Saint John the Baptist

Companion to John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Cat. 98b

Antonio Orsini (Master of the Carminati Coronation), Italian (active Ferrara), documented 1432 - 1491

Geography:
Made in Italy, Europe

Date:
c. 1425

Medium:
Tempera and tooled gold on panel with vertical grain

Dimensions:
12 3/8 x 5 3/16 inches (31.4 x 13.2 cm) )

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 211, European Art 1100-1500, second floor

Accession Number:
Cat. 98a

Credit Line:
John G. Johnson Collection, 1917

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Additional information:
  • PublicationItalian Paintings 1250-1450

    Comments for Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection cat. 98a,b:

    The bearded Saint John the Baptist, looking to our right, stands in a rocky landscape. He wears a hair shirt and a mantle, and holds an astral cross and a scroll inscribed with the passage from the Gospel of John in which he identifies Christ as the Lamb of God. An empty bowl lies on the ground beside him.

    The young blond-bearded Saint James Major, looking left, stands on a marble pavement. He carries a book and a walking staff, symbol of Compostela in Spain, the apostle's burial site and a great pilgrimage center.

    Bernhard Berenson's indecision about these paintings in the Johnson catalogue of 1913 sums up all early opinions about the two panels. He entitled them "Two Delicately Wrought Little Gilt Panels" and said: "It is difficult to place these figures, with their intense expression and precise workmanship. There can be no doubt that they were painted about 1400, but where? Less improbably at Siena than elsewhere."

    Despite Berenson's conclusion, the nervous swirl of the drapery, the gaunt figures, and even the tooling, which, even if "delicately wrought," hardly achieves the precision or high craftsmanship found in Siena at the turn of the fifteenth century, would argue for an origin outside Tuscany.

    In 1976 Federico Zeri noted that the artist was the same as the painter of the Coronation of the Virgin in the Carminati Collection.1 Serena Padovani's identification of the artist as Antonio Orsini is well confirmed by a comparison of the two saints in the Johnson Collection with those in the Virgin of Humility,2 signed by Orsini. The tooling of the halos is also very similar.

    As is appropriate for panels that were the wings of a triptych, both saints look inward. The Baptist's gesture and inscription on his scroll suggest that the Virgin and Child appeared in the center panel. However, no candidate for this section of the triptych can be put forward.3 Carl Brandon Strehlke, from Italian paintings, 1250-1450, in the John G. Johnson Collection and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2004, pp. 349-351.

    Notes:

    1. Serena Padovani. "Nuove personalità della pittura emiliana nel primo quattrocento." Paragone-arte (Florence), vol. 27, nos. 317-19 (July-September 1976), pp. 40-59, fig. 45.
    2. Venice, private collection; Padovani 1976, fig. 41.
    3. Two images of the Virgin of Humility in private collections (Padovani 1976, figs. 48a, b) have different tooling in the gold and an enframement consisting of elaborate pastiglia, whereas the saints in the Johnson Collection have flat gold punched borders.

    Bibliography:

    William Rankin. "The Collection of Mr. John G. Johnson: The Early Italian Pictures." The International Studio (New York), vol. 37, no. 147 (May 1909), p. lxxx (Siena or Umbria, early fifteenth century);
    Bernhard Berenson. Catalogue of a Collection of Paintings and Some Art Objects. Vol. 1, Italian Paintings. Philadelphia, 1913, p. 55, repro. p. 293 (Siena[?], c. 1400);
    John G. Johnson Collection: Catalogue of Paintings. Foreword by Henri Marceau. Philadelphia, 1941, p. 15 (Siena, c. 1400);
    [Barbara Sweeny]. John G. Johnson Collection: Catalogue of Italian Paintings. Foreword by Henri Marceau. Philadelphia, 1966, p. 72, repro. p. 101 (Siena, c. 1400);
    Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, 1972, p. 224 (Italian School, fourteenth century);
    Serena Padovani. "Nuove personalità della pittura emiliana nel primo quattrocento." Paragone-arte (Florence), vol. 27, nos. 317-19 (July-September 1976), p. 49, figs. 46a, b (Master of the Carminati Coronation/ Antonio Orsini);
    Federico Zeri. Italian Paintings in the Walters Art Gallery. Condition notes by Elisabeth C. G. Packard. Edited by Ursula E. McCracken. vol. 1. Baltimore, 1976, p. 195 (Master of the Carminati Coronation);
    Daniele Benati in Rocca di Vignola. Il tempo di Nicolò III: gli affreschi del castello di Vignola e la pittura tardogotica nei domini estensi. Exhibition, May-June 1988. Modena, 1988, fig. 10;
    Massimo Medica in La pittura in Italia: il quattrocento. Rev. and enlarged ed. 2 vols. Milan, 1987, p. 683;
    Philadelphia Museum of Art. Paintings from Europe and the Americas in the Philadelphia Museum of Art: A Concise Catalogue. Philadelphia, 1994, repro. p. 222;
    Mojmír Frinta. Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting. Pt. 1, Catalogue Raisonné of All Punch Shapes. Prague, 1998, pp. 135, 145, 210 repro., 415 repro.


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