The Master of Monte Oliveto (Active 1305 - 1335) Christ on ...



£100,000 - £200,000


The Master of Monte Oliveto (Active 1305 - 1335)

Christ on the Cross with the Virgin, Saint John the Evangelist and two Marys

Tempera on gold ground panel

Purchased in a London auction on behalf of the current owner, either Christie's or Sotheby's, for £73,890 in July 1987

14 7/8 in. (H) x 10 7/8 in. (W)
37.8 cm (H) x 27.7 cm (W)

Professor Carlo Volpe dates the present work between 1320 and 1330.

The Monte Oliveto Master, who is named for his tabernacle in the monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore south of Siena, is one of the most distinctive Ducciesques. The likelihood is that he was never in the shop of Duccio; at no point in his extensive ouvre does his manner of painting, figure style, or colour scheme ever sufficiently approach Duccio's for us to speak of a master-pupil relationship. Yet during much of his lengthy career, he followed Duccio, although at a little distance. In his middle period, the influence of Simone Martini becomes apparent, as, for example, in the gabled tabernacle in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and in the tabernacle centre formerly in the Lee Collection. His late works, in turn, demonstrate a veering toward Ugolino, and in one work, the rectangular tabernacle in the Metropolitan Museum, he actually collaborated with a follower of Ugolino, executing the tabernacle wings.

There is a slightly provincial tone to his early work; later, his style becomes progressively smoother and lighter. Yet it is his early paintings, especially the Monte Oliveto tabernacle, that are the most characteristic and successful. In these, he is distinctively somber in colour, with dark flashes of orange amidst browns, purples, and blacks; here too, the stiff figures with their guarded glances convey most intensely the poetic mood that is one of the Monte Oliveto Master's most enduring qualities, found even in the Castagnola Madonna many years later.

The artist's work particularly helps us understand the composition and iconography of Duccio's lost 1302 Maesta for the Chapel of the November. The Monte Oliveto Madonna and the one in the Yale diptych apparently follow the composition of that lost Madonna quite faithfully, while a number of his narratives provide valuable clues to the predella of the lost work. Even after the appearance of the Maesta for the cathedral - from which the Monte Oliveto Master borrowed on a number of occasions (especially in the Lehman diptych) - he still reverted to the compositions of the earlier Maesta of 1302.

His was apparently a one-man operation; even the lesser quality of a few works - the Madonna on the Florence market, the Cincinnati Madonna, and the Crucifixion at Heerenberg - is insufficient evidence to suggest that the Monte Oliveto Master had assistants. His career can be traced from about 1305 up to the early 1330s.

The oeuvre of this painter began to take shape in 1912 when DeNicola related the Monte Oliveto Madonna to the diptych at Yale University. Brandi, in 1933, adding several other works to the nucleus, called him the "Monte Oliveto Master." Some years later, in 1950, Esther Mendelsohn's unpublished Master's thesis at New York University made a very complete account of artist's ouvre.

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)