Jacopo di Cione was the younger brother of Andrea di Cione, known as Orcagna (c. 1315-1368), and Nardo di Cione (c. 1320-c.1366). No signed painting by Jacopo survives. He is first recorded in 1368 as having completed the Saint Matthew triptych at Orsanmichele (now Florence, Uffizi, inv. 3163) begun by Andrea, who had fallen ill. Other documented works around which his oeuvre has been reconstructed are the majestic polyptych for the high altar of San Pier Maggiore, Florence of 1370-1371 and the Coronation of the Virgin for the mint of Florence from 1372-1373.
The present full-length standing Madonna is a rare trecento composition. A remarkable survival in its original engaged frame, this large panel has always been associated with the 14th-century milieu of the Cione brothers. Formerly, the present work was attributed to the 'Master of the San Niccolò Altarpiece', a minor Cionesque personality invented by Offner. It is possible, however, that Offner never saw the painting in person: his first mention of it in relation to the 'Master of San Niccolò' is in a footnote of his review of the 1933 Florence exhibition Mostra del Tesoro di Firenze Sacra, at which the picture was not displayed. Later authors seem to have simply absorbed Offner's classification; there is no evidence to suggest any of them had knowledge of the painting beyond photographic reproductions. Laurence Kanter, however, having recently examined the panel firsthand, has concluded that it is an early picture by Jacopo di Cione, probably datable to circa 1365. It thus constitutes an important addition to a period of the artist's career about which very little is understood.
In his discussion of Jacopo di Cione, Offner distinguished two distinct hands within the artist's oeuvre, creating the so-called 'Master of the Infancy of Christ' and 'Master of the Prato Annunciation', whose works are now associated, respectively, with the early and late phases of Jacopo's career. Several paintings that have in the past been attributed to the 'Master of the Infancy of Christ' bear strong similarities to the present work, reinforcing both its attribution to Jacopo and early dating within his career. Salient examples are the Madonna of Humility with two Donors, four Saints and Crucifixion in Florence (Accademia, inv. 5887) and the Madonna and Child with Saints and Angels in Budapest (Szépmüvészeti Mùzeum, inv. 2540).
The first recorded owner of this painting was Arnaldo Corsi (1853-1919), a Florentine engineer, collector, and occasional dealer in paintings, who counted among his friends the Italian Renaissance art scholar Frederick Mason Perkins (1874-1955) and the formidable American collector Dan Fellows Platt (1873-1938). Corsi amassed an enormous group of pictures, which Federico Zeri described as among the most extraordinary accumulated by a private collector in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (F. Zeri in Il Museo Nascosto: Capolavori dalla Galleria Corsi nel Museo Bardini, exhibition catalogue, Florence, 1991, p. 11). Most of Corsi's collection was purchased by the Museo Bardini in Florence in 1939.
We are grateful to Laurence Kanter for suggesting the attribution on the basis of firsthand examination.
Signature: Inscribed 'T VIRGO MARIA SIMILIS P' (upper center, on the Virgin's halo)
R. Offner, 'The Mostra del Tesoro di Firenze Sacra-I', Burlington Magazine, LXIII, no. 365, August 1933, p. 84, note 60, as by the 'Master of the S. Nicolò Altarpiece'.
M. Meiss, Painting in Florence and Siena after the Black Death, Princeton, 1951, p. 42, note 119, as by a follower of the Cione brothers.
M. Boskovits, Pittura fiorentina alla vigilia del rinascimento, 1370-1400, Florence, 1975, p. 211, note 55, as by the 'Master of the San Niccolò Altarpiece'.
R. Offner, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Paintings: The Fourteenth Century, Supplement: A Legacy of Attributions, ed. by H.B.J. Maginnis, Locust Valley, New York, 1981, p. 47 (erroneously listed as in the Heinz Kisters collection), as by the 'Master of the S. Niccolò Sacristy'.
E.S. Skaug, Punchmarks from Giotto to Fra Angelico: Attribution, Chronology, and Workshop Relationships in the Tuscan Panel Painting, with Particular Consideration to Florence, c. 1330-1430, Oslo, 1994, I, pp. 149-150, note 84; II, n.p. (punch chart no. 6.4) (erroneously listed as in the Heinz Kisters collection), as by the 'Master of San Niccolò'.
M. Boskovits and A. Tartuferi, Soprintendenza Speciale per il Polo Museale Fiorentino, Galleria dell'Accademia: Dipinti, Florence and Milan, 2003, I, p. 139, under no. 24 (erroneously listed as in the Heinz Kisters collection), as by the 'Maestro dell'Altare di San Niccolò'.
Ing. Arnaldo Corsi (1853-1919), Palazzo Mancini, Florence.
Acquired by the present owner in 1956.