Niccolo' di Pietro Gerini

(Documenten in Florence between 1368 and 1414)

Crucifixion, 1395 - 1400

tempera on panel, gold ground, 37,5 x 39 cm (14.76 x 15.35 inches)

  • Reference: 728
  • Provenance: Florence, Alfonso Tacoli Canacci Collection Kreuzlingen, Heinz Kisters Collection Frankfurt, Kotzenberg Collection
Literature:

A. Tacoli Canacci, Etruria Pittrice o sia Storia delli Principi, Risorsa ed Avanzamenti della Pittura dimostrata con una Serie di Opere Originali di tutti li più rinomati Pittori Toscani, Firenze 1789, Madrid, Biblioteca Real, Ms. II/574, n. 12; A. Tacoli Canacci, Catalogo ragionato dei pittori della Scuola Toscana le cui Tavole Originali sono state raccolte ordinatamente in serie Cronologica & presentate davanti al Trono Della Sacra Cattolica Real Maestà di Carlo IV, Re delle Spagne, [1791], Parma, Biblioteca della Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio per le province di Parma e Piacenza, Ms. 105, n. 28; A. Tacoli Canacci, Catalogo Ragionato dei Pittori della Scuola Toscana, le cui tavole originali sono state raccolte ordinatamente in serie cronologica, Firenze 1792, Parma, Archivio di Stato, Ms. 101, n. 27; B. Berenson, Quadri senza casa – Il Trecento fiorentino, IV, in “Dedalo”, 1932, I, pp. 18, 20; B. Berenson, Homeless Paintings of the Renaissance, edited by H. Kiel, London 1969, pp. 134-135, fig. 229; M. Boskovits, Pittura fiorentina alla vigilia del Rinascimento, Florence 1975, p. 410; H. B. J. Maginnis, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting, V, 1, A legacy of attributions, Florence 1981, p. 82; V. M. Buonocore, Il marchese Alfonso Tacoli Canacci: onesto gentiluomo smaniante per la pittura, Reggio Emilia 2005, p. 137; L. Sbaraglio, Alfonso Tacoli Canacci (Mirandola, 1726 – Firenze, 1801), in La fortuna dei primitivi. Tesori d’arte dalle Collezioni Italiane fra Sette e Ottocento, edited by A. Tartuferi and G. Tormen, exhibition catalogue (Florence, Galleria dell’Accademia, 24/6 – 8/12/2014), Florence 2014, pp. 214-215, fig. 6.

Bologna, Alma Mater Studiorum, Fondazione Federico Zeri, Fototeca: folder 0056 (Pittura italiana sec. XIV. Firenze. Maestro della Misericordia Orcagnesca, Nicolò di Pietro Gerini), dossier 3 (Nicolò di Pietro Gerini e bottega: tavole piccole 1), n. 3415.

Descriptions:

Christ is depicted at the moment of His death, His eyes closed and blood coming from His wounds. On His right, the Virgin desperately spreads her arms, while Saint John crosses his hands over his chest; below Christ, Mary Magdalene, lays on the ground, holding the cross while collecting the streaming blood from the rocky summit into her open hand, an allusion to the Golgotha hill.

This precious painting, which was likely to have originally been the upper section of a single devotional panel due to its small dimensions, features a remarkable collecting history. A cartouche on the back attests to its provenance from the collection of Marquise Alfonso Tacoli Canacci (Mirandola, 1726 – Florence, 1801), who, as Zeri stated, had gathered “the most important collection of primitivi from the XVIII century in Italy, the only one of which has been created with the interest of a head of state”[i]. Besides being a collector, Tacoli Canacci was also a skilful gold-ground trader, and often proposed works with success to his friend Ferdinand I of Bourbon, the Duke of Parma and Piacenza from 1765 to 1802. This explains why Zeri refers to a collection created thanks to the enthusiasm of an illuminated ruler, who was capable of understanding that the paintings of the XIV and XV centuries were important documents of a figurative culture that would have led, centuries later, to the great Manner. Marquise Taccoli had the chance to live in a time in which many princes were suppressing religious institutions and selling their assets: in 1782, Pietro Leopoldo di Lorena, the Gran Duke of Tuscany, authorised the suppression of as many as eleven orders and the earnings from the sale of their assets, including artistic possessions, entered the state treasury. As a result of the Marquise’s investments, he gathered an incredible collection, mainly focused on Tuscan primitivi – amongst the many paintings, Meliore’s ancient dossal, today in the Uffizi Gallery, with the Redeemer, the Virgin and Saints Peter, John the Evangelist and Paul, and the triptych with Agnolo Gaddi’s Virgin with Child in Throne with Six Saints, today part of the collection of the Galleria Nazionale in Parma[ii].

