TUSCANY - Florence
FILE : Cathedral 11
TITLE : Saints in canopies

Florence Cathedral planLOCATION: Firenze, S. Maria del Fiore Cathedral - Window nave n I

PROVENANCE: original location

DIMENSIONS: two-lancet window cm 1000 x 250.

CHRONOLOGY: 1395 (recorded; 23/12/1395 payments to Agnolo Gaddi for the cartoon).

AUTHOR: Antonio da Pisa (recorded; mentioned in the document dated 23/12/1395). Mutilated inscription …ME FECIT.

ASSIGNMENT: Opera del Duomo.

SUBJECT: a 1-3 Martyr Saint; b 1-3 Martyr Saint (St. Barnabas?); a 4 –6 St. Anne; b 4 –6 Monk Saint (St. Benedict Abbot?); a 7-9 St. Ludovic of Toulouse; b 7-9 St. John the Evangelist. Each Saint is in a canopy. The window is framed with borders: the inner with floral motifs, the outer with lily flowers of France.

CRITICAL NOTES: The vicissitude of the four windows in the naves of S. Maria del Fiore – sharing the same iconic typology with canopies- is rather long and troubled: as mentioned in the documents (Poggi), the decision of making such works dates to 1388, but the first two –in the southern side, made by Leonardo di Simone on Agnolo Gaddi’s cartoons- could be completed only in 1394.

The assignment Nicolò di Piero Tedesco received for the other two windows in the northern side - always on Agnolo Gaddi’s cartoon- is dated to that same year : for a default of the glazier, the two works will be completed later, one by Leonardo di Simone (window nave n II) , the other by Antonio da Pisa, a skilled "technician" in that art and a "theorist", author of an essay on the stained glass windows soldered with lead, an important source about the processes of that time, about the techniques, the use of particular glasses like the German red plaqué and then etched; about the right use of the silver yellow and all the practical and structural solutions of the case, from the simplest to the finest ones. In fact the execution of the window appears to be of high level: the lines of lead smoothly follow the ductus of the drawing, and the chromatic choice is vast and careful, - it stands out both from the other three "twin" windows for depth and intonation – with a clear search for preciousity in the use – pratically unique – both of the rosy colour in St. Ludovic of Toulouse’s tunic and the purple-red in St. Anne’s cape, here portrayed with a small size model of Florence to remind the historical chasing of the Duke of Athens that took place on the day of the Saint celebration.

The mastery and technical ability both in the execution and refinement are astonishing, as the author even delved in the miniaturistic details, for instance in the green medallion that closes Ludovic’s mantle, despite the fact that the window was made to be observed from a certain distance, making those details almost imperceptible. Originally signed (mutilated inscription ME FECIT), the window belongs to an iconic typology with figures in canopies, quite common in central Italy – opposing to the narrative genre in northern Italy – thanks overall to the spreading Franciscan order’s work , as testified from the examples in Assisi and S. Croce in Firenze.

The introduction of the typology in Italy dates to the "French style group" of windows of the Assisi Upper Basilica (about 1270) and to those in the group made by the Maestro of St. Francis – again in the upper church – deriving from the previous ones. Passing through the precious evidence of the example at Grottaferrata (about 1300 ) (see), the first step made in Italian "volgare", the more advanced enunciations of the genre date to windows in both the chapels of St. Catherine and St. Ludovic, in Assisi Lower Basilica (post 1317) followed by the windows above the Bardi and Tosinghi Spinelli chapels in S. Croce, that may be dated about 1325, until reaching the examples in the Baroncelli window, again in S. Croce, by Taddeo Gaddi (1332-38) , and the Strozzi’s in S. Maria Novella by Nardo di Cione (1360-70). Finally, the stained glass windows in S. Croce apse by Agnolo Gaddi as well (a. 1380) and the almost contemporary to the one object of this file, made by Niccolò di Pietro at the Certosa di Galluzzo.

Through those examples the more and more gothic process both of the image and the three-dimensional space can be noticed, that is, a process where the elements become "concrete" in order to make them comparable with the real contemporary architecture models.

Agnolo Gaddi can be placed in that school, where the search for plasticity almost culturally acquired, coming from Giotto, merges in with the updated trends of the International Gothic and with a firmer search for formal and colouristic decorativism. Such a process of monumentalization – that will lead to complex works of unusual dimensions, like the window at St. Domenico in Perugia, by Mariotto di Nardo (1411) (see) – will be kept vital in Umbria and in Toscana (as shown in the windows by Ghiberti for S. Maria del Fiore chapels, even though with innovative ideas) until the end of the XV century, with a progressive adaptation of the architectonic structures to schemes no more gothic but, - developing toward the Renaissance – depending on the classic tradition.

CONDITIONS: Besides the large number of maintenance and integration work in the past, not always fairly documented, the cathedral stained glass windows have been recently undergone a restoration led by U. de Matteis of the Bruschi glasswork (end XIX - beginning XX cent.) and by Studio Tolleri in Firenze (1946-1957). They replaced all the lead framings and some of the main pieces such as the faces of the two Saints in the upper register, of St. Ludovic and the monk Saint, and the first part of the author’s name inscription.

Further, there is evidence of another earlier restoration work: on the outer side of a tessera with St. Ludovic’s cloth, an inscription ‘a graffio’ came out during the last conservative intervention : RESTAURATA 1769 DA JACOPO TOFANI E COMPAGNI (RESTORED BY JACOPO TOFAGNI AND COLLABORATORS IN 1769).

Finally, the last contribution by Prof. S. Papucci, A. Becattini and R.Cappelletti of Studio Polloni in Firenze between July 1996 and January 1997. Tests made clear of a corrosion process in act on the outer sides of the glasses, together with the presence of deposits and crusts, at times with biotic elements (fungin). The deposits have been washed off with distilled water, compresses of E.D.T.A. and ammonium carbonate for the more resistant encrustings and with scalpel for the cavities created by the corrosion

To protect the glass, a blend of heated linseed oil and beeswax was spread on the surfaces.

On the outer sides of the glasses, not damaged by corrosion, the deposits of smoke, first checking the grisaille, have been washed off with compresses of ammonium carbonate.

Then, the lead framings have been cleaned up, the crevices soldered, together with a new outer framing .

All the broken tesserae have been glued and the cobwebs provoked by the lead framing breaking have been taken off.

As for the right hand of the monk saint a shaped piece of colourless glass and the tesserae joined again have been painted without heating.

All the missing glasses replaced have been realize after the grisailles and the glazing sampling to conform them to the original ones. The insertions are signed with a P.

The floor in the niche of the martyr saint (St. Barnabas?), result of a misunderstanding in the previous restoration, has been replaced with new pieces that reproduce the effect of the original floor present in the other canopies.

All the painting integrations are without heating.

The stained glass window have been placed again in the original restored framing and isolated from outside with a protective counter-frame, in brass and crystals, sealed: the window frame instead is left to communicate with the church inside, in order to create a isothermical system of air circulation.

The whole work has been documented with reports, graphic and photos surveys, also with a scheme of the previous integrations.



EDITOR: Marina Del Nunzio (June 2000).