PIETRO DEL DONZELLO
Holy Family with Saint John the Infant
tempera on panel, diameter 86 cm
This work, which has previously been attributed to the Master of Memphis, has been convincingly retraced by Anna Tambini to a group of works for which Everett Fahy has suggested the name of Pietro del Donzello, a painter belonging to the circle of Ghirlandaio and who is known as the author of the noteworthy Annunciation (1498) of the Frescobaldi chapel in the church of Santo Spirito in Florence.
The holy scene presented here, depicted in an interior characterized by the presence of columns seen in perspective, has as indicated by Tambini “almost literary” parallels in a work on wood found in San Quirico di Montelfi, which Fahy has attributed to Pietro del Donzello (Some followers of Domenico Ghirlandaio, New York-London, 1976, pages 220-221). Furthermore, as the scholar points out, the group of Madonna and Child closely resembles the famous tondo in the Galleria Corsini which Fahy has re-attributed – from a general reference to the school of Piero di Cosimo – to Pietro del Donzello, while Saint Joseph portrayed in this work seems to have been modelled upon the same saint in the Nativity of the church of Santo Spirito in Florence. The latter has been attributed by Elena Capretti (1996) to Pietro and Polito del Donzello due to the close analogies with the Nativity of the Castellani chapel in the church of Santa Croce in Florence, recognized as a work of Pietro by Fahy (1988).
As underscored by the scholar, in addition to the connections with Ghirlandaio, both this tondo and the altarpiece of Montelfi feature Bolognese accents, and in particular elements inspired by Lorenzo Costa.
Tambini, who indicates that this work may be dated to the early Nineties of the Fifteenth century, observes that Laura Pagnotta had, in her monograph on Giuliano Bugiardini of 1987, defined the two Nativities of Santa Croce and Santo Spirito as youthful works of Bugiardini, and that Caterina Caneva (1991) has suggested that the work on wood in Montelfi may be attributed to the self-same Bugiardini.
There are no less than four seals in sealing wax on the back of the panel, which has probably been reduced in size in the past; two of them are still legible and feature a Crucifixion of Saint Andrew and a masonic symbol.