Paintings on Canvas in Fourteenth Century Italy

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<ul><li><p>Paintings on Canvas in Fourteenth Century ItalyAuthor(s): Caroline VillersSource: Zeitschrift fr Kunstgeschichte, 58. Bd., H. 3 (1995), pp. 338-358Published by: Deutscher Kunstverlag GmbH Munchen BerlinStable URL: .Accessed: 04/04/2014 09:11</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .</p><p> .</p><p>JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact</p><p> .</p><p>Deutscher Kunstverlag GmbH Munchen Berlin is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extendaccess to Zeitschrift fr Kunstgeschichte.</p><p> </p><p>This content downloaded from on Fri, 4 Apr 2014 09:11:08 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p></li><li><p>.r M-r </p><p>...'5 ell? </p><p>?? I - - , I' I 7 ??L- ? Il?.. ??.? </p><p>i. Christ washing his disciples' feet, Florentine artist c.1390o. Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Withyham </p><p>Caroline Villers </p><p>Paintings on Canvas in Fourteenth Century Italy </p><p>In 1990 four early Italian paintings depicting ,Christ Washing His Disciples' Feet</p></li><li><p>2. Judas's betrayal, Florentine artist c.1390. Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Withyham </p><p>Nothing is known about the original location of the paintings nor their provenance prior to the mid-nineteenth century. In 1849 they were given to the Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Withy- ham, Sussex by Edward John Ottley. In 1857 they were still in the Church but by 1902 they had been transferred to the Chapel at Buckhurst Park, seat of Gilbert George Reginald, eighth Earl de la Warr. The Chapel at Buckhurst was built in the i88os so the transfer must have occurred between 188o0 - 1902. The paintings were subsequently re- </p><p>turned to the Parish Church at an unknown date and remained there until they were brought to the Courtauld Institute for conservation. The Withy- ham paintings can be identified with a set of four works attributed to &gt;School of Giotto</p></li><li><p>3. The Mocking of Christ, Florentine artist c.1390. Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Withyham </p><p>opportunity to buy both from Italians who wished to sell works before they were looted as well as from the superintendent of the official French looting. Stylistically, a date in the last decade of the four- </p><p>teenth century seems reasonable. The paintings are close in style to the work of Niccolb di Pietro Gerini or Spinello Aretino. Wall paintings obviously pro- vide the general precendent for their composition and format and they may have formed part of a larger narrative cycle, although a narrative cycle of </p><p>this type on canvas is without known precedents in the fourteenth century in Italy. Although they are executed on canvas, the paint- </p><p>ings resemble panel paintings in technique and this accords well with the instructions Cennino Cen- nini gives for painting a banner where he directs the painter to proceed &gt;&gt;in the same way as anconas ... step by step&gt;The </p><p>Technique of Four Fourteenth Century Italian Paint- ings on Fabric Supports&lt; Proceedings of the L C.O.M. Committee for Conservation, Washington D.C., i99, Volume x, 1o4-og9. </p><p>340 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Fri, 4 Apr 2014 09:11:08 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p></li><li><p>4. The Flagellation of Christ, Florentine artist c.1390. Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Withyham </p><p>been lost from the pictorial composition. It is not possible to say how wide the decorative borders were originally; there is almost no cusping or dis- tortion of the canvas weave, suggesting that either the paintings were not stretched onto a strainer or that quite a lot of the edge has, in fact, been lost3. Each canvas is composed of two pieces of linen carefully seamed together with a neat strong back- stitch. The seam is very pronounced on the back and excludes all possibility that the fabric could have formed part of a normal panel painting con- </p><p>struction. The linen is medium weight, closely woven fabric with an average thread count of 17 x 15 yarns per square centimetre; the individual yarns are rather varied and irregular but the fabric is identical on all four paintings. The paint medium has been identified as egg </p><p>tempera and a normal panel painter's range of pigments has been found, including ultramarine and gold leaf. The paint surface has all the charac- teristic features of egg tempera paint although the brushstrokes are somewhat broader and more ev- </p><p>3The largest painting, ,The Washing of the Disciples' Feet</p></li><li><p>5. The Crucifixion, Barnaba da Modena. Victoria &amp; Albert Museum, London </p><p>ident than usual, they are applied and blended in such a way as to give all the forms a smooth continuously modelled appearance. The flamboy- ant use of colour-change modelling in the drapery, the lavish amount of ultramarine and decorative mordant gilding all suggest that these were expen- sive works intended to impress their audience. The canvas was prepared for painting with a layer </p><p>of unpigmented white