The Prophet Baruch

The Profet Baruch

Giovanni di Balduccio

33 x 17.5 x 11 cm
source of the artwork

Bologna, Great Chapel in the Rocca di Galliera, 1334; Bologna, Church of San Francesco,1335-post 1568; subsequently, Church of San Domenico; dispersed in 1604; first documented in the Pinacoteca in 1889

short description

The Pinacoteca di Faenza is home to one of Giovanni di Balduccio’s most prestigious works, once part of a major polyptych commissioned by the French Cardinal Bertrand du Pouget for the Great Chapel in the Rocca di Galliera in Bologna to mark Pope John XXII’s return from Avignon. A fragment of a marble pinnacle portrays the Prophet Baruch, as a scroll informs us. Baruch was the scribe of the Prophet Jeremiah and faithfully recorded every prophesy that Jeremiah dictated to him. The figure’s gaze and foreshortening instantly reveal the position of the pinnacle, which stood to the right of the polyptych’s main axis. After the Rocca di Galliera was destroyed in the course of an uprising by the people of Bologna against the papacy in 1334, the polyptych was assigned to the Basilica of San Domenico in Bologna and re-erected on the high altar, where it is mentioned by an anonymous 14th century Roman author in the Vita di Cola di Rienzo and by Giorgio Vasari in the 1568 edition of his Lives of the Artists. By 1605 the polyptych had been dismantled and dispersed, until this fragment resurfaced in the Pinacoteca di Faenza where it was identified by Cesare Gnudi in 1949 through comparison with the figure of St. Joseph in a fragment of a predella with a Nativity scene in the Poggi Cavalletti collection, a private collection in Bologna. A reconstruction of the work’s original aspect was proposed, along the lines of an existing polyptych by Tommaso d’Andrea Pisano in the church of San Francesco in Pisa, in the course of an exhibition in Bologna entitled Giotto and the Arts (Bologna, December 2005 – March 2006).

inventary n°

Giovanni di Balduccio’s style is instantly recognisable in the Faenza fragment thanks to the leaded irises (the shaded effect being achieved by the addition of lead), the elongated eyes extending beyond the cheekbone and the motif comprising small circles on the hem of the prophet’s robe (Tarantelli, 2009). Cesare Gnudi (1949) confirmed the attribution by comparing the fragment with the figure of St. Joseph in the Nativity scene from what is presumed to be the polyptych’s predella.

The pinnacle with the Prophet Baruch was originally part of a large marble polyptych commissioned from Giovanni di Balduccio by the French Cardinal Bertrand du Pouget for the Great Chapel in the Rocca di Galliera, which the Cardinal had had built in Bologna as a temporary papal seat during Pope John XXII’s return from Avignon to Rome. Giotto di Bondone was also involved in the enterprise and worked alongside Giovanni di Balduccio, probably influening the sculptor’s style. In addition to the marble polypytych, Giovanni also carved two statues for the chapel which were part of an Annunciation and which are now in the Getty Museum (Caglioti 2005).

The people of Bologna rebelled on 17 March 1334, and though the papal legates managed to flee the city, the papal palace was devastated and destroyed. A document dated 27 March 1334 (Guidicini, 1872; Medica, 1990) informs us that the polyptych was intended to be reallocated to the chuch of San Francesco, but according to a document dated 8 July 1335 (Hubert, 1993), by the following year it had already been reassigned to the church of San Domenico where an anonymous Roman author saw it two years later, describing it as “a Pisan work in alabaster, worth X thousand florins” (Cronica, c. 1357–8). The author is highly likely to have mistaken both the material and the value of the work, the figure he gives being far too high. One has but to consider, for example, that Giotto’s decoration of the Bardi Chapel cost 1,221 florins, i.e. about one-tenth of that figure (Medica in Giotto e le arti a Bologna 2005). Vasari, in the 1568 edition of his Lives of the Artists, tells us that the polyptych was still in place, with “the Madonna and eight other figures, reasonably good,” in its centre, though he attributes it to Giovanni Pisano. A century later, in any event, it had been dismantled and dispersed. It was not until 1935 that Filippini (1935) succeeded in attributing the lost marble complex to Giovanni di Balduccio, also attributing to him the St. Peter Martyr in the Museo Civico Medievale in Bologna and the St. Dominic in the Musée Grobet-Labadie in Marseilles, while Ragghianti (1939) recognised the St Petronius in the Museo di Santo Stefano in Bologna (though it originally depicted St. Nicholas of Bari) and Valentiner (1938) attributed to Giovanni a Madonna and Child in the Institute of Arts in Detroit.
Following the discovery of a document dated 1461 mentioning the predella (Girelli, 2023), Gnudi (1946-48, and 1949) succeeded in tracking it down in the Poggi Cavalletti Collection, a private collection in Bologna. He also identified the pinnacle as being part of the Rocca di Galliera polyptych for the first time.
The presence of the predella made it possible to compare Giovanni di Balduccio’s work with a marble polyptych by Tommaso d’Andrea Pisano in the church of San Francesco in Pisa (Kreytenberg, 1990). The Rocca di Galliera polyptych was reconstructed, using Tommaso’s work as a model, for an exhibition entitled Giotto and the Arts in Bologna in 2005.

