Fra Angelico The San Marco Panels
Duke’s AUCTIONEERS SINCE 1823
Duke’s AUCTIONEERS SINCE 1823
Duke’s AUCTIONEERS SINCE 1823
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On the instructions of the Executors of the late Jean Fiora Preston
Thursday, 19th April 2007 at 4.00pm
Fra Angelico The San Marco Panels
The San Marco Panels Guido di Pietro, called Fra Angelico. St Vincent Ferrer(?) and an unidentified Dominican Saint, tempera on a gold ground, 15.5” x 5” and 15.4” x 5” respectively. Estimate: in excess of £1 million A pair of panels from the High Altarpiece of the artist’s own church, executed between 1438-1440 under the patronage of Cosimo de Medici.
The San Marco Altarpiece was dismantled before 1810 and the elements dispersed. According to the recollection of the late Jean Preston, inherited by Mrs Hilda Brown, Switzerland, circa 1924/1925 from her husband. Apparently bequeathed by Mrs Hilda Brown to Mrs Maria Teweles of Twentynine Palms, California in 1964. Sold privately to Kerrison Preston, Esq., a noted connoisseur and collector, in April 1965 as “Panel paintings of Dominican Saints, 15th Century, Italian”. The invoice dated 6th April 1965. Bequeathed by Kerrison Preston, Esq. to his daughter, Jean Preston, in 1974, who was then living in the U.S.A. Shortly before Jean Preston’s death in 2006 the panels were identified by Michael Liversidge as missing elements from the San Marco Altarpiece.
San Marco, Florence. View of a monk’s cell, designed by Michelozzo di Bartolommeo, with ‘Crucifixion with Saints’ fresco by Fra Angelico. ©Church of San Marco, Florence, Italy The Bridgeman Art Library
Fra Angelico and the San Marco Altarpiece Two newly discovered panels by Michael Liversidge
Michael Liversidge F.S.A. is Emeritus Dean of Arts at the University of Bristol. He was a Resident Fellow at the Yale Center for British Art, Yale University and he has published extensively on the arts.
Even more beautiful is the magnificent altarpiece........
........nothing can be imagined painted with greater attention nor containing small figures depicted so sensitively or rendered with such refinement. Giorgio Vasari, 1550
Fra Angelico’s great altarpiece for San Marco in Florence, commissioned by Cosimo de Medici and consecrated on 6 January 1443, is universally regarded as one of the most important innovating works of Renaissance art produced in fifteenth-century Florence. Giorgio Vasari singled it out as a masterpiece in the account he gave of its painter in the first edition of his Lives of the Artists published in 1550. The two figures of saintly Dominicans which are presented here are especially significant because almost certainly they are the last missing parts of the altarpiece, which originally consisted of nineteen individual painted panels set in an elaborate architectural frame and was dismantled probably at the end of the eighteenth century and its components San Marco, Florence. Façade widely dispersed during the course of the nineteenth (remodelled 1678-79). century. Therefore the panels presented here from the estate ©Church of San Marco, Florence, Italy of the late Jean Preston effectively complete the picture of The Bridgeman Art Library what this exceptionally important work by one of the outstanding artists of the early Italian Renaissance originally comprised, and enable scholars and connoisseurs to appreciate for the first time in centuries the full glory of Fra Angelico’s San Marco Altarpiece. Historically and artistically their rediscovery is especially significant because they were painted for a major commission that expressed and embodied Medici piety and power, at a moment when the Florentine Renaissance was advancing in new directions, by an artist whose workshop was at the forefront of the new developments taking place in quattrocento art at the time. In his Life of Fra Angelico, Giorgio Vasari singles out a selection of his works as being of singular beauty and special importance, ending with an account of the San Marco Altarpiece: Even more beautiful [than the others] is the magnificent altarpiece he painted for the main altar with the Virgin who in her simplicity invokes piety and devotion in the beholder, as also do the saints around her; and furthermore the predella panels below comprising scenes of the lives and martyrdom of Saints Cosmas and Damian with others are so beautiful that nothing can be imagined painted with greater attention nor containing small figures depicted so sensitively or rendered with such refinement. All of Fra Angelico’s more recent biographers agree that his most important late altarpiece commission was for the Pala di San Marco, ordered by Cosimo de Medici as the focus for the main altar of the Capella Maggiore (the choir and chancel of the church) of the great Dominican conventual church in Florence, replacing an earlier work by Lorenzo di Niccoló which was removed and presented to another monastic church, San Domenico in Cortona. The new altarpiece Fra Angelico supplied is generally acknowledged as a preeminent public expression of Medici piety, patronage and political power, painted for the high altar of the church and convent which Cosimo requisitioned, rebuilt and continuously embellished from 1437 onwards. Like other religious foundations in the city, San Marco was effectively transformed into a symbol of the Medici family’s authority in Florence, sanctioning and consolidating their position through the association with the church and, in this instance, an especially powerful monastic order. Cosimo de Medici’s architect for rebuilding the church and convent was Michelozzi Michelozzo (1396 - 1472), after Bramante the leading practitioner of the new classical Tuscan Renaissance building style, and the decorative programme for the project was directed, and much of it carried out, by the painter Guido di Pietro (c1395 – 1455), who as Fra Giovanni da Fiesole San Marco, Florence. Cloister of S. Antonio with became a Dominican brother some time between 1419 and Crucifixion of Saint Dominic by Fra Angelico. 1423 and is better known in tribute to the piety in which he ©Church of San Marco, Florence, Italy lived out his life and the devout sincerity of his art as Fra The Bridgeman Art Library (or Beato) Angelico.
The San Marco Altarpiece: survival and dispersal Of all Fra Angelico’s surviving multiple panel altarpieces, the San Marco Altarpiece is now one of the most comprehensively dismembered, as well as one of the more disconcertingly damaged, of his works. What makes the rediscovery of the two panels presented publicly here for the first time so significant is the fact that they are in a state almost entirely free from restorers’ interventions and so can yield important technical information about the original character of the altarpiece as a whole; and it seems most likely that their reappearance resolves the debates and questions that have arisen over the years about the exact configuration of its overall structure.
From what is known about the San Marco Altarpiece’s later history it is possible to reconstruct its original arrangement, and from what can be construed from the provenances of individual panels now scattered in some of the most prestigious European and American museum collections scholars have been able to reassemble its constituent parts. Until now seventeen panels were recorded, sixteen in public collections dispersed between Florence, Munich, Altenburg, Dublin, London, Paris, Washington and Minneapolis, and one in an American private collection. The newly identified panels from the estate of the late Jean Preston, which so far as can be ascertained have not previously appeared publicly on the market, are therefore of exceptional interest. They bring to nineteen, almost certainly as many as there originally were, the total number of painted panels that collectively comprised the altarpiece: the frame that contained them has not survived, nor is its design recorded or described, but now with what is very likely the full complement of pictorial components known for the first time the two panels presented here are of particular art historical interest. The nineteen panels distributed among these various collections comprise the main altarpiece panel itself, nine small narrative panels from the predella (paintings set into the lower edge or base of a large altarpiece or pala), and eight upright panels of single saintly figures from the piers of the frame holding all the different painted elements together. Until the two new panels were made public in 2006, only one of the San Marco Altarpiece paintings remained in private hands.
