J. A. (Joseph Archer) Crowe.

A new history of painting in Italy, from the II to the XVI century; online

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cipitately retiring, seems pushed out by the shoulder by the chiei of
them. The more fortunate Jews, who have not incurred the anger of
the priests, kneel or stand to the right and left, holding the lamb
ofFerm^, and with surprise depicted in their faces. Clad in broad
drapenes, in noble bearing and of weU-proportioned frame, Joachim
retires from ^e scene of his discomfiture. Outside, he may be seen
comforted by the angel.^

Equally fine as a composition is the meeting, at the gates of
the town, of Joachim, followed by a servant, carrjring his rejected
offering, and Anna, with a suite of three graceful females.

The Birth of the Virgin is not essentially different from the t3mical
one of Giotto and his predecessors.^ The Presentation of the Virgin at
the Temple, of which a beautiful small design on crey paper exists in
the gallery of drawings at the Louvre, is a crowded composition, to
present which would have required in the artist a knowledge of per-
roective not to be demanded of one living in the fourteentii century.
The Virgin may be seen ascending the steps of tiie temple accompanied
by Joachim, Anna, and an Infant, to meet the high priest standing at
the head of the flight, accompanied by his suite, and surrounded by
spectators.' On each side of the foreground groups kneel ; and,
prominent on the right, behind two beautifully drawn females, a man
with a long beard in profile holding his dress, and looking with eager-
ness at the Virgin, discloses the features of Gaddo Gaddi, the painter's
father, such as Vasari engraved them in the life of that paints, and
near him another, also bearded, in a cap, and of fierce aspect for so
timid a man, revealing the face of Andrea Tafi.^

Utter want of repose and order characterises the composition of
the Sposalizio ; the bridal pair and their parents being surrounded by
a crowd, some of whom, to the left behind Joseph, have a look of con-

^ A fine natureJ figuie in a glory, the rays of which are all repainted.
Joadmn sits on a rock. His green dress in great part retouched in yellow.
In a distant landscape, three shepherds.

• The figure of Anna, on the bed, has been obliterated, and a new intonaco
introduced but not filled up. The composition thus loses all balance. The
nurses have wac^ed the babe, with whom one of them plays.

• The whole of the figure of the Virgin, part of that of Joachim and S.
Anna, and the steps are repainted on a new intonaco. A kneeling figure of
a man to the left is repainted aa to the dress. The figures in the middle
distance are short and iU proportioned.

• Modem critics, in error, would have us take these portraits in the next
comparisnent of the Sposalizio. ,

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tempt,* and others, such as the youth bieaking the bough, are ugly
in fonn, features, and expression.^ To the left front of these, two
musicians express very fairly in features that are not without nature
or beauty, the act of blowmg the pipe. Confused as the scene un-
doubtedly is, a certain individuaU^ and some character in a few
heads somewhat retrieve its principal defect. The profile of the
bridegroom is fine — that of the high priest, uniting the pair, equally
so. A group of females to ^e right is elegant, especially so the female
with the diaaem next but one to the Virgin.

Who will not admit that, compared with Giotto, Taddeo was
conventional, in expression, movement, and execution ? His
ideas of proportion were, indeed, different from those of his master ;
and his partiality for long, slender shapes discloses almost at once
who it was that assisted Giotto in the southern transept of the
Lower Church at Assisi. But he was not even true to a fixed
standard in this, though better perhaps than other pupils of Giotto.
Fancy he did not possess ; and he seldom desired to express action
without falling into an exaggeration of vehemence. The affected
air of the heads was increased by constant neglect in defining the
forms of eyes, which he usually gave with long lids, hardly open,
and unfinished at the comers. He drew with that sort of facility
which the Italians caQ bravuray making the heads long, narrow,
and without projection at the back. A peculiar obliquity was
given to the face by the false line of the cheek and chin, which,
inste€ul of contrasting with that of the nose, generally followed
it in an aquiline course. The neck always seemed inordinately
long, the short, coarse hands and feet neglected in drawing, the
nude stiff and hard, the draperies broad but arranged. Without
the sobriety of Giotto, he painted the vestments in gay contrasts
and of changing hues. His colour was laid in with an ease and
consistency of texture that betrayed facility and haste ; and he
seldom took the trouble to fuse his tones. His shadows were
dark,' their mass patchy. The idea of relief by light and shade
was imperfect, and the surface generally flat. Taddeo's execution
was, in fact, rapid, decorative, and conventional. Yet to a distant
observer, his style was effective, and sometimes imposing. Lower

* Near these, according to the oommontators of Vasaki (vol. i., p. 207),
the portraits of Gaddo and Tafi.

