TOSCANA - Firenze

FILE : Church of  S. Spirito 2

TITLE: Virgin and Child

LOCATION: Frescobaldi Chapel (from 1495, then Cini-Bagnano) win. N XVII)

DIMENSIONS: (not known)

PROVENANCE: original location

DATING: 1482-1500

AUTHOR: designs: Botticelli (circle of) - attribution

PATRONAGE: Frescobaldi family

SUBJECT: The enthroned Virgin Mary with the Christ child. At the top, two angels hold a crown and a garland of roses; above is a cartouche with the words "Ave Maria".

CRITICAL NOTES: Restating Luchs’ observations regarding stained glass windows in Florentine Renaissance churches, Capretti focuses on how, in the Church of S. Spirito, the stained glass windows, together with the altarpiece and antependium, form an integral part of the decoration of the chapel; and how, given the tall and narrow proportions of the windows, the stained glass compositions were divided into two registers: the upper register, dedicated to the name saint or patron saint of the commissioning personage; the lower, displaying the coat of arms of the family. That iconographic choice, notes Luchs, reflects the Operai’s layout, which extended to the windows. In fact, in 1485 they decided to put a figural window in Pietro Donato Velluti’s chapel in order to comply with his last wishes, which instructed that a chapel should be established if his male line were to become extinct.

With the late G. Marchini’s volume on the stained glass of the Florentine Renaissance still unpublished, this window, only hurriedly cited by scholars, awaits a systematic study. In the meantime, it should be said that the dubious attributions of the window’s design to Perugino, to Filippino Lippi, and to Botticelli, that have been advanced in the literature, have--rather than leading to an identification of the window’s author--placed in sharper focus the active circulation of formal compositions within the Florentine artistic ambient. Among the most apparent are the borrowings from Botticelli: the throne, spacious and sumptuous, with tell-tale armrests--literal quotes from Botticelli’s Fortezza; and the Virgin’s gracious gesture of gently touching the child’s foot--a hallmark of Botticelli’s oeuvre that calls to mind two paintings, Virgin and Child (National Gallery, London) and Virgin and Child with two angels (Galleria nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples). However, the problem of attribution is closely connected to the vexata quaestio of the working relationship between painters, who furnished designs, and glaziers, who carried out the work. That is, it is a question of whether there was a preparatory design representing the conception of one artist (which was perhaps partly modified by the glazier as he carried out the work); or whether the glazier both designed and carried out the window on his own, revisiting various formal and stylistic motifs in the process. In this regard, future studies on the workshops of the Gesuati and Alessandro di Giovanni Agolanti, who have been attributed numerous Florentine stained glass windows (including some for S. Spirito), will be useful.

CONDITION: In poor condition: many original glass pieces have been replaced, there are some un-mended fractures, and extensive areas of the glass surface have become dark (opaque) from an accumulation of the by-products of corrosion and/or from dirty residues.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

W. - E. PAATZ Die Kirchen von Florenz, Frankfurt am Main, 1940-54, vol. V, 1953,p.190, nota 174;

G. MARCHINI le vetrate italiane, Milano 1955 (1a ed.) p.228 nota 60;

A. LUCHS Stained Glass above the Renaissance Altars: Figural Windows in Italian Church Architecture from Brunelleschi to Bramante, in "Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte"XLVIII, 1985, p.185, n.29

On the Gesuati see P. BENSI I Gesuati di S. Giusto alle Mura e la pittura del Rinascimento a Firenze, in " Studi di Storia delle Arti", Università di Genova, 3, 1980, pp. 33-47.

On the activity of glaziers in Tuscan territory, see the web-site: A. GUIDOTTI Appunti per una storia della produzione vetraria di Firenze e del suo territorio precinquecentesca

PHOTOGRAFIC REF.: CVMA Italia Archives

COMPILER: R. K. Burnam February 2004