The history of what happened to the altarpiece and how, and when, it came to be dismantled is relatively well documented. The church was comprehensively renovated and remodelled in 1678-79, during which Fra Angelico’s devotional high altar polyptych was permanently removed from its original site. It is recorded in 1758 hanging in a passageway outside the sacristy. Since soon after Vasari published his celebrated Lives of the Artists in 1550 fifteenth-century paintings of the kind had become less objects of veneration than of curiosity, regarded (or rather disregarded) critically as artistically backward and ‘primitive’; even something as important to Florentine history as a major masterpiece ordered by Cosimo de Medici could be relegated to an insignificant dark corner. Worse was to come. Almost certainly it was broken up and dispersals of parts of it began some time before 1810 when the monastery itself was suppressed during the French occupation of Italy under the Emperor Napoleon I: the process may have started even earlier, possibly before Bonaparte became emperor when he led France’s invasion of Italy and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was extinguished (the line of Medici princely rulers having ended earlier in the eighteenth century). At any rate, eight of the nine predella panels are listed in a document of 1810 (which clearly implies that one had certainly been disposed of before then, so the altarpiece must already have been broken up), and one of the single figure panels from the frame uprights (the example now in Minneapolis Institute of Arts) has an annotation on the back in what has been identified as a late-eighteenth century hand stating the painting’s San Marco, Florence. The Library (Michelozzo di Bartolommeo). authorship and origin as by Fra Angelico, from San ©Church of San Marco, Florence, Italy Marco. The Bridgeman Art Library
Fra Angelico, The San Marco Altarpiece: Saints Cosmas and Damian kneeling before the Madonna and Child Enthroned, with Angels and Saints Lawrence, John the Evangelist, Mark, Dominic, Francis of Assisi and Peter Martyr. ©Museo di San Marco dell'Angelico, Florence, Italy The Bridgeman Art Library
Therefore it can be concluded that certainly by 1810, and very probably well before then, Fra Angelico’s masterpiece had been taken out of its original frame and parts of it were being gradually acquired by different owners. As it happens, the dismantling and dispersal of the San Marco coincides with the beginning of a revival of interest in earlier Italian painting which starts in the late-eighteenth century and gathers momentum thorough the nineteenth, and accounts for the wholesale removal and dismembering of such multipartite works of art from Italian churches and religious foundations over a period of some one hundred and fifty years. All that remains of the San Marco Altarpiece in Florence today is the main panel itself and two of the predella pictures, now displayed in the Museo di San Marco. The centrepiece, the largest of the painted panels, shows Saints Cosmas and Damian kneeling before the Madonna and Child Enthroned, with Angels and Saints Lawrence, John the Evangelist, Mark, Dominic, Francis of Assisi and Peter Martyr. The saints immediately beside the Virgin’s throne to left and right, Mark and Dominic, are the convent’s principal sponsors (being the convent’s patron saint and the Dominicans’ founder respectively). To the viewer’s left, Lawrence and John the Evangelist were especially venerated in Florence (the city’s own patroness being the Virgin herself, at the centre of the composition); of those to the right, Francis of Assisi had been Dominic’s contemporary and like him the founder of another great mendicant order of friars, while Peter Martyr was canonised in 1253 as the first Dominican martyr. The two kneeling saints, Cosmas and Damian, were held in special veneration by the Medici (Cosmas being Cosimo’s patron saint): supposedly twins, martyred in Syria, they became the focus for a cult at least from the fifth century – they were miraculous healers so became two of the patron saints of doctors, the profession from which the Medici traced their own origins (medici meaning ‘physicians’).
Of the nine predella panels, eight depict scenes from the lives and eventual martyrdom of Cosmas and Damian. The two that have remained in Florence show The Healing of the Deacon Justinian and The Burial of Saints Cosmas and Damian. Both involve improbable miracles of the kind that habitually attended Cosmas and Damian. In the first, they restore the diseased leg of the Deacon with a healthy limb from a dead Early Christian Ethiopian who had been buried in the vault of San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome (its availability for what is the first, albeit legendary, transplant having come to the saints in a dream); in the other, their burial is overseen by a camel with a scroll issuing from its mouth, inscribed with the words the Fra Angelico, San Marco Altarpiece (predella): creature miraculously spoke instructing the The Miracle of the Healing of the Deacon Justinian. gravediggers to make sure the twin brothers were ©Museo di San Marco dell'Angelico, Florence, Italy interred side by side. The remaining predella pictures The Bridgeman Art Library found their way into various collections outside Florence during the course of the nineteenth century. Originally the set of eight panels narrating the Cosmas and Damian story was arranged with four each to either side of the ninth in the middle which shows The Lamentation over the dead Christ (now in Munich, Altepinakothek) – its placement at the centre, immediately below the miniature insert of a ‘Crucifixion’ fictively painted to resemble a framed icon at the bottom of the main panel in the foreground directly below the enthroned Virgin and Child, appropriately makes a vertical liturgically logical sequence from the altar where Mass is celebrated and the Host is consecrated, to the burial of Christ below the Crucifixion insert, to the infant Christ on the Virgin’s knee. Mankind’s redemption through Christ’s birth and sacrifice is thus delineated along the vertical axis of the altarpiece, visually linking to the altar itself the disparate parts of main panel and predella through a theological statement up the centre of the structure. The Lamentation scene exquisitely painted, delicately coloured and invested with all the refined sensibility of Fra Angelico’s mature style at its most delicate – was acquired by the Bavarian Royal Collection in 1818. Three more predella panels followed in 1822: Saints Cosmas and Damian and their Brothers before Lysias; Lysias possessed by devils as Cosmas and Damian are thrown into the sea; The Crucifixion of Cosmas and Damian (all now Munich, Altepinakothek). The other three predella paintings are the National Gallery of Ireland Attempted Martyrdoms of Cosmas and Damian by Fire (Dublin: a miraculous intervention protected the saints and their companions from the flames, which seriously singed their executioners instead) which was in an Italian collection before it went to Ireland in 1886; the Paris Decapitation of Cosmas and Damian (Louvre: it shows the eventual
Fra Angelico, San Marco Altarpiece (predella): The Burial of Saints Cosmas and Damian. ©Museo di San Marco dell'Angelico, Florence, Italy The Bridgeman Art Library
Fra Angelico, San Marco Altarpiece (predella): The Martyrdom of Saints Cosmas and Damian. ©Louvre, Paris, France/ Giraudon The Bridgeman Art Library
Fra Angelico, San Marco Altarpiece (frame): Saint Benedict (? Saint Bernard). Tempera on panel, 38.8 x 13.8 cm (cut at base). Altenburg, Lindenau Museum.
Fra Angelico, San Marco Altarpiece (frame): Saint Jerome. Tempera on panel, 39 x 14 cm. Altenburg, Lindenau Museum.
Fra Angelico, San Marco Altarpiece (frame): Pilgrim Saint (? or Saint Roch). Tempera on panel, 38.9 x 13.8cm. Altenburg, Lindenau Museum.
successful massacre of the two with their followers also beheaded) which was in Rome in 1817 before it went to France in 1882; and Cosmas and Damian healing Palladia, with Damian receiving a gift from Palladia (National Gallery of Art, Washington) which was in Paris in 1865 when it was sold erroneously attributed to Masaccio.
