Lorenzo MonacoLorenzo Monaco (‘Lawrence the Monk’) was the most important painter in Florence in the first two decades of the fifteenth century. He was born, possibly in Siena, in the late 1360s or early 1370s, and his name as a layman was Piero di Giovanni. He took the name of Lorenzo when he took vows at the Camaldolese monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli at Florence in 1391. He was ordained deacon in 1396. By March 1402 he was living outside the monastery in the parish of San Bartolo del Corso, and in the same year he enrolled in the Arte dei Medici e Speziale under his lay name. In 1415 he bought a house opposite San Maria Nuova, where he lived until his death. He is last documented on 7 August 1422 and may have died on 24 May 1424.
Few other facts are known about his life. He is sometimes assumed to have trained as a book painter in the monastic scriptorium, and some examples of his work as a miniaturist have come down to us. Another theory is that he trained in the workshop of Agnolo Gaddi. Some predella panels (three in the Louvre) from a polyptych produced in Agnolo Gaddi’s shop in 1387-88 have been attributed to Lorenzo as perhaps his earliest surviving works.
An altarpiece, now in the Accademia at Florence, was commissioned by 1407 for the monastery of Monte Oliveto and completed in 1410. The great Coronation of the Virgin, painted for Lorenzo’s own monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli and now in the Uffizi, is signed and dated February 1413 (1414 in the modern calendar). A similar altarpiece of the Coronation of the Virgin was painted, probably between 1407 and 1409, for another Camaldolese monastery, San Benedetto fuori della Porta a Pinti. Most of it, reassembled from fragments, is now in the National Gallery, London. Some frescoes in the church of Santa Trinita are mentioned by Vasari. On the basis of these few authenticated works, a great many attributions have been made. The status of some attributed early pictures is unresolved and the question of workshop participation is often vexed; but Lorenzo Monaco’s own output was undoubtedly considerable.
Lorenzo Monaco’s early works (large and small altarpieces with flat figures, gold backgrounds and little sense of spatial depth) are in the late Giottesque tradition of Agnolo Gaddi and Spinello Aretino. His later works show the influence of the International Gothic style. Figures tend to become very elongated, with elegant, swaying poses, and are wrapped in voluminous draperies with sweeping folds. Narrative scenes have a fairy-tale quality. Compositional ideas and motifs were borrowed from (or shared with) the sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti.
Altenburg. Lindenau Museum.
Flight into Egypt. Wood, 20 x 32.
The Holy Family are accompanied by two midwives (who are not mentioned in the canonical Gospels but appear in several apocryphal ones). This well-preserved little quatrefoil panel is from the predella of an altarpiece (possibly the Annunciation in the Accademia, Florence). It is usually dated shortly before 1410. Two other panels from the same predella are in the Courtauld Institute Galleries, London, and a fourth is in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Acquired by Bernhard von Lindenau by 1848. Originally ascribed to the Sienese School, it was recognised as a work of Lorenzo Monaco by Crowe and Cavalcaselle (1864).
Crucifixion with SS. Francis, Benedict and Romuald. Wood, 56 x 42.
The kneeling St Francis embraces the base of the cross, while St Benedict and St Romuald sit at the sides in white Camaldolese habits. Tiny angels collect the blood that drips from the wounds in Christ's hands and side. This penitential panel was acquired in Rome in 1848 as a work of Spinello Aretino. It is almost perfectly preserved.
St Jerome in his Study. Wood, 23 x 18.
Possibly half of a small diptych; a companion panel, representing the Madonna of Humility, is in the Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen. First recorded in 1872 (with an attribution to the School of Murano) in the famous Costabili collection at Ferrara. It was later owned by the Berlin economist Richard von Kaufmann (from about 1885) and then the Amsterdam sugeon Otto Lanz (from 1917). Lanz's extensive collection of early Italian art was sold by his widow to Adolf Hitler in 1941 but returned to the Netherlands after the War.
Assisi. Basilica of San Francesco. Mason Perkins Collection.
Madonna of Humility. Wood, 84 x 59.
The Virgin is seated on a marble dais with one knee folded beneath her. The Christ Child stands on her other, raised knee, making a gesture of benediction with his right hand. Two small adoring angels kneel on floating clouds. The panel is one of the best preserved works in the Mason Perkins Collection. It has often been ascribed to Lorenzo Monaco's workshop, but some more recent art historians (including Federico Zeri in his 1988 catalogue of the Mason Perkins Collection) have argued for an attribution to the master himself as a very early work.
Avignon. Musée du Petit Palais.
Triptych. Wood, 162 x 150.
The centre panel shows St Lawrence enthroned, dressed as a deacon, holding a book, martyr's palm and chalice and with his feet on a gridiron. The saint in the left-hand panel has been called Agnes and Catherine, but is more usually identified as Ansanus (a patron saint of Siena). The saint in the right-hand panel is identified by the dragon as Margaret of Antioch. In the pinnacles are small medallions representing the Redeemer Blessing and the Angel and Virgin of the Annunciation. The inscription includes the date 1407 (now partly effaced). The triptych is from the church of San Salvatore in Valle at Monteloro (a village near Pontassieve, east of Florence). It was acquired in 1861 with the Campana collection as a work of Taddeo Gaddi, but the 'style of Lorenzo' was recognised by Crowe and Cavalcaselle (1864). The execution has usually been ascribed to the artist's workshop or to a follower. Three predella panels in the Vatican Pinacoteca depict the martyrdoms of the saints represented in the triptych.
Baltimore. Walters Art Museum.
Crucifixion of St Peter. Wood, 25 x 41.
Part of a predella, which also included panels in Berlin, Leicester, Princeton and a private collection. The Baltimore panel stood beneath a panel of St Peter in the Accademia, Florence. The Accademia also houses three other panels of full-length saints from the sides of the altarpiece, which probably came from the church of Santa Maria del Carmine. The centre panel of the altarpiece, representing the Madonna Enthroned, is at Toledo (Ohio). Acquired (with an attribution to Pietro Cavallini) by Henry Walters in 1902 with the vast Massarenti collection.