' The blue drees of this figure repainted. In the centre of the fore-
ground etnother figure breaks a stick under its foot. To the right, a group
of females seems to have accompanied the Virgin.

* Dark verde, and the lights stippled in a somewhat purple tone, the
outlines of a wine-red.

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than Giotto in the scale of art, he was essentially inferior to him
in rendering character and expression, lacking at once his softness
and gravity, his elegance and severe simplicity.

That the religious feeling peculiar to Giotto could not be
maintained by Taddeo is evident in the Annunciation, where the
Virgin sits and quietly awaits the angel who flies down from
heaven. In the Salutation, he changes the typical form of the
composition and makes Elisabeth kneel before Mary. In the
Apparition to the Shepherds he painted a graceful angel ; to the
shepherds he gave vulgar features but true and energetic action.
In the Adoration, 8. Joseph sits to the left with his knee between
his hiuids. In the Progress of the Magi, it is no longer a star but
the figure of the infant Saviour in the sky that guides them.^
One who looks up under the hand, which he raises to protect his
eyes, discloses a very common type in Taddeo Gaddi, a long nose
and chin, and a forehead and head that preclude the idea of brains.
In the pilasters at the sides of these scenes, S. Joseph with the
blooming rod is a figure of some beauty, whilst David below,
trampling on Goliath, is fine and natural. Here, however, greyish
lights are painted over red semitones and red ^adows ; and the
system of changing hues is carried even into flesh tints. In the
diagonals of theMouble ceiling Taddeo placed the eight Virtues,
Faith, Hope, Charity, Prudence, Justice, Temperance, Fortitude,
and Humility, all painted in dead colour, but without the fancy of
Giotto. But one example need be cited to show how Uttle the pupil
had inherited of this quality. Giotto, at the Arena of Padua,
represented Temperance with a bit in her mouth, holding a sword
bound to its scabbard ; Taddeo merely represented a female holding
a sickle. Nor were the figures less defective as regards movement
and design than they were in respect of inyehtion and fancy, when
compared with those of Giotto at Padua.

It has never been doubted that these frescoes, which Vasari
assigns to Taddeo, were really executed by him. But, if tried
by a sure test — that is, by comparison with works of the artist
which bear his name and a date — ^it will be seen that Vasari's
biography is, in this instance, correct. One of these works is an
altarpiece, now exhibited in the Museum of Berlin, and inscribed on
the central panel ^ with the words :


* All the figures here are repainted exoept the head notioed in the text.
The Adoration of the Magi is likewise repainted.

* No. 1079, Berlin Caialogue,

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Taddko Gaodi. Academy, Floreaoe.

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Here the infant Saviour, with broad head and cheeks sittinc on
the Virgin's knee, faintly attempts a smile as He caresses her lace.
The slender narrow-facea Virgin, in a simple attitude, trying to smile,
shows a strange exa^eration of tenderness in the long half-closed
eyes.^ Some nature is observable in the portraits of the patron and
lus wife, kneeling at the foot of the throne ; stern gravity and a
finished execution in the saints on the border of the antique frame at
each side.'

Here, then, is a genuine work which may be compared with
those of Giotto. Taddeo succeeds in imparting an affected sense
of maternal tenderness and nothing more. Religious feeling he
clearly does not possess. A certain seriousness and steadiness of
gravity may be noted in the figures of apostles ; the drawing is
precise and more than usually ccureful, especially in the extremities.
The colour is luminous and so rich in vehicle as to appear moistened
with oil, yet a little flat in general tone ; the draperies are in gay
and changing hues. In the right hand wing, the Birth of the Saviour
is, with some slight change, but a repetition of the same subject
by Giotto in the Lower Church of Assisi.' Above this scene is one
from the life of S. Nicolas of Bari, dramatic and truly Giottesque
in character ; ^ whilst in the left hand wing,^ beneath two prophets
in the angles, is the Crucified Saviour, no longer the fine simple figure
of Giotto, but a long slender nude, as yet not colossal, as Gaddi
afterwards conceived it. The Magdalen grasps the foot of the
Cross ; and the Virgin and S. John Evangelist stand at each side.
Above this also, a scene from the life of S. Nioolas of Bari is depicted,
in which,* as in its counterpart on the other side, individuality and
animation are conspicuous. None, indeed, but a pupil of Giotto
could have followed with such certainty his laws of composition.
The saints on the altarpiece,^ when closed, are inferior to the inner

* Ab usual, the line of the cheek follows that of the nose and mouth.

