These expressive, well-preserved panels have always been associated with Giovanni Bonsi, who flourished between 1351 and the early 1370s. One of the key Florentine painters who emerged under the influence of Andrea di Cione, known as Orcagna (fl. 1344-1368) in the third quarter of the 14th century, Bonsi's oeuvre has been reconstructed around his only signed and dated work, a polyptych inscribed '1371' depicting the Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints Onofrius, Nicholas, Bartholomew and John the Evangelist in the Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome (inv. 9). Miklós Boskovits, to whom our understanding of the artist's oeuvre is partly due, observed Bonsi's unique soluzioni lineari and ritmi goticheggianti (M. Boskovits,op. cit., p. 319). Other scholars have also called attention to the painter's recognizable, remarkably progressive works. Bonsi's style, later elaborated upon by the greatest of the gothic painters in Florence, Lorenzo Monaco (c. 1370-1425), establishes his historical importance amidst the great panorama of early Florentine artists.
In 1975, Boskovits dated the present panels to 1360-1365. In a recent edition of the Corpus of Florentine Painting, Simona Pasquinucci presented the panels as Giovanni Bonsi (close to), with the caveat that their delicacy of chiaroscural modeling as well as their sobriety of composition and incisiveness of design are decidedly reminiscent of Bonsi's style. This led Pasquinucci to suggest that an attribution to Bonsi himself may still be tenable. If this is the case, she writes, the present pinnacles should be considered mature works of the mid-1470s, between Bonsi's Saint James and Saint John the Baptist in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Prato and his Vatican polyptych (S. Pascquinucci, op. cit., p. 25). Though the origin of the present panels is unknown, they certainly once comprised the uppermost pinnacles of an altarpiece, as yet unidentified. Old inventory numbers '4233' and '4234' on the versos of the present panels, which appear to retain their original thickness, may shed some light on their early provenance.
Saint Leonard of Noblac was a 5th-century saint who converted Clovis I (c. 466-511), first King of the Franks, to Christianity. King Clovis gave Leonard the right to release any worthy prisoner who also converted; henceforth the Saint has often been represented with chains or broken fetters in his hands, as here. He is the patron saint of prisoners, captives, and slaves. Saint Anthony Abbot, sometimes called Saint Anthony the Great, was a 3rd-century saint from Egypt, who seems to have been the first ascetic to abandon communal life for the wilderness.
Signature: Inscribed 'SCS·LEONARdVS·MART·' and 'SCS·ANTONIVS·ABAS·' (the first and the second respectively, lower center, on the engaged frame)
M. Boskovits, Pittura Fiorentinia alla vigilia del Rinascimento, Florence, 1975, p. 320.
E. Skaug, Punch Marks from Giotto to Fra Angelico: Attribution, Chronology, and Workshop Relationships in Tuscan Panel Painting c. 1330-1430, Oslo, 1994, I, p. 146, no. 62, 'Deleted works, studied in photographs only and seemingly without motif punches: DUBLIN, Murnaghan, 2 Saints, ps. pol...'.
S. Pasquinucci, 'Tradition and Innovation in Florentine Trecento painting: Giovanni Bonsi - Tommaso del Mazza' in M. Boskovits, ed., A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting, sect. 4, VIII, Florence, 2000, pp. 25, 38, 94, 95, pl. XV, as 'Giovanni Bonsi (close to)'.
PROPERTY OF A LADY
Murnaghan Collection, Dublin, by 1975.