Monday, 18 February 2013

The Reconstruction of Pesellino.

 Pesellino, Santa Trinità Altarpiece, 1455-60, Tempera and oil on wood, National Gallery, London.

Att. to Filippino Lippi and Workshop, St Mamas in Prison thrown to the lions, 1455-60, National Gallery, London.
History has not been kind to Francesco di Stefano, more commonly called Pesellino. Vasari confused him with his grandfather, Pesello, stating that this individual was the pupil of Andrea dal Castagno, whilist leaving Francesco in art history oblivion.[1] Those zealous Victorian connoisseurs Crowe and Cavalcaselle put Pesellino on the road to re-discovery, though they found it hard to extricate him from the confusion Vasari had spread. Mary Logan (Mrs Berenson) attempted to isolate a group of pictures[2]; though as Hendy points out, her invention of a fictitious name, “Compagno di Pesellino” muddied the waters further. Logan’s group included the Trinity, whose central panel was bought by the National Gallery, London in 1863. The Trinity was commissioned by the company of Pistoia, thirty km from Florence, and in the words of Hendy “must be the foundation for every attribution to the painter.”[3] The completion of the altarpiece was slowed by the death of Pesellino in 1457, but it was eventually finished by the workshop of Filippino Lippi. Though the situation is complicated, there is extensive documentation which aided greatly in reconstructing the structure.[4] The main tier of the altarpiece was sawn into five fragments, likely in the eighteenth-century, of which four entered the NG between 1863 and 1929, and one- the fragment with Sts Mamas and James on loan to the NG from the Royal Collection. The five fragments were re-united in 1929, and put in a modern frame with four predella panels in 1937.[5] As Gordon points out, the involvement of Lippi and Domenico Veneziano to assess the painting after Pesellino’s death has led to debates about the attribution of the main tier, although its seems likely that the Lippi workshop were responsible for the predella. It has now been established that a fifth panel (Hermitage) was the central one of the Trinity altarpiece, an omission hidden by the modern frame. 
According to Vasari, Pesellino painted an altarpiece for Santa Croce, which is now dispersed and divided between the Uffizi, Louvre and Bergamo. Many panels and drawings are to be found in the museums of the world. The Met own a fine panel showing a Madonna and Six Saints; the Louvre have a Sacra Conversazione, as well as drawings by the artist; and the Uffizi possess panels and drawings. Some of these drawings have been connected with Pesellino’s late altarpieces.[6]

Pesellino, Madonna, Christ, Sts Zenobius and John the Baptist, 1455-7, Museé du Louvre, Paris.

Att. to Pesellino, Head of a Man, c. 1455, black chalk and charcoal on paper, partially prepared with pink wash or pigment, Uffizi, Florence, recto.

[1] Philip Hendy, “Pesellino”, Burlington Magazine, Vol. 53, No. 305, (Aug., 1928), pp. 66-69+72-74.
[2] Mary Logan. "Compagno di Pesellino et quelques peintures de l'école (1er article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 26 (July 1901), 23.
[3] Hendy, “Pesellino”, 68.
[4] A brief summary is provided by Dillian Gordon, “The' missing predella panel of Pesellino’s Trinity altarpiece”, Burlington Magazine, Vol. 138, No. 1115 (Feb., 1996), pp. 87-88.
[5] Gordon, “The' missing predella panel”, 87.
[6] Jean K. Cadogan, “Notes on a Drawing by Pesellino”, Burlington Magazine, Vol. 149, No. 1256, Italian Art (Nov., 2007), pp. 767-77.

No comments:

Post a Comment