TUSCANY - Florence
FILE : Cathedral 22
TITLE : St. Matthew, Angel and two Saints.

LOCATION: Firenze, Cattedrale di S. Maria del Fiore.
southern Tribune, trib. window s II, St. Matthew chapel (two-lancet w.).

PROVENANCE: original location.

DIMENSIONS: cm. 700 x 190.

CHRONOLOGY: 1441-42 (recorded: commission 31/10/1441).

AUTHOR: Bernardo di Francesco on a decorative project by Lorenzo Ghiberti.

ASSIGNEMENT: Opera del Duomo.

SUBJECT: a 1-4 Saint (woman); b 1-4 Saint; ab 5-9 St. Matthew Evangelist with the Angel in a canopy.

CRITICAL NOTES: the stained glass window is one of the thirty in the Cathedral Tribunes and Chapels representing the forerunners of Christ (Acidini Luchinat). It was realized on the original plan by Ghiberti and entrusted to Bernardo di Francesco, one of the most active glaziers that worked with the Master, assigned to him (31/10/1441) together with St. Barnabas’ stained glass window (see tribune window s V) in the same southern tribune.

In spite of the several master glaziers that received the commission and their individual contribution to Ghiberti’s instructions –he drew some of the cartoons- all the stained glass windows of the complex are homogeneous for their image resolution and palette, with colouring references from one chapel to another and for their style.

Comparing the two windows by Bernardo di Francesco, the lay out of the main figure –in the act of having inspiration from the Angel- proves to be quite livelier than St. Barnabas’, but one of the linking element –the more evident – is the kind of fabric with big three-petals flowers on a red background of St. Mattew’s mantle, a simplified version of St. Barnabas’ paludament. Moreover, that detail doesn’t recur solely in Bernardo di Francesco’s windows, but also in St. Zenobi (by Francesco di Giovanni and Bernardo di Francesco), with its variations in the colour and in the number of petals; in St. John the Evangelist (by Biagio di Agnolo Lippi) and in St. Peter ( by Agnolo Lippi) in the apsidal tribune: the variety of artists confirms the homogeneity and their adjustments to the Master’s instructions cited beforehand.

The unusual architectonic lay out around the figures is certainly Ghiberti’s idea, reflecting the complex culture of the artist, open to new solutions but at the same time linked to the tradition. In fact, if in the part below there is a three-dimensional environment featured with linear prospective, on the part above there’s the traditional gothic canopy foreshortened from the bottom.

Ghiberti’s transitional position is just a step in the development of the typology, started in France, imported in Italy in the 70s of the XIII century (Assisi, Upper Basilica, French style and the Master of St. Francis’ groups of windows) and soon spread in the century among the Franciscans and Dominicans , characterized by the gothic elements and precociously influenced by the study of space and perspective: that course through the great names of the Italian glazing art –such as the Master of Figline, Taddeo Gaddi and Agnolo Gaddi in S. Croce, Nardo di Cione in S. Maria Novella, Niccolò di Pietro Gerini at Galluzzo, Antonio da Pisa in the Firenze Cathedral nave, Mariotto di Nardo in S. Domenico a Perugia- unfolded up to a more and more evident approach to the real architectural models, searching for a single and coherent space calibre both for the lay out and the figure.

After Ghiberti, the typology proceeds until the end of the century, but in a more ‘hybrid’ manner, with progressive contaminations from the humanist language, that will gradually lead to the transformation of the structures into the ‘out-of-date’ architecture .

Thus, Ghiberti’s example sums up the the typology crisis , hastening the new and updated compositive forms.

As for the iconography, the two saints of the register at the bottom, already seen in the past as a king and a deacon (Paatz), converted by St. Matthew (Acidini Luchinat).

CONDITIONS: All the Cathedral stained glass windows have undergone a through restoration and integration work, of which considerable is the latest, executed by U. de Matteis of Bruschi’s glasswork (end XI – beginning XIX century) and by Studio Tolleri in Florence (1946-1957).

The most recent intervention was led by Prof. S. Papucci, A. Beccatini and R. Cappelletti of Studio Polloni in Florence, concluded in May 1989.

The dissembling was made with great care as the stained glass was without frame. On the outer surface of the glasses deposits has been found, at times together with biotic elements that, together with humidity, is the cause of the present corrosion of the glass. The deposits have been washed off with distilled water, compresses of E.D.T.A., ammonium carbonate and scalpel for the cavities. To protect the glass, a blend of baked linseed oil and beeswax was passed on the surfaces .On the inner surfaces the black smog deposits have been cleaned up with compresses of ammonium carbonate in solution. Then, the cleaning of the lead frames – came out to be not the originals but made in the restorations of the XIX-XX century – and the soldering of the parts broken.

The crevices in the tesserae have been stuck with U.V. ray photosensitive resins, occasionally with pieces of colourless glass purposely shaped, and then painted without heating process.

During the works it came out that the figure of the main Saint is almost totally original, while the other two appeared to be in great part remade, most of all the cloths and the face of the Saint on the left.

All the painting integrations are without heating.

The stained glass window has a frame and a counter-frame to protect and isolate it from external humidity, thanks to the isothermal glazing.

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

BIBLIOGRAFIA: see BIBL. FIRENZE- GHIBERTI.

REF. FOTOGRAFICHE:

ESTENSORE: Marina Del Nunzio (July 2000).