TUSCANY - Florence
FILE : Church of Orsanmichele 13
TITLE : Vision of Joachim

LOCATION: Bay nIII, panel 1b

DIMENSIONS: Poly-lobed lunette ca.140 x 165 cm. In the same bay are two other poly-lobed lunettes (1b, 1c; ca. 140 x 165 cm.), three six-lobed medallions (2a, 2b, 2c; diam. 50 cm.), two double six-lobed medallions (3ab, 3bc; diam. 85 cm.), and a rose window (4b; diam. 140 cm.).

PROVENANCE: Original location.

CHRONOLOGY: 1410 (documented); according to Finiello Zervas, part of a second glazing campaign.

AUTHOR: Lorenzo Monaco - designs (documented); Niccolò di Piero Tedesco - execution (documented).

PATRONAGE: Compagnia di Or San Michele

SUBJECT/ S: Together with the two lateral lunettes (nIII 1a, 1c), now lost, the Vision of Joachim is one of the first episodes of the Life of the Virgin.

In the three smaller medallions are depicted busts of Prophets. Busts of Angels are depicted in the two larger medallions, each surrounded by floral motifs in the medallion lobes. In the rose window, spokes decorated with floral motifs radiate from a quadrifoil containing a rosette.

CRITICAL NOTES: van Straelen is credited with the first systematic study directed at identifying the personalities of the artists who prepared the designs as well as the glaziers who executed the windows. She conducted her research by means of a series of correlations between the stylistic characteristics of the windows of Orsanmichele and documentary sources for glazing activity not only at Orsanmichele but at the Cathedral of Florence and the church of Santa Croce. With regard to the Vision of Joachim panel, the beginning point was the group of documents published by Passerini: from those it is understood that in 1409 [sic] payments were reckoned to Niccolò di Piero Tedesco, including payments for designs executed by Lorenzo Monaco for unspecified stained glass windows; besides, that in 1412 Niccolò was repeatedly paid for two unspecified windows of the Oratory and for the repair of windows. Therefore, van Straelen infers a continual collaborative relationship between the two artists for the windows of Orsanmichele. And pointing to precise chromatic analogies between the Assumption in the facade of the Cathedral, executed by Niccolò di Piero Tedesco (1412-1415), and this lunette, van Straelen was the first to recognize in this window the collaboration, which she hypothesized from documents, of Niccolò and Lorenzo..

Based on this preliminary attribution, van Straelen extends the collaboration between Lorenzo and Niccolò to other panels; the Miracle of the Drowned Boy and the Miracle of the Unchaste Abbess (see Firenze, C. di Orsanmichele 3, 4). She supports those attributions with stylistic observations regarding quality of color, which are not always sustained in a coherent manner.

The attribution to Lorenzo Monaco of the Vision of Joachim has found consensus in successive studies. Above all, in the work of Marchini, who recognizes in Lorenzo Monaco’s repertory this lunette and lunette nV, depicting Musical Angels (see Firenze Orsanmichele 14); in the Vision of Joachim, Marchini sees the stylistic features of young Lorenzo Monaco: "His impetuous and visionary sense distorts the figure of the saint, as if it were a fallen St. Paul, in a nightmarish world, by the night sky wherein next to the distortions of the cliffs and the trees appears, spectral, a rosy city. In the entire composition not a single glimmer of white is allowed among the deep and vibrant tones."

Burnam agrees with the attribution of the designs to Lorenzo as proposed by the preceeding studies. And, as to the execution of the window, on the basis of her methodological approach, comes to accept the assignment to Niccolò di Piero Tedesco which was hypothesized by van Straelen and Marchini by proceeding to a comparative analysis of the technical solutions adopted by Niccolò di Piero Tedesco in the Assumption window of S. Maria del Fiore and those found in the two windows of Orsanmichele, this one and the panel nV, depicting Musical Angels (v. Firenze Orsanmichele 14). Peculiar to Niccolò di Pietro Tedesco’s operative choices is, above all, the juxtaposition of glasses of intense color, such as harsh greens, purple, citrine yellows, bright blues, standing out one next to the other without the mediation of white glass, so as to achieve a saturated effect. And in the three windows appears, as a hallmark of the glazier, a sophisticated rosette pattern that decorates the haloes.

The attribution to Lorenzo Monaco is taken up by Eisenberg who holds that the Vision of Joachim is the only window in the Oratory that can be attributed to him. This opinion is unheld by Finiello Zervas, for whom the collaboration between Lorenzo and Niccolò is referable only to the window of the Vision of Joachim.

Finiello Zervas appends her articles with an ample collection of documents from the Archivio di Orsanmichele which are relative to the windows: a reading of those documents reveals that in 1410, from April 2nd to August 6th , reckoned to Niccolò di Piero Tedesco were various advances totaling 45 florins, in addition to another 32 florins for the balance; and that Niccolò in turn had to pay Lorenzo Monaco 35 lire and 15 soldi (OSM, 214, ff 15v, 30v, 36v, 37).

CONDITION: Fortunately, the stained glass complex of Orsanmichele has not been altered by invasive restorations as has happened for the windows of S. Croce. According to documents, in 1918 ten roste istoriate were taken down and placed in crates to protect them from possible war damage; and already on that occasion de Matteis, in his estimate for the removal of the windows, emphasized the poor condition of the panels, in which numerous cracks pervaded the compositions. Nevertheless, their restoration was conducted much later, from 1929 to 1939, by Armando Bruschi, who employed some stopgaps (fortunately not many) described as "vetri ricavati dalle vecchie finestre".

In the years 1969-70 the windows, by then in an advanced stage of deterioration, partly due to damage suffered during the flood of 1966, were restored by S. Papucci of the Guido Polloni Studio. The windows were also in danger because, in some instances, the painted, interior side was reinstalled facing out, and therefore it was exposed to atmospheric agents. In the course of Papucci’s restoration, the stopgaps were eliminated and substituted with modern pieces of glass labelled with the letter "P". The panels were cleaned and releaded.

In particular, as regards this window, it show some modern replacements, including the head of the saint. There are some dutchmen.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: See Bibl. Orsanmichele

PHOTOGRAPHIC REFERENCE: R. Burnam Archive

CONTRIBUTOR: Caterina Pirina January 2001