the palm and the lower leg and left foot of the kneeling figure on the right. The sculpture is otherwise in good condition although the surface has been somewhat abraded.
The relief is one of three panels to survive from a tomb originally in the Dominican church of Sant’Eustorgio in Milan. A panel representing Saint John the Baptist is still in the church, now beneath the altar of the Three Magi and it is still in its acanthus and dentil frame. It represents Saint John the Baptist with four kneeling figures before a cloth much like the New York panel. The third panel is now in the the Museo dell’Arte Antica (Castello Sforzesco) in Milan. It represents the seated Virgin with the Christ Child standing in her lap flanked by angels holding a cloth of honor. This relief has suffered considerably. It is missing its marble frame (the right side of the frame is carved in the left side of the New York panel) and the heads of the child and the angels are missing. When the reliefs were first described in the eighteenth century, they were already in separate locations in the monastery, and they were said to be fragments from the tomb of Uberto Visconti (d. 1315) which had been dismantled in the seventeenth century.
Sant’Eustorgio is, of course, the site of Giovanni di Balduccio’s monumental tomb of Saint Peter Martyr of 1339. The Pisan sculptor is notable for having moved to Bologna and then to Milan, bringing the achievements of Tuscan marble sculpture pioneered by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano to the north. The high cheek bones, elongated eyes and other features of the figures in the three reliefs now separated link the carvings to Giovanni di Balduccio’s work on the tomb of Saint Peter Martyr suggesting a date of ca. 1340. While it is possible that the tomb of Uberto Visconti was not carved until 25 years after his death, it could be that the three reliefs were made for another, unidentified Visconti family tomb. In any case, the figures kneeling before Saint Peter Martyr and Saint John the Baptist must represent the family of the deceased.
Castelnuovo Tedesco, Lisbeth and Jack Soultanian. 2010. Italian Medieval Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 39, pp. 175–179.
Natale, Mauro, and Serena Romano, ed. Arte lombarda dai Visconti agli Sforza. Milan: Palazzo Reale, 2015. no. I.13b, pp. 99-100, fig. I.13b, ill. p. 68.
Entry by Peter Barnet, curator emeritus, Department of Medieval Art and The Met Cloisters
[2020; adapted from draft Barnet Sculpture Catalogue]
Probably from the tomb of Uberto III Visconti, from the church of Sant' Eustorgio, Milan.; [ Antichità Il Cartiglio, Florence (sold 2001)]
Milan. Palazzo Reale. "Arte lombarda dai Visconti agli Sforza: Milano al centro dell'Europa," March 12–June 28, 2015.
Caffi, Michele. Della Chiesa di Sant'Eustorgio in Milano: Illustrazione storico-monumentale epigrafica. Milan, 1841. p. 136.
Mongeri, Giuseppe. L'arte in Milano: Note per servire di guida nella città. Bologna: Forni Editore, 1872. p. 56.
Vigezzi, Silvio. "Catalogo descrittivo, ragionato e critico delle sculture esistenti nella Basilica di Sant'Eustorgio in Milano." Archivio Storico Lombardo, 6th ser., 60, no. 3 (1933). p. 223.
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Novello, Roberto Paolo. "Giovanni di Balduccio da Pisa." PhD diss., Università degli Studi di Pisa, 1990. pp. 293–96, nn. 18a, 18b.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection, 2000-2001." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 59, no. 2 (Fall 2001). pp. 18–19.
Page, Amy. "100 Top Treasures: Quite a Relief." Art and Antiques 25, no. 11 (November 2002). p. 75.
Barnet, Peter, and Nancy Y. Wu. The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005. no. 67, pp. 102–103, 196.
Caglioti, Francesco. "Giovanni di Balduccio a Bologna: L''Annunciazione' per la rocca papale di Porta Galliera (con una digressione sulla cronologia napoletana e bolognese di Giotto)." Prospettiva 117-118 (January-April 2005). p. 48, n. 6, fig. 51.
Barnet, Peter. "Recent Acquisitions (1999-2008) of Medieval Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters, New York: Supplement." The Burlington Magazine 150, no. 1268 (November 2008). p. 798, fig. XV.
Parenti, Daniela, ed. Giovanni da Milano: Capolavori del Gotico fra Lombardia e Toscana. Florence: Firenze Musei, 2008. p. 140, ill. p. 142.
Barnet, Peter. "Medieval Europe." In Philippe de Montebello and The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1977–2008, edited by James R. Houghton. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009. p. 24.
Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Lisbeth, and Jack Soultanian. Italian Medieval Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010. no. 39, pp. 175–179.
Barnet, Peter, and Nancy Y. Wu. The Cloisters: Medieval Art and Architecture. 75th Anniversary ed. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. p. 105.
Natale, Mauro, and Serena Romano, ed. Arte lombarda dai Visconti agli Sforza. Milan: Palazzo Reale, 2015. no. I.13b, pp. 99–100, fig. I.13b, ill. p. 68.
Rossetti, Edoardo. "'Poi fu la biassa'. Due dinastie, una città e non solo." In Arte lombarda dai Visconti agli Sforza, edited by Mauro Natale, and Serena Romano. Milan: Palazzo Reale, 2015. p. 24, (as no. I.13).
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