F. Caglioti, “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, 2005, pp. 21-62

COVA 2015
P. Cova in Da Cimabue a Morandi. Felsina Pittrice, exhibition catalogue ed. by V. Sgarbi (Bologna, 14 febbraio-17 maggio 2015), Bologna 2015, p. 54 cat. no. 5

CRONICA 1357-1358 circa
Anonimo Romano, Cronica, ed. by Giuseppe Porta, Milano 1979, pp. 23-24

M. G. D’Apuzzo, in Bologne et le pontifical d’Autun. Chef-d’oeuvre inconnu du premier Trecento, 1330-1340, exhibition catalogue ed. by François Avril (Autun 12 settembre-9 dicembre 2012) 2012, pp. 72-73, cat. no. 4

F. Filippini, “L’antico altare maggiore in San Domenico attribuito a Giovanni Pisano”, Bologna. Rivista mensile del Comune, XXII, 1935, 4, pp. 19-23

F. Girelli, Giovanni di Balduccio prima di Milano. La scalata al successo, Perugia 2023, pp. 1326-1335

GNUDI 1946-48
C. Gnudi, “Un altro frammento dell’altare bolognese di Giovanni di Balduccio”, Belle Arti, I, 1946-48, pp. 165-181

GNUDI 1949
C. Gnudi, “Ancora per l’altare bolognese di Giovanni di Balduccio”, Critica d’Arte, VIII, 1, 1949, p.73-75

G. B. Guidicini, Cose notabili della città di Bologna, ossia storia cronologica de’suoi stabili sacri, pubblici e privati, per Giuseppe di Gio.Battista Guidicini, pubblicata dal figlio Ferdinando e dedicata al Municipio di Bologna, IV, Bologna, 1872, p. 344

H. H. Hubert, Der Palazzo Comunale von Bologna. Vom Palazzo della Biada zum Palatium Apostolicum, Koln-Weimar-Wien 1993, p. 33, n.12

G. Kreytenberg, “Un tabernacolo di Giovanni di Balduccio per Orsanmichele a Firenze”, Boletín del Museo Arqueológico Nacional (Madrid), VIII, 1990, pp. 35-57

M. Medica, “Un San Domenico per l’altare bolognese di Giovanni di Balduccio”, Arte a Bologna. Bollettino dei Musei Civici d’Arte Antica, 1, 1990, pp. 11-20

M. Medica, Giotto e Giovanni di Balduccio: due artisti toscani per la sede papale di Bologna, in Giotto e le arti a Bologna al tempo di Bertrando del Poggetto, catalogo della mostra a cura di M. Medica (Bologna, Museo Civico Medievale, 3 dicembre 2005-28 marzo 2006), Cinisello Balsamo 2005, pp. 11-20

C. L. RAGGHIANTI, “Aggiunta a Giovanni di Balduccio”, Critica d’arte, IV 1939, II, p. XIV

P. Tarantelli, in Giotto e il Trecento. Il più sovrano maestro stato in dipintura, catalogo della mostra a cura di A. Tomei (Roma, Complesso del Vittoriano, 6 marzo – 29 giugno 2009), 2 voll., II, Roma 2009, p. 267, cat. no. 109

W. R. Valentiner, in Exhibition of old masters. Catalogue of Italian Gothic and Early Renaissance Sculptures, exhibition catalogue ed. By W.R. Valentiner, (Detroit, The Detroit Institute of Art, 7 gennaio-20 febbraio 1938), Detroit 1938, cat. no. 9

G.Vasari, Le Vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architettura (1568) ed. a cura di R. Bettarini, P. Barocchi, Firenze 1966-1987, vol. II, 1967, p. 67

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