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Master of Montespertoli
St. Vincent Ferrer Preaching to the People of Salamanca

ca. 1500

$17,500

About

Provenance: Private Collection, New Jersey The present painting depicts Saint Vincent Ferrer preaching from a raised pulpit to a group of seven people seated below him. The saint is recognizable as a Dominican friar—tonsured, clean-shaven, wearing a black-and-white habit—and can be further identified as Vincent Ferrer by his gesture pointing to a vision of Christ in a mandorla and by the prominent inscription “TIMETE DEVM.” These are the first two words of a passage from the Book of Revelation (14:7) used by the saint in a celebrated sermon preaching repentance given in Salamanca, and thereafter closely associated with him: “Timete Deum et date illi onorem quia venit,” or “Fear God, and give glory to him.” Vincent Ferrer (1350–1419), the son of an Anglo-Scottish father and a Spanish mother, was born in Valencia, but his career as a preacher took him beyond Spain to France, Flanders, Switzerland, and Italy. He was venerated throughout Europe following his canonization in 1455. The essentials of the saint’s iconography appear in a Milanese print (Fig. 1) in the British Museum roughly contemporary in date to the present painting. In our painting the artist has drawn on imagery of holy figures preaching outdoors—as in, for example, Sano di Pietro’s panel of Saint Bernardino of Siena (Fig. 2)—but he seems equally to refer to secular images of masters and students. In our painting, both secular and religious figures appear (including a monk and a nun), all responding to the saint’s sermon with gestures of astonishment. The style of our panel points to a date about 1500, and its author has recently been identified by Christopher Daly as an anonymous Florentine painter whom he has named the Master of Montespertoli after the town south of Florence where two of his principal works are found (written communication, November 2020). The first is a fresco of the Baptism of Christ at the church of San Andrea, and the second is an altarpiece of the Virgin and Child with Saints Nicholas and Sebastian in the Museo d’Arte Sacra. The Master of Montespertoli appears to have been active in the first two decades of the sixteenth century and was likely a follower of Raffaellino del Garbo. Daly compares our painting with the Master’s Pietà with Saints formerly on the Paris art market (Fig. 3) and the painted frame at the Museo Horne in Florence (Fig. 4). He notes that these works similarly exhibit a varied treatment of scale and a sketchy, translucent handling of the paint. Additionally, the paintings each show smiling figures with ovular heads, large rectangular hands, and rubbery arms bent with a pronounced curve.

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