Except for the large central panel and two smaller ones from the predella which have remained in Florence, what is known about the provenances of the other predella paintings shows that the San Marco Altarpiece, having been taken out its original frame, were appearing on the market at the latest from the 1810s and were quite rapidly widely dispersed around Europe. The same happened to the six hitherto recorded upright single figure panels of individual saints (now eight altogether with the two presented here) which came from the pilaster piers of the frame itself. Three of these were bought as a group in Rome in 1844 by Emil Braun, an agent acting for Baron Bernhard August von Lindenau: they remain together in the Lindenau Museum at Altenburg in Germany. Another once belonged to the first Duke of Wellington who gave it to his doctor, Thomas Peregrine, whose descendants had it until 1960 when it was sold at Sotheby’s and went to America where it is now in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The other two are in the Cini Collection, Venice and The Art Institute of Chicago. All of them are the same size to within one or two millimetres, and are identically conceived (gold ground, an emphatically modelled figure of a saint standing on a small hovering cloud so that the effect is similar to that of a statue on a corbel). The two panels from Jean Preston’s estate have the same measurements as the six previously known, and they are exactly comparable in their treatment of the figures on a cloud. The Minneapolis panel which once belonged to the Duke of Wellington is the one with what is thought to be an eighteenth-century Italian inscription on the back: “di Fra Giovanni da Fiesole figuri che esistono S. Marco di Firenze” (‘of Fra Giovanni da Fiesole figures that were at S. Marco in Florence’). Thus, of the eight frame figure panels that are now known (and which can be presumed to be the whole set), four have provenances that can be traced back into the nineteenth century.
Fra Angelico, San Marco Altarpiece. Reconstruction proposed by Miklos Boskovits and Ada Labriola (‘Da Bernardo Daddi al Beato Angelico a Botticelli. Dipinti fiorentini del Lindenau-Museum di Altenburg’, 2005; exhibition catalogue, Museo di San Marco, Florence).
Reconstructing the San Marco Altarpiece The main panel of The Madonna and Child Enthroned with Angels and Saints was sent to the Accademia in Florence in 1884, and returned to the Museo di San Marco in 1919. It had to all intents and purposes been substantially ruined by cleaning, probably early in the nineteenth century when it was soda washed which horribly disfigured and abraded its surface – the consequences of which were fully revealed in 1955 when old restorations and repainting were removed in an attempt to recuperate something of the original. Conservation has since made remarkable progress and recovered something of what must once have been a work of magisterial decorum and glowing radiance. The extent of the damage to the principal panel renders it very difficult to equate artistically in terms of style and technique with the predella and frame panels, quite apart from the obvious disparity in scale between the different components. The monumentality, formal intervals and measured harmonies of the large sacra conversazione contrast with the vivid animation and colourful narrative style of the predella panels, while the roundly modelled and sculpturally shadowed features of the frame saints reflect a distinctive sense of mid-quattrocento Florentine figurative mass which is remarkable despite their small scale and which in the original configuration of the whole altar must have reinforced the grandeur of the main panel. These apparent differences of scale and visual register, exaggerated by the altarpiece’s fragmented form and material disparities of condition, have presented problems of understanding and interpretation, and the disappearance of the frame itself, without any reliable record whatsoever of its design, has given rise to more than one reconstructed version of its probable overall composition. With the recognition of two more figures from the frame it now seems almost certain that the whole sequence is finally complete again, and a new reconstruction of what it consisted of and looked like can be attempted.
As all the leading Fra Angelico authorities have recognised, the key to reconstructing the San Marco Altarpiece lies with reconciling the series of nine predella panels (the eight scenes from the lives of Saints Cosmas and Damian, together with the central Lamentation that was placed beneath the fictive Crucifixion illusionistically propped at the foot of the main panel) within an imagined frame below the central panel. The main panel is 227 centimetres wide; the predella panels lined up in a single row are cumulatively much wider, 412 centimetres. Different solutions to this disparity have been advanced, but the general consensus now accepts that the predella panels extended across the whole ‘pedestal’ or base of the frame, including the width of the upright pilasters at either side, and also returned at the corners at either end through 90 degrees below the side elevations of the pilasters. The arrangement would therefore have been five predella panels beneath the main panel (four of the Cosmas and Damian scenes and the Lamentation in the middle), one scene each to the front of the base of the piers to left and right, and one scene to the side of each of the piers. Thus there would have been a structure not unlike an architecturally classical tabernacle: a plinth or pedestal at its base resting on the altar and containing the predella paintings, piers at either side in the form of flat-surfaced pilasters in which the upright single figure panels of saints were set, the main panel framed between them, and with a cornice or pedimental feature at the top. The design and scale would certainly have been contrived to fit with the classical renovation of the church carried out in the latest Florentine renaissance fashion by Cosimo de Medici’s architect Michelozzo di Bartolommeo (called Michelozzo Michelozzi), and it is quite possible that he would have collaborated with Fra Angelico in the altarpiece’s physical conception. If so, the San Marco Altarpiece would have been a work of art engaging the inventive genius of two of the greatest figures in quattrocento Italian art, working for the most important patron of mid-fifteenth century Florence.
The questions debated by scholars in the Fra Angelico literature relating to the figures of saints have revolved around two issues. Are the very evidently related single figure panels certainly from the San Marco Altarpiece frame and, if they are, how many might there originally have been? On the basis of the six previously published panels, all of which measure between 38 to 39 centimetres high by 14 to 15 centimetres wide, and which are all technically identical to the Minneapolis example which is inscribed as originating from San Marco, there is general agreement that they are part of the San Marco Altarpiece. The two newly rediscovered panels from the Jean Preston estate have the same measurements as all the rest, and they are exactly comparable in painting technique and style to them. Their addition to the other six does not definitively answer the second question about how many there were originally at first sight, but their reappearance allows for new conclusions to be drawn and what is the most likely reconstruction of the whole altarpiece to be arrived at.
Sir John Pope-Hennessy in his 1974 monograph Fra Angelico proposed that originally there may have been ten figure panels set into the frame pilasters (“Each of the two pilasters is likely to have consisted of five panels”), and more recently he has been followed by William Hood in his magisterial Fra Angelico at San Marco of 1993. While it is not impossible that there could have been five saints on either side, it is inherently unlikely. The main Virgin Enthroned centrepiece is 222 centimetres high: the total height of five of the frame panels would amount to almost 200 centimetres. Such an arrangement, however, would mean that they would be very crowded together, whereas the clear indications in the corners of some of the panels of a cusped retaining moulding into which they were set implies there must have been more space between them. Much more likely is the hypothesis put forward in 2003 by Miklós Boskovits who proposed an arrangement with four panels to either side set into the pilaster field: this makes a total of eight panels altogether, which accounts for all the single figure images that are now known.
Fra Angelico, San Marco Altarpiece. Reconstruction taken from Miklos Boskovitsâ€™ proposal with altered frame configuration (Michael Liversidge, 2006).
Another proposed reconstruction envisages sixteen frame figures â€“ eight frontally visible by a viewer facing the altar, with another eight, four set into each frame pier, at the sides. The argument for this arrangement is based on the presumption that because the predella panels turned around the sides of the pilaster pedestals, there must as well have been figures above them. If that were so, like the predella panels at either side, they would only be seen by someone standing immediately to one or other side of the altar itself. In other words, why do the predella paintings turn around the angles at either end of the pedestal if there were not as well upright figures above them? The answer to this question lies in way the altar was used liturgically: there would have been sacristans and assistants to either side of the altar at services, often kneeling, for whom the side predella pictures were clearly visible and well-lit, but higher up the sides of the frame piers would have been relatively obscured in shadow, and any figure paintings there would have been to all intents and purposes out of the sightline of celebrants (and totally invisible to worshippers). Therefore it seems entirely reasonable to conclude that there were eight figure panels, all sited on the front of the altarpiece frame facing the congregation, and that the two newly rediscovered Dominican saints published here for the first time do indeed complete the recovery of all the paintings from Fra Angelicoâ€™s San Marco Altarpiece.
