FILE : C. di S. Maria delle Carceri 1
TITLE : Annunciation


LOCATION: C. di S. Maria delle Carceri, window w


PROVENANCE: original location

CHRONOLOGY: 1491-1492

AUTHOR: Domenico Ghirlandaio, circle of, designs (attribution); Alessandro Agolanti, execution (documented).

PATRON: According to documents, on August 28, 1491 the banker Giovanni Tornabuoni, uncle of Lorenzo de’ Medici, donated the Nativity stained glass window (see Prato C. di S. Maria delle Carceri 3). For the other three windows of the church documentation does not exist. However, only a few days earlier ( on August 10th) the Comune di Prato, in acknowledging their great patronage of the city of Prato and in particular the church of S. Maria delle Carceri, gave the Tornabuoni 38 staiora of land. This lends support to the supposition that the other three stained glass windows in the church were part of the same gift.

SUBJECT/S: Seated in an small, airy courtyard, the Virgin receives the Annunciation. The absence of any family coat of arms suggests that the Marian theme was of primary importance in the iconographic program. What should not be overlooked is the close correlation between the sangallesce construction, reliquary of the miraculous image of S. Maria delle Carceri, and the arrangement of the four stained glass windows in the lunettes of the four arms of the church; this in accordance with a well-defined Marian program: in fact, the cycle starts with the window in the lunette over the principal entrance door which depicts the Annunciation. The significance is made explicit by the inscription in the frieze "Hec Domus Dei Et Porta Celi". Above the main altar--focus of the composition and fully visible from the entrance--is the miraculous image of the Assumption of the Virgin. At the sides are the Visitation and the Nativity. The obvious difference between the cool palette, dominated by blues and purples, which was used for the two windows of the Annunciation and Visitation, and the warmer, sun-filled coloration of the Nativity and Assumption, is interpreted by Morselli and Corti as a symbolic allusion to the entrance into an era of grace.

CRITICAL NOTES: Alessandro Agolanti, who lived from 1443 to 1516, was one of the most esteemed glaziers in Florence at the end of the Quattrocento and beginning of the Cinquecento. Son of Giovanni Agolanti d’Andrea and, like his father, from 1478 to 1515 "bidello" of the University, he was assiduously employed in numerous workshops, in primis in that of the Duomo of Florence. Contemporaneously, between 1480 and 1490, he carried out windows for the Duomo of Lucca and, in Florence, for the church of Santo Spirito and for Palazzo Vecchio. He was the trusted master glazier of the Tornabuoni family, from whom he had, in 1491, various prestigious commissions: besides the commission of the four stained glass windows for the Sanctuary of S. Maria delle Carceri, he was entrusted with the St. Lawrence window of the Tornabuoni Chapel in S. Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi (see Firenze C. di S. Maria Maddalena de’Pazzi 2) and the apse window of the High Chapel in S. Maria Novella (see Firenze C. di S. Maria Novella 3).

As to the designs, Marchini (1955) links the ideation of the four windows to the artistic language of Ghirlandaio, with whom Agolanti had a continual working relationship. That attribution is puzzling since, as J. Cadogan has revealed, there are notable iconographic and compositional differences with works of the same subject which are securely connected to Ghirlandaio, such as the mosaic, of around the same time, representing the Annunciation (located above the Porta della Mandorla of the Cathedral of Florence).

CONDITION: The Annunciation is in fair condition, despite heavy nineteenth-century restorations, which are similar to those carried out for the other two windows of the Nativity and Assumption (see Prato C. di S. Maria delle Carceri 2,3). These are the work of U. De Matteis and di A. Bruschi. A close-up examination of the windows could allow verification of many particulars (which is not possible through the use of binoculars). There are many mending leads and numerous modern substitutions.


PHOTOGRAPHIC REF.: Foto Nicolò Orsi Battaglini, Florence

EDITOR: Caterina Pirina January 2003