Bergamo. Accademia Carrara.
Man of Sorrows. Wood, 34 x 24.
The dead Christ is shown from the waist up, standing in a tomb of pink marble, with a black cross behind him. The figure of Christ resembles the Man of Sorrows of 1404 in the Accademia, Florence. The small panel has been cut down on all sides. Its original purpose is uncertain: it could have been half a diptych (the other half would probably have been a Madonna and Child), a panel from a polyptych or the door of a tabernacle. Bequeathed with the collection of the art historian Giovanni Morelli in 1891.
Nativity. Wood, 25 x 60.
The centre panel of a predella. It stood beneath the Madonna Enthroned at Toledo (Ohio). Other panels from the predella, which stood beneath the four panels of standing saints in Florence (Accademia), are in the museums at Baltimore, Leicester and Princeton; one is still in private hands. Previously ascribed to the School of Agnolo Gaddi. An attribution to Lorenzo Monaco was first suggested in 1939 (by Sandberg-Vavalà in Art in America). Acquired by Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia in 1821 with the huge collection of the English merchant Edward Solly.
Martyrdom of St Catherine; Last Supper. Wood, 44 x 58 and 47 x 143.
Two panels from a predella. The Martyrdom of St Catherine was on the left, beneath a standing figure of St Catherine (Accademia, Florence). The long panel of the Last Supper was in the centre. A panel representing the Martyrdom of St Caius (Santa Barbara Museum) was on the right. The predella came from an altarpiece painted for the convent church of San Gaggio (or Santa Caterina al Monte) at Florence. The two Berlin panels were previously ascribed to Spinello Aretino and then to Niccolò di Pietro Gerini. From the Solly collection.
Bologna. Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Madonna and Child with Angels. Wood, 127 x 75.
Possibly the centre panel of a large altarpiece. Well preserved, but cut down at both top and bottom. Considered an early work of Lorenzo Monaco and /or his workshop. Acquired on the antiques market in 1894.
Cambridge. Fitzwilliam Museum.
Virgin and Child Enthroned. Wood, 32 x 21.
This small panel is possibly half of a diptych. It is considered one of Lorenzo Monaco’s earliest paintings. It was acquired by Charles Butler in Florence in 1883 from the Fricca collection, and exhibited at the Royal Academy in the following year as the work of ‘Justus of Padua’. It was bought by the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1893, and first attributed to Lorenzo Monaco in 1905 by Osvald Sirén, who dated it 1400-3.
Chicago. Art Institute.
Crucifixion. Wood, 51 x 23.
A small processional cross. (Such crosses were mounted on long poles and carried in church processions.) At the foot of the cross kneel Mary Magdalene and a penitent in rags. In a tiny medallion at the top, the Risen Christ holds two palm branches. In a cave beneath the foot of the cross, King David holds a scroll with a quotation from Psalms ('Have mercy upon me, O God'). Listed under Bernardo Daddi by Berenson, and called simply ‘Florentine, c.1400’ in Christopher Lloyd’s 1993 catalogue of the collection. But attributed firmly to Lorenzo Monaco as an early work by Carl Strehlke in his review of Lloyd’s catalogue (Burlington Magazine, September 1994) and by Laurence Kanter in the catalogue to the 1994 exhibition Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence, 1300-1450 at the Metropolitan Museum. Bequeathed with the Ryerson collection in 1933.
Copenhagen. Thorvaldsen Museum.
Madonna of Humility. Wood, 23 x 18.
This subject was immensely popular with Lorenzo Monaco and his workshop: Marvin Eisenberg’s 1989 monograph discusses no less than twenty-four examples. Possibly half a diptych, of which the other half is the St Jerome in Amsterdam. Bequeathed by Thorvaldsen to the Danish state in 1844.
Edinburgh. National Gallery of Scotland.
Madonna and Child. Wood, 102 x 62.
The central panel of an altarpiece; there would have been standing saints at the sides (a fragment of the red drapery of one is just visible at the left edge). The curious golden seat, with cloven feet and with lion heads at the ends of the arms, was probably inspired by the description of the throne of King Solomon in the Book of Kings. Eisenberg (1989) dates the panel about 1418-20, and ascribes only the design to Lorenzo Monaco. Acquired in Italy, probably in 1863, by William Drury-Lowe of Locko Park (near Derby). Bought by the National Gallery of Scotland at the Locko Park sale at Sotheby’s in 1965.
Empoli. Museo del Collegiata.
Triptych: Madonna and Saints. Wood, 157 x 205.
The Virgin and Child are enthroned between SS. John and Donninus (left) and Peter and Anthony Abbot (right). In the pinnacles above the side panels are the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Annunciate; the centre pinnacle is missing. The date 1404 is inscribed on the base. From the suppressed church of San Donino, near Empoli.
Fiesole. Museo Bandini.
Crucifixion with the Virgin and SS. John the Evangelist and Francis. Wood, 123 x 55. Transferred from the Oratorio di Sant’Ansano in about 1910. Cleaning in the early 1950s removed repainting from the figure of the Virgin and has left the gesso ground exposed. According to Luciano Bellosi (1979), the panel was the centre of a triptych, the wings of which were the St Francis receiving the Stigmata in Amsterdam and the Funeral of St Francis in the Pallavicini collection in Rome. Eisenberg (1989) regards the panels as late products of Lorenzo Monaco’s workshop (early 1420s).
Coronation of the Virgin. Wood, 512 x 450.