The Preston Collection panels There are significant physical and pictorial correspondences between the two new panels and the other six which conclusively confirm they are all part of the same set. Three of the previously published figures, two in Altenburg and the privately owned St Thomas Aquinas, show in their lower corners the same evidence of marks from the frame moulding that appears very clearly on one of the Preston Collection pair. All of the panels have similar roundel punchmarking in the gilded radiances of the saints’ halos. The six previously published panels each show their saint standing on a dark blue-grey cloud ‘corbel’: these are not present in either of the rediscovered panels, but clearly originally were there – they must have been removed, probably in the nineteenth century, as the polished burnishing below the saints’ feet shows where a restorer has removed the painted clouds (the gold beneath having been protected from abrasion and deterioration by the paint when it was there). The two panels are in virtually untouched condition in their present state, showing the evidence of where the frame originally held them, and bearing the inevitable appearance of age and wear. There have been some minor refillings and retouchings, but the paint and gilding is largely original. In the halo of one figure there are traces of burnished lettering with some ultramarine pigment visible which can be deciphered in a raking light as ‘S Vincentius’ (the reading confirmed by the conservator Sarah Walden) which identifies him as the Dominican Saint Vincent Ferrer. He was a missionary saint and preacher, and confessor to Pope Benedict XIII, very prominent and revered in the Dominican Order which he had joined in 1367; he died in 1419, but was only canonised in 1455, some years after the San Marco Altarpiece was completed. While this may seem chronologically discrepant, the process of canonisation was in progress well before and the Dominicans (and other orders) were known sometimes to ‘prefigure’ their members’ elevations for promotional. Or it might be an addition made at the time of his canonisation, in which case the identification as Saint Vincent Ferrer may be an incorrect presumption made after the event.
Dating, style and authorship Fra Angelico’s new altarpiece must have been installed on San Marco’s high altar when the newly rebuilt and remodelled church was dedicated on the Feast of the Epiphany (6 January) 1443. The decision to commission a new altarpiece was taken in 1438, when Cosimo de Medici and his brother Lorenzo acquired the rights over the high altar and tribune of the church from another patron, Mariotto de’ Banchi. The existing altarpiece, a 1402 Coronation of the Virgin by Lorenzo di Niccoló, was gifted to San Domenico at Cortona but was not actually moved until 1440. These changes, as well as the comprehensive rebuilding by Michelozzo, were all due to the Dominicans taking over the Convent of San Marco in 1437 and the Medicis’ adoption of it as a primary site for their patronage of the Order as well as the public statement of their piety and political supremacy. Giuliano Lapaccini, the author of a ‘Chronicle of San Marco’ and Prior of the convent from 1444 to 1457, records the removal of the old altarpiece in 1440, adding that the new one “which is now on the high altar was not yet completed”.
The intention to order a new altarpiece was certainly in the wind in April 1438 because it features in a famous letter written by the painter Domenico Veneziano to Cosimo’s son Piero in which he is patently angling for the contract. The new San Marco Altarpiece was clearly one of the most prestigious contracts any artist could get in Florence at the time. Domenico Veneziano, who was one of the Medici stable of artists, was working in Perugia on frescoes for the Baglioni palace, and he would have known that Fra Angelico with his workshop were at full stretch in nearby Cortona with as much as they could handle, working on major orders for frescoes and panels for San Domenico in Cortona as well as on the great polyptych for San Domenico in Perugia (now in the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria in Perugia). This was a period when Fra Angelico was at the height of his artistic powers and much in demand as a painter who perfectly expressed both the spirituality of the time and the novelty of renaissance form and invention. Domenico’s letter states how eager he is for the commission and specifies quite explicitly Cosimo’s new altarpiece; he wishes to “make a famous work” for the Medici; and in a revealing passage he goes on to say that if Cosimo considers the work too much for a single artist he will happily collaborate with others for the satisfaction of painting even “a very small piece” of it. The letter reveals just how important Fra Angelico’s contemporaries perceived the San Marco commission to be.
The order for the San Marco Altarpiece can thus be dated to 1438 at the earliest; it was not yet finished in 1440, but it was installed by 6 January 1443. While there have been attempts to identify workshop assistants’ participation within it, since the second edition of Sir John Pope-Hennessy’s Fra Angelico appeared in 1974 his view of its authorship has not been challenged: “Like the upper section of the altarpiece, the nine scenes in the predella are autograph paintings by Fra Angelico.” The six single figure frame panels he catalogues are all included with the remaining panels as by the master, and the most recent published opinion is Laurence Kanter’s in the 2005-06 Metropolitan Museum of New York Fra Angelico exhibition catalogue which accepts all six hitherto known frame panels together as works from his hand.
That all eight frame figures are by the same hand is apparent from their handling and modelling. Equally evidently they conform to Fra Angelico’s directing conception of the entire altarpiece. The question of whether they could be by another artist who may have contributed even “a very small piece” to the whole, as Domenico Veneziano was prepared to, does not bear scrutiny in the light of the stylistic and formal evidence. Workshop assistants obviously were present in Fra Angelico’s studio as he moved between commissions and undertook work in different places. As William Hood observed in his 1993 Fra Angelico at San Marco, throughout the 1430s he took on assistants as and when demand required, and like most artists he had the normal workshop apprentices learning their craft under his direction who would have carried out various preliminary and routine tasks for him. Therefore, “when there was more work than he could manage with the regular staff, Fra Angelico employed assistants who were already fully trained...”, and he would have organised production so that several projects were underway simultaneously. Certainly between 1438 and the early 1440s he had a lot of work in progress – frescoes at Cortona, the multipartite San Domenico Altarpiece in Perugia, and the San Marco Altarpiece for Florence as well as other commissions. But while he certainly did use assistants sometimes to complete parts of a project, it seems inconceivable that he would have done so for one that Cosimo de Medici was paying for, and which was so important to the conversion of San Marco into a Medici church. The visual evidence afforded by the stylistic congruity between the different parts of the San Marco Altarpiece, allowing for the different functions they perform within it, equally affirms Fra Angelico’s authorship.
Fra Angelico, San Marco Chapter Room, ‘Crucifixion with Saints’, fresco 1440-41. ©Museo di San Marco dell'Angelico, Florence, Italy The Bridgeman Art Library
Identity and iconography Who all the saints in the pilaster panels are has been extensively debated and remains to be finally determined. William Hood is surely right in linking the altarpiece’s general iconography (with its specifically and precise Medicean associations) to the fresco Fra Angelico executed in 1440-41 in the San Marco Convent Chapter Room. In the main altar there are Saints Laurence, John the Evangelist and Mark on one side (the Virgin’s right hand, the viewer’s left), Dominic, Francis and Peter Martyr on the other (the Virgin’s left); Saints Cosmas and Damian kneel before the throne. The Chapter Room fresco is dominated by The Crucifixion with Saints: on the right are a series of saintly founders of religious orders, on the left the Three Maries, John the Evangelist, John the Baptist and Mark with looking on from the edge of the composition Lawrence, Cosmas and Damian. Thus the fresco broadly correlates to and extends with more figures the iconography of the main altarpiece panel.
