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Borghese di Piero
Baptism of Christ

ca. 1450

$60,000

About

Borghese di Piero (Pisa, 1397 – ca. 1463) Baptism of Christ Tempera on panel 9 ½ x 6 ¼ inches (24.1 x 15.8 cm) Provenance: Achillito Chiesa, Milan Luigi Albrighi, Florence, by 1 July 1955 with Marcello and Carlo Sestieri, Rome, 1969 Private Collection, Connecticut Exhibited: Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, South Hadley, Massachusetts (on loan, 2012) Literature: Carlo Volpe, “Alcune restituzioni al Maestro dei Santi Quirico e Giulitta,” in Quaderni di Emblema 2: Miscellanea di Bonsanti, Fahy, Francisci, Gardner, Mortari, Sestieri, Volpe, Zeri, Bergamo, 1973, pp. 19-20, fig. 18, as by the Master of Saints Quiricus and Julitta (now identified as Borghese di Piero). This fine predella panel depicting the Baptism of Christ is the work of the Pisan artist Borghese di Piero, who was active in the first half of the fifteenth century. His identity was first established by Maria Teresa Filieri in a 1995 article publishing documentation of his authorship of the high altar of the church of San Quirico in the village of Cappanori, near Lucca. Previously, art historians—and, in particular, Roberto Longhi and Carlo Volpe—had established a corpus of works by an anonymous artist styled the Master of Saints Quiricus and Julitta, named after predella panels depicting those saints now in the Courtauld Institute of Art, London (Figs. 1-3). These in fact formed the predella of the altarpiece in Cappanori by Borghese di Piero. Further discoveries of documents related to the artist as well as works by him that remained in situ confirmed that his most significant period of activity was spent in Lucca, where he completed a fresco cycle in the chapel of Santa Caterina in the Carmelite church of San Piero Cigoli in the late 1450s. Although he presumably trained in Pisa, the artist’s style is essentially Florentine but with some provincial qualities and an appealing sweetness in the characterization of his figures. The figure of Christ in this painting, standing in a relaxed pose in the River Jordan, is innocent and charming—as are the two angels at the lower right, bundled in their robes like members of a boys’ choir. John the Baptist is cleverly depicted with one foot on land and the other dipped into in the coursing river as he baptizes Christ with water poured out of the scallop shell held in his right hand. The haloes and garments of two more figures are seen at the left, but the rest of their bodies are missing, as the panel has been trimmed. This painting was first classified among the works of Fra Angelico by Bernard Berenson, as recorded on a photograph annotated by him in the Fototeca Berenson. Later, Federico Zeri advanced the name of Battista di Gerio as its author. It was Carlo Volpe, in his 1973 article, who associated the panel with the Master of Saints Quiricus and Julitta, only later to be identified as Borghese di Piero. Dr. Maria Teresa Filieri has confirmed the attribution of the present panel to Borghese di Piero (written communication). Filieri dates the work to the middle of the fifteenth century, roughly contemporary with the San Quirico di Cappanori altarpiece, which is documented in 1448.

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