calcium sulphate, a mixture of anhydrite (CaSO4) and gypsum (CaSO4 2H20). The nature of this layer has important implications both for their final appearance, especially varnish- ing of the paintings, for their method of display, and for their function. They are rigid, brittle struc- tures not amenable to draping or rolling. </p><p>Historical Context Although there is a tendency to classify all early paintings on canvas with a religious subject as &gt;banners</p></li><li><p>6. Saints Anthony Abbot and Eligius adored by members of a Flagellant Confraternity, Barnaba da Modena. </p><p>Victoria &amp; Albert Museum, London </p><p>and devotional images. Cennini also lists various decorative and functional items that an artist might paint on fabric, but these should be kept distinct from the discussions. The following sur- vey of surviving works attempts to broaden estab- lished notions of canvas paintings in order to ac- commodate the Withyham paintings. It is unlikely to prove exhaustive, for undoubtedly more canvas paintings currently either unrecognised or forgot- ten remain to be discovered. Many, many more exist only in documents. </p><p>The confraternity was the most typical form of lay spirituality in the Trecento and steadily gained in popularity from 1260 on, processions accompa- nied by banners of all kinds were a regular and often spectacular feature of their activities. Hun- dreds, even thousands, of banners must have been in use although very few survive today. Only five fourteenth century examples are known to the author. There are three large double sided banners surviving: one attributed to Barnaba da Modena dated circa 1369-74 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London) shows ?the Crucifixion</p></li><li><p>7. St. Mary Magdalen with a Crucifix, Spinello Aretino, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York </p><p>(Gift of the Family of Francis M. Bacon, 1914 [13.175 obv]) </p><p>members of a Flagellant Confraternity&lt; on the other side (Figs. 5 and 6)6. The second is by Spinel- lo Aretino, dated circa 1375 (Metropolitan Muse- um of Art, New York) and shows &gt;&gt;St. Mary Magdalen with a Crucifix, </p><p>on one side and the &gt;&gt;Flagellation&gt;St. </p><p>Francis in Glory&lt; on one side with the &gt;&gt;Crucifix- ion&gt;Stigmatisation of St. Francis,&lt; </p><p>on the other8. The banners are very big, and form clearly follows function. They are on canvas in order to be lightweight. Three other large canvas paintings can be classi- </p><p>fied as &gt;&gt;possibly banners&gt;St. Helen adoring the Cross with a nun</p></li><li><p>8. The Flagellation of Christ, Spinello Aretino, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York </p><p>(Gift of the Family of Francis M. Bacon, 1914 [13.175 obv]) </p><p>teca Nazionale Bologna, Figs. 9 and io). On the reverse of this monumental canvas, drawn directly onto the unprepared linen are three rough sketch- es (Fig. ii)9. The others are a &gt;&gt;St. ChristopherUna Tela del Trecento sulla collina Bolognese: II San Cristoforo di Monte Maggiore</p></li><li><p>9, Io. St. Helen adoring the Cross, Simone dei Crocefissi and Detail (before conservation), showing relief decoration of the crown, halo and border. Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna </p><p>This content downloaded from on Fri, 4 Apr 2014 09:11:08 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p></li><li><p>ii. The back of St. Helen adoring the Cross </p><p>No one has considered what happened to these banners when they were not in use. They may have been rolled up and stored and Cennini men- tions that if his instructions are followed, particu- larly the minimal use of a gesso ground including honey or starch as a plasticiser, this could be done safely. The inventories of confraternities list nu- merous storage boxes which might serve this pur- pose and in 1378 the Confraternity delle Stimmate </p><p>paid for a &gt;&gt;cassa del gonfalone</p></li><li><p>banner of the Contraternity of San Bernardino, Perugia'4. Giles Arthur has suggested that the altar curtain of the Compagnia di Gesu Pellegrino was also used as a banner's. It is also possible that banners were simply parked in churches either attached to the stalls or on stone stands, proces- sional torches and statues are found &gt;stored&amp; in this way in the Church of S. Fantin and S. Polo, Venice for example. The question of storage would, of course, have </p><p>implications for the mounting of the painting and the technique generally. The Withyham paintings have relatively thick gesso grounds and are brittle structures that could never have been repeatedly rolled and unrolled. The &gt;St. Helen adoring the Cross? has a moulded relief decoration in the Saint's crown and halo as well as diamond shape features, possibly made of parchment, appliqued around the border, again this suggests rolling would have been impracticable (Fig. io). If these banners were usually displayed but sometimes carried then, like processional crosses'6, they are strictly speaking multi-functional objects, and this could be the case for other works on canvas too. In order to be portable banners could not have </p><p>frames and it is usual for them to have