Antonio Veneziano, The Annunciation, pair of gold ground panels (2)
Lot 69
Spinello Aretino (Arezzo 1350/52- 1410) The Annunciation 60 x 32 cm. (23¾ x 12¾ in.) (2)
Sold for £431,200 (US$ 676,223) inc. premium

Lot Details
Antonio Veneziano, The Annunciation, pair of gold ground panels (2)
Spinello Aretino (Arezzo 1350/52- 1410)
The Annunciation
a pair, tempera on gold ground panels
60 x 32 cm. (23¾ x 12¾ in.) (2)

Footnotes

  • We are grateful to Dr. Stefan Weppelmann of the Berlin Gemäldegalerie for identifying the panels as early works by Spinello Aretino, dating to 1380-85, when Spinello was known to have collaborated with the carpenter, Simon Cini and the gilder, Gabriel Saracini on three altarpieces: for the church of Santi Simone e Giuda at Lucca in about 1382; the high altarpiece of San Ponziano in Lucca, 1383-84; and that known as the Monte Oliveto Altarpiece, commissioned in 1384. Of these Dr. Weppelmann and Everett Fahy (both on first hand inspection) as well as Professor Boskovits (from photographs) are in agreement that the style and dimensions suggest that the Annunciation is most likely to have come from the earliest of these three altarpieces. Those other fragments from the Santi Simone e Giuda polyptych that have survived are the central panel, known as the Bute Madonna, which was sold at auction for £495,500 in 1994 and is now on loan to the Museo Nazional de San Carlos, Mexico City, and two side wings that are in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Parma.

    The remaining fragments of the Monte Oliveto Altarpiece are fascinating because they allow us to identify the two artists who worked with Spinello on our panels, throwing light on the way in which they collaborated. Two of the side panels, for instance, retain their original frames and bear the embossed signatures of Spinello’s two collaborators. On the left (the section now in Budapest Museum of Fine Art) is the name of the carpenter, Magister Simon Cini de Florentia, while the right side-wing (now in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Masssachussets) is dated and inscribed with the name of the painter who was in charge of the gilding and the punching: Gabrielus Saracini auravit MCCCLXXX. A contract concluded in Lucca in 1385 names these two and Spinello Aretino, whose signature was presumably displayed on the destroyed central panel. It also confirms these three artists as the collaborative creators of the San Ponziano altarpiece, as it expressly stipulated that the altarpiece should be decorated in the same way as their previous commission.

    Interestingly, Spinello received the same fee (100 florins) for his work as Saracini, the gilder. Simon Cini, the carpenter, however, received only half as much for the panels. The ratio of pay shows the importance placed on the gilded gesso reliefs and punchwork, something that is easy for us to overlook today if we place such “craftsmanship” in the context of post-Renaissance art. It was an unusual arrangement. Generally, the tasks of decorating and painting gold ground panels in the Trecento were carried out by the same person: the painter of the altarpiece. But here, two artists shared in the execution. While the gilding and decorating of the panels were interdependent, both operations preceded the painting phase and had to be co-ordinated. Thus, Saracini’s punching was completed beforehand, and we can observe in places that the paint of the hair, or veil, partially overlays the impression of the punch. Conversely, the haloes of the Angel and Madonna were worked on only after the drawing of the figures had been completed by Spinello. The combined effect shows Spinello’s achievement in retaining a Sienese sensitivity towards decoration, while also conveying an understanding of Giotto’s sense of space and powerful imagery. It was an achievement that was fundamental to the course of Florentine painting in the following generation.

Saleroom notices

  • Based on the remains of a seal on the reverse, it has been suggested that these panels may have formed part of the collection of Carlo Lasinio (Treviso 1759-1838 Pisa).
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