Crucifixion

Andrea di Bonaiuto called Andrea Da Firenze (active 1343-1377)

Tempera on panel 27.5 x 11 cm (10.8 x 4.3 in.)

The scene of the Crucifixion, probably due to the very small size of the painting, is described with extreme essentiality, and limited only to the main figures: Jesus, the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist wearing a green tunic covered by a yellow-lined pink mantle instead of the traditional blue tunic and pink mantle.

In all probability the small panel originally constituted the panel of a portable triptych destined for private devotion. In the cusp there may have been a representation of the Angel of the Annunciation or the Virgin Annunciate, in the central compartment the Madonna and Child with saints or the less usual scene of the Coronation of the Virgin, while in the other panel one or more saints or an episode of the life of Jesus, in line with the most common typologies of the devotional tabernacles of the time (for example the triptych by Bernardo Daddi of the Lindenau-Museum of Altenburg and the one by Bonaiuti in a Bolognese private collection , or the one by Puccio di Simone with the Coronation) .

The painting, unpublished as far as the present writer is aware, recently appeared on the English antique market with the correct attribution to Andrea Bonaiuti, confirmed on the basis of photos also by Miklós Boskovits (oral communication) and Johannes Tripps (oral communication).

The scarcity of records on the activity of this painter makes it difficult to compile a chronological table of his works; in fact, the year of his enrolment in the Guild of Physicians and Apothecaries, in 1346, and the time of his first known commission, on 30 December 1365, when he was charged with the decoration over the next two years of the chapter-house of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria Novella, are separated by a period of almost twenty years. Andrea Bonaiuti probably received his artistic training under Andrea di Cione, as is revealed by a group of small works destined for private devotion and datable between the fifth and sixth decade of the 14th century (the Madonna and Child with Saints formerly in a private collection in Cologne, a dismembered triptych split between the Statens Museum for Kunst of Copenhagen and the Museum of Fine Arts of Houston, Texas, another fragmentary triptych divided between the Berenson Foundation at Settignano, near Florence, and the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte in Naples, and the Saint John the Baptist and Saint James formerly in Brussels, Stoclet collection ): these are characterized by a tendentially two-dimensional vision and by strong chiaroscuro contrasts that accentuate the anatomical structure of the bodies. These features also appear in the panel presented here: the emaciated body of Christ is strongly underlined by soft, fused shadows that emphasize the muscles of the ribcage and above all those of the almost skeletal arms, which are in tension due to his position on the Cross, particulars that reveal the descriptive nature and vivid interest in detail typical of all his artistic production. Another common element in these works, and indicative of the artist´s probable training under Andrea di Cione, is the expressive severity of the figures; indeed, the two mourners witness the scene in silence and the immobility of the composition is barely ruffled by the blessing gesture of Saint John. Also noteworthy, despite its small size, is the search for effects of preciousness, typical of the early small-format paintings by Andrea and Orcagnesque painters active in the sixth decade of the 14th century and evident in the striking decorative band running along the inner edges where the very common punched motif of the six-petalled rosette has been used. The stiff folds of the clothes and the incised and simplified outline are still far from the compositional refinements that would characterize the works of his mature phase, like the two precious small panels with Saint Agnes and Saint Domitilla (Florence, Galleria dell´Accademia; datable towards the middle of the 1360s and the apex of his artistic production; on the basis of these considerations, therefore, it is possible to hypothesize for the Crucifixion a date near the beginning of Andrea´s stylistic development, around 1350, and therefore consider it one of his very earliest works.

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Provenance
Private collection, London
Literature
A. Lenza, The Middle Ages and Early Renaissance: Paintings and Sculptures from the Carlo De Carlo Collection and other Provenance, Florence 2012, pp. 38-41

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"European Works of Art and Sculpture, Old Master Paintings"

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