TUSCANY - Florence
FILE : Church of  S. Croce 7
TITLE : Franciscan Saints and Popes

LOCATION: Firenze, S. Croce church window s II, top (Cappella Bardi) (mullioned window).

PROVENANCE: original location.

DIMENSIONS: not surveyed

CHRONOLOGY: second-third decade of the XIV century (dated by Marchini to 1317-1334)

AUTHOR: Agnolo Gaddi (attribution)

ASSIGNMENT: Bardi family

SUBJECT: a1) St Ludovic of Toulouse; b1) Boniface VIII (John XXII according to Bologna (1956) and (Bellosi)); a 2) Gregory IX; b 2) St. Antony of Padua; a 3) St. Francis; b 3) Innocence III. In the roundel(ab4) Bardi’s Arms.

CRITICAL NOTES: It has been hard for the critics to identify its probable author and its date. In fact, Van Straelen (1938) , considering its similarity with the apse windows in the same church, dated the work around 1380, assigning it to Giovanni da Milano as the work is close to the church sacristy altar-piece carried out by that painter in 1379; Paatz chose a parallel chronology (1380-85), while Lane noticed similes with the four windows in S. Maria del Fiore naves (see Firenze cattedrale 1-14), dated between 1394 and 1396, and concluding that Bardi window belonged maybe to the same school.

The turning point in the studies was offered by Marchini in 1955 – then taken again in several occasions (1968,1973, 1983) – that was the first to bring the work back to ‘giottesque’ circle, noticing the resolute drawing of the figures, in a slight torsion to suggest their place in the space, the confidence in the outline that makes plastic shapes, the firmness in the drawing that redeem a certain monotony in the colours, given by the shades in the Franciscan Saints’ clothes, not well counter-balanced by the bright green of the pope’s mantle in the second rank. It is Marchini again that noticed typical northern compositive elements such as the checked background, alternating reds and blues with rosettes in the interstices of the junctions and more in general, he also led back the typology scheme to those of the contemporary transalpine windows, framed by the gothic canopies.

That typology, introduced in Italy in the last quarter of the XIII century in the windows of the Assisi Upper Basilica, spread widely over the central Italian regions all through the XIV century and a good part of the following one.

The Bardi window with its ‘twin’ above the Tosinghi Spinelli chapel – (same chronology and area (see Firenze S. Croce 13))- represent two early works of the Italian revision of the type, revision that will last all through the century with more and more refined and complex examples and more attention to the real structure of the contemporary architecture with a perspective foreshortened from a low viewpoint. Some of the well-known works of this process are in the apse of S. Croce, by Agnolo Gaddi (1380) (see Firenze S. Croce 4 and 5), of the Galluzzo Charterhouse by Niccolò di Pietro Gerini, of S. Maria del Fiore naves by Antonio da Pisa and Leonardo di Simone, following Gaddi’s drawings (see Firenze Cattedrale 11-14) and of S. Domenico in Perugia by Mariotto di Nardo (1411) (see Perugia S. Domenico 1).

That state will persist until halfway through the XIV century, when a demand of updating the type, as from the examples of windows at S. Maria del Fiore chapels (1441-43), will lead to works with ‘all’antica’ architecure that will take the place of the gothic structure.

A further progress towards a definite acquisition from the critics was marked by Bologna, Castelnuovo and Marchini again, all of them suggesting the Maestro di Figline as the author of the window, the same suggeston Marchini presented in 1956 for the Tosinghi Spinelli ‘twin’ window: later on that attribution was share by all the scholars, trying also to build up a pictorial and stained-glass corpus of the Maestro – some of the windows at Assisi Lower Basilica were as well given to that author, even if not unanimously.

Instead, less successful was Marchini’s identification of Maestro di Figline with Giovanni di Bonino, glazier from Assisi, author of the apse window at Orvieto cathedral and maybe also the artist of a window with a crucifixion in Perugia (see Perugia Galleria Nazionale 1); probably active as well at the yard of Assisi Lower Basilica.

The artist’s involvement in the Bardi window - both as the drawer and executor, especially of the faces – was also accepted by Volpe and Bellosi. The latter underlined again the giottesque character of the Maestro’s style.

The official critics favoured the stylistic analysis of the work following ‘pictorial’ canons; they rarely lingered over the problem between painter and executor and as a consequence, on the work of interpretation and translation – and therefore variation – carried out by the Master glazier to adapt a pictorial image to the specific type of medium. Grodecki’s and Caviness’ studies highlighted the importance of a global evaluation of the work, including all the technical aspects, even those considered less indicative such as the borders, the sequence of colours, the frames, because in the end they become formal data, therefore stylistic ones.

Unfortunately, in spite of some studies that started to take that aspect into account – like, for instance, R. Burnam’s research on Orsanmichele – so far in the Italian survey what is missing is an analytic and comparative contribution, that investigate for categories, creating proper raisonnè ones, with the various types of borders, of architectonic framing, the fabrics, etc., their relative characteristics in technique and execution, and theories about the workers involved.

Thompson’s direction (1999) is analogous. She analysed the stylistic and technical characteristics of the work, investigating also into the whole complex of windows at S. Croce in its iconographic programme and literary sources.

She drew on one of Marchini’s starting point and deduced that the most ancient parts of the apse decoration – Prophets, Elias on the chariot of fire, the Crucifixion and the Apparition of St. Francis in Arles (see Firenze S. Croce 1,2,12, and museo 9) – and the Bardi’s and Tosinghi Spinelli’s windows – Franciscan Saints and genealogy of the Virgin – are all part of former programme that put into evidence the typological correspondences among Old, New Testament and St. Francis’ life, with relative glorification of the Order.

As that cycle could be interpreted with strong joachimite valences, was interrupted so remaining incomplete. All the apse decoration was then carried out only decades after(1380) (see Firenze S. Croce 4 and 5).

CONDITIONS: The survey, difficult to be read in situ, was carried out by Thompson, using also comparisons between the documentation related to Ulisse de Matteis’ intervention (beginning XX century), Van Straelen’s testimony (1938) on the very bad conditions of the work and the photographic files taken of the post-war restoration, realized by Ditta Tolleri. Thanks to the last intervention now the surfaces are brighter and more readable and closer to the original pieces, but the Author complains against aimmodarate cleaning of the glass, near its abrasion, that is the cause of the present washed out effect of the grisailles and of the faces shaping.


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

EDITOR: Marina Del Nunzio (April 2001).