* SS. John Baptist, Francis, and twelve apostles.

' The group of women wae^iing the Child is absent. In the distance the
Adoration of the Shepherds.

* Where Taddeo represents the saint returning the child to its pcurents,
and the affection of the latter is well shown by the action. A natural inci-
dent, too, is that of the dog recomising in the child an old friend. In the
upper angles two prophets. The Jaerltn Catalogue calls this a scene from the
life of S. Catherine.

* No. 1080, Berlin Catalogue,

* The saint presents the child with the cup to its surprised parents, who sit
at a table.

7 SS. Margaret, Catherine, and Christopher carrying the Saviour. Christ
between the Virgin and Evangelist. These form No. 1081 of tlie Berlin
CeUaiogue. The three panels, forming originally an altarpiece, were in the
Gallery of Mr. Solly.

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subjects ; and, in the rudeness of their execution, recall more than
the rest the rougher manner of the frescoes in the Baroncelli
Chapel. But doubtless much of this bad e£fect is caused by rubbing
down.^ Another, and, if possible, still more important example
than the foregoing is an altarpiece in the sacristy of S. Pietro a
Megognano near Poggibonsi, inscribed : '


This picture, which is a Virgin and Child enthroned amongst
angels, confirms all that has been said as to the characteristics of
the painter's manner, and shows what Giottesque art was twenty
years after the death of Giotto.

Guided by the certainty which results from the contemplation
of pictures actually signed by Taddeo Gaddi, the spectator may
turn with some confidence to the small panels in the Gallery of
Berlin which represent the Miracle of the Fallen Child of the Spini
Family,^ and the Descent of the Holy Spirit ; ^ both of them forming
part of a series, of old adorning the presses of the sacristy in
S. Croce at Florence. They were obtained from thence by Baron
von Bumohr, and assigned by him, on the authority of Vasari, to
Giotto.* Taking the first of these panels in connection with the
rest of the series, eleven in number, which are now in the Academy

* In the Bigallo at Florenoe, in the room of the *' Commissario," is a small
triptych which, with slight exception, corresponds exactly with the picture
at Berlin (some saints here and there being different). The subjects, the
composition, are similar. The painting, too, has the same character and
beauty as that of Berlin and is by the same hand. The painter's name is
absent, but on the border of the central pinnacle are the words: **anno
DOMINI Mcccxxxm." This is a very pretty and well-preserved piece,
showing how the painters of this period repeated themselves.

Another very pretty picture in the same character was preserved till
quite lately in the convent of the Angeli at Florence. It represented the
Crucifixion and saints — a triptych with gables.

* [Now in the Gallery of Siena, No. 107. It clearly shows its derivation
from Giotto's altcurpiece in the Florence Academv.]

* The signature and date on the step of the throne — the rest on the lower
edge of the picture. The arms of the donor are above the signature — throe
roses and bar on field azure, probably arms of the Segni.

The Virffin enthroned holds the Infant on her lap. He has a bird in His
right. With the left hand He grasps one of the Virgin's fiingers. Left and
right, an angel erect holding an offering of unguent and of a crown. Lower,
at sides, kneel the four cmgels, two offering flowers, two with the incense
and censer. Gold ground. Well preserved, ¥nth exception of abrasion on
the left lower comer, the picture is a simple arched rectangle.

* No. 1074, Berlin Catalogue. • Ibid., No. 1073.

* Vasabi, vol. i., pp. 313, 314; and Rumohb, Forechutigen, vol. ii., pp. 63-4.

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of Arts at Florence,^ it is evident that the compositions are Giotto's,
and executed according to his maxims ; that the attitudes, the
action, are likewise his ; that the subjects are in fact, more or less,
repetitions of the frescoes of the Upper Church of Assisi ; but
that the execution is sketchy, conventional, and decorative ; that
the feeling of the great master is absent, whilst the heads, features,
and extremities are of the false and ever-recurring forms peculiar
to Taddeo in the Madonnas of 1334 and 1355, and the frescoes of
the Baroncelli Chapel. Nor are the further peculiarities of Taddeo,
namely, gaiety of colour, depth of impasto and dash in the handling,
less marked than in the certain examples of his hand. The panel
at BerUn is undoubtedly the best preserved of the series ; and
precisely there the style of Giotto's pupil is most positively