As previously mentioned, Gerini’s most generous patron was Duke Ferdinand; nonetheless, Tacoli presented his collection to other rich collectors, amongst all, the Duke’s cousin, King of Spain Charles IV. During the King’s 1789 visit, the Marquise prepared a catalogue with the 375 paintings of his collection, with a view of a possible sale to Charles IV, a deal that never concluded: the 12th item in the catalogue is the “Crucifixion with sorrowful”, with the words “Piccolo quadro in fondo d’oro rappresentante Cristo in Croce con la Madonna, e San Giovanni Battista in pié dai lati, e Santa Maria Maddalena prostata a piè della Croce. Tavola. B. 2/3. B. 2/3. di Giotto di Bondone della prima maniera di Cimabue” (“A small painting with gold-ground depicting Christ on the Cross with the Madonna, and Saint John the Baptist below on the side, and Saint Mary Magdalene lying on the ground below the Cross. Panel. B. 2/3. B. 2/3. by Giotto di Bondone in the early style of Cimabue”), indicating our painting. This is then further confirmed by the cartouche on the verso of the work (although the n. 28 on the tagline refers to the second version of the handwritten inventory, made in 1791) [iii].

In modern literature, the painting reappeared for the first time in the group of the ‘homeless paintings’ that were identified by Bernard Berenson in a series of contributions on the ‘Dedalo’ magazine, published between 1929 and 1933 and dedicated to panels whose provenance was at the time unknown[iv]. It was Berenson’s belief that the painting was not a work of the beginning of the XIV century, as Tacoli claimed, but rather of the end of the century, and in particular of the sphere of influence of Niccolò di Pietro Gerini. Two artists are mentioned as plausible painters: the Florentine Lorenzo di Niccolò and Pietro Nelli, from the Mugello region, both students of Gerini around 1390[v] - though we now know that the collaboration with Nelli dated back many years. Richard Offner offers a similar attribution, assigning the panel to Gerini’s workshop[vi]. Finally, Miklós Boskovits attributed the panel to the master[vii], and also recognized that the panel was part of the collection of German art dealer Heinz Kisters in his Swiss villa in Kreuzlingen[viii]. In 1977, upon Kisters’ death, the collection was mostly dispersed: our painting passed at first in Frankfurt, in the collection of the heirs of the antique dealers Karl and Anna Kotzenbrerg, and later reappeared on the market; Lorenzo Sbaraglio recently mentioned it as a work by Gerini in an essay on the collection of Marquise Tacoli (in the catalogue of the beautiful exhibition The Fortunes of the Primitives on display at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence) [ix].

Niccolò di Pietro Gerini is rightly considered an exemplary author of Florentine art of the last quarter of the XIV century[x]. Having trained in the workshop of Andrea di Cione, also known as ‘Orcagna’, he stands out for his personal interpretation- displayed in the magnificent polyptych of the church of Santa Maria dell’Impruneta, made around 1375 in collaboration with Pietro Nelli and Tommaso del Mazza[xi] - of the models of the beginning of the century, and especially of Taddeo Gaddi’s manner[xii]. The adhesion to the Giottesque models would remain a constant feature throughout his career, answering to the formal needs of more traditional patrons. Gerini was active until the second decade of the XV century and remained true to his style while also being naturally permeable to the impressions of the artists with whom he periodically came in contact, from Agnolo Gaddi to Mariotto di Nardo. This Crucifixion, which reveals a “calm solemnity”, as noted by Berenson[xiii], was completed around the end of the century – as Boskovits proposed[xiv] –, immediately after the frescoes of the convent of San Francesco a Prato[xv], and likely in the same years of the scenes of the Resurrection and the Ascension, painted on the back wall of the sacristy of Santa Croce in Florence[xvi]. This is the most successful period of Gerini’s career, commissioned to paint in many Tuscan cities, from Pisa to Arezzo, and in charge of an impressive atelier, in which the autonomous personality of Lorenzo di Niccolò was starting to stand out.

