Niccolo Giolfino (1476 – 1555) Mucius Scaevola thrusting hi...





Niccolo Giolfino (1476 – 1555)

Mucius Scaevola thrusting his hand into the Flame

Tempera on gold ground panel

Old Thomas Agnew & Sons label, verso, with inventory number 42622.


  • Great Russell Street, 1792;

  • T. G. N. Batting

  • Sotheby's London, 14 February 1968, lot 33

  • Where bought by Agnew's (1968)

  • Major Peter Harris


  • Agnew's, 1977, no. 2

  • Agnew's, 1979, no. 12

(Panel) 10 1/2 in. (H) x 12 1/2 in. (W)
(Panel) 26.7 cm (H) x 31.8 cm (W)

The scene is depicted as taking place in the Piazza dei Signori in Verona, of which Giolfino was a life-long inhabitant. On the left is the Loggia del Consiglio; on the right the Palazzo del Capitano, and at the far end of the Piazza is the Palazzo del Governo. A glimpse of the Scaglier tombs can be seen in the right-hand background.

In the Castelvecchio Museum in Verona there are two long panels by Giolfino (measuring 12 x 36 inches each) representing respectively the 'Trial' and the 'Martyrdom of St. Agatha'. Each of these panels is divided into three scenes, and the left-hand scene of 'The Trial' shows a view of the Piazza dei Signori in Verona, which is almost identical to that of our picture. Slight architectural differences between the two would suggest that our picture is the earlier one. The most significant of these is a late fifteenth-century window on the second floor of the Palazzo del Governo, which is not to be found in our picture. The Verona panel is discussed in Madonna Verona V, 1911, p. 240, by A. Avena, 'La Piazza dei Signora e un dipinto di Niccolo Giolfino'.

The incident depicted is a celebrated one in the history of Rome. When Porsenna, king of the Etruscan town of Clusium, was laying siege to Rome, Mucius, a Roman patrician, decided to resolve the situation by assassinating Porsenna. The attempt failed and Mucius was seized and brought before the King. In reply to threats of torture, the Roman thrust his hand into a fire, and held it there without flinching. Porsenna, who was amazed at his fortitude let him go free, deciding thereupon to make peace with the Romans. Mucius received the name of Scaevola, or left-handed, from the loss of his right hand.

Property of a Family

Auction Date: 30th Nov 2023 at 11am

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Sale Dates:
30th Nov 2023 11am (Lots 1 to 559)