The composition of the Descent of the Holy Spirit * at Berlin
belongs to the second series preserved in the Academy of Arts at
Florence, and is, like its companion representing the miracle of
the fallen child, in good preservation ; but, of the thirteen panels,
the finest is the Transfiguration, which has the magnificence of
the compositions of Giotto carried out by Andrea Pisano in the
bronze gates of the Baptistery of Florence. The Saviour is
represented ascending from Mount Tabor with Enoch and Elias
at his sides, whilst three apostles are prostrate on the ground in
terror at the extraordinary light that shines in the heavens. Yet
splendid as the composition undoubtedly is, the execution has
the defects of Taddeo Gaddi.'

S. Croce could boast in the fourteenth century of more frescoes

^ No. 4. S. Francis Abandons his Heritage. No. 6. Innocent sees S.
Francis in a dreeun supporting the falling Church. No. 6. Innocent Approves
the Order of S. Francis. No. 7. S. Francis appears in a flaming car to some of
his disciples. No. S. Martyrdom of seven Franciscans at Ceuta. No. 9.
Honorius III. confirms the rules of the Order of S. Francis. No. 10. S. Francis
holding the infant Christ at the Christmas Mass. No. U.S. Francis appear-
ing to Anthony at Aries. No. 12. S. Francis receiving the Sti^oata.
No. 13. The Funeral of S. Francis. No. 5 is so far different from the same
composition at Assisi that the head of the Pope is turned in the opposite
direction, and S. Peter is introduced near the Pope's bed. No. 12 is an exact
counterpart of the fresco at Assisi, and so is No. 9.

* No. 1073, Berlin CcUaloaue, assigned to Qiotto.

• The rest of the series at the Academy of Florence comprises : — ^No. 18. The
Salutation. No. 19. The Adoration of the Shepherds. No. 20. The Adora-
tion of the Magi. No. 21. The Presentation in the Temple. No. 22. Christ
amongst the Doctors. No. 23. The Baptism of the Saviour. No. 24. The
Transfiguration. No. 25. The Last Supper. No. 26. The Crucifixion. Here
the form of the Saviour is less {>erfect in form» shorter, and of worse pro-
portions than in the pictures of Qiotto. No. 27. The Resurrection. No. 28.
^* Noli me timgere." No. 29. The Incredulity of S. Thomas.

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by the pupfl than by Giotto himself.^ These have all perished,*
but there remams one which may well be assigned to him in the
great refectory, where, beneath a vast Crucifixion and Tree of
Jesse, and four side scenes from the life of S. Francis and S. Louis
by some unknown Giottesque, a Last Supper is depicted.

In the latter fresco, the Saviour sits behind a long table in the
midst of His disciples, and S. John falls fainting on His bosom. Judas
alone is seated in front of the table, and places his hand in the dish ;
S. Peter, from his place, at the side of 8. John, looks sternly at the
traitor, whilst the apostles generally are distinguished by animated
movement. Amongst the episodes depicted at the sides of the
Crucifixion, are S. Francis receiving the Stigmata, and the *' NoU me
tangere." •

The wall so adorned has a fine and imposing aspect, though
much of the background is damaged or repainted.^ The grandeur
of the composition in the Last Supper is, however, marred by the
somewhat weighty character of the figures, and the large size of
the heads. The eyes are drawn with close horizontal lines, and
without comers, as was usual with Taddeo Gaddi ; the foreheads
are low ; the necks broad, the hands short and coarse. Abruptness
in the passage from light to shade, abuse of red in the shadows, a
bold neglectful ease of hand in the drawing and colouring of the
parts, draperies more arranged than natural, gay tones of vestment,
are all peculiarities of Taddeo. The Crucifixion, on the other hand,
is composed of figures remarkable for exaggeration of length and
without the just proportions which Giotto always succeeded in
maintaining. Some of those in the for^round are, indeed, very
feeble. This subject, with its attendant figures in the Tree of

^ He adorned the walla of the chspel belonging to the Bellaoi family,
and executed two incidents from the ufe of S. Peter in the Cafiella di S.
AndrecL (The drawing of one of these incidents, was in Vasari's album.
Vasari, vol. ii., p. 121.) At the lower side of the tomb of Carlo Marzuppini
was a PietJi which he had prodnoed ; and in the great screen of the church
the Miracle of the fallen cnild of the Spini family, with portraits in it of
Giotto, Dante, and others (Vasabi, vol. u., pp. 1 10-11, and vol iiL, p. 19S).
Beneath this fresco was afterwards a Crucifix oy Donatello. Ibid.