Beneath the main fresco there is a frieze of seventeen medallions, the roundels containing portraits of Dominicans who, as Vasari describes them, “all the popes, cardinals, bishops, saints and masters of theology who had graced up to that time by their faith the Preacher Friars.” Saint Dominic himself is at the centre, holding the symbolic true vine that curls away to right and left drawing all the tondi together in a theologically unified sequence. They serve exactly the same purpose as the figures from the altarpiece frame: signifying the descent of Dominican beliefs and rules, to which of course Fra Angelico himself as a Brother (and indeed as Prior of San Domenico at Fiesole 1450-52) was heir and adherent. Vasari identifies the subject of each portrait roundel on the wall and all the saints in the Crucifixion above, and William Hood has argued that an integrated programme links High Altar with Chapter Room, so it is perfectly possible that some of the saints and the two canonised Dominicans set into the altarpiece frame are present in the fresco as well – not an exact repetition of each one, but at least drawn from the same canon. Until which saints all the frame figures represent has finally been resolved, neither the full iconography nor their individual placement in the frame can be definitively determined. A tentative reconstruction, however, might position the two newly rediscovered panels of Dominican saints to left and right in the lowest register, with the other three pairings above them suggested by their directional gazes and by balancing their silhouettes according to what they wear so they complement one another visually. Thus a possible configuration could be: Jerome with the Pilgrim Saint (both Altenburg), Benedict (? or Romuald: Minneapolis) with Anthony Abbot (Private Collection), Bernard (? or Benedict: Altenburg) with Thomas Aquinas (Venice, Cini Collection). The scholarly debate around exactly which saints appear on the frame, and in what order, may now arrive at some firmer conclusions with the addition of the new panels to the discussion.
Understanding the connections between the overall iconography of the San Marco Altarpiece and the Chapter Room fresco, which dates from 1441-42 and so is coeval with work on the panels, further reinforces the stylistic evidence for Fra Angelico’s authorship of all the parts of the altarpiece. Indeed, although they are on a much larger scale and in a different medium, the characterisation and modelling of the portrait roundels and the figures flanking the Cross in the Crucifixion correspond very closely stylistically to the ways the figures in the altarpiece generally are realised and represented.
Cosimo de’ Medici (1389-1463). Medal (attributed to Michelozzo di Bartolommeo). ©Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, Italy/ Alinari/ The Bridgeman Art Library
Patron, place and painter In 1436 with Pope Eugenius IV’s consent Cosimo de Medici requisitioned San Marco and presented it to the Dominican Order of which he had long been a supporter. Almost immediately he embarked on a prodigiously expensive campaign to embellish the church and rebuild the convent, making San Marco not only a spiritual powerhouse in Renaissance Florence but also a powerful symbol of the Medicis’ political presence and civic supremacy within the republic. Family, church and state were thus displayed indivisibly in the architecture and its enrichments that Cosimo paid for over the years that followed from the Medici banking and trading fortune. Together with his equally lavish patronage of San Lorenzo and other religious works, the magnificent Medici Palace designed and built for him by Michelozzo, the public and private works of art he commissioned in and around Florence, and the support he gave to learning and letters that helped to make the city the centre of Italian Renaissance culture and civility it became in the fifteenth century, the transformation of San Marco was part of a massive display of magnificence that proclaimed Medicean authority to the world at large. Having earlier suffered a political setback that led to a brief exile from which he returned to Florence in 1434, Cosimo’s carefully orchestrated campaign was motivated not least by political objectives. When he died in 1464 and was succeeded by his grandson Lorenzo the Magnificent the Florence he left behind was indisputably the cultural and artistic centre of quattrocento Italy.
At San Marco Cosimo’s architect Michelozzo renovated the church and rebuilt the monastery around a beautifully proportioned, classically arcaded cloister. New dormitories were laid out; the brothers’ cells were each painted with a fresco for personal contemplation by Fra Angelico or one of his assistants [15, 16]. Central to the life of the convent was its elegantly colonnaded library, completed in 1444: its collection of books exemplified the new humanism of Florentine learning. Classical authors, historians, poets, philosophers and scientists were well represented, as well as the works of theologians from the early church fathers to recent scholastics. Cosimo himself had a private cell in the convent, and was a member of the lay fraternity of the Company of the Magi anciently connected to San Marco. Every year it processed in splendour from the Duomo to San Marco on 6 January (Epiphany, the festival of the presentation of the Magi to the Christ Child): significantly, this was the date chosen in 1443 for the consecration of the new high altar in the church for which Fra Angelico’s altarpiece was commissioned. Thus it became on the day of its blessing the focal point for what was in effect a particularly profound celebration of Medici status, an object as much of family veneration as of religious reverence such that only an artist of exceptional reputation could have undertaken the work of painting it.
As John Spike has shown in his 1997 monograph Fra Angelico, not only was the new altarpiece “the most important painting that Cosimo de Medici had commissioned heretofore”, it is also “a virtual compendium of Medicean iconography on every level…” Before the 1443 consecration attended by Pope Eugenius IV and the papal curia, such was its importance, the high altar was dedicated to Saint Mark: the rededication added Saints Cosmas and Damian, the Medici patron saints, signalling very publicly the special status San Marco (and the family) had acquired. John Spike points out the range of iconographical references to Medici symbols present in the main panel and predella of the altarpiece, all of which lend credibility to the suggestion that the kneeling figure of Saint Cosmas before the enthroned Virgin and Child is meant to be Cosimo himself. Such a conflation of patron with patron saint through a portrait is neither unprecedented nor, given Medicean modesty levels at the time, inconceivable. All the authorities who have written about the San Marco Altarpiece agree that it is, despite its damaged centrepiece and dismembered state, a profoundly original work in the contexts both of Fra Angelico’s development and Florentine painting. The New York exhibition curated by Laurence Kanter and Pia Palladino in 2005-06 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art reassessed Fra Angelico as one of the major innovators in Italian Renaissance painting, a key figure in the evolution of pictorial representation, narrative invention and interpretational subtlety between Masaccio and Piero della Francesca. Vasari’s account of his piety as a man whose spirituality and simplicity are reflected in the refined sensibility of his art is certainly true of the life he led in the service of the Dominican Order he entered some time between 1419 and 1423. He was, Vasari reports, someone who “…shunned worldly affairs…kindly and temperate, lived chastely and withdrew himself…”; his virtue and sincerity inflecting his art so deeply because he “…never took up his brushes without first praying…” From the recent New York exhibition Fra Angelico has emerged as a far more intellectually advanced painter, above all in his altarpieces which are now seen as breaking new ground in their spatiality, conceptual rigour and the masterly naturalism with which he handles light revealing form – all of them properties in which he was an artist of pioneering originality.
The recent New York exhibition demonstrated that Fra Angelico, who had his own workshop from 1417, was already a key figure in Florentine painting during the 1420s, and that his part in the pictorial revolution that was a watershed in European art between then and the 1450s stands alongside the likes of Masaccio, Masolino, Fra Filippo Lippi and Domenico Veneziano. Fra Angelico’s profoundly meditative treatment of the sacra conversazione theme (the Madonna and Child with saints, set in a single unified space rather than divided into compartments separated by the design of the frame) in the 1430s and 1440s led Renaissance developments, and his characterisation of figure types and emphatic modelling in the works he painted in his later maturity disclose his understanding of contemporary directions being taken in Florentine sculpture at the time (qualities that are very apparent in the frame panels of the San Marco Altarpiece).
With the clearer understanding of his innovative position in the Renaissance canon that has now emerged, Fra Angelico’s influence on younger artists can be more fully understood. In cataloguing the San Marco Altarpiece predella paintings, Sir John Pope-Hennessy noted that other names had occasionally been invoked as possible collaborators, including that of Piero della Francesca. Piero was almost certainly with Domenico Veneziano when he tried to get hold of the San Marco Altarpiece commission in April 1438, and he is definitely recorded in Florence a month later when he witnessed a will there. He was working with Domenico Veneziano in 1438 and 1439, and maybe later. Both of them have in the past been considered more advanced than Fra Angelico, but in the light of Laurence Kanter’s recent Fra Angelico scholarship it is now clear that qualities that might previously have been attributed to their influence on him can just as readily be recognised as his independent, and indeed quite probably prior, invention.