On a rainbow in heaven, Christ crowns his mother, who wears a white mantle in honour of the Benedictine Order. Sixteen angels form a choir around the throne. The one with the organ in the centre was cut away at some later date to accommodate a tabernacle but has been recently reconstructed on a separate, removable board. On either side are saints and prophets, including the kneeling SS. John the Evangelist, Andrew and Romuald (founder of the Camaldolese branch of the Benedictines in a white habit) on the right, and SS, Benedict, Peter and John the Baptist on the left. In the side pinnacles are the Angel Gabriel and the seated Virgin Annunciate, and in the centre God the Father Blessing. In the quatrefoil panels of the predella are the Nativity, the Adoration of the Kings and four legends of St Benedict. (It has been suggested recently – by Laurence Kanter in the catalogue to the 2005-6 Fra Angelico exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum, New York – that the Adoration and two of the Benedict scenes were painted by the young Angelico as a pupil in Lorenzo Monaco’s workshop.) The great altarpiece stood originally on the high altar of the church of Lorenzo Monaco’s own monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli. It is inscribed with the date February 1413 (1414 in the modern calendar). In the late sixteenth century, it was replaced by the Coronation of the Virgin by Alessandro Allori (now in the Accademia). Lorenzo Monaco’s Coronation was rediscovered in the mid-nineteenth century at the Badia di San Pietro at Cerreto, near Certaldo, and was transferred to the Uffizi in 1864. During the Second World War it was deposited at Torre a Cona, and the predella was slightly damaged by hot soup when it was used as a mess table by billeted troops. The main panel is in an excellent state of preservation, the only substantial damage being in the area of the old tabernacle door. The colour is beautiful – though perhaps a little paler than intended because of a nineteenth-century cleaning with caustic soda.
Adoration of the Kings. Wood, 144 x 177.
This picture was originally a triptych; the divisions between the panels were removed in the late fifteenth century, when the Annunciation, Prophets and Eternal Father on the frame were added by Cosimo Rosselli. It came from San Marco, and was transferred to the Accademia (and then to the Uffizi in 1844) as a work of Fra Angelico. It is a late work, sometimes identified with an altarpiece painted by Lorenzo Monaco for Sant’Egidio for which he was paid between 1420 and 1422. It is perhaps Lorenzo Monaco’s most International Gothic work, with very elongated figures and sweeping folds of draperies. Restored in 1995.
Monte Oliveto Altarpiece. Wood, 274 x 259.
The Virgin and Child enthroned in the centre; SS. John the Baptist and Bartholomew on the left; SS. Thaddeus and Benedict on the right; two prophets (Malachi and Isaiah) in the spandrels; and the Annunciation and Christ Blessing in the pinnacles. This important altarpiece is almost perfectly preserved. Lorenzo Monaco’s only securely documented painting, it was commissioned by the Benedictine monks of San Bartolomeo at Monte Oliveto, outside the Porta San Frediano at Florence. Payments to Lorenzo Monaco were made in July 1407 and June 1411; the date 1410 is inscribed on the base. Transferred to the Uffizi in 1867, and exhibited at the Accademia since 1976.
Agony in the Garden. Wood, 222 x 109.
Two small predella scenes in quatrefoil frames show the Betrayal and Stripping of Christ. One of Lorenzo Monaco’s earliest surviving works, perhaps dating from the late 1390s. It may have influenced the design of Ghiberti’s slightly later Agony in the Garden on his first Baptistery Door. From Santa Maria degli Angeli; exhibited from 1814 in the Uffizi and from 1919 in the Accademia.
Man of Sorrows with Symbols and Episodes of the Passion. Wood, 267 x 170.
Christ is supported in the tomb by the Virgin and St John the Evangelist. Disembodied heads and hands act out episodes from Christ’s Passion. At the top of the cross, a pelican feeds its young with its own blood. At the sides are the ladder and the column of the Flagellation, and at the base pyxes and a gilded chalice. The inscription gives the date 1404; the coats-of-arms on either side have not been identified. The picture’s original location is not known. It was acquired in 1871 from a Cav. Carovana by William Blundell Spence, an English painter and dealer living in Florence. After the London National Gallery had refused to buy it, Spence sold it to the Accademia in 1886. The frame is original.
Triptych: Annunciation and Saints. Wood, 210 x 229.
The elegant gesture of the Virgin shrinking from the angel recalls Simone Martini’s famous Annunciation in the Uffizi. SS. Catherine and Anthony Abbot are represented on the left wing and SS. Procolus and Francis on the right. In the central roundel is Christ Blessing; the side pinnacles have lost their half-length prophets. (The Isaiah from the right pinnacle is in a private collection.) The triptych is extremely well preserved. It was transferred to the Accademia in 1812 from the Badia. The presence of St Procolus suggests that the triptych may have come from the Florentine church of San Procolo (which was suppressed in 1788 and its works of art transferred to the Badia). A date of 1409 is recorded.
Three Predella Panels. Wood, 26 x 58/61.
These three panels (depicting St Nicholas rescuing the Ship from the Storm, the Nativity, and the Legend of St Onofrius) were long displayed as a predella beneath Lorenzo Monaco’s Annunciation in the Accademia. But, as Pudelko pointed out in 1938-39, they originally formed the predella of Fra Angelico’s famous Descent from the Cross, which was painted for the Strozzi Chapel at Santa Trinita and is now in the San Marco Museum. The altarpiece was probably left unfinished by Lorenzo Monaco at his death, with Fra Angelico painting the main panel some ten or twenty years later.
Crucifixion (59 x 39); Virgin (50 x 46); St John the Evangelist (50 x 46).
These three panels were the pinnacles of an altarpiece. They came to the Accademia in 1867 from the church of San Jacopo de’Barbetti (sopr’Arno). Vasari mentions an altarpiece by Vasari in the church.
Madonna and Child with SS. Catherine and John the Baptist, a Female Martyr and St Peter. Wood, 89 x 49.
Dated 1408. Traditionally ascribed to Cennino Cennini on the basis of a false inscription on the frame. The attribution to Lorenzo Monaco (or his ‘circle’) was made by Cavalcaselle in 1885. The execution may be largely by the workshop. Acquired in 1883 from the Toscanelli collection for 2750 lire.