a decorative </p><p>border, often bands of geometric patterns, fulfill- ing that visual function'7. It is also somewhat un- likely that they were always conventionally stretched on strainers. Illustrations suggest that some might have hung freely'8 while others were supported horizontally by rods above and below and then lifted up on poles. Gentile Bellini's &gt;Mir- acle at the bridge of San LorenzoUn Crucifix du Maitre de San Fran- cesco&gt;Holy Family with St. John</p></li><li><p>documented. The banner of San Bernardino is interesting in that it is recorded as being executed in 1465 to replace an earlier banner that was de- scribed as </p><p>,cancellato e guasto&lt; by 8th May 1463. In </p><p>January 1496 the new banner was also described as </p><p>,consuntoThe Intercession of Christ and the Virginancona&gt;Dipinti su tela a Bologna tra '3oo e '400. </p><p>Note su una tipologia artistica&gt;An Early Altarpiece from the Cathe- dral of Florence</p></li><li><p>12. The Intercession of Christ and the Virgin, Florentine artist c.1400. Metropolitan Museum of Art, </p><p>The Cloisters Collection 1953 (53.37), New York </p><p>not necessarily be the case25. Two works by Pietro di Giovanni Lianori may confirm the idea that painting on canvas for a variety of purposes was more common in Northern Italy than other areas. They show the Madonna and Child between standing saints and are clearly based on wall paint- ing prototypes. One is dated 1412 and comes from the Oratory of the Beata Vergine della Gazza, </p><p>Fiesso di Castenaso and is now in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna26; the other dateable to circa 1412, is in a private collection27. The most exceptional fabric supported altarpiece </p><p>of the early fifteenth century is, of course, the painting by Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d'Alemagna, dated 1446, for the Sala dell'Albergo of the Scuola Grande della Cariti~ in Venice28. </p><p>251 am grateful to Dr. Christa Gardner for pointing this out to me. </p><p>26 Illustrated in II Tramonto del Medioevo a Bologna, II Cantiere di San Petronio Exhibition catalogue, Bologna 1987, No. 13, 109-10. It measures 130 x 170 cm. </p><p>27 Illustrated in Carlo Volpe, (as note 22), Fig. 263, 270. The painting was in the Gozzadini Sale, 1906. No meas- urements given. </p><p>28 Sandra Moschini Marconi: Galleria dell'Accademia di Venezia, Opere d'Arte dei Secoli xiv e xv, 1955, pl.36, 37- </p><p>350 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Fri, 4 Apr 2014 09:11:08 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p></li><li><p>ig ? .. .9 </p><p>i ?; </p><p>.. ?a ~I ?'O </p><p>?..0. </p><p>'?,?? </p><p>13. Madonna of Humility, Lippo di Dalmasio. National Gallery, London </p><p>Interestingly it seems to be the semi secular loca- tion of confraternity rooms that prompts the use of canvas and here there is no question of the work being either temporary or portable. In technique it is identical to a panel painting. </p><p>Large images of the Virgin without surrounding saints form another category of canvas painting in Northern Italy. Their precise function and loca- tion is uncertain. Two &gt;&gt;Madonnas of Humility</p></li><li><p>production by Lippo di Dalmasio (Fig. 13)29 and there is another by Fra Paolo da Modena, which like many works on canvas used to be considered a transfer3o. There is also a &gt;&gt;Coronation of the Vir- gin?&lt; by Simone dei Crocefissi3'. In the category of smaller devotional works the only example is the &gt;&gt;Madonna and Child&gt;tiichlein&gt;Virgin and Child between Mary Magadalen and St. ClareThe Stigmatisation of St. Francis,, &gt;&gt;The Flagellation of Christ&lt; and &gt;&gt;The Crucifixionpanni di lino&gt;The use of grisaille as a Lenten ObservanceLas pinturas sobre anjeo o sargas material y tecnica?, 154-157 and J. Garcia Gomez-Tejedori, ?La sarga carac- teristicas tecnicas y estado de conservacion,, 16o-165; O. Schmid: St. Katherina Wolfegg, Ein Barockjuwel erzdhlt, Bergatraute, Eppe 1993, 76-78; Emil D. Bosshard: &gt;Tiichleinmalerei - eine billige Ersatztech- nik?&gt;Painted Lenten Veils and Wall Hangings in Austria&lt; in Conservation within historic buildings, International Institute for Conservation Congress, 1980, 142-148, dis- cusses the oldest examples in Austria dated 1457 with scenes from the Old and New Testament. </p><p>352 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Fri, 4 Apr 2014 09:11:08 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p></li><li><p>or Easter liturgy37. In northern Europe, the Pare- ment of Narbonne is a work of this type38 and other similar examples have been found in French and English churches39. In Spain and southern Germany a special type of painted covering evolved to be displayed in front of and so hide the main altarpiece during Lent. Surviving &gt;Hun- gertiicher&lt; or ,sargas&gt;Hangings, Curtains and Shutters of Sixteenth Century Lombard Altarpiecesin tela&lt; by Fra Angelico for S. Maria Novella. A later example of an organ cover of the roller blind type survives in place in the Sala del Mappamondo, Palazzo Pubblico, Siena. The Transfiguration by Girolam...</p></li></ul>


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