Recovered identity: Lo Scheggia, Larciani and Ghetti

14:36 28 October in Insights

scheggiaIn art history studies, often unknown artists are baptized using the name of a principal work, the so-called namepiece used in the Anglo-Saxon historiography, around which revolves the corpus of other works grouped on the basis of stylistic elements. In the last thirtyfive years, art history scholars have been able to identify some of the artists present in Fucecchio, that were still without a biographical identity in the Museum’s 1969 catalog.

Thus, the Master of Fucecchio, who takes his name from the Museum’s mid-15th century panel depicting the Madonna with Child In Glory Of Cherubs With Saints Sebastian and Lazarus, Mary Magdalene and Martha, also known as the Master of the Cassone Adimari from the front of a chest in the Florence Academy, was identified by Luciano Bellosi (San Miniato exhibition catalog, 1969), as Giovanni di Ser Giovanni, also known as Scheggia or Scheggione, as he signed the fragmentary fresco depicting the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian in the Oratory of San Lorenzo in San Giovanni Valdarno.

Giovanni di Ser Giovanni was the brother of the more famous Tommaso di Giovanni, also known as Masaccio, from whom he differed because of a less resolute and incisive style, despite being acquainted with Renaissance innovations. His works, which include acroteria, chests, room decorations and birthing stools, display a convinced adherence to Gothic art. This is evident in the chromatic range of bright colors, which are masterly placed side by side in delicate harmony. It can also be seen in the refined decorations and in the taste for details, such as the flat keel of the boat suited for swampy areas visible in the Fucecchio painting.

The artist of the painting depicting the Nativity with Saints Michael the Archangel, Clement, Peter and Martha, surmounted by a lunette with the Eternal Father and the Four Evangelists, was known until 1998 as the Master of the Kress Landscapes, for the three small charming panels in the Kress Collection of the National Gallery in Washington, DC. A fanciful and “eccentric” artist, as described by Federico Zeri (1962), he developed bizarre and anti-academic ways in the colors and expressiveness of his characters, also with caricature results starting from the classical compositional formulas worked out on the basis of a profound knowledge of Dürer-style graphics.

The archival research of Louis Alexander Waldman (1998) has brought to light three contracts relative to the Fucecchio altarpiece that not only have identified the work’s clients, the Confraternity of the Vergine Annunciata in Fucecchio, made up only of women, but also the artist’s name, Giovanni Larciani or da Larciano, the small village northwest of Vinci from which his family came. Giovanni Larciani, born in Florence in 1486 in the Sant’Ambrogio parish, some years before Pontormo and Rosso, appears in the 1503 lists of the Company of San Luca, of which he was still a member in 1526. The brother-inlaw of Giovanbattista Verrocchio, grandson of the famous sculptor, died in the plague of 1527, leaving a painter son by the name of Lorenzo whose work is not known at the moment.

More recently (Waldman 2001 and 2003) the biographical identity of another painter known as the Master of the Copenhagen Charity has been found. He is the artist of the important painting in the baptismal chapel of the Collegiate Church of San Giovanni Battista, that depicts the Virgin with Child among the Saints John the Baptist, Mark, Peter and Andrew, surmounted by a lunette with the Baptism of Christ. This painter, trained in the tradition of Florentine classicism but open to more innovative Mannerist solutions, has been identified as Bartolomeo Ghetti. Recorded in the books of the Company of San Luca in 1503 and 1525, assistant in the workshop of Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio, he worked at the court of Francis I in France, probably between 1516 and 1525, and died January 27, 1536.

Rosanna Caterina Proto Pisani

in, Museo di Fucecchio. Guida alla visita del museo e alla scoperta del territorio, a cura di Rosanna Caterina Proto Pisani, Polistampa 2006