Crucifixion. Wood, 220 x 190.
One of a number of large cutout crucifixes (croce sagomata) produced by Lorenzo Monaco and his workshop. Transferred to the Accademia from the hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in 1900.
Four Saints. Wood, 97/102 x 36/40.
The four full-length figures of Saints Jerome, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul were the side panels of a large polyptych. The other panels are widely scattered. According to a reconstruction first proposed in 1965 (by Federico Zeri in the Burlington Magazine), the centre panel was the Madonna and Child Enthroned now at Toledo (Ohio) and the five predella panels were (from left to right) the St Jerome in the Wilderness in a private collection (sold at Sotheby’s in 2005), the St John the Baptist entering the Wilderness at Leicester, the Nativity at Berlin, the Martyrdom of St Peter at Baltimore, and the Beheading of St Paul at Princeton. The four Accademia panels were found in 1810 in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine at Florence, and it is usually assumed that the polyptych (which appears to have been dismantled by 1745) came from that church. The individual panels had previously passed under a variety of different attributions (the Saints in the Accademia had been classed simply as Florentine School). They are now generally accepted as early works of Lorenzo Monaco, dating probably from the 1390s. The panels were reunited for the first time in 2006 when the Accademia hosted the exhibition Lorenzo Monaco: A Bridge from Giotto’s Heritage to the Renaissance.
St Catherine of Alexandria; St Caius. Wood, 216/218 x 51.
The Virgin Annunciate and Angel Gabriel in the pinnacles. Side panels from an altarpiece painted for church of San Gaggio at Florence. The church, attached to a convent of Augustinian nuns in the southern suburbs of the city, was dedicated to St Catherine and to St Caius. It is thought that the Coronation of the Virgin in the Courtauld Institute in London formed the central pinnacle of the altarpiece and that two panels in Berlin (representing the Martyrdom of St Catherine and the Last Supper) and a panel at Santa Barbara (representing the Martyrdom of St Caius) belonged to the predella. Attributed to Lorenzo Monaco as very early works (mid-1390s?).
Christ Blessing. Wood, 82 x 42.
The risen Christ raises his right hand in blessing and holds in his left hand an open book inscribed with the Greek letters Alpha and Omega (the letters used in the Book of Revelation to symbolise Christ as 'the First and the Last'). His garment and the clouds on which he floats are painted in the finest and bluest lapis lazzuli, and the panel was included recently in an exhibition at the Pitti Palace (Lapis-Lazzuli: Magia del Blu (2015)) as an example of the use of the precious pigment in sacred painting. The panel is very like the Christ Blessing forming the central pinnacle of the Monte Oliveto Altarpece (dated 1410 and also now at the Accademia). It was once in the Florentine collection of the American art historian Charles Loeser. Transferred to the Accademia in 2002 from the monastery of San Niccolò di Cafaggio (which houses the Florentine restoration laboratories).
Florence. Horne Museum.
Crucifixion. Wood, 66 x 44.
This small processional cross, painted on both front and back, was probably executed by Lorenzo Monaco’s workshop. Of unknown provenance.
Florence. Museo dello Spedale degli Innocenti.
Dead Christ. Detached fresco, 51 x 66.
Transferred, along with other detached frescoes, from the refectory of the Ognissanti to the Innocenti Museum in 1960. Its original location is unknown.
Florence (Settignano). Villa I Tatti.
Madonna with SS. John the Baptist and Zenobius. Wood, 89 x 48.
The Baptist and Zenobius are patron saints of Florence. An early work (about 1400?) of unknown provenance. Acquired by Berenson by 1912.
Madonna of Humility. Wood, 78 x 41.
Inscribed with the date 1405. There is a very similar picture, dated 1407, in the gallery at Stuttgart. Once in the collection of the Swedish art historian Osvald Sirén, who published the pathbreaking book on Lorenzo Monaco in 1905. One of several paintings acquired by Berenson in 1909-10 from the Milanese music critic Aldo Noseda.
Stained glass window: Vision of Joachim.
The window, the only one in the church attributable to Lorenzo Monaco, is situated in the central lunette of the north wall. ‘Frante Lorenzo degli Agnioli’, as he is called in the church records, received payments of 6 lire in June 1410 and 35 lire 15 soldi in August 1410. He was probably responsible for painting the glass itself as well as making the cartoon; the glazier was Niccolò di Pietro Tedesco.
Florence. San Giovannino dei Cavalieri.
Crucifixion. Wood, 416 x 221.
A cutout cross, with the Virgin and St John seated below. From the church of the Romiti di Camaldoli (San Salvatore), outside Florence, where it was noted by Vasari. San Salvatore was the seat of the Maltese order of the Camaldolese, which was later transferred to San Giovannino.
Florence. San Giuseppe.
Crucifix. Wood, 308 x 226.
This cutout cross had passed unrecorded before Sirén’s monograph of 1905.
Florence. Santa Marta.
Crucifix. Wood, 319 x 223.
Another cutout cross from Lorenzo Monaco’s workshop. Formerly ascribed to Agnolo Gaddi. Its history is unknown.
Florence. Santa Trinita. Bartolini-Salimbeni Chapel (4th in the south aisle).
Frescoes of the Life of the Virgin.
The brothers Salimbene and Bartolomeo Bartolini-Salimbeni, who were rich silk merchants of the Santa Trinita parish, provided for the endowment of their family chapel in 1405. Lorenzo Monaco’s frescoes are undocumented, but they are generally thought to date from the very end of his career (after 1420). The late Gothic chapel was whitewashed in the early eighteenth century, and the frescoes were rediscovered only in 1885-87. They are Lorenzo Monaco's only surviving frescoes. Only fragments of some scenes survive. Restoration in 1961-62 removed some nineteenth-century repainting and there was another restoration in 2004. On the left wall, the Expulsion of Joachim from the Temple and the Annunciation of Joachim (now partly obliterated) are shown in the lunette, above the Meeting at the Golden Gate. On the end wall are narrow scenes (very damaged) of the Birth of the Virgin and her Presentation in the Temple at the sides of the altar, with the Miracle of the Snow in the lunette. The Marriage of the Virgin (largely intact except for the bottom right corner) is on the right wall, with the Death of the Virgin in the lunette. In the webbing of the vault are four seated prophets (Moses, David, Malachi and Micah) and on the soffit of the arch are four standing saints (Bartholomew, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist and Paul). The Assumption of the Virgin is in the lunette over the entrance to the chapel.
