TUSCANY - Florence
FILE : Cattedrale 24
TITLE : St. Paul and two Saints.

painta cattedraleLOCATION: Firenze, Cattedrale di S. Maria del Fiore

Apsidal tribune, apse window n III, St. Paul chapel (mullioned w.).

PROVENANCE: original location.

DIMENSIONS cm.700 x 190.

CHRONOLOGY: 1441 – 1442 (documented: commissioned in September 1441).

AUTHOR: Lorenzo di Antonio da Pelago on Lorenzo Ghiberti’s decorative project.

ASSIGNEMENT: Opera del Duomo.

SUBJECT: a 1-4 St. Silvano; b 1-4 St. Gregorius; ab 5-9 St. Paul enthroned in a canopy. Incriptions SANCTVS PAVLVS; SANCTVS SILVANVS; SANCTVS GREGORIVS.

CRITICAL NOTES: The window belongs to the last stage of the glazing in the transept, made from 1435 to 1443 by various master glaziers and workshops. The whole work was supervised by Ghiberti, author of the decorative project – aiming to celebrate the genealogy of Christ (Acidini Luchinat) – and of some cartoons for the central ocula in the façade, The Assumption (1405) – maybe in collaboration with Mariotto di Nardo (Boskovits) – and for the side ones, St. Laurence and St. Stephen (1412-15).

In this case, the execution of the window was given to Lorenzo di Antonio, chaplain of S. Pier Maggiore, and working in the same workshop as Guido di Niccolò. They collaborated with Carlo di Francesco Zati and Giovanni di Andrea in producing a large part of the windows in the North Tribune chapels.

However, although less famous, Lorenzo di Antonio’s activity was various and lasting, as he took part, for instance, in the realization of the stained glass windows at Cappella Pazzi, in S. Croce and in those at Cappella Barbadori ,in S. Felicita. Furthermore, he may have collaborated for the windows with The Resurrection, on a drawing made by Paolo Uccello(1443) and with The Deposition, on a drawing by Andrea del Castagno(1444) in the Drum of the Duomo’s cupola; besides, he worked at the windows for the apse of Prato cathedral, perhaps on a cartoon by Filippo Lippi, they too based on an iconic scheme similar to that of the windows in Firenze cathedral, with saints in canopies.

Yet, the typology in Ghiberti’s windows is hybrid, as the usual and traditional gothic image of the canopy at the top, is in contrast with the lower part, where the space, with its linear perspective, seems to recover a more severe and simple dimension.

In addition, from that contrast it was born the crisis in the typology, split up between the need of being updated and the respect for that great tradition of Central Italy that went across all the fourteenth-century up to the first quarter of the fifteenth, thanks to the outstanding examples of the Maestro Figline, of Agnolo Gaddi, Nardo di Cione, Niccolò di Pietro Gerini, Antonio da Pisa and, overall, of Mariotto di Nardo in Perugia. From the second half of the XV century the gothic elements more and more will be replaced by classical structures, in line with the cultural trend of that period.

In the present work, Lorenzo di Antonio is a faithful collaborator of Ghiberti’s idea, following with the leads the Maestro’s linear ductus , smooth and fluent – as for example in the elegant falling of the mantles – and for the background, using colours that recall that in other windows, without forgetting the precious details, as for instance, the fine but sober effect of richness obtained in St. Paul’s mantle, thanks to his mastery in the use of red plated and engraved glass.

Typical of Ghiberti’s style is the figure of the saint, with the characteristic falling shoulders – so as in many other windows and in some sculptures like the St. John the Baptist for Orsanmichele – and the stressed length of the right arm, holding a sword, a ‘sign’ that may be found in several of his windows as in St. Laurence and St. Stephen – even if much is remade –, in St. Jacopo, in St. Matthias and in St. Barnabas, with a somewhat variation because the arm is far from the body. That to confirm the overall unity in style that goes beyond the individual work of the many artists.

As far as iconography is concerned, the inscriptions on the books of the two minor Saints suggest an identification with St. Silvano e St. Gregorius. Yet, That tradition has recently been questioned (Acidini Luchinat) , due to suspicions on the restoration of the two inscriptions. Furthermore, the canonical attributes of the two don’t correspond with what appears.

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 October 1990.

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.

The faces of St. Peter and St. Silvano came out to be the result of restorations made in the past, as well as a good part of the tesseras in the cloths of both the two minor saints. The only original face, St. Gregorius’, was broken and gathered in such a web of leads that it was hard to read. Therefore, the fragments were removed and reassembled on a proper support made of colourless glass.

During the inspection on the leads, the singular background behind St. Paul has been looked through. That part was made using little coloured crown glass turned out to be soldered with lead hand-drawn, unique example in all the Cathedral windows. Therefore the work in that point might be still the original one, as original are the little coloured crown glass. 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.


REF. FOTOGRAFICHE: Archivio Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze (Giunti editore, Firenze)

ESTENSORE: Marina Del Nunzio (October 2000).