' [Save those alreculy described in the Baroncelli Chapel ; and those on
the outer arch of that chapel, which were stiU covered with whitewash when
the authors wrote. The lefectoiy is now the Museo di S. Croce.]

* In the Crucifixion, 8. Francis grasps the foot of the Cross. To the left
is a kneeling figure, behind which the ^t>up of the fainting Virgin is placed.
To the right a bishop sits, with three saints at his side.

^ The backgrounds, originally blue, are now red, the under-preparation
having cropped up. Near 8. Peter in the Last Supper, the intonaco has
fallen, and other parts threaten to drop. The comer of the tabic to the
right, and parts of single figures are repainted.

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Jesse and side frescoes, is executed, however, with a certain ease of
hand, and betrays an artist of the middle of the fourteenth century
confident in somewhat slender powers, and sacrificing the great
principles of art to boldness and rapidity of execution. Should
his name ever become known, it may appear that he is also the
author of a Crucifixion in the sacristy of S. Croce, surrounded
by smaller frescoes assigned to Taddeo Gaddi, but which must be
restored to their real author, Niccola di Pietro, better known as
Gerini.^ The same hand will be found to have produced a Cruci-
fixion with four angels in various attitudes, hovering in the air,
the Magdalen at the foot, the Virgin, S. John, and two monks at
the sides of the Cross, in the sacristy of Ognissanti,* better perhaps
in the proportion of the figures than those of Santa Croce, and
especially interesting as showing that the author of them must
have been the teacher or forerunner of the artist who executed
the frescoes of the Patient Job at the Campo Santo at Pisa. It
will not be necessary to revert to the works assigned to Taddeo
Gaddi at S. Croce further than to state that the frescoes in the
Rinuccini Chapel are obviously of a later date and productions
of Taddeo's friend, Giovanni da Milano.' It is, indeed, remarkable
that Vasari, who always pretends to recognise a master's work by
his style, should have been in too much haste to discern the differ-
ence between the works of Taddeo and those of artists like Gio-
vanni ; those of inferior men like the painter of the Crucifixions in
the sacristy and great refectory, or those of Niccola di Pietro Gerini,
who is evidently the author of the Entombment assigned to Gaddi
in the Academy of Fine Arts at Florence.^ Gerini was an artist
who Uved till late in the fifteenth century, the painter of several
frescoes at Pisa and Prato, and one whose position amongst the
followers of the declining Giottesque manner will require future

Amongst the pictures of Taddeo Gaddi, one in the church of

^ See later the Qerini. At the sidee of the Cross the Virgin, S. John
Evangelist, the Magdalen, S. Francis, S. Louis, and S. Helen ; in the air
about it, six angels complete a fresco exactly similar in character to the
Crucifixion and Tree of Jesse in the great refectory.

' These paintings have suffered much from damp.

' Above the fa^ ceiling of the Cappella Velluti in the Carmine, remains
of painting particularly a profile of an apostle, perhaps S. Peter, were
recently discovered. The character of this painting, Gottesoue of the last
half of the fourteenth century, is fine, the colour warm, and the handling
bold. This head, removed by one of the monks, much altered by retouching
of the outUnee, and made opaque in colour, is now in possession of Mr. Layard.

* Vasabi, voL ii., p. 111. This picture was in the church of Orsctnmichele,
and is now [No. 116] in the Academy of Arts at Florence.

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S. Felicit& at Florence stands on an altar beneath and to the right
of the organ loft ; another reminiscent of his style is in the ante-
chamber to the sacristy of S. Giovanni Evangelista at Pistoia, and
a third in the Museum of Naples.

The first, an altarpiece in the form of a five-niched tabernacle, is
somewhat restored, it represents the Virgin and Child enthroned
amongst saints and angels, with Hope, Faith, HumiUty, and Charity
S3rmboUcally depicted on the pinnacles of the throne.^ It has quite
the character of the frescoes at the BaronceUi and the altarpiece of
1355. The second picture similar in subject to the last,^ but, with the
Annunciation in the upper spaces, may be noted for heads j^rhaps
of a lower type than was usual with Taddeo, the foreheads bemg low
and depressed ; but the draperies are broad though conventionally

Online LibraryJ. A. (Joseph Archer) CroweA new history of painting in Italy, from the II to the XVI century; → online text (page 36 of 54)