Annunciation. Wood, 300 x 274.
This beautiful altarpiece, like the frescoes, is probably a late work. It is complete and exceptionally well preserved. The basic form of the altarpiece, with the Annunciation depicted in a single field but with arches recalling a triptych, follows that of Simone Martini's famous Annunciation of 1333 (now in the Uffizi). The long inscription along the base of the scene gives the angelic salutation from Luke: 28-9. The medallions in the three ogee pinnacles represent bust-length prophets. Isaiah, in the centre, holds a scroll announcing the Virgin birth. Four of the five compartments on each side pilaster are painted with little standing figures of saints; the top compartments are empty and there is no evidence they were ever painted. The pilaster saints and pinnacle prophets may have been painted by an assistant. But the charming predella scenes (representing the Visitation, Nativity, Adoration of the Magi and Flight into Egypt) are probably by Lorenzo Monaco’s own hand. The altarpiece was restored in the 1950s and again in 1998.
The chapel is closed by its original early fifteenth-century wrought-iron grill (rarely open).
St John the Baptist entering the Wilderness. Wood, 28 x 36.
Bought by the museum in 1959 from Colnaghi for £1,500 with an attribution (suggested by Pope-Hennessy) to Andrea di Bartolo. In 1965, Federico Zeri reattributed the panel to Lorenzo Monaco and included it in a reconstruction of the Carmine Altarpiece that included other predella panels in Baltimore, Berlin, Princeton and a private collection. The Leicester panel would have been placed second from the left, beneath the standing figure of the Baptist in the Accademia, Florence. First recorded in 1863, when it was sold at Christie’s with the Davenport Bromley collection as a work of Pietro Lorenzetti. Later owned by the travel writer Edward Hutton and by Lord Southesk.
London. National Gallery.
Coronation of the Virgin. Wood, 217 x 334.
St Romuald, founder of the Camaldolese Benedictines, kneels in a white habit on the extreme right with St John the Baptist and St Matthew. He is balanced on the extreme left by St Benedict (holding a book inscribed with the Prologue of his Rule and a birch for disciplining errant monks) with St John the Evangelist and St Peter. The picture is a smaller, earlier version of the great altarpiece painted for Santa Maria degli Angeli (now in the Uffizi). It was commissioned in 1407 for the high altar of the Camaldolese monastery of San Benedetto fuori della Porta a Pinti, just outside Florence. The patron was Luca di Piero di Rinieri Berri, a wealthy member of the Arte del Cambio (Bankers’ Guild). It was completed by 1409. When the monastery was demolished during the Siege of Florence in 1529-30, the altarpiece was moved to the Alberti Chapel in the cloister of Santa Maria degli Angeli, where Vasari saw it. The altarpiece is damaged and incomplete. The main tier was originally a single panel with a triple-arched top and was only divided into three parts sometime after 1792, when it was removed from the church. The two side panels of saints were presented to the National Gallery in 1848 by William Coningham. The centre part remained in Italy until 1902, when it was bought from the Landi family of Certaldo. In 1940, the three sections were brought together in a newly constructed frame. Vertical gaps in the composition, each some three inches wide, are filled by modern additions. Damage along the bottom edge – the two side sections have been cut down and the central section has suffered serious paint losses – may have been caused when Santa Maria degli Angeli flooded in 1557. Further damage was done by the cutting of a doorway for a tabernacle or cupboard; the missing blue drapery of the central organ-playing angel has been reconstructed. The picture was cleaned and restored in 2000.
Most of the predella is also in the National Gallery. There would probably have been pinnacles depicting the Angel Gabriel on the left, the Annunciate Virgin on the right (possibly a panel now in Pasadena) and the Redeemer Blessing in the centre (possibly a panel once belonging to the art historian Charles Loeser and still in private hands).
Predella Panels from the ‘Coronation’: Legends of St Benedict. Wood.
One panel (29 x 52) shows three episodes. On the left, St Benedict urges Maurus to save Placidus, whose death by drowning had been miraculously revealed to him. In the centre, Maurus walks over the water and grasps Placidus by the hair. On the right, the saint visits his sister Scholastica, and is detained overnight at her nunnery by a storm. The panel was bought from Canon Arthur Sutton of Brant Broughton (Lincolnshire) in 1925. A second panel (on long-term loan from a private collection) shows the Death of St Benedict. The two panels were originally in one piece, and are now framed together. A third panel (29 x 39) shows St Benedict admitting Maurus and Placidus into the Benedictine order. It was presented by Henry Wagner in 1912. Two other panels from the predella have been identified. One is in the Vatican Pinacoteca and represents Two Miracles of St Benedict. The other (considerably longer and presumably from the centre of the predella) is at Pozna? (Poland) and represents the Adoration of the Magi.
St Benedict in the Sacro Speco. Wood, 37 x 28.
The story is from the Golden Legend. St Romanus, warned by an angel that the young Benedict was in danger of starving in his cave, shared his Easter meal with him. A tiny devil is shown trying to break the rope as the food is lowered in a basket. Probably a fragment from a predella (but not that to the Coronation of the Virgin). In Lorenzo Monaco’s style, but not necessarily from his own hand. Much abraded. Bought from Agnew’s in 1927 by Lord Rothermere, who bequeathed it to the National Gallery in 1940.
Baptism of Christ. Wood, 39 x 29.
