Giovanni di Pietro (Active 1432 - Before 1479) A Court Scene...





Giovanni di Pietro (Active 1432 - Before 1479)
A Court Scene
Tempera on gold ground panel

Old Thomas Agnew & Sons label, verso, with inventory number 35616.


  • Leopold Goldschmidt, Paris;

  • Comte André Pastré, Paris;

  • Comtesse Charles de Vogué, Paris;

  • With Agnew's, 1974, no. 3.

King's Lynn, Fermoy Art Gallery, 1300-1500, Renaissance Painting in Tuscany, 1973, No. 16.

Benedict Nicolson, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 115, 1973, p. 621, fig. 78.

cf. Painting in Renaissance Siena Exhibition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, December 1988 - March 1989, pps. 264-269.

(Panel) 11 in. (H) x 15 in. (W)
(Panel) 28 cm (H) x 38 cm (W)

This attribution to Giovanni di Pietro, brother of Lorenzo di Pietro called Il Vecchietta, has been made by Everett Fahy, director of the Frick Collection. He writes: "This Giovanni di Pietro is first mentioned in 1432 and seems to have died before 1479 (the documents concerning him are summarised by C. H. Weigelt in Thieme-Becker, XIV, 1921, p. 138; the Madonna della Misericordia in the church of the Servi at Siena, the sold work Weigelt assigns to Giovanni di Pietro, is actually by Giovanni di Paolo). The first attempt to identify Giovanni di Pietro's works was made by John Pope-Hennessy in his article The Development of Realistic Painting in Siena - II, Burlington Magazine, 84, 1944, p. 143, where he tentatively attributes to Giovanni di Pietro the Ovile Annunciation and the Johnson panels. He goes into the problem in greater detail in his unpublished monograph, Matteo di Giovanni (1951, MS, pp. 9-21), where he associates the Ovile Annunciation with documents of 1460 in which both Marco di Giovanni and Giovanni di Pietro were commissioned to paint an altarpiece for the church of San Pietro Ovile. Very briefly, his argument is as follows. Giovanni di Pietro and Matteo di Giovanni shared lodgings and worked as partners from 1452 until after 1461. As the Ovile Annunciation differs conspicuously from Matteo di Giovanni's autograph works of this period, the painting can be regarded as an independent work by Giovanni di Pietro, although the commission was awarded to the joint workshops. In addition to this, Pope-Hennessy sees the collaboration of the two artists in the Borgo San Sepolcro polyptych. He also suggests that the panels now divided between Paris and Philadelphia may originally have formed part of the predella of the Ovile altarpiece."

Everett Fahy goes on to say how closely these paintings are related to this Court Scene, and to the other three panels which have been identified as belonging to the same series:

The Entry of Charles of Anjou into Siena, Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia;
A Court Scene, Private Collection, Florence; 
The Presentation of the Flag of Siena, Esztergom (Hungary), Christian Museum.

A further panel from the series to have re-appeared recently is the Jousting Match in the Salavin Sale, Paris, 5 December 1973 (38). Like the Esztergom picture, this also shows the Sienese flag, with knights in combat before the city walls.

The secular nature of the subject-matter of this series is highly unusual in Sienese fifteenth century art, and particularly in panel painting, and the more interesting because it evidently relates to episodes in Sienese history. From the traditional description which accompanied the panel in the Branes Foundation, there is no reason to doubt the identity of the principal personage in the series as Charles Anjou; the distinctive fillet which he wears around the temples reappears in three of the panels, and it is clearly the same character in the fourth.

It was Charles of Anjou who renewed the Guelph cause in Tuscany less than a decade after the Battle of Montaperti (1260), which was so disastrous for the Florentines and Guelphs. Although the course of events following Charles of Anjou’s landing at the mouth of the Tiber in 1265 and the Battle of Benevento (1266) were a reversal of the good fortune that Sienna had enjoyed at Montaperti, the merchant oligarchy which succeeded the Guelph and became established in Sienna in the 1270s heralded a period of prosperity for the town, when it took on the appearence that we know today. Excommunication had followed Sienna’s victory in 1260, and Charles of Anjou gained the support of Clement IV in his campaign to re-establish the Guelph cause in Tuscany. It may well be that the episode represented in the present panel is Charles of Anjou seeking the Pope’s support for his campaign, just as the picture Esztergom may show the lifting of the excommunication emposed on the town. The Barnes foundation painting shows Charles about to enter the town of Sienna, presumably in 1273, when the Papal interdict was lifted. The subject of the painting in a Florentine private collection is a further ‘Court Scene’, with Charles of Anjou kneeling before an enthroned figure with an orb and sceptre. The essentially Gothic artchitecture in the Esztergom panel, and the Renaissance character of the buildings and perspective views in the present work, points to the different settings of Sienna and Rome, although there is perhaps a quotation from the facade of the Palazzo Medici in Florence. 

The painting at Esztergom has been attributed (by Miklos Boskovits, Tuscan Paintings of the Early Renaissance, Budapest, 1969, No. 11) to Vecchietta himself. Everett Fahy notes that the works attributed to Giovanni di Pietro are reminiscent of Vecchietta’s fresco and tempera paintings - which one might expect from Vecchietta’ brother. Yet they lack the incisive design and coherent perspective to be found in Vecchietta’s autograph work.

Property of a Distinguished Family

Auction Date: 30th Nov 2023 at 11am

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