In the works of the last decade of the XIV century, such as our panel, Gerini clearly endeavours to achieve a representational monumentality, with the figures captured in physiognomic and humorous features; yet, at the same time, the artist adheres to the formal trends of his time, with a language that has been marked by the figurative experience of Agnolo Gaddi’s fresco cycles, oriented towards narrative eloquence. It is no coincidence that works with different temperaments such as the aforementioned frescoes of Santa Croce - close to the Giottesque tradition-, and those made in collaboration with Ambrogio di Baldese in the Alberti chapel of Santa Brigida al Paradiso - also in Florence and closer to the sweetness of the Late Gothic-, were actually made during the same years[xvii]. Our panel was definitely influenced by the same solemn poetics behind the frescoes of Santa Croce and the triptych depicting the Madonna of the Girdle with Four Saints, in the church of San Francesco in Arezzo[xviii], but also by smaller panels, such as the Crucifixion with Mourners, today part of the collections of the Hermitage Museum, a quite pertinent point of comparison with our panel[xix]. Our painting reveals deference and detachment from the depicted characters: the width of the Virgin’s sorrowful gesture and Saint John’s severe composure are both exemplary models of devotion and, rather than aiming at satisfying the viewers’ gaze, they want to awake their piety. As in Taddeo Gaddi’s Crucifixions – the one in the convent of Ognissanti, for instance, or the one at the centre of the same wall of Gerini’s frescoes in the sacristy of Santa Croce –, the figures become rhythmic masses; they are emotionally considerable for their plastic power and the subtle counterpoint of the gestures.

Niccolò’s poetics culminate into the final moment of XIV century figurative tradition in Florence: his success can be explained with the unconditional adhesion to a style that, throughout the century, was behind the greatest masterpieces. To our eyes, Niccolò’s panel is not only important for its mere aspect, but also for being a precious document informing us that Florentine masters were aware of the unique value of the artistic expressions that had developed in the city in only few generations.



[i] F. Zeri, Qualche appunto sul Daddi, in Id., Diari di lavoro, 1, Bergamo 1971, p. 13.

[ii] On the collector Alfonso Tacoli Canacci see: A. Talignani, La collezione di dipinti toscani del marchese Alfonso Tacoli Canacci, in “Parma per l’arte”, 1986, 2, pp. 31-42; G. Tacoli, Alfonso Tacoli, in “Reggio storia”, 2001, 94, pp. 12-17; V. Buonocore, Aggiunte alla collezione Tacoli-Canacci, in “Arte cristiana”, 2004, 824, pp. 348-354; Id., Il marchese Alfonso Tacoli Canacci: onesto gentiluomo smaniante per la pittura, Reggio Emilia 2005; A. Galli, Tavole toscane del Tre e Quattrocento nella collezione di Alfonso Tacoli Canacci, in Invisibile agli occhi, edited by N. Baldini, acts of the study day in memory of Lisa Venturini (Florence, Fondazione di Studi di Storia dell’Arte ‘Roberto Longhi’, 15/12/2005), Florence 2007, pp. 13-28; E. Donelli, Alfonso Tacoli Canacci collezionista e mercante, in “Quaderni della Bassa Modenese. Storia, tradizione, ambiente”, 2014, 65, pp. 39-70; L. Sbaraglio, Alfonso Tacoli Canacci (Mirandola, 1726 – Firenze, 1801), in La fortuna dei primitivi. Tesori d’arte dalle Collezioni Italiane fra Sette e Ottocento, edited by A. Tartuferi and G. Tormen, exhibition catalogue (Florence, Galleria dell’Accademia, 24/6 – 8/12/2014), Florence 2014, pp. 210-215.

