Lot N: 0337
GIROLAMO DI BENVENUTO (1470 - 1524)
45 x 62 cm
Ricci Collection, 1909
Casa di vendite S. Innocenti, Vendita Ricci 15/27 marzo 1909, lot n 310.
Faldella Collection 1974
Galleria Enrico Frascione, "Immaginifico viaggio dipinto in sette quadri e una miniatura attraverso l'Italia XV-XX secolo", p. 16.
Fototeca Zeri n 17504.
This panel is documented in the Ricci collection in Rome in 1909, the year it was offered for sale together with other pictures from the same property, ascribed to an anonymous Florentine of the fifteenth century. It is catalogued with this provenance in the Federico Zeri Photo Archive, with an attribution to Girolamo di Benvenuto, and the autorship is fully supported by a comparison with similar devotional subjects painted by the artist, which constitute a specific and recognizable aspect of his multiform activity. Girolamo was also a painter of commemorative birth trays, altarpieces and frescoes, having been trained in the workshop of his father, Benvenuti di Giovanni.
The Nativity may be compared with the one in Montalcino, accepted as by Girolamo, which has the same Classicizing architectural motifs, and especially with the similar panel in the Siena Picture Gallery, which is also close in dimensions. Indeed the two Holy Families can almost be superimposed, even in the rigidly-established pose of the Child, and the "long-fingered hands" in the Siena panel, "their phalanges and finger-tips indicated one by one with deliberatem intentional uniformity" share the same handling as ours.The subjects, recalling compositions by Pietro di Domenico in the Siena Picture Gallery, reflects the popularity in Sienese territory of the Sassetti Adoration by Ghirlandaio, an artist who had been introduced to Siena thanks to the pro-Florentine tastes of the banker Ambrogio Spannocchi. Clear parallels can also be found in Girolamo's Nativity in the collecion of the Monte dei Paschi di Siena Bank, especially with respect to the composition and Northern European taste of the landscape, with a winding road that leads to a seascape, while the distant dawn "suffuses the landscape with its light, symbolizing the advent of a new era for all humanity". Further characteristic elements are the creepers on the walls of the ruins, in both cases minutely described with the tip of the brush, and the taste for fable-like narrative, which in these Marian images evokes a slightly enchanted, pleasantly ingenuous atmosphere, also perceptible in the "cartoon" presence of the dove of the Holy Spirit, which is almost a signature of the artist in his paintings of the Nativity. The work that offers the most precise parallel with regard to chronology is the panel of similar dimensions in the Salini Collection with the Virgin and Child with Saint Jerome and a Female Martyr Saint, justly dated by Angelini to a moment shortly after the Sozzini altarpiece in the Siena Picture Gallery, that is, around 1510. If we can consider the Madonna in the Salini panel as the sister of the Virgin Mary picture, both in the oval form of the face and in how the erybrows are marked and the eyelashes are painted, the Saint Jerome could be the brother of the figure of Joseph, in the wrinkled face and beard, described with broad, parallel brushstrokes; and we see identical, frothy clouds and dotted haloes, indicating that our Nativity was painted at a date very close to that of the Salini picture. In this phase of his oeuvre we can witness "a gentler handling" in the painter's style - a quality that makes Girolamo di Benvenuto a "refined and subtle" artist, now quite distant from the explicit expressions of his father.