Provenance, publication and the Preston Collection Exactly when the two Fra Angelico panels presented here left Italy remains to be discovered. In this respect their provenance is not unlike some other parts of the same altarpiece from which they derive. There are indeed very many such incomplete provenances among the scattered panels from similarly fragmented works of art from all over Europe. As the records show, the San Marco Altarpiece was taken from the high altar in the seventeenth century, was outside the sacristy in 1745, and was certainly dismantled by 1810. The two panels that have now come to light must have left San Marco at the latest before 1884 when the central Virgin and Child Enthroned and the last two of its predella paintings were sent to the Galleria dell’Accademia: by then none of the frame panels remained since any that were still in San Marco would have gone to the Accademia at the same time. Indeed, since there are no references to any of them at all in 1810 when eight of the nine predella panels and the main centrepiece are accounted for, it is quite likely that they were the first to go: the late-eighteenth century inscription on the back of the Minneapolis example tends to confirm this conclusion. From letters written by the late Jean Preston in February and March 1965 shortly after she had first seen the panels some information about their more immediate origin is available. They were privately purchased in California in March 1965 on behalf of Kerrison Preston, a distinguished collector; the seller was a Mrs Maria Teweles of Twentynine Palms to whom they had been bequeathed in 1964 by Mrs Hilda Brown for whom she had worked as ‘companion’ and who is described as a ‘Swiss millionairess’; separately Miss Preston recollected (May 2006) that Hilda Brown was a widow whose husband, from whom the panels passed to her, had died in Switzerland around 1924-25. In 1974 the panels passed to Jean Preston by inheritance from her father Kerrison Preston and they returned to America where at the time she was working at Princeton.. At the time they were purchased in 1965, and presumably since before they were acquired some time before the mid1920s, they were not recognised as panels from Fra Angelico’s San Marco Altarpiece: they are described by Jean Preston in her February 1965 letter as “…some nice little C15 panels – possibly from a predella, Italian…”, and until the results of the present research were communicated to her in May 2006 their authorship remained unknown to their owner. Prior to that, their attribution was the subject of a paper delivered to the University of Bristol History of Art Department Research Seminar (20 February 2006). Their first public academic announcement was at the British Institute of Florence (an Associated Institution of the University of Bristol) on 15 November 2006 (Michael Liversidge, ‘Framing Fra Angelico. Two Rediscovered Panels from the San Marco Altarpiece’).
Both their most recent owners, Kerrison Preston and his daughter Jean Preston, were discerning connoisseurs in their respective fields of interest. At his death in 1974 Kerrison Preston left a varied collection of medieval manuscripts, fine illustrated books and paintings which was notable not least for its Victorian pictures. As a young man he had met and was encouraged in his collecting by the writer, artist, theatrical promoter and aesthete Walford Graham Robertson (1866-1948). Robertson had been a pupil of both Walter Crane, the illustrator and a prominent figure in Arts and Crafts circles, and the painter Albert Moore, as well as a close friend of Edward Burne-Jones, George Frederick Watts and James McNeill Whistler. He was also a passionate admirer, collector and scholar of William Blake and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He encouraged similar interests in his younger protégé, and made a number of gifts to him. Among the celebrated Victorian pictures that Kerrison Preston owned, Choosing by G.F. Watts (his portrait of the young Ellen Terry, now in the National Portrait Gallery) and Rossetti’s Paolo and Francesca of 1861 (Cecil Higgins Art Gallery) are two of the best known. He also formed an important collection of books illustrated by and about William Blake which he gave to Westminster Public Library. His daughter Jean Preston (1928-2006) graduated in History from the University of Bristol in 1951 and became a specialist curator of archives, manuscripts and rare books. After working at Middlesex Record Office she went to America in 1957 where in the course of a distinguished career she worked at the Folger Shakespeare Library (Washington DC), Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery (San Marino, California, Curator of Manuscripts), the Yale University Library (Osborn Librarian), and finally at Princeton University Library (where she was Curator of Manuscripts and taught medieval palaeography) from where she returned to the United Kingdom in 1993.
Michael Liversidge Bristol, February 2007
Acknowledgements Above all I must record my indebtedness to the late Jean Preston who permitted me to research her two Fra Angelico panels and who took a keen interest in their public announcement in Florence at the British Institute of Florence in November 2006 and looked forward to their eventual publication, neither of which sadly she lived to see. I am grateful to my colleagues in the University of Bristol History of Art Department, Dr Tatiana String and Dr Beth Williamson, for helping with suggestions and references and for contributing valuable ideas in the discussion of the panels when they were presented at a research seminar in February 2006; and also to Dr Dillian Gordon of the National Gallery in London and Dr Laurence Kanter of the Metropolitan Museum in New York who kindly commented on my conclusions as I reported them in January 2006. In acknowledging my gratitude to all of them I wish to make it clear that all opinions expressed here are entirely my own responsibility. I should also like to thank Miss Ami Brabbins for her suggestions when I was preparing my original British Institute of Florence paper about the authorship of the panels, and for helping with editing and sourcing illustrations. Both Dr String and Miss Louise Hughes in History of Art at Bristol have also kindly read, and endured apparently harmlessly, the text published here. Mrs Sue Grice of the University’s Archaeology and Anthropology Department created the reconstruction with eight frame figures I have proposed.
Principal References M. Boskovits and D.A. Brown, Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. The Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York/Oxford, 2003. M. Boskovits and D. Parenti, Da Bernardo Daddi al Beato Angelico a Botticelli. Dipinti fiorentini del Lindenau-Museum di Altenburg. Florence, 2005. W. Hood, Fra Angelico at San Marco. New Haven/London, 1993. L. Kanter and P. Palladino, Fra Angelico. New York/New Haven, 2005. D. Kent, Cosimo de’ Medici and the Florentine Renaissance. The Patron’s Oeuvre. New Haven/London, 2000. J. Pope-Hennessy, Fra Angelico. Revised 2nd edition, London, 1974. J.T. Spike, Fra Angelico. New York/London, 1997. A. Thomas, The Painter’s Practice in Renaissance Tuscany. Cambridge, 1995.
Fra Angelicoâ€™s calm mastery of the tempera technique, a virtually changeless material that has never been bettered.......
........remains in largely beautiful condition Sarah Walden January 2007
AN INDEPENDENT CONDITION REPORT Prepared by Sarah Walden, January 2007
Guido di Pietro, Fra Angelico. Two Saints from the side columns of an altarpiece. St Vincent Ferrer. Size: 5 x 15.5 inches, with cusping at the base corners: right corner 1.5 x 1.25 inches and left corner 0.6 x 1 inch. The right edge has the curled lip of the original integrated frame down its full length, with a trace at the top edge. Similar cusping can be seen in the little panels down the side columns of the Descent from the Cross Altarpiece in San Marco. The panel is presumably poplar but it was not possible to see the back as it has been encased in a rather makeshift frame probably from around the beginning of the last century. There are also narrow added side strips just over half an inch wide. Although the framing is quite roughly made, with a large knot in the wood behind, it has to some extent protected the original panel. Glimpsed through the crack behind, the wood appears not to have been thinned and to be fairly strong but with some old worm hollows towards the middle. There are a few worm exit holes through the paint in the lower part of the figure, apparently old and inactive. In general however the original panel seems stable and strong with no tendency to move.
