TUSCANY - Florence
SCHEDA : Cattedrale 23
TITOLO : St. Mathias

LOCATION: Firenze, S. Maria del Fiore Cathedral Northern tribune, window trib. n V, St. Mattia chapel (two-lancet w.).

PROVENANCE: original location.

DIMENSIONS: cm. 400 x 190 (misure stimate con la vetrata in situ).

CHNOLOGY 1442-43 (recorded: commission January 1442 and 28/8/1442).

AUTHOR: Domenico di Piero of Pisa on a decorative project by Lorenzo Ghiberti.

ASSIGNEMENT: Opera del Duomo.

SUBJECT: ab 5-9 St. Matthias enthroned in a canopy. Inscription S. MATH..S APOS.(tolus).

CRITICAL NOTES: In 1442 the last lot of stained glass windows for the Cathedral Chapels were assigned by the Opera del Duomo, including all the windows of the Northern tribune. Like the others, already finished, also these windows were based on Ghiberti’s drawings plan, aiming to exalt Christ’s genealogy (Acidini Luchinat). The same artist drew some cartoons, then taking on the role of supervisor, granting the homogeneity of both the style and the composition.

In 1442 this window in particular was assigned to Guido di Niccolò’s workshop, a master glazier whose work in the northern tribune is predominant. But on 28 August 1442 the Opera del Duomo preferred to divert the commission in favour of Domenico di Piero of Pisa, assigning to him as well St. Bartholomew stained glass window, in the same northern tribune.

There are many similarities that can be traced between the two works, starting with the lay out of the saints figures; a linear tension seems to run through bodies diagonally from the left knee up to the right arm , amplified by the oblique large folds of the mantles that stress the sense of dynamism: a linear constructive tension that also can be found in the St. Thomas, in the southern tribune, made by Guido di Niccolò in 1443, as to confirm the accuracy of the various artists to Ghiberti’s directions presented in his cartoons.

Evidence of Ghiberti’s strict supervision, can be also noticed in certain details that are a ‘sign’ of his style. In this window, for instance, even though less stressed than elsewhere, some details come out again, such as the unnatural position of both the long right arm and the foreshortened hand that supports the attribute, highlighted also in the piece with St. Bartholomew. The same detail is as much evident for St. Barnabas, St. Andrew, St. Jacopo and St. Paul (followed in different times by Bernardo di Francesco, Guido di Niccolò e Lorenzo di Antonio): all sign of that ‘mannerism’ already announced in the façade ocula, with St. Laurence and St. Stephen (1412-15); as well as in some sculptural works like the St. Stephen, for Orsanmichele, in 1428.

In line with that, the mantle of the saint also can be included in the dominant typology of the stained glass windows with the contrasting colours of the motifs in the drapes, but introducing a change – like for example in St. Paul, St. Andrew , St. Bartholomew and St. Stephen, although much is remade – compared to the prevailing ‘a fioroni’ motifs of the cloth (St. Barnabas, St. Matthew, St. John, St. Zanobi, St. Peter and great part of the minor saints): in his search for continuity and homogeneity Ghiberti never leaves variety out. For each stained glass window he especially focuses his attention on the colours in relation to their location and light, rejecting the merely adaptation of a pictorial image on a transparent medium

The window now is mutilated in its lower part that, in analogy with the others, must have had two Saints in a setting with a linear perspective and contrasting in its simplicity with the magnificent image in the upper part, a gothic throne with canopy: image still linked to a long typological tradition that, through the Umbrian examples

(Assisi, Upper and Lower Basilica), the ones from Lazio (Grottaferrata) and from Tuscany (Firenze, S. Croce, S. Maria Novella, Certosa del Galluzzo, Duomo) had covered a time that started in the last decades of the thirteenth-century up to the beginning of the Quattrocento, culminating in Mariotto di Nardo’s masterpiece at St. Domenic in Perugia (1411).

Ghiberti anticipates what will be the crisis in the typology, that with its up-to-date architecture, influenced by classicism, will gradually take the place of those old gothic ornaments in the second half of the XV century.

As far as the saint iconography is concerned, though often identified as St. Matthew, it’s more likely St. Matthias, the disciple that took the place of Judas Iscariot among the Apostles, being St. Matthew already present in the South Tribune (Trib. W. s II)

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 tesseras 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 (ottobre 2000).