This well-preserved little painting has been ascribed to Agnolo Gaddi in the past and was exhibited until fairly recently simply as a work of the Florentine School. It is now attributed to Lorenzo Monaco as a very early work. It was probably the end panel of a predella. It has been suggested (first by Federico Zeri in the 1964 Burlington Magazine) that it came from the same predella as three panels in the Louvre and a panel in a private collection representing Hermogenes casting His Magic Books into the Water. It has been further suggested that the predella belonged to an altarpiece painted in Agnolo Gaddi’s workshop in 1387-88 for a chapel in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. The main panels of the altarpiece (by Agnolo Gaddi) are in Berlin. The Baptism was in England by 1847, when it was sold as a work of Pietro Cavallini, and it still bore this improbable attribution in 1885, when it was bought by Henry Wagner. Presented to National Gallery in 1926 by Lord Rothermere.
London. Courtauld Institute Galleries.
Visitation; Adoration of the Kings. Wood, 22 x 32.
These two little panels belonged to the same predella as the Flight into Egypt at Altenburg and the Nativity in New York. They may (as Sirén suggested in 1905) have stood beneath the Badia Annunciation (Accademia, Florence). In the nineteenth century they were in the collections of James Dennistoun (the Scottish historian of the Italian Renaissance), the Rev. Davenport Bromley, and Thomas Gambier-Parry (the connoisseur and artist). Once ascribed to Taddeo Gaddi or to Giottino, they were recognised as works of Lorenzo Monaco by Roger Fry, who visited the Parry collection at Highnam Court, near Gloucester, with Bernard Berenson in 1903. The Gambier-Parry collection was bequeathed to London University in 1966.
Coronation of the Virgin. Wood, 195 x 155.
Four angels kneel in the lower corners. Christ blessing in the trefoil medallion holds a book with the Alpha and Omega symbols. This large and imposing panel is still in its original engaged frame with gabled top. It was published in Gustav Waagen’s Art Treasures (1854) as a work of Giotto (‘agreeing in every respect with [the] well-known picture in Santa Croce’), and it was with this attribution that it was acquired by Thomas Gambier-Parry at the Davenport Bromley sale at Christie’s in 1863. Gambier-Parry was himself sceptical of the attribution, supposing the picture to be ‘by a first-rate pupil – some one of the Gaddi’. There were later attributions to Andrea Orcagna, Jacopo di Cione, Mariotto di Nardo, Agnolo Gaddi and Lorenzo di Niccolò. In 1950 Hans Gronau (Burlington Magazine) identified the picture as the central pinnacle of the San Gaggio Altarpiece – the two side panels of which are in the Accademia at Florence.
Madrid. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.
Madonna enthroned with Six Angels. Wood, 147 x 83.
This somewhat damaged panel (the faces of the Virgin and the right-hand angel have been partly remodelled) was probably the centre of an altarpiece. Probably a late work: it is dated about 1415-17 by Boskovits in his 1990 catalogue of early Italian pictures in the Thyssen collection and about 1422-23 by Eisenberg (who ascribes the execution to the workshop). The frame is original but much restored. First recorded in 1887 in Florence, and later in private Scottish collections and then the New York collection of Rudolf Heinemann. Acquired by Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza in 1981.
Monte San Savino (24 km south-west of Arezzo). Santa Maria delle Vertighe.
Crucifix. Wood, 127 x 84.
A cutout processional cross. Probably originally at the Camaldolese monastery of San Benedetto fuori della Porta a Pinti, just outside Florence, which was destroyed during the 1529-30 siege.
New Haven. Yale University Art Gallery.
Crucifixion with the Virgin and St John the Evangelist. Wood, 65 x 37.
This damaged panel (a deep crack runs the entire length) was probably executed by Lorenzo Monaco’s workshop or by a close follower. Bought with the Jarves collection in 1871 (with an attribution to Giotto). It was almost completely repainted until the late 1960s, when it was rigorously cleaned. There is another version in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.
New York. Metropolitan Museum.
Nativity. Wood, 22 x 30.
A charming night scene. Together with other quatrefoil panels in Altenburg and London (Courtauld Institute), it belonged to the predella of an altarpiece that has not yet been firmly identified. It was probably in the sale of pictures of the historian James Dennistoun at Christie’s in 1855, when it is said to have come from the collection of M. Lauriani, Librarian at the Vatican. Later in the Kaufmann collection at Berlin, it was acquired by Robert Lehman in 1934.
Four Panels of Prophets. Wood, each 66/57 x 45/43.
The four well-preserved, brilliantly coloured panels represent Moses (holding the tablets of stone), Abraham (holding the knife and flame in his right hand and laying his left hand on the head of his son Isaac), David (with harp) and Noah (holding a model of the ark on one knee and pointing heavenwards). They are usually dated around 1405-10. Their original location and purpose is unknown. Three of the panels were in the Biondi collection at Florence, and were sold as works of Fra Angelico at Paris in 1841. They were later in the collection of Henri Chaladin and his descendants at Parcieux (near Trévoux) and were acquired by the museum from Wildenstein in 1965. The David was bought from Wildenstein with the other three panels but has a different earlier provenance. It was once owned by the English painter George Augustus Wallis (who died in Florence in 1847) and later in the collections of the Kassel Gallery (sold 1929) and the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation of New York (sold 1962).
Crucifixion with the Virgin and St John the Evangelist. Wood, 85 x 37.
Almost identical in composition to the damaged panel in the Yale Gallery at New Haven. It has been suggested that it could be the missing central pinnacle of the altarpiece of 1404 at Empoli. Eisenberg (1989) thinks it was ‘produced in Don Lorenzo’s shop around 1405 to 1408’. Once in the hands of the famous Florentine dealer Stefano Bandini, and later in Frank Loeser’s collection; acquired by Robert Lehman in 1958.
Madonna of Humility. Wood, 90 x 56.
