Saint Cyril of Constantinople(?) and an Elderly Carmelite Saint (the Prophet Elijah?)

Predella panel; companion to five panels in the John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art (Cat. 28--32)

Neri di Bicci, Italian (active Florence), 1419 - January 4, 1493

Geography:
Made in Florence, Italy, Europe

Date:
Mid- 1470s

Medium:
Tempera and tooled gold on panel with horizontal grain

Dimensions:
6 7/8 x 11 1/8 x 5/8 inches (17.5 x 28.3 x 1.6 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting before 1900, Johnson Collection

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
Cat. 33

Credit Line:
John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

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Additional information:
  • PublicationItalian Paintings 1250-1450

    To the left is a kneeling saint, facing forward but looking to the left. He is bald, has a long white beard and a Carmelite habit, and holds a book in his left hand. He may be Saint Cyril of Constantinople, who, before joining the Carmelite order and becoming its general, was said to have been commissioned by Pope Alexander III Bandinelli (reigned 1159-81) to try to bring about the union of the Eastern and Western churches. He appears in Carmelite breviaries from about 1399, when he was proclaimed one of the order's confessors and doctors,1 and in a mural painting by Starnina (q.v.) of 1404 in the Carmine in Florence.2

    To the right and facing right is another elderly, bearded saint in Carmelite robes. He holds a book in his right hand and gazes on a ball of fire in his left. He may be the Old Testament prophet Elijah, to whom the Carmelites traced their origins, and who is sometimes represented as a saint in a Carmelite habit.3 The ball of fire in his hand refers to an episode in which Elijah implored God to cause an animal sacrifice to be lighted with fire from heaven: "Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the holocaust, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench" (3 Kings 18:38).

    George Kaftal identified these saints as Carmelites (verbal communication, November 12, 1954). However, in the Johnson Collection's 1966 catalogue they were incorrectly named Saints Anthony Abbot and Anthony of Padua.

    For further comments see Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection cat. 32 "Predella panel of an altarpiece: Saints Alberto of Trapani and Marcarius of Egypt(?)" Carl Brandon Strehlke, from Italian paintings, 1250-1450, in the John G. Johnson Collection and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004, pp. 332-338.

    Notes:

    1. Adriano Staring in Istituto Giovanni XXIII della Pontificia Università Lateranese. Bibliotheca sanctorum. vol. 3. Rome, 1963, cols. 1316-17.
    2. Luciano Berti and Antonio Paolucci, eds. L'età di Masaccio: il primo quattrocentro a Firenze. Milan, 1990. Exhibition, Florence, Palazzo Vecchio, June 7-September 16, 1990, repro. p. 87. The mural is now detached and in the church's convent. The figure identified as Saint Cyril is in a white habit and has an abbot's staff. Unfortunately, the head is missing.
    3. See the center section of Pietro Lorenzetti's altarpiece executed in 1327 for San Niccolò al Carmine in Siena (see Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale, n.I.B.S. no. 16a).

    Bibliography:

    Frank J. Mather, Jr., and Roger E. Fry. "Recent Additions to the Collection of Mr. John G. Johnson, Philadelphia." The Burlington Magazine (London), vol. 9, no. 41 (August 1906), p. 351;
    Bernhard Berenson. Catalogue of a Collection of Paintings and Some Art Objects. Vol. 1, Italian Paintings. Philadelphia, 1913, p. 20;
    Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: A List of the Principal Artists and Their Works with an Index of Places. Oxford, 1932, p. 388;
    Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento: catalogo dei principali artisti e delle loro opere con un indice dei luoghi. Translated from the English by Emilio Cecchi. Collezione "Valori plastici." Milan, 1936, p. 344;
    John G. Johnson Collection: Catalogue of Paintings. Foreword by Henri Marceau. Philadelphia, 1941, p. 11;
    Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: A List of the Principal Artists and Their Works with an Index of Places. Florentine School. 2 vols. London, 1963, p. 157;
    [Barbara Sweeny]. John G. Johnson Collection: Catalogue of Italian Paintings. Foreword by Henri Marceau. Philadelphia, 1966, p. 56;
    Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, 1972, p. 148;
    Philadelphia Museum of Art. Paintings from Europe and the Americas in the Philadelphia Museum of Art: A Concise Catalogue. Philadelphia, 1994, repros. pp. 220-21