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 Martini, Simone (Italian painter, ca. 1284-1344) , A Saint Holding a Book

Core Record

Title A Saint Holding a Book
Collection Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Artist Martini, Simone (Italian painter, ca. 1284-1344)
Date Earliest about 1333
Date Latest about 1344
Description Simone Martini was one of the most admired early fourteenth century Sienese artists, renowned for the grace and delicacy of his figures. Few of his works survive. This octagonal panel is related to a similar panel, also of a saint holding a book, in the collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. These two small panels may be the surviving parts of a lost altarpiece. It would have formed part of the predella which would have depicted half-figures of saints ranged either side of a dead Christ. The Saint is probably an evangelist or apostle and is shown grieving as he contemplates the crucified body of Christ. On the basis on comparison with types in the S. Caterina altarpiece, it has been suggested that this may represent St Phillip - though other beardless saints (e.g. St John, St Thomas and St Jude) cannot be excluded. Martindale has observed that the restrained emotion of this saint was rather novel compared to the tendency towards extreme emotion in the art of Martini's contemporaries, Duccio and Giotto.
Current Accession Number 1959P37
Former Accession Number P.3759
Subject religion (male saint with book)
Measurements 19.0 x 19.7 cm cm (estimate)
Material egg tempera on panel
Acquisition Details Purchased with the assistance of the V & A Purchase Grant Fund 1959.
Provenance Acton collection, Aldenham Hall, Shropshire; Aldenham Hall sale, 17 March 1948, part of lot 250; Alfred Stannard.
Principal Exhibitions Italian Art & Britain, Burlington House, 1959, cat. no. 265; Primitives to Picasso, Burlington House, 1962, cat. no. 1; Old Masters from the City of Birmingham, Wildenstein and Company, 1970, cat. no. 1; Simone Martini 'St. John the Evangelist' in context, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, 1998, cat. no. 6.
Publications 'The Connoisseur's Diary', Connoisseur, vol. 144, 1959, p. 193, 195; Rowlands, J., Burlington Magazine, vol. 102, 1960, pp. 67-8, ill.; Berenson, B., Italian Pictures of the Renaissance, vol. 1, 1968, p. 402; Preiser, A., Das Entstehen und die Entwicklung der Predella in der Italienischen Malerei, Hildesheim and New York, 1973, p. 417; Martindale, A., Simone Martini, 1988, pp. 32, 42, 185; Catalogue of Paintings in Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, 1960; Foreign Paintings in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, A Summary Catalogue, 1983, no. 94.
Notes This panel is related to a similar one showing a saint holding a book in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (51,2397). The tooling around the edges of the panels appears to be identical but the decoration of the halo is different. Both panels may have belonged to a predella containing a line of half-length saints ranged on each side of a dead Christ comparable to the later predella of the triptych fo the Madonna and Child with Four Saints from the studio of Niccolo di Pietro Gerini (Galleria della Collegiata, Empoli). In the opinion of Rowlands, these panels were painted after the Sant'Ansano Annunication of 1333.

The saint appears to be crying. However, Dr Christa Gardner considers that this is likely to be the white of the eye. Distortion may have occurred because of an old area of re-painting.

Rights Owner Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Author Dr Patricia Smyth



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