TOSCANA - Firenze
FILE: Val d'Ema Charterhouse 8
TITLE : Grotesquerie with St. Lawrence


The monks little cloister plan

LOCATION: Val d’Ema Charterhouse [Florence Charterhouse] Little cloister, Colloquium of the monks. Wind. n I a

DIMENSIONS: lancet window 182 x 80 cm; central medallion 25 x 19,5 cm

PROVENANCE: original location

CHRONOLOGY: after 1560

AUTHOR: Paolo di Brondo glazier: execution of the oval (attribution).

ASSIGNMENT: Chapter of the Carthusians.

SUBJECT/S: The central oval represents St. Laurence, patron of Florence Charterhouse, standing, with the symbols of his martyrdom, the gridiron and the palm tree within a decorated frame, with cartouches and two couples of outer grotesquerie protome . It is the first of a eight windows group. In this and in the previous window (see FIRENZE Certosa di Val d’Ema 7 Grotesquerie with St. Mark) the only figurative part is the central oval around which the mosaic in transparent glass in the frame appears to be prepared to host a composition whose drawing is analogous to the one of the other windows (see FIRENZE Val d’Ema Charterhouse 5 e 6). All the other six of the colloquium (see FIRENZE Val d’Ema Charterhouse 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ) are storied windows in the centre with decorations around it..

CRITICAL NOTES: Giuseppe Bacchi, in his Guide to the monastery was the first to consult the archive sources and to annul the old assignment to Giovanni of Udine that would have realized them on Raphael’s cartoon (Guide 1861, p.34). Bacchi presumed the author was the glazier Maestro Paolo of Brondo fro Genoa, except for the two windows that present the date 1560, works of Gualtieri of Flanders (Bacchi, 1930, pp.113-116).

Marchini (Marchini, 1958, pp. 56-57, 232) notes how Vasari, entrusting the stained glass masters coming from the Flanders, adopted the grotesquerie motif in the stained glass windows as a precious decoration, and about that he cites the Laurenziana Library windows (see FIRENZE Biblioteca Laureziana, the Charterhouse Colloquium and some halls of the Palazzo Vecchio (see FIRENZE Palazzo Vecchio, grotesquerie 1).

A further comparative reading of the works style and of the documents related to the cycles at the Colloquium goes beyond even the considerations made in previous studies by the writer (Chiarelli, 1982, pp. 270-81) and carries to the following remarks.

In the six entirely decorated windows (nn 3-8) two hands can be singled out together with a further and more recent restoration that was more integrative than preservative. The six central stained glass ovals are attributed to the first hand: Raphaelesque is the influence, stylistically quite close to Giulio Romano, they are characterized by a certain expressive ingenuity, clear in the somewhat awkward manner of representing the figures, mainly when foreshortened. They turn out to be a work by Paolo of Brondo. A glazier from Genoa, as confirmed by his surname ‘Brondi’, a family whose presence is documented in Altare, a centre of glass production, since the XVII century (cp. Malandra, 1983, p.20).

The decorations and figures around the central coats of arms were attributed to a second master, identified as Gualtieri of Flanders. That master reveals an extraordinary freshness and fluency in the chiaroscuro effects of the grisaille painting, and maybe of sanguine too, pointed out by a luminous silver yellow and giving life to figures and grotesquerie motifs that from a stylistic and iconographic point of view can be traced back to the mature Florentine Mannerism area, in the same Vasari’s group. Besides, it must be noticed his contrapuntal skill in the use of silver yellow with a technique spared along the border. It is extremely interesting for the history of the mannerist stained glass window to notice how the particular structure of the frame is a determining element for the drawing ductus of the lancet window.

A far as the executive technique is concerned, the master’s provenance is confirmed in a comparison with the works that the Flemish master glaziers exported all over Europe.

That stylistic rereading was borne out by a further revision of the archive documents: Paolo of Brondo seemed to be carrying out a considerable work in order to realize the stained glass windows especially in the church and in the guest quarters of the Charterhouse. He was paid for the works, the materials and the equipment from October 19 1658 to December 1659 (21, cc.178r, 184v, 191r, 194v, 195r, 195v, 197v, 201r). on December 1559 he was paid for ‘six oval figures of glass’ that, on the monks’ request, he brought from Genoa (Ibid. c. 13v; n.45 c.25d). From January 1560 Gualtieri took his place , a master glazier cited as the ‘Fleming’ ( in 22, c. 37v, 85 c.47s) that had a permanent appointment until July of the same year (22, cc.15r, 17r, 26v, 27r 35v, 37v,40r, 44r, 47v; 45 cc. 20, 24, 28, 29, 35, 36, 38, 42,48,53); he works with his cousin George (22.c.37v).

If we consider that until the winter 1559 they were still building up the Colloquium (22, cc. 11r-v); that the wooden pieces of furniture were realized only in the first semester of 1560 (22 c. 37r); and that finally, on June 9 of the same year Antonio di Salvi ‘blacksmith at Galluzzo’ was paid "libbre 287 fat in telaio per le ramate delle finestre, cioè il finestrone sopra il coro, sei finestre per il Colloquio,…" (22. c.38v) we can confirm the stained glass windows work could be assigned only to Gualtieri of Flanders, the same master cited by Vasari in his ‘Vite’ (Lives), naming him together with his cousin George, as the executor of ‘fired stained glass windows’ for the grand duke, on the same Vasari’s drawing (Vasari, pub. 1881, VII. P.588).

As for the first two uncompleted windows, this and the previous ones, they were maybe originally not planned, as it results from the two documents above mentioned: the one relative to the six ovals carried from Genoa, and the other referred to the work of the blacksmith at the six windows of the Colloquium. Nowhere there is mention of eight windows or stained glass windows. It confirms that the frames cannot be contemporary to those of the other six stained glass windows, in spite of the fact that they seem to be ancient; besides, the size and the shape of the storied oval do not coincide with the size of the frame.

Yet, the two ovals with the figure of saint might be a work of Paolo di Brondo rather than Gualtieri of Flanders, for certain naivety and disproportion in sketching the human body.

CONDITION: good condition

BIBLIOGRAPHY: see Bibl. Certosa Val d’Ema

PHOTOGRAPHIC FILES: Niccolò Orsi Battaglini, Florence

EDITOR: Caterina Chiarelli (November 2001)