TUSCANY - Florence
FILE : Cathedral 28
TITLE : St. Thomas Apostle and two Saints.

LOCATION: Firenze, Cattedrale di S. Maria del Fiore. Southern Tribune, tribune window. s I, St. Thomas Apostle’s chapel (mullioned w.).

PROVENANCE: original location.

DIMENSIONS: cm. 700 x 190.

CHRONOLOGY: 1443 (documented).

AUTHOR: Guido di Niccolò on Lorenzo Ghiberti’s decorative project.

ASSIGNEMENT: Opera del Duomo.

SUBJECT: a 1-4 Saint; b 1-4 Saint (she); ab 5-9 St. Thomas Apostle enthroned in a canopy. Inscription S(an)CT(us) T(hom)ASO APOSTOL.

CRITICAL NOTES: From the sources there is evidence that the window was executed in 1443, that is, near the end of the work at the whole cycle of stained glass windows in the Tribune and the Chapels (1435-1443). It was Ghiberti’s project, that aimed to exalt Christ’s genealogy through the figures of Prophets, Kings, Saints, Apostles, the Virgin and Child (Acidini Luchinat).

The present window was realized by Guido di Niccolò – master glazier, Niccolò di Pietro Tedesco’s son , the artist of Ghiberti’s ocula on the façade with the Assumption (1405), maybe made in collaboration with Mariotto di Nardo (Boskovits), St. Laurence and St. Stephen on the sides (1412-1415) – and by others of the workshop, such as Lorenzo di Antonio, Carlo di Francesco Zati and Giovanni d’Andrea, that worked in the Northern tribune (see also the windows with St. Andrew and St. Jacopo).

Ghiberti himself drew the cartoons for some of the windows and certainly supervised the whole work as the windows appear to be homogeneous and coherent with the Master’s style.

A style that shows a complex Florentine culture, open to the new but in the same time linked to the tradition. That dualism is well represented in the architectonic structure of the window. In the lower part the usual iconic scheme is transformed into a space clearly defined by the linear perspective, while in the upper part there is the more traditional framing of the figure in a elaborate and sumptuous gothic canopy.

In fact, Ghiberti’s work is a breaking-point in the evolution of the iconic typology of the canopies, as starting from that period there will be a certain ‘contamination’ between the old and the new Renaissance architectonic models. That process – Umbria excepted - will lead to the replacing of the gothic structure with ‘classic’ schemes, foreshortened in perspective. Thus, Ghiberti can be seen as the heir and as the ‘terminus’ of a long tradition in typology that in Italy dates back to the last decades of the XIII century (Assisi, Upper Basilica, windows of the French-style group and the Master of St. Francis’ one). It spread all through the XIV century in more and more elaborated works, more gothic in the shapes and with more care for the space and perspective, thanks to the work of outstanding artists such as the Maestro di Figline, Taddeo Gaddi ed Agnolo Gaddi at S. Croce in Firenze, Nardo di Cione at S. Maria Novella, Nicolò di Pietro Gerini at the Certosa of Galluzzo, Antonio da Pisa in the Florentine Duomo (see Firenze Cattedrale 11, and the other three ‘twins’ in naves 12, 13, 14) up to Mariotto di Nardo at S. Domenico in Perugia (1411) (see Perugia, C. of S. Domenico 1).

St. Thomas appears to be more dynamic compared with the other more composed figures of titular Saints in the south Tribune (see Tribune windows s II, s III, s IV, s V). The Saint is also different, in his more released and moving-like pose: a linear tension seems to go though that body, from the left kneel to the right arm, conferring elegance and agility to the figure. But, in this case the linear tension is not a mere lacework – as in the St. Laurence, in the ocula - , its constructive strength, as can be seen in the northern tribune, with St. Bartolomew, that seems to stress on the linear dynamism , and in St. Matthew, both made by Domenico di Piero da Pisa, as well as some pieces of the relieves in the Heaven Gate of the Baptistery.

Then, it is clear Ghiberti’s research of variety and homogeneity at the same time, evident also in the chromatic choice, played on the dominant tones such as blue, purple, green and red with some touches of yellow that refer one another, from chapel to chapel, but matched in a infinite variety of combinations, sometimes unusual and at the same time with recurring elements as, for instance, the ‘a fioroni’ motif of the cloths that, varying in number of the petals and in the background colour, appears to be one of the more immediate visual reference in the whole work.

As far as iconography is concerned, the two Saints of the lower part, already known in the past as two feminine figures (Paatz), in the present time are identified as India sovereigns, converted by the titular Saint (Acidini Luchinat).

CONDITIONS: as all the Cathedral stained glass windows this one too has undergone a through restoration and integration work, of which considerable is the latest, executed by U. de Matteis between the end of the XIX and the beginning of the XX 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 February 1988.

When dissembling it, the window was without framing, as all the others. 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.

As far as the present window is concerned, they worked on the presence of double-glazing – due to previous restorations – on St. Thomas and the two Saints’ faces. But, as behind them there was the original glass the double layer was removed and with light veiling, the original drawing came out again. Thus, the window is one of the few to show the original drawing of the faces as the others were almost all replaced in the previous restorations.

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.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: see Bibl. FIRENZE –GHIBERTI.

PHOTOGRAPHIC FILES:

EDITOR: Marina Del Nunzio (July 2000).