[iii] A. Tacoli Canacci, Etruria Pittrice o sia Storia delli Principi, Risorsa ed Avanzamenti della Pittura dimostrata con una Serie di Opere Originali di tutti li più rinomati Pittori Toscani, Florence 1789, Madrid, Biblioteca Real, Ms. II/574, n. 12; A. Tacoli Canacci, Catalogo ragionato dei pittori della Scuola Toscana le cui Tavole Originali sono state raccolte ordinatamente in serie Cronologica & presentate davanti al Trono Della Sacra Cattolica Real Maestà di Carlo IV, Re delle Spagne, [1791], Biblioteca della Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio per le province di Parma e Piacenza, Ms. 105, n. 28. The painting is the 27th item in the third handwritten inventory, made for Duke Ferdinand: A. Tacoli Canacci, Catalogo Ragionato dei Pittori della Scuola Toscana, le cui tavole originali sono state raccolte ordinatamente in serie cronologica, Florence 1792, Parma, Archivio di Stato, Ms. 101. Vincenzo Buonocore relates the three mentions: Buonocore cit., 2005, p. 137, n. 12.

[iv] Berenson’s contributions, published on the “Dedalo” magazine between 1929 and 1933, have been translated and gathered in a posthumous publication: B. Berenson, Homeless paintings of the Renaissance, edited by H. Kiel, London 1969.

[v] B. Berenson, Quadri senza casa – Il Trecento fiorentino, IV, in “Dedalo”, 1932, I, p. 20.

[vi] H. B. J. Maginnis, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting, V, 1, A legacy of attributions, Florence 1981, p. 82.

[vii] M. Boskovits, Pittura fiorentina alla vigilia del Rinascimento, Florence 1975, p. 410.

[viii] On the personality and the personal collection of the great art dealer, personal friend of the chancellor Konrad Adenauer and supporter of his precious collection, see: Sammlung Heinz Kisters: Altdeutsche und altniederländische Gemälde, edited by P. Strieder, exhibition catalogue (Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 25/6 – 15/9/1963), Nuremberg 1963; Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Heinz Kisters, edited by T. Onken, exhibition catalogue (Kreuzlingen, Evangelisches Kirchengemeindehaus, 17/7 – 8/8/1971), Kreuzlingen 1971.

[ix] Sbaraglio cit., 2014, p. 215.

[x] There is no monography or comprehensive catalogue of Gerini’s works: the articulate entries of the Treccani encyclopedia written by Angelo Tartuferi and Stefano Pierguidi can be considered as attempts: A. Tartuferi, Gerini, Niccolò di Pietro, in Enciclopedia dell'arte medievale, VI, Rome 1995, pp. 551-553; S. Pierguidi, Gerini, Niccolò di Pietro, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 53, Rome 2000.

[xi] R. Offner, K. Steinweg, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting, IV, 3, Jacopo di Cione, Florence 1965, p. 38.

[xii] On Gerini’s poetic frame of mind, throughout his activity, see Boskovits cit., 1975, pp. 58-60, 98-101.

[xiii] Berenson cit., 1932, p. 20.

[xiv] Boskovits reiterated his attribution and his dating suggestion in a 2011 written note.

[xv] U. Baldini, La Cappella Migliorati nel S. Francesco a Prato, Prato 1971.

[xvi] E. Zappasodi, La più antica decorazione della sagrestia-capitolo di Santa Croce, in “Ricerche di storia dell’arte”, 2010, 102, pp. 49-64 (con bibl. prec.).

[xvii] Il paradiso degli Alberti. Storia e recupero del monastero della Vergine Maria e di Santa Brigida, edited by D. Rapino, Florence 2014, pp. 24-28.

[xviii] Boskovits cit., 1975, p. 403.

