TUSCANY - Florence
FILE : Church of  S. Croce 5
TITLE : Saints and Women Saints

LOCATION: Firenze, S. Croce church window s II, apse (mullioned window).

PROVENANCE: original location.


CHRONOLOGY: about 1380

AUTHOR: Agnolo Gaddi (attribution)


SUBJECT: a1) Seraph; b1) Seraph; a 2) St. Elisabeth of Hungary; b 2) St. Reparata; a 3) Costantine; b 3) St. Helena; a 4) St. Nicholas of Bari; b 4) St. Bonaventure; a 5) St. Antony of Padua; b 5) St. Stephen; a 6) Apostle; b 6) Apostle.

CRITICAL NOTES: as far as the XIV century is concerned, the present window, together with its ‘twin’ on the northern side (see Firenze S. Croce 4) and the upper part of the central mullioned window in the apse (see Firenze S. Croce 12), are the last of the whole stained glass work in the transept started about half century before.

Critics (van Straelen, Paatz, Marchini 1955, 1968, 1983) generally agreed in assigning that work to Agnolo Gaddi and his workshop, as there is a similarity with the frescoes in the apse carried out about 1380. Cole only (1977) was of different opinion; he did not notice any analogy with the four windows drawn by Gaddi for the naves of S. Maria del Fiore (1394-6) (see Firenze Cattedrale 11-14). Anyway it is interesting to notice that in this case the critics did not analize, as they usually did, only the style and the attribution, but also the technical data. In fact, they singled out the various executors on the basis of specific characteristics in the use of colours, of matching, of borders and of the architecture. That is a fascinating approach, than developed thanks to Grodecki and to Caviness, that analized more deeply the relationship between the painter and the master glazier; the latter had to decide on the formal aspect: the interpretation of the cartoon and the translation of the ‘pictorial’ effects planned by the painter onto the glass.

Van Straelen (1938), and then Paatz, noticed as the colours tones of this window and that in the lower part of the northern mullioned window are alike, sharing the same golden shade similar to that one in naves windows of S. Maria del Fiore. Instead, the upper part of the northern mullioned window is different for its purplish tones. The same geometric and lilied borders and those in the cathedral came out to be alike, so Van Straelen assumed that the S. Croce apsidal mullioned windows maybe are an early work (1385) of Antonio da Pisa’s workshop, one of the most famous glaziers of that time among the ones active at the cathedral’s yard. Furthermore, the upper part of the central mullioned window should be added to those works (see Firenze S. Croce 12).

Marchini (1955, 1968, 1983) instead, beyond the different hands in a work, pointed out the coherence in the cycle.

Thompson has recently (1999) deepened the distinction made by Van Straelen; she analysed the chromatic differences and the recurring colour sequences, getting to the conclusion that the upper and lower part of the northern window, together with this mullioned window, must be considered as work of two different executors: she suggests the glazier Leonardo di Simone for this mullioned window, for the prevailing colours such as the olive green, red golden yellow for the borders and the frames, elements that can be read in other windows (especially in the southern side) of the Florentine cathedral made by him; on the other hand, for the upper part of the northern window – even though in the cathedral there are analogies with the window by Antonio da Pisa – Thompson found it hard to pick up the identity suggested by Van Straelen.

Furthermore, there is another link between the windows of S. Croce and S. Maria del Fiore. In both the cases Agnolo Gaddi (recorded as the author of the cartoons for the cathedral windows) chose the iconic typology with figures framed by gothic canopies.

Introduced to Italy in the last decades of the XIII century (Assisi, Upper Basilica, French style and St. Francis Master’s groups) and quickly took root and spread all over the central Italian regions (examples of Grottaferrata; of the chapels of St. Ludovic and St. Catherine in the Lower Basilica at Assisi; the Bardi and Tosinghi Spinelli chapels in S. Croce). Such typology, since the thirties of the XIV century, underwent a fast evolution towards gothic in its strict meaning together with a ‘concrete expression of image ’ process and a search for real space and architecture (Baroncelli chapel in S. Croce by Taddeo Gaddi 1332-38; Strozzi chapel in S. Maria Novella by Nardo di Cione 1360-70; S. Croce apse by Agnolo Gaddi 1380; Galluzzo Charterhouse by Niccolò di Pietro Gerini 1395).

The change in the perspective and monumental aspects reach its peak in the Florentine cathedral windows – moreover in Antonio da Pisa’s one made in 1395 (window nave n I) – and in the window by Mariotto di Nardo at St. Domenic in Perugia (1411), continuing than in Umbria and Tuscany, in the second half of the XV century too, but with less and less frequent examples (see, for instance, the window in Prato cathedral or the panels coming from Perugia and Foligno now in the Assisi Basilica Museum).

The breakdown with the tradition is marked by the windows for S. Maria del Fiore chapels, planned by Ghiberti. The artist chose to represent a simpler setting , rigorously characterized by linear perspective for the lower part of the window instead of the traditional canopy in the upper part of it, anticipating the need of updating the typology that will be more and more evident in the second half of the century, when ‘all’antica’ architecture will take the place of the gothic ones.

CONDITIONS: the mapping, difficult in situ, was carried out by Thompson, also analysing the photographic files related to the restoration made by Ulisse de Matteis (end XIX – beginning XX) and by Tolleri Studio (post-war). The two seraphs of the lower part seem to be completely restored as well as the lower part of the panels with St. Elizabeth of Hungary and St. Reparata. However, the window appears to be in good conditions and in spite of the several but few integrations in the general context, the most of it seems to have conserved its original glasses.


PHOTOGRAPHIC FILES: Archivio Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze –published by Cardini.

EDITOR: Marina Del Nunzio (April 2001).