There is a general fine winding vertical craquelure, which is secure and not raised. Some of the vertical cracks in the centre of the white under vestment show some signs of possible wear along the edges, where the gesso may be visible, although this is hard to ascertain through the dirt. Overall the surface is very messy, with perhaps a centuryâ€™s dirt and accretions. There is old gold paint down the sides, partly over the plain wood of the side strips but also brushed vaguely over original gilding down the side edges, with a darkened band down the right edge and quite a thick streak covering the central left edge, and thinner old greyish gold paint spread across the upper left side up to the edge of the halo, slightly overlapping the border of the black robe by the shoulder. There is also some around the edges of the lost cloud on each side at the base and over the corner fillings.
Originally the saint stood upon an ultramarine cloud, and there are microscopic traces left at the base of the feet. The gold leaf beneath remains intact. The red bole underlying the gold leaf throughout can be seen in a minute tracery of cracks across the gold background, with occasional places where the gesso is slightly exposed, for instance at the lower right side. The fine indented halo has been affected presumably by wiping with water, and both the gold leaf and the bole have been partially lost. The outer rays of the halo remain completely intact and beyond these there are the faint letters of the saintâ€™s name, with a few traces of the original ultramarine writing: S VINCENTIUS running round from the upper centre down to the right, while on the left side, largely camouflaged by the surface dirt and patchy superficial old gold paint, a few letters can just been made out L? M? H V? with only the H clearly visible. St.Vincent Ferrer was a fourteenth century dominican preacher of hell fire sermons, who travelled across Europe, hence the staff. The gold background is particularly muffled with accreted dirt and the remains of gold paint, but there is also dirt and old varnish of some sort over the whole painting including the figure. This dims the surface of the black robe but the original paint layer is clearly immaculately preserved. The darker folds down the sides of the white surplice are also in beautifully intact condition, whilst in the centre the surface is quite brittle, with the decayed and fractured old varnishes engrained with dirt, in places partially wiped in or away. It is in this area that some of the vertical craquelure appears to have slightly worn edges, but the present condition makes this hard to read with certainty. The minute crackle of the surface is quite fragile in this area, with some minute lost flakes in the blue book and nearby. This should be consolidated, but the book is otherwise rather well preserved as is the saintâ€™s staff, apart from the tip at the base that has flaked, showing the original indented outlines, which can be seen also across the base, around the feet and the hem as well as elsewhere. There are occasional minor old superficial score marks that have not broken the paint, one small old chip by the edge of the halo and one in the upper left background, but no serious accidental damage at all.
The hands are beautifully intact and the head also appears through the dirt to be in good condition. There are two minute chips, one by the upper lip and one just below the nose. The various apparent fly spots could be slightly corrosive but it is hard to tell, as also quite how completely intact the hair might be, but in general the gentle brushwork appears to be finely preserved.
A Dominican Saint. Size: 5 x 15.4 inches. The left edge has a curling lip from the original integrated frame all down its length, a fraction of the upper lip remains and a hint of a curve at the base. As with the previous panel this has similar side strips and is similarly encased in fairly old framing, but the presumably unthinned poplar panel appears strong, secure and flat. There are slightly more worm holes in this panel mainly in the centre. The craquelure in this case is rather more regularly vertical. There is no delicate or brittle surface crackle, but one short scratch in the centre by the book. The gold paint overlaps quite a broad stretch of the original gold leaf down the sides and in the base corners. The ultramarine cloud has been removed here also, with minute traces left under the feet but the underlying gold is intact. The halo is complete and unrubbed in this painting, but without any surrounding letters indicating the saintâ€™s identity. One vertical in the craquelure of the face has been worn quite thin, with the crack on either side slightly abraded in one or two little places, as is a crack on the right of the halo, and there is a little chip in the verticals in the hand. Some minute white spots in the lower drapery have corroded the paint, and there is one heavy fly spot beside the left eye, with a few other fly spots and superficial splashes across the surface, but the drapery looks finely intact, as does the book. The gilding is also very well preserved generally. Much heavy darkened surface dirt muffles the head and hands, but apart from the vertical by the nose, where the paint is thin, other verticals for instance in the hands do not show any wear in the paint. There is one little diagonal score mark on the forehead and a slight lump by the outline of the eyebrow which appears to be some sort of extraneous accretion. Some of the darkened surface of the head and hands is hard to penetrate, but the underlying original seems to be beautifully preserved. Essentially these exceptional little paintings have been scarcely touched for a century at least. Once removed from the altarpiece little seems to have been done to them perhaps until the corners of the St Vincent panel were filled (not perhaps likely before the nineteenth or early twentieth century) and the present frames were added, with the gold paint some time later. Quite when the clouds were removed is hard to place but apparently after the old varnishes had darkened. It seems possibly to have been done for ideological reasons, to remove the most conspicuously religious element. Whether the lettering was removed at the same time would seem likely, but given the surface dirt and discoloured varnish it is hard to tell to what extent the paintings were cleaned in the past. Although some dark smudges in the flesh painting could possibly be old toning, this appears to be far from any actual restoration, and perhaps more like a sort of intentional dirtying such as can be seen down the craquelure of the blue book. The casual wiping of the halo of St. Vincent with a damp cloth was clearly long after both varnish and gold paint. The overall condition of the paintings suggests that they have been neglected often beneficially for centuries, with if anything occasional amateurish attention. However Fra Angelicoâ€™s calm mastery of the tempera technique, a virtually changeless material that has never been bettered, remains in largely beautiful condition. Despite the removal of the clouds, his characteristic gentle, mystic light comes through even these extremely unflattering layers of dirt, fly spots and gold paint. The above represents not a definitive study (the panels were not removed from their surrounding structure and no tests involving intervention were made), but a personal opinion.
Sarah Walden January 2007
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1 DEFINITIONS In these Conditions: (a) “auctioneer” means the firm of Duke’s or its authorised auctioneer, as appropriate; (b) “deliberate forgery” means an imitation made with the intention of deceiving as to authorship, origin, date, age, period, culture or source but which is unequivocally described in the catalogue as being the work of a particular creator and which at the date of the sale had a value materially less than it would have had if it had been in accordance with the description; (c) “hammer price” means the level of bidding reached (at or above any reserve) when the auctioneer brings down the hammer; (d) “terms of consignment” means the stipulated terms and rates of commission on which HY. Duke and Son accepts instructions from sellers or their agents; (e) “total amount due” means the hammer price in respect of the lot sold together with any premium, Value Added Tax chargeable and any additional charges payable by a defaulting buyer under these Conditions; (f) “sale proceeds” means the net amount due to the seller, being the hammer price of the lot sold less commission at the stated rate, Value Added Tax chargeable and any other amounts due to us by the seller in whatever capacity and however arising; (g) “You”, “Your”, etc. refer to the buyer as identified in Condition 2. (h) The singular includes the plural and vice versa as appropriate.
9 THIRD PARTY LIABILITY All members of the public on our premises are there at their own risk and must note the lay-out of the accommodation and security arrangements. Accordingly neither the auctioneer nor our employees or agents shall incur liability for death or personal injury (except as required by law by reason of our negligence) or similarly for the safety of the property of persons visiting prior to or at a sale.
