TUSCANY - Florence
FILE : Church of  S. Croce 11
TITLE : Appearance of Angels

LOCATION: Firenze, S. Croce church window s III, Cappella Bardi (here located after World War II) (mullioned w.).

PROVENANCE: Firenze, S. Croce church Window s VII, Cappella Velluti.

DIMENSIONS: not surveyed

CHRONOLOGY: 1321 – 1330 ca.

AUTHOR: Jacopo del Casentino (attribution).

ASSIGNEMENT: The Vellutis.

SUBJECT: a 1 Michael b 1 Costantine (such figures have been also interpreted either as Michael and Joshua (Offner 1984) or Heraclius and the Angel (Marchini 1983); the identification suggested is by Ladis (1982)); a 2 Tobias; b 2 Raphael; a 3 Gabriel; b 3 the Virgin of the Annunciation; ab 4 in the roundel the Arms of the Morellis, patrons of the chapel in the XVII century.

CRITICAL NOTES: not examined by Van Straelen as in her time (1938) the window was still hidden by the walls of the bell-tower. Paatz considers it as a work made at the beginning of the XIV century, but much integrated by restorations.

Marchini (1968, 1973) notices the absolute homogeneity of the window with the iconographic program of the frescoes - dedicated to the Archangels - in the chapel where the window comes from. Then, , the author gets to date the work by the first decades of the Trecento pointing out some northern characteristics, such as the border that reminds the gothic mixtilinear panel and the ribbon-like decoration, with geometric tesseras in alternating colors, elements often used in Assisi Basilica’s stained glass windows. Thanks to the stylistic analysis of the figures , he gets as well to assign it to Jacopo del Casentino.

Conti (1972) notices assonances with Jacopo del Casentino, but assigned the cartoon to an anonymous painter follower of Giotto, dating back the commission of the decoration of the whole Monna Gemma de’ Velluti’s chapel to 1321.

Offner (1984), doesn’t share Conti’s opinion on the question and regards it to be made in the years 1315-20, before Gemma de’ Velluti’s patronage, and it is referable to the Corpus made by the Master of Crucifix Corsi.

Ladis (1984), going back Jacopo del Casentino’s attribution, assigns to him the window and the frescoes of the chapel (1321-1330), considering them a commission by Gemma de’ Velluti in memory of her son Alessandro died in 1321.

Besides that stylistic orientation of the studies, basically focusing on the figure of the painter that also draws the cartoon (already shown as partial and insufficient by Castelnuovo in 1958), there’s another tendency in the studies and researches carried out by Grodecki and Caviness. It stresses on the parallel importance of a more specific study, directed to clarify the complex relationship between painter and executor, and to single out the extreme importance of the master glazier’s role. The good results of his work depended upon his technique, his sensitivity in the interpretation, his experience.

From that point of view, even the elements that were often ignored as less important, like the bordures, the framing, they now take on a certain importance that goes beyond the "technical" aspect, towards the "stylistic" one.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that some scholars have been considering that aspect – as, for instance, R. Burnan’s studies on S. Orsanmichele – it still lacks in Italy an analytic and comparative contribution that classifies, according to a catalogue raisonné, the various types of bordures, architectonic framing, the backgrounds in the clothes, etc., their relative characteristics both in the technique and in the execution, the theories about the employed workers.

Thompson (1999) adopts those criteria. Taking notice of the similarities between the bordures of the stained glass window, those in Assisi and in the Duomo of Orvieto, further analogies in the choice of the colors and in the draping, she carries on the thesis that the work was realized by an Umbrian Master glazier. The same consideration was made about the Giugni’s window, now in Cappella Peruzzi . (see Firenze S. Croce 9).

As far as typology is concerned, Velluti’s window – as Bardi’s and Giugni’s (see Firenze S. Croce 15 e 9) – appears to be a later one because of its still northern motif of the mixtilinear medallions, and it doesn’t seem to be taking part with the revolution of the iconic type, starter with the introduction in the XIII century of architectonic framings by gothic canopy, as can be seen in other windows in S. Croce , the Bardi’s , Tosinghi Spinelli’s and those in the apse (see Firenze S. Croce 7, 13, 4, 5).

In fact, that innovation, introduced in Italy since the last quarter of the Duecento, in the Upper Basilica of Assisi, it spread all over the central Italian regions all through the XIV cent. And most of the XV, carrying out examples more and more complex and imitating more and more the real contemporary architectonic structures, especially more refined in the three-dimensional perspective foreshortened from the bottom, until reaching those works in the apse at S. Croce, by Agnolo Gaddi (1380) (see Firenze S. Croce 4 e 5), at the Certosa del Galluzzo by Niccolò di Pietro Gerini, of the naves in S. Maria del Fiore by Antonio da Pisa and Leonardo di Simone on Gaddi’s drawings (see Firenze Cattedrale 11-14) and of S. Domenico in Perugia by Mariotto di Nardo in 1411 (see Perugia S. Domenico 1).

Such an order will last until halfway through the XV century , when the repertoire starts to be updated as proved by the example of the windows in S. Maria del Fiore chapels(1441-1443) on Ghiberti’s drawings, that will carry to a gradual replacing of the old gothic motifs with the new and classical architectonic structures.

CONDITIONS: The mapping, difficult in situ, was carried out by Thompson thanks also to photographic files that refer to the post-war restoration made by Ditta Tolleri, when the window was moved to the present location at the Cappella Bardi .

The conditions are quite; some integrations can be noticed in the washed hand of the Archangel Raphael, in the Virgin’s and Gabriel’s mantles, in the borders and especially in the figure and in the background of Michael.

The loss and integrity of the grisaille painting in the faces , maybe also due to an excess of zeal in cleaning the surfaces during the restoration.


PHOTOGRAPHIC FILES: Archivio Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze –publisher: Nardini.

EDITOR: Marina Del Nunzio (April 2001)