This somewhat worn panel was long accepted as an autograph early work. However, Federico Zeri (in his 1971 museum catalogue) and Marvin Eisenberg (in his 1989 monograph) considered it a studio work, designed by Lorenzo Monaco but executed by an assistant. According to both critics, the same assistant (Bartolomeo di Fruosino?) may have painted a triptych (St Lawrence enthroned with SS. Ansanus and Margaret) at Avignon. Acquired in the early twentieth century by Victor G. Fisher of Washington from an art dealer in Dover and sold to the museum in 1909.
Intercession of Christ and the Virgin. Canvas, 239 x 153.
Christ, pointing to the wound in his side and gesturing towards his mother, says: ‘My father, let those be saved for whom you wished me to suffer the Passion’. The Virgin, holding a breast and gesturing towards eight tiny kneeling figures, says: ‘Dearest son, because of the milk that I gave you, have mercy on them’. This large picture originally hung over an altar on the inner façade of Florence Cathedral. It was removed sometime after 1846. It had entered the collection of the Earl Crawford by 1856, and it remained in his family’s collection at Haigh Hall in Wigan until 1946. Acquired by the Metropolitan Museum in 1953. The picture has proved difficult to attribute. In the past, it has sometimes been ascribed to Nicolo di Pietro Gerini but more often called the work of an unknown Florentine painter. The museum currently attributes it to Lorenzo Monaco as an early work (‘before 1402’).
New York. Brooklyn Museum.
Madonna of Humility. Wood, 84 x 47.
The Medici coat-of-arms on the base is a later addition. A mature work (about 1415-20). A very similar Madonna in Toledo (Ohio) was probably painted from the same cartoon. In 1908 the panel was in the collection of Charles Loeser in Florence; it was acquired by Frank Lusk Rabbott of Brooklyn in 1916, and given by his family to the museum in 1934.
Agony in the Garden; Three Maries at the Tomb. Wood, 66 x 13.
Inscribed with the date 1408. The two panels, now joined together in one frame, were probably originally the wings of a small triptych. The centre panel was possibly a Lamentation now in Prague. Transferred to the Louvre in 1896 from the Cluny Museum. Once ascribed to Gentile da Fabriano, it was recognised as a work of Lorenzo Monaco by Crowe and Cavalcaselle (1864).
Madonna of Humility. Wood, 92 x 54.
Eisenberg (1989) thinks this panel was designed by Lorenzo Monaco around 1415 and executed by his workshop. There are similar Madonnas by Lorenzo Monaco and/or his workshop at Washington, Philadelphia, Toledo (Ohio), Brooklyn and elsewhere. Acquired in 1863 with the Campana collection. There were old attributions to the School of Giotto and to Orcagna. The Virgin’s face is abraded and her mantle repainted. The frame, with the arms of the Florentine Corsini and Alberti families on the base, is modern.
Three Predella Panels. Wood, 34 x 68/67.
The panel in the centre shows the Crucifixion, that on the left the Banquet of Herod (the composition copied from Giotto’s fresco in the Peruzzi Chapel at Santa Croce), and that on the right two episodes from the life of the Apostle James (St James and the Magician Hermogenes and his Martyrdom). The panels entered the Louvre as Napoleonic plunder in 1814 with an attribution to Taddeo Gaddi. It was recognised in 1950 (by Hans Gronau in the Burlington Magazine) that the panels belonged to the predella of an altarpiece painted in 1387-88 for the chapel, dedicated to St James and the Baptist, of Bernardo di Cini Bartolino dei Nobili in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli at Florence. It has been suggested that the Baptism in the National Gallery, London, and a panel representing Hermogenes casting His Magic Books into the Water (sold at Sotheby’s in 2009) were at the two ends of the predella. The principal panels of the altarpiece (the Madonna and Child Enthroned in the centre, SS John the Evangelist and John the Baptist on one side and SS. James the Great and Bartholomew on the other) were painted by Agnolo Gaddi and are now in Berlin. The three pinnacles of the altarpiece have been identified as three panels (representing the Angel Gabriel, Virgin Annunciate and Redeemer Blessing) formerly in the Cook collection at Richmond (sold at Christie’s in 1984). While it is generally accepted that the three Louvre predella panels came from the Nobili altarpiece, the attribution to the young Lorenzo Monaco, working as an assistant in Agnolo Gaddi’s workshop, has sometimes been doubted (eg. by Bruce Cole in his 1977 monograph on Agnolo Gaddi and by Eisenberg in his 1989 monograph on Lorenzo Monaco). Most of the panels from the altarpiece were brought together in 2006 for the Lorenzo Monaco exhibition at the Accademia in Florence.
Virgin and Child Enthroned. Glass, 16 x 17.
A fragment, broken or cut into a rough hexagon. The picture was engraved in reverse by scratching through gold leaf applied to the back of the glass. At the sides of the Virgin's throne are diminutive figures of St John the Baptist and another saint (John the Evangelist?). The glass plaque might originally have been set into the carved frame of a small reliquary. Bequeathed to the Louvre in 1883 with the collection of the writer Jean Charles Davillier. The attribution to Lorenzo Monaco, as an early work, was made only in 1973 (by Silvana Pettenati). A glass plaque, dated 1408, in the Museo Civico at Turin is similar in technique but later in style.
Pasadena. Norton Simon Museum.
Virgin Annunciate. Wood, 80 x 45.
This graceful panel was possibly one of the pinnacles of the altarpiece of the Coronation of the Virgin from the Camaldolese monastery of San Benedetto, the principal remains of which are now in the National Gallery, London. It would have been on the right, with a Gabriel on the left. Bought by the Prince of Liechtenstein in Florence in 1894 and later in the National Gallery of Canada at Ottawa. Sold by the Canadian gallery in 1958 to Agnew, whence it was acquired by Norton Simon in 1962.
Philadelphia. Museum of Art (John G. Johnson Collection).
Madonna of Humility. Wood, 83 x 50.