2 BIDDING PROCEDURES AND THE BUYER (a) Bidders are required to register their particulars before bidding and to satisfy any security arrangements before entering the auction room to view or bid; (b) the maker of the highest bid accepted by the auctioneer conducting the sale shall be the buyer at the hammer price and any dispute about a bid shall be settled at the auctioneer's absolute discretion by reoffering the Lot during the course of the auction or otherwise. The auctioneer shall act reasonably in exercising this discretion. (c) Bidders shall be deemed to act as principals. (d) Once made, no bid may be withdrawn. (e) Our right to bid on behalf of the seller is expressly reserved up to the amount of any reserve and the right to refuse any bid is also reserved. 3 INCREMENTS Bidding increments shall be at the auctioneer's sole discretion. 4 THE PURCHASE PRICE The buyer shall pay the hammer price together with a premium thereon of 19.5% plus VAT on the premium at the rate imposed by law. 5 VALUE ADDED TAX Value Added Tax on the hammer price is imposed by law on all items affixed with an asterisk or double asterisk. Value Added Tax is charged at the appropriate rate prevailing by law at the date of sale and is payable by buyers of relevant Lots. 6 PAYMENT (1) Immediately a Lot is sold you will: (a) give to us, if requested, proof of identity, and (b) pay to us the total amount due in cash or in such other way as is agreed by us. (2) Any payments by you to us may be applied by us towards any sums owing from you to us on any account whatever without regard to any directions of you or your agent, whether express or implied. 7 TITLE AND COLLECTION OF PURCHASES (1) The ownership of any Lots purchased shall not pass to you until you have made payment in full to us of the total amount due. (2) You shall at your own risk and expense take away any lots that you have purchased and paid for not later than 3 working days following the day of the auction or upon the clearance of any cheque used for payment after which you shall be responsible for any removal, storage and insurance charges. (3) No purchase can be claimed or removed until it has been paid for. 8 REMEDIES FOR NON-PAYMENT OR FAILURE TO COLLECT PURCHASES (1) If any Lot is not paid for in full and taken away in accordance with these Conditions or if there is any other breach of these Conditions, we, as agent for the seller and on our own behalf, shall at our absolute discretion and without prejudice to any other rights we may have, be entitled to exercise one or more of the following rights and remedies: (a) to proceed against you for damages for breach of contract; (b) to rescind the sale of that Lot and/or any other Lots sold by us to you; (c) to resell the Lot (by auction or private treaty) in which case you shall be responsible for any resulting deficiency in the total amount due (after crediting any part payment and adding any resale costs). Any surplus so arising shall belong to the seller; (d) to remove, store and insure the Lot at your expense and, in the case of storage, either at our premises or elsewhere; (e) to charge interest at a rate not exceeding 1.5% per month on the total amount due to the extent it remains unpaid for more than 3 working days after the sale; (f) to retain that or any other Lot sold to you until you pay the total amount due; (g) to reject or ignore bids from you or your agent at future auctions or to impose conditions before any such bids shall be accepted; (h) to apply any proceeds of sale of other Lots due or in future becoming due to you towards the settlement of the total amount due and to exercise a lien (that is a right to retain possession of) any of your property in our possession for any purpose until the debt due is satisfied.
10 COMMISSION BIDS Whilst prospective buyers are strongly advised to attend the auction and are always responsible for any decision to bid for a particular Lot and shall be assumed to have carefully inspected and satisfied themselves as to its condition we will if so instructed clearly and in writing execute bids on their behalf. Neither the auctioneer nor our employees or agents shall be responsible for any failure to do so save where such failure is unreasonable. Where two or more commission bids at the same level are recorded we reserve the right in our absolute discretion to prefer the first bid so made. 11 WARRANTY OF TITLE AND AVAILABILITY The seller warrants to the auctioneer and you that the seller is the true owner of the property consigned or is properly authorised by the true owner to consign it for sale and is able to transfer good and marketable title to the property free from any third party claims. 12 AGENCY The auctioneer normally acts as agent only and disclaims any responsibility for default by sellers or buyers. 13 TERMS OF SALE The seller acknowledges that Lots are sold subject to the stipulations of these Conditions in their entirety and on the Terms of Consignment as notified to the consignor at the time of the entry of the Lot. 14 DESCRIPTIONS AND CONDITION (1) Whilst we seek to describe lots accurately, it may be impractical for us to carry out exhaustive due diligence on each lot. Prospective buyers are given ample opportunities to view and inspect before any sale and they (and any independent experts on their behalf) must satisfy themselves as to the accuracy of any description applied to a lot. Prospective buyers also bid on the understanding that, inevitably, representations or statements by us as to authorship, genuineness, origin, date, age, provenance, condition or estimated selling price involve matters of opinion. We undertake that any such opinion shall be honestly and reasonably held and accept liability for opinions given negligently or fraudulently. Subject to the foregoing neither we the auctioneer nor our employees or agents nor the seller accept liability for the correctness of such opinions and all conditions and warranties, whether relating to description, condition or quality of lots, express, implied or statutory, are hereby excluded. This Condition is subject to the next following Condition concerning deliberate forgeries and applies save as provided for in paragraph 6 “information to buyers”. (2) Private treaty sales made under these Conditions are deemed to be sales by auction for purposes of consumer legislation. 15 FORGERIES Notwithstanding the preceding Condition, any Lot which proves to be a deliberate forgery (as defined) may be returned to us by you within 21 days of the auction provided it is in the same condition as when bought, and is accompanied by particulars identifying it from the relevant catalogue description and a written statement of defects. If we are satisfied from the evidence presented that the Lot is a deliberate forgery we shall refund the money paid by you for the Lot including any buyer's premium provided that (1) if the catalogue description reflected the accepted view of scholars and experts as at the date of sale or (2) you personally are not able to transfer a good and marketable title to us, you shall have no rights under this condition. The right of return provided by this Condition is additional to any right or remedy provided by law or by these Conditions of Sale. 16 GENERAL We shall have the right at our discretion, to refuse admission to our premises or attendance at our auctions by any person. (1) any right to compensation for losses liabilities and expenses incurred in respect of and as a result of any breach of these Conditions and any exclusions provided by them shall be available to the seller and/or the auctioneer as appropriate. (2). Such rights and exclusions shall extend to and be deemed to be for the benefit of employees and agents of the seller and/or the auctioneer who may themselves enforce them. (3) Any notice to any buyer, seller, bidder or viewer may be given by first class mail or Swiftmail in which case it shall be deemed to have been received by the addressee 48 hours after posting. (4) Special terms may be used in catalogue descriptions of particular classes of items in which case the descriptions must be interpreted in accordance with any glossary appearing at the commencement of the catalogue. (5) Any indulgence extended to bidders buyers or sellers by us notwithstanding the strict terms of these Conditions or of the Terms of Consignment shall affect the position at the relevant time only and in respect of that particular concession only; in all other respects these Conditions shall be construed as having full force and effect. (6) English law applies to the interpretation of these Conditions.
Cheques The Auctioneers regret that they are unable to accept cheques in payment for purchases, except where arrangements have been made beforehand, well in advance of sale day. Intending purchasers are asked to instruct their bank to contact the Auctioneer's bank (Natwest, 49 South Street, Dorchester) as early as possible, to confirm clearance in writing up to a stated maximum amount to ensure that a cheque will be accepted on sale day. In the absence of such information, a Banker's Draft, a Building Society cheque or cash will be required to allow removal of goods on sale day. Purchasers may not otherwise remove goods until their cheques are cleared by the Auctioneers' bank.
Third Party Liability Any person or his personal property on the Auctioneers' premises before, during or after the sale shall be deemed to be there at his own risk and he shall have no claim against the Auctioneers in respect of any injury he may sustain or any accident which may occur.
Duke’s AUCTIONEERS SINCE 1823