TUSCANY - Florence
FILE : Cattedrale 25
TITLE : St. Peter and two Saints.

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

Apsidal Tribune, apse window n II, Chapel of St. Peter (mullioned w.).

PROVENANCE: original location.

DIMENSIONS: cm.700 x 190.

CHRONOLOGY: 1439 – 1442 (documented: commission 30/4/1439).

AUTHOR: Agnolo Lippi on Lorenzo Ghiberti’s decorative project

ASSIGNEMENT: Opera del Duomo.

SUBJECT: a 1-3 St. Processo; b 1-3 St. Martiniano; ab 4 –7 St. Peter enthroned in a canopy. Incriptions PETRVS APOSTOLVS ; S. PROCESSVS; S. MARTINIANVS; ANGELVS LIPPI FECIT.

– aiming (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).

CRITICAL NOTES: The window, one of the group drawn by Lorenzo Ghiberti, aiming to celebrate the genealogy of Christ, for the Tribunes and the cathedral chapels, realized between 1435 and 1443, was executed, as from both the sources and the inscriptions, by Agnolo Lippi, starting from 1439.

If compared to the windows of the same cycle, in this a distinguished pictorial execution is shown, realized thanks to a very refined use of the grisaille and veiling, proportioned to a very notable technique.

Besides, certain chromatic profuseness can be found, even in the details, in the various range of yellows in the paste, in the saint’s cloths, in the precious damasks of the purple drape making the background, in the boldness of the matching, in the decorative gems made with the red plated and engraved glass, in the little details of the ‘ancient’ clothes of the two minor saints, warders of St. Peter, converted and baptised by the apostle and than martyred for having released the saint from the Mamertino prisons.

Such a level in the execution does not influence the collocation in the whole and harmonious group, thanks to fine chromatic recalls and to some devices in the composition –as , for instance, the ‘a fioroni’ fabric for St, Peter’s mantle that is repeated with a few changes of the colour in many other windows (St. Barnabas, St. John the Evangelist, St. Zanobi, St. Matthew) – attributable to a wise project and to Ghiberti’s efficient supervision of the works.

There are some details that are typical of Ghiberti’s. The figure of St. Peter, thin, with falling shoulders, frontal, but with a certain dynamism given by the asymmetry of the knees; remarkable figures of Processo and Martiniano that, in trim, with their ‘ancient’ arms, may be evidence of the wish ‘to date’ historically the event of Peter’s imprisonment, following a philological choice, of humanistic taste.

The co-existence of the new with the respect of the gothic tradition appears again in the hybrid architectonic solution. On one side there is an investigated setting, with its cubature and essentiality, in a clear perspective and ‘Florentine’ manner; on the other, a sumptuous gothic crowning thet seems to drive to the estreme conseguences what was already made between the end of the XIV and the beginning of the XV century by Antonio da Pisa (Firenze, Cattedrale 11 ) and Mariotto di Nardo ( see Perugia, C. di S. Domenico 1)a possibile collaborator of Ghiberti in the past, with the ocula of the Assumption at the Duomo (Boskovits)heirs, in their turn, of a French tradition spread in Central Italy from the last decades of the thirteenth century on through the work of outstanding artists like the Maestro of Figline, Agnolo Gaddi, Nardo di Cione, Niccolò di Pietro Gerini etc.

That tradition will be gradually transforming starting from the second half of the XV century, keeping the iconic value of the image intact but changing the out of date gothic elements a more up to date architecture, verging on recovering classicism.

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 were found, at times together with biotic elements that, together with humidity, is the cause of the present corrosion of the glass. The deposits were 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 were 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 were stuck with U.V. ray photosensitive resins, occasionally with pieces of colourless glass purposely shaped, and then painted without heating process.

During the work some tesseras replaced in previous restorations were singled out. They are fragments and paintings whose origins are unknown but certainly related to ancient windows – even though made later if compared to our window –that presented chromatic notes clashing with the context.

Addressed by Mrs C. Acidini Luchinat, of the Monument and Fine Art Office in Florence, they decided to replace all the fragments damaging for the reading of the work. That operation was documented in each single passage: the fake tesseras were removed, than a photographic survey of the stained glass window was carried out.

Then, several tests were made to single out the exact chromatic value of the glasses and grisaille to be used in the remaking. Afterwards, the drawing of each tessera was realized on paper, then followed the painting and heating of the new tesseras, all signed "P", a useful symbol in their identification. The dismantled pieces were catalogued and their numbering was reproduced on the scheme of the lead web. The new replaced tesseras are 86.

Another important work was carried out in some critical parts for its reading: the small face that appears on the canopy and the keys, Peter’s attribute, were heavily damaged and put together with such a lead web that all the drawing was hidden. The fragments were removed and reassembled. As some fragments were missing, they were reproduced, glued on a support of colourless glass and retouched with painting.

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: vedi Bibl. FIRENZE –GHIBERTI

REF. FOTOGRAFICHE: Archivio Studio M.V. Polloni e C – Firenze

ESTENSORE: Marina Del Nunzio (ottobre 2000).