Rather darkened and abraded (the gold background has been renewed). The composition is very similar to that of pictures in New York (Brooklyn Museum), Toledo (Ohio) and Washington. The frame, with its inscribed base, is not original. Acquired, probably in Florence, by Johnson (through Osvald Sirén) in 1908, and at the Philadelphia Museum since 1933.
Pozna? (Poland). National Museum.
Adoration of the Magi. Wood, 30 x 86.
Probably the centre of the predella of the San Benedetto Coronation of the Virgin; most of the altarpiece is now in the National Gallery, London. The seated Virgin and the old King lifting himself off the ground to kiss the Child’s toes closely resemble the corresponding figures in Ghiberti’s almost contemporary Adoration on his First Baptistery Door. Once in the collection of a Samuel Festetits of Vienna, it was acquired in 1863 by Count Atanazy Raczy?ski of Berlin and Pozna? and entered the museum in 1903.
Prague. National Gallery.
Lamentation. Wood, 67 x 29.
Probably originally either half a diptych or the centre of a triptych. If the latter, the panels of the Agony in the Garden and the Three Maries in the Tomb (now joined together) in the Louvre may have formed the sides. From the collection of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which was exported from Italy to Vienna in 1896 and transferred shortly afterwards to Konopiste Castle.
Princeton. University Art Museum.
Beheading of St Paul. Wood, 26 x 41.
From the same predella as panels in Baltimore, Berlin, Leicester and a private collection. It would have been placed at the right-hand end, beneath the standing figure of St Paul in the Accademia, Florence. Given to the museum in 1936 by Mrs Henry White Cannon of Cleveland.
Rome. Vatican Pinacoteca.
Miracles of St Benedict. Wood, 30 x 65.
The two subjects are: a monk of Subiaco being tempted from his prayers by the Devil; and St Benedict raising a young monk killed by a fall of masonry during the building of Monte Casino. Part of the predella of the altarpiece of the Coronation of the Virgin from the Camaldolese monastery of San Benedetto, just outside Florence. Most of the altarpiece is now in the National Gallery, London. The panel is from the same plank of wood as the London predella panels.
Santa Barbara (California). Museum of Art.
Martyrdom of St Caius.
The historical St Caius was Pope from 283 to 296. His martyrdom is apocryphal; he died several years before the start of Diocletian’s persecution. The panel is from the predella of the San Gaggio Altarpiece. It was on the right, beneath the standing figure of St Caius in the Accademia at Florence. Acquired by the museum in 1967.
Triptych: Madonna and Saints. Wood, 60 x 45.
The centre panel shows the Madonna seated in glory on a bank of clouds. St John the Baptist and St Nicholas of Bari are at the sides, with the Annunciation and a bishop (St Augustine?) in the pinnacles. Probably early (1390s). The side panels may have been executed by an assistant. First recorded in 1842 in the collection of the Instituto di Belle Arti in Siena. Restored in 1981 and in excellent condition.
Madonna of Humility. Wood, 44 x 22.
Inscribed with the date 1407. Acquired in 1967 from a private collection in Milan.
Toledo (Ohio). Museum of Art.
Madonna and Child (no. 45.30). Wood, 87 x 52.
Christ Blessing in the roundel of the pinnacle. Eisenberg (1989) thinks the picture was painted around 1418-20 in Lorenzo Monaco’s workshop. The neo-Gothic frame, with two escutcheons of the Mazzinghi family on the plinth, is modern, but the Blessing Redeemer in the pinnacle presumably came from the original frame. Formerly in the collection of the Earl of Orford at Wolterton (by 1854) and the Cook collection at Richmond (by 1868). Acquired in 1945.
Madonna and Child (no. 76.22). Wood, 124 x 61.
The centre of a polyptych. According to Zeri (1965), the polyptych also included four side panels of standing saints (Jerome, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul) in the Accademia, Florence, and predella panels at Leicester (St John the Baptist leaving for the Desert), Berlin (Nativity), Baltimore (Crucifixion of Peter), Princeton University (Decapitation of St Paul), and in a private collection (St Jerome in the Desert). It may have been executed for a chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine at Florence, from which the four side panels of saints are known to have come. Zeri attributed the altarpiece to Lorenzo Monaco and dated it very early (about 1390). Doubts were subsequently expressed (Bellosi (1965) believed that the altarpiece was done by another late Gothic artist related to the ‘Master of the Straus Madonna’, while Eisenberg (1989) was uncertain about the authorship). But more recent opinion has supported the attribution. Formerly in the collections of Lady Helen O’Brien in London and Marchese Niccolò Antinori in Florence. Acquired in 1976.
Turin. Museo Civico.
Virgin and Child Enthroned with the Baptist and another Saint. Glass, 20 x 14.
Dated 1408. This gilded and painted glass plaque might originally have been set into the carved frame of a small reliquary. Acquired in 1841 from the famous Costabili collection at Ferrara. A glass plaque (fragment) in the Louvre is similar in technique but earlier in style.
Vienna. Liechtenstein Collection.
Madonna in Glory with Angels. Wood, 68 x 36.
The Virgin, seated on a cloud with the Child on her knee, floats above two adoring angels. Late (around 1420). Bought from Constantini of Florence in 1900 by Prince Johann II of Liechtenstein.
Washington. National Gallery of Art.
Madonna of Humility. Wood, 117 x 55.
The Child holds a scroll with an abbreviated quotation from St John's Gospel ('I am the light of the world'). The inscription across the bottom of the panel gives the date 1413 – the same as that on the great Coronation in the Uffizi. The design is very similar to that of pictures in Philadelphia, New York (Brooklyn Museum) and Toledo (Ohio). Ascribed by Eisenberg (1989) to ‘a distinctive assistant to Lorenzo Monaco who used the design of the master for the principal contours of the Virgin’. Once in the Masson collection at Amiens, where it was published as a work of Lorenzo Monaco in 1905 by Osvald Sirén. Acquired by Samuel H. Kress in 1939 from Contini Bonacossi. Damaged but well restored.