[xix] T. K. Kustodieva, Crucifixion with the Virgin and St. John by Niccolo di Pietro Gerini, in “Soobščenija Gosudarstvennogo Ermitaža”, II, 1984, pp. 4-5.

Biography

A Florentine painter, Gerini was born around 1343 and became member of the Arte dei medici e degli speziali in 1368. Likely trained in the workshop of Andrea and Jacopo di Cione – Niccolò’s 1383 collaboration with Jacopo on the fresco with the Annunciation with Four Saints in the Palazzo dei Priori in Volterra is documented – beginning with his early works, he stood out for his formal rigour and adhesion to the models of Giotto’s first followers. The majestic and solemn feature of Taddeo Gaddi’s figures particularly represents Niccolò’s greatest model, as attested by the central panels of the large 1375 polyptych of the church of Santa Maria all’Impruneta, near Florence. Since this work, the painter shows the support of a prime workshop, where Pietro Nelli, Tommaso del Mazza – both co-authors of the aforementioned polyptych – and, later, Lorenzo di Niccolò stand out. The success of the painter and his atelier, due to the quality of the works – and to the formal features that met the requests of patrons whose figurative culture was certainly in line with the tradition – allowed him to relentlessly operate in almost all Tuscan centres. Nonetheless, Niccolò was perfectly inserted in his time, approaching from time to time Agnolo Gaddi and Mariotto di Nardo’s Late Gothic avant-garde, through a narrative style adapted to the noble commissions. True to his prerogatives, Niccolò continuously worked in Florence and its territory until his death, between 1414 and 1416.

 

[1] F. Zeri, Qualche appunto sul Daddi, in Id., Diari di lavoro, 1, Bergamo 1971, p. 13.

[1] On the collector Alfonso Tacoli Canacci see: A. Talignani, La collezione di dipinti toscani del marchese Alfonso Tacoli Canacci, in “Parma per l’arte”, 1986, 2, pp. 31-42; G. Tacoli, Alfonso Tacoli, in “Reggio storia”, 2001, 94, pp. 12-17; V. Buonocore, Aggiunte alla collezione Tacoli-Canacci, in “Arte cristiana”, 2004, 824, pp. 348-354; Id., Il marchese Alfonso Tacoli Canacci: onesto gentiluomo smaniante per la pittura, Reggio Emilia 2005; A. Galli, Tavole toscane del Tre e Quattrocento nella collezione di Alfonso Tacoli Canacci, in Invisibile agli occhi, edited by N. Baldini, acts of the study day in memory of Lisa Venturini (Florence, Fondazione di Studi di Storia dell’Arte ‘Roberto Longhi’, 15/12/2005), Florence 2007, pp. 13-28; E. Donelli, Alfonso Tacoli Canacci collezionista e mercante, in “Quaderni della Bassa Modenese. Storia, tradizione, ambiente”, 2014, 65, pp. 39-70; L. Sbaraglio, Alfonso Tacoli Canacci (Mirandola, 1726 – Firenze, 1801), in La fortuna dei primitivi. Tesori d’arte dalle Collezioni Italiane fra Sette e Ottocento, edited by A. Tartuferi and G. Tormen, exhibition catalogue (Florence, Galleria dell’Accademia, 24/6 – 8/12/2014), Florence 2014, pp. 210-215.

[1] A. Tacoli Canacci, Etruria Pittrice o sia Storia delli Principi, Risorsa ed Avanzamenti della Pittura dimostrata con una Serie di Opere Originali di tutti li più rinomati Pittori Toscani, Florence 1789, Madrid, Biblioteca Real, Ms. II/574, n. 12; A. Tacoli Canacci, Catalogo ragionato dei pittori della Scuola Toscana le cui Tavole Originali sono state raccolte ordinatamente in serie Cronologica & presentate davanti al Trono Della Sacra Cattolica Real Maestà di Carlo IV, Re delle Spagne, [1791], Biblioteca della Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio per le province di Parma e Piacenza, Ms. 105, n. 28. The painting is the 27th item in the third handwritten inventory, made for Duke Ferdinand: A. Tacoli Canacci, Catalogo Ragionato dei Pittori della Scuola Toscana, le cui tavole originali sono state raccolte ordinatamente in serie cronologica, Florence 1792, Parma, Archivio di Stato, Ms. 101. Vincenzo Buonocore relates the three mentions: Buonocore cit., 2005, p. 137, n. 12.

