TOSCANA - Prato
FILE : Museo dell’Opera 1
TITLE : Annunciation

LOCATION: Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Prato, now temporarily on exhibit (until 2005) in Prato’s Museo di Pittura Murale in San Domenico (in the exhibition I Tesori della Città).

 

DIMENSIONS: The stained glass window is composed of two panels, one rectangular (102 X 126 cm.) and one in the shape of a lunette (74 X 123 cm.).

PROVENANCE: Prato, Pieve di S. Stefano. The two panels seem to have come from early sixteenth-century stained glass windows glazed for the Inghirami Chapel which are no longer in situ. During the 1950s the Annunciation panel--which had been arbitrarily joined to the lunette panel ("…lunetta archiacuta non pertinente ora fuori opera")—was installed in window-opening (created expressly for the stained glass composite) in a corridor located between the Cappella della Cintola and the transept. The corridor was constructed in 1709 and demolished in 1954.

CHRONOLOGY: c. 1508

AUTORE: Fra’ Paolo di Mariotto da Gambassi e Giovanni di Ridolfo Buoninsegni (attribution)

SUBJECT/S: Panel a1: The Virgin, seated under an open loggia, receives the annunciation of the angel that turns to her. The dove of the Holy Spirit—which has been crammed into the edge of the composition—descends towards the Virgin. Panel a2: The architrave of a portico is foreshortened by means of perspective. The obvious disjointedness of the window suggests that the two panels, though they probably originate from the same cycle, were not part of the same scene (as they are now in this composite window).

CRITICAL NOTES: Van Straelen dated the Annunciation to around 1460, but Kennedy, in her monograph on Alesso Baldovinetti, includes it in a corpus of stained glass windows carried out by Baldovinetti around 1480. The loss of Baldovinetti’s most important stained glass cycles impedes a full understanding of his activity in this field and makes it difficult to verify Kennedy’s attribution.

Marchini identified the stained glass Annunciation with the same artist as the window which, at one time, was installed in the end of the church’s right transept, and whose subject—according to late sixteenth-century sources—was, in fact, an Annunciation and various saints. Marchini connects to the window a May 13, 1481 payment on behalf of the Pratan priest Filippo di Bernardo Bandinelli "per facitura della finestra del vetro fatta di nuovo sopra la porticciuola di sopra al campanile [….] per lire quatuordici il braccio […] misurossi detta finestra e fue braccia 45 e 2/3, L. 639 s. 6, d. 8" (see Baldanzi). According to Marchini, the window’s undeniable Baldovinettian characteristics belong to a formal repertoire that was passed on by means of the reuse of the same "cartoni" over decades, and the same formal elements can be seen in the stained glass windows of S. Maria delle Carceri (see Prato C. di S. Maria delle Carceri 1,2,3,4), and in the windows of the Madonna del Sasso in Bibiena. These formal analogies convince Marchini to attribute the Annunciation to the same master that glazed those windows.

According to Miniati, by 1596 the Duomo di Prato’s transept windows (from which the panels in question originated) were completely glazed. That source would have been of primary importance had it not been limited to only a general description: "bellissimi finestroni…tutti dipinti". Therefore, a determination of the original location of the Annunciation depends upon other criteria. In a well-known manuscript (BRP, Ms 636, cc 157v-158v), published by Fantappié, the pratan priest Giuseppe Nesti noted that some early sixteenth-century fragments of windows made by Paolo di Mariotto da Gambassi and Giovanni di Ridolfo Buoninsegni "che lavorarono insieme con uno degli Ingesuati" had been reinstalled in the Inghirami Chapel. Nesti lamented the fact that the installation did not include the fragment of the Annunciation, which was "murata nell’andito della Madonna entro una finestra aperta e bella posta." On the basis of this documentation Fantappié refuted Marchini’s proposed attribution and confirmed the Annunciation’s origin as the Inghirami Chapel. Recently, Cerretelli (1994) attributed the Annunciation to Paolo di Mariotto and dated the window to around 1508. He notes that, in addition to general references to the work of Ghirlandaio and Lippi, the panel exhibits similarities with the artistic personality of Domenico di Zanobi (the Master of the Johnson Nativity).

However, the problem of attribution remains open since, as Cerretelli himself points out, the attribution is not based on firm documentary evidence. In contrast, various of the existing documents refer to the stained glass windows in the Manassei Chapel and the Chapel dell’Assunta—which were glazed around 1509 by Paolo di Mariotto da Gambassi "degli Ingesuati" with the collaboration of fra’ Giovanbattista di Ridolfo Boninsegni from Florence.

CONDITION: The obtrusive web of mending leads--besides rendering many of the window’s details illegible--has affected the coherency the overall composition. In the upper panel, fragments from various panels seem to have been leaded together to construct the composition. There are stopgaps and modern restorations. In 1998-99, in preparation for the exhibition I Tesori della Città, the stained glass window was restored in Prato by the studio Mariotti. It was at this time that the lunette panel, which came to light in the Cathedral’s storage space, was reattached to the Annuciation (this despite the fact that the lunette had been profoundly altered at the end of the nineteenth century and only a few original fragments remained).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

PHOTOGRAPHIC REF.: Foto Nicolò Orsi Battaglini, Firenze

ESTENSORE: Renee K. Burnam February 2003