Madonna and Child Enthroned with St. John the Evangelist and St. Anthony of Padua

Madonna and Child Enthroned with St. John the Evangelist and St. Anthony of Padua

Biagio Di Antonio Tucci

date
1504
tecnique
oil on wood
dimensions
173 x 146 cm
source of the artwork

Faenza, San francesco, Bazzolini Chapel; entered with Pinacoteca during the Napoleonic suppression.

short description

The Virgin Mary is seated on a rich marble throne, her hands joined in prayer. The Baby Jesus sits in her lap, leaning out to offer a long, thin cross to the saint on his right, St. John the Evangelist who can be identified by his symbol, the eagle at his feet. To the left of the throne in a Franciscan habit, St. Anthony of Padua gazes devoutly heavenwards, holding in his hand a book and a lily symbolising purity. The letters “IHS” inscribed on the base of the throne in a shield held by two angels, are an ancient acronym for the name of Jesus.

The altarpiece was commissioned by Antonia Bazzolini for her family chapel in the church of San Francesco in Faenza in 1504, the presence of St. Anthony of Padua, to whom she must have been especially devoted, alluding to her name. The contract for the painting tells us that an Annunciation scene once surmounted the altarpiece, but it has unfortunately been lost.

position
inventary n°
122

The Virgin Mary is seated on a rich marble throne, her hands joined in prayer. The Baby Jesus sits in her lap, leaning out to offer a long, thin cross to the saint on his right, St. John the Evangelist who can be identified by the eagle at his feet, his symbol in the Tetramorph. To the left of the throne in a Franciscan habit, St. Anthony of Padua gazes devoutly heavenwards, holding in his hand a book and a lily symbolising purity. The letters “IHS” inscribed on the base of the throne in a clypeus, or shield, held by two angels are a monogram standing for Jesus Christ the Saviour that enjoyed particular popularity in the Franciscan order thanks to St. Bernardino of Siena who, while preaching, used to display a rounded shield bearing those letters to his congregation for their veneration.

The altarpiece was commssioned by a widow named Antonia Bazzolini for her family chapel in the church of San Francesco in Faenza in 1504, the presence of St. Anthony of Padua, to whom she must have been especially devoted, alluding to her name. The contract for the painting tells us that an Annunciation scene once surmounted the altarpiece, but it has unfortunately been lost.

The painting is a clear example of the later style of Florentine artist Biagio d’Antonio Tucci who, just after the turn of the century, proved unable to keep fully abreast of the developments in painting from the Veneto and from central Italy that were beginning to enjoy a certain popularity in Emilia and Romagna. The figures appear somewhat static and flat, cartoons from earlier works having been used in their construction, although as the most recent scholarship (Bartoli, 1999; Tambini, 2009) has pointed out, we can detect a few timid attempts to keep up with innovation. In defining his figures’ faces, the artist seems to be looking to his Bolognese contemporaries Francesco Francia and, above all, Lorenzo Costa, while the gilded panel set into the base of the throne and embellished with grotesques echoes the decorative motifs of central Italian origin that Marco Palmezzano was successfully disseminating in Romagna.

Local scholars in the 19th century had lost all of knowledge of the artist who painted the altarpiece, which had entered the municipal art collection in the meantime. 19th century scholars, starting with the Pinacoteca di Faenza’s first Director Federico Argnani writing in 1881, attributed it to Bernardino Zaganelli or to Girolamo Marchesi da Cotignola, while Antonio Messeri and Achille Calzi, writing in 1909, thought that it was by Giovanni Battista Utili, a 15th century artist from Faenza (subsequently identified as Giovanni Battista Bertucci) whose name often crops up in the local archives. Their hypothesis enjoyed a certain popularity with scholars until, after taking a fresh look at a number of Renaissance documents in Faenza in 1935, Carlo Grigioni proposed attributing it and other stylistically similar works then given to Utili, to the Florentine artist Biagio d’Antonio. On that same occasion, the archive documents published for the first time by Grigioni included the commission for the Bazzolini altarpiece, yet he failed to identify this painting with the picture mentioned in the document because at the time it was still labouring under the heavy 18th century repainting that had completely altered the identity of the saints who had been transformed, possibly for devotional reasons, into St. Bonaventure and St. Bernardino of Siena. It was not until 1947 that Antonio Corbara first noticed the repainting, tentatively suggesting that it might conceal the Bazzolini altarpiece mentioned in the document published by Grigioni. His suggestion was confirmed when the painting recovered its original aspect after restoration in 1949.

ARGNANI 1881
F Argnani, La Pinacoteca Comunale di Faenza descritta e illustrata, Faenza 1881, pp. 10-11

MESSERI, CALZI 1909
A. Messeri, A. Calzi, Faenza nella Storia e nell’Arte, Faenza 1909, pp. 533-534

GRIGIONI 1935
C. Grigioni, La pittura faentina dalle origini alla metà del Cinquecento, Faenza, 1935, pp. 209-210, 239

CORBARA 1947
A. Corbara in E. Golfieri, A. Corbara, “Biagio d’Antonio pittore fiorentino in Faenza”, Atti e memorie dell’accademia fiorentina di scienze morali ‘La Colombaria’, I, 1943-1946, pp. 449-450

BARTOLI 1999
R. Bartoli, Biagio d’Antonio, Milano 1999, p. 233, n. 130, with previous bibliography

TAMBINI 2009
A. Tambini, Storia delle arti figurative a Faenza. Il Rinascimento. Pittura, miniatura, artigianato, Faenza 2009, p. 48

The images are the property of the Pinacoteca Comunale di Faenza. For the use of the images, please write to infopinacoteca@romagnafaentina.it.

written by
Piero Offidani