[1] Berenson’s contributions, published on the “Dedalo” magazine between 1929 and 1933, have been translated and gathered in a posthumous publication: B. Berenson, Homeless paintings of the Renaissance, edited by H. Kiel, London 1969.

[1] B. Berenson, Quadri senza casa – Il Trecento fiorentino, IV, in “Dedalo”, 1932, I, p. 20.

[1] H. B. J. Maginnis, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting, V, 1, A legacy of attributions, Florence 1981, p. 82.

[1] M. Boskovits, Pittura fiorentina alla vigilia del Rinascimento, Florence 1975, p. 410.

[1] On the personality and the personal collection of the great art dealer, personal friend of the chancellor Konrad Adenauer and supporter of his precious collection, see: Sammlung Heinz Kisters: Altdeutsche und altniederländische Gemälde, edited by P. Strieder, exhibition catalogue (Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, 25/6 – 15/9/1963), Nuremberg 1963; Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Heinz Kisters, edited by T. Onken, exhibition catalogue (Kreuzlingen, Evangelisches Kirchengemeindehaus, 17/7 – 8/8/1971), Kreuzlingen 1971.

[1] Sbaraglio cit., 2014, p. 215.

[1] There is no monography or comprehensive catalogue of Gerini’s works: the articulate entries of the Treccani encyclopedia written by Angelo Tartuferi and Stefano Pierguidi can be considered as attempts: A. Tartuferi, Gerini, Niccolò di Pietro, in Enciclopedia dell'arte medievale, VI, Rome 1995, pp. 551-553; S. Pierguidi, Gerini, Niccolò di Pietro, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 53, Rome 2000.

[1] R. Offner, K. Steinweg, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting, IV, 3, Jacopo di Cione, Florence 1965, p. 38.

[1] On Gerini’s poetic frame of mind, throughout his activity, see Boskovits cit., 1975, pp. 58-60, 98-101.

[1] Berenson cit., 1932, p. 20.

[1] Boskovits reiterated his attribution and his dating suggestion in a 2011 written note.

[1] U. Baldini, La Cappella Migliorati nel S. Francesco a Prato, Prato 1971.

[1] E. Zappasodi, La più antica decorazione della sagrestia-capitolo di Santa Croce, in “Ricerche di storia dell’arte”, 2010, 102, pp. 49-64 (con bibl. prec.).

[1] Il paradiso degli Alberti. Storia e recupero del monastero della Vergine Maria e di Santa Brigida, edited by D. Rapino, Florence 2014, pp. 24-28.

[1] Boskovits cit., 1975, p. 403.

[1] T. K. Kustodieva, Crucifixion with the Virgin and St. John by Niccolo di Pietro Gerini, in “Soobščenija Gosudarstvennogo Ermitaža”, II, 1984, pp. 4-5.

Biography

A Florentine painter, Gerini was born around 1343 and became member of the Arte dei medici e degli speziali in 1368. Likely trained in the workshop of Andrea and Jacopo di Cione – Niccolò’s 1383 collaboration with Jacopo on the fresco with the Annunciation with Four Saints in the Palazzo dei Priori in Volterra is documented – beginning with his early works, he stood out for his formal rigour and adhesion to the models of Giotto’s first followers. The majestic and solemn feature of Taddeo Gaddi’s figures particularly represents Niccolò’s greatest model, as attested by the central panels of the large 1375 polyptych of the church of Santa Maria all’Impruneta, near Florence. Since this work, the painter shows the support of a prime workshop, where Pietro Nelli, Tommaso del Mazza – both co-authors of the aforementioned polyptych – and, later, Lorenzo di Niccolò stand out. The success of the painter and his atelier, due to the quality of the works – and to the formal features that met the requests of patrons whose figurative culture was

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