The Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints Nicholas and Mary Magdalene and angels

This exquisite devotional panel was first identified by Bernard Berenson as a work by Lippo Vanni when it was in the collection of Conte Mario Pinci in Paris (op. cit.). Writing from the Villa I Tatti, Luisa Vertova confirmed the attribution on behalf of Berenson (written communication, 3 September 1954). In that same year, Roberto Longhi also endorsed the attribution (written communication, 26 May 1954).

One of the leading Sienese artists of the generation after Duccio, Simone Martini and the Lorenzetti brothers, Lippo Vanni is first documented in 1344, working as a manuscript illuminator for the Spedale della Santa Maria della Scala, for which he painted five historiated initials of a Gradual (now conserved in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Siena, MS 98/4). Lippo's illuminations from this early period in his career reveal that he was profoundly influenced by the innovations of Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti. In fact, it is likely that Lippo trained in Pietro's workshop (C. Volpe, 'Sul Lippo Vanni da miniature a pittore', Paragone, XXVII, no. 321, 1976, p. 55; G. Chelazzi Dini, 'Lippo Vanni', Enciclopedia dell'arte medievale, 1996, VII, pp. 736-738). Lippo would continue to work in a style inspired by Lorenzetti throughout his career. Lippo's name appears at the top of the list of matriculated painters of 1356 in the Breve dell'arte de' pittori senesi del'anno MCCCLV. A few years earlier, he had won the prestigious commission to paint a Coronation of the Virgin for the Sala della Biccherna in the Palazzo Pubblico, Siena. Lippo's other major commissions for his native city include the frescos of The Battle of the Val di Chiana and St. Paul Surrounded by Virtues for the Sala del Mappamondo in 1363, and his celebrated fresco cycle of the Life of the Virgin in San Leonardo al Lago, located just outside of Siena.

The present panel is very close in style and format to Lippo's Madonna and Child with Saints Peter and Paul and angels in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Friedsam Collection (inv. 32.100.100), which was catalogued by Federico Zeri and Elizabeth Gardner as a characteristic, late painting by the artist (F. Zeri and E.E. Gardner, Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sienese and Central Italian Schools, New York, 1980, p. 98, pl. 20). A second Madonna and Child with Saints Peter and Paul and angels in the Städel Museum, Frankfurt (inv. 1470) can also be associated with this group. Curiously, in her 1984 dissertation, Sharon Dale proposed that all three paintings were produced by a member of Lippo's workshop, whom she named 'The Master of the Friedsam Madonna' (loc. cit.); however, this theory has been rejected by subsequent scholars (see V.M. Schmidt, loc. cit.). In all three works, the influence of the Lorenzetti is strongly felt, particularly in the modeling of the figures and the definition of space. The lavishly-draped throne in the present panel, with its sumptuous gilding and refined punchwork, appears in several other paintings by Lippo, including the reliquary triptych of the Madonna and Child with saints in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (inv. 37.750), and a panel in the Pinacoteca of Lucignano, formerly in the Convent of San Francesco. Additionally, the Virgin is remarkably close to the Madonna in one of Lippo's few signed and dated works: a 1358 triptych for the Dominican convent of SS. Domenico e Sisto, today housed in Pontificio Ateneo Angelicum, Rome.

B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools, London, 1968, I, p. 443, as 'Madonna and Child enthroned with Magdalen, S. Augustine and two Angels'.

C. de Benedictis, La Pittura Senese 1330-1370, Florence, 1979, p. 99, as 'Madonna col Bambino due angeli S.M. Maddelena e S. Agostino'.

S. Dale, Lippo Vanni: style and iconography, Ph.D. dissertation, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, 1984, pp. 28-29 and 190-191, no. 17, as 'The Master of the Friedsam Madonna'.

V.M. Schmidt, Painted Piety. Panel Paintings for Personal Devotion in Tuscany, 1250-1400, Florence, 2005, pp. 210, 212, fig. 142.

PROPERTY OF A LADY

Conte Mario Pinci, Paris.

Acquired by the family of the present owner in 1960.

About Lippo Vanni

Italian, ca. 1340 - 1375, based in Siena, Italy