pacino di bonaguida

A WTF Advent Tree

Pacino di Bonaguida, Tree of Life, c. 1310, tempera and gold leaf on panel.  Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence

The Tree of Life by Pacino di Bonaguida is a complex painting, even for those familiar with Christian art and its iconography (or visual themes).  The painting was originally housed in a convent of Clarissa nuns but now hangs in the Galleria dell’Accademia, overshadowed by Michelangelo’s David (check out my first entry ever, which was on David’s penis).  The scenes depicted in roundels hanging from “branches” of the tree are perfect for the Advent season, that is, those weeks leading up to Christmas.  Amidst what appears to be a pretty straightforward series of events are some strange WTF details.  Take a look.

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Pacino di Bonaguida, The Ascension of Christ, c. 1340

The miniature’s artist, Pacino di Bonaguida, was well known in Florence for his devotional paintings. Here he has focused attention on the figure of Jesus, who is isolated at the center of the image. Christ’s robes of brilliant yellow and white, however, make him less substantial than the figures below and at the same time, more radiant, absorbed into the brightness of the gold surrounding him, as he ascends to heaven. 

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This is a detail from Pacino di Bonaguida’s The Martyrdom of Saint Lucy (ca. 1340), an illuminated manuscript from a book of songs commissioned by one of the oldest fraternities of tradesmen in Florence. It’s part of the Laudario of Sant’Agnese (roughly translated as the ‘hymns of praise of Sant’Agnese’), a book created by Pacino and an unknown artist known as the Master of the Dominican Effigies.

Lucy is best known and most often portrayed as the saint who ripped out her own eyes because a man found her attractive. (As was typical of Catholic non-male saints, she dedicated her virginity to god.) Pacino’s depiction of her comes from earlier in her story, when the governor of Sicily (up there on the balcony) orders his men to take Lucy to a brothel because Lucy wouldn’t lay with her fiance. Jesus, seen at the top left, intervenes and protects her, making her so heavy as to be immovable. 

It’s included in the exhibition "Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination, 1300-1350" is on view at the Getty through Feb. 10. It opens at the Art Gallery of Ontario on March 16. Show curator Christine Sciacca is the lead guest on this week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast.

Her exhibition argues for the existence of a link between manuscript painting and panel painting, two practices that scholars have long considered as unrelated disciplines. It also argues for a significant re-evaluation of Pacino, a little-studied near-contemporary of Giotto. (Giotto is represented in the exhibition with an astonishing seven paintings.) Sciacca also edited the exhibition’s terrific, richly illustrated and readable catalogue. The exhibition was included on MAN’s 2012 top ten list. The Getty’s Iris blog has a super lineup of posts on the show.

Listen to the program: Download the show to your PC/mobile device by clicking here. Subscribe to The Modern Art Notes Podcast via iTunesSoundCloud or RSS. See images of artworks discussed on the show.

Image: Pacino di Bonaguida, The Martyrdom of Saint Lucy, ca. 1340. Collection of Queens College, Cambridge, on loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Homunculus: (n.) a little human

There are only a few subjects in art history that always grab my attention, no matter who created the object or when it was created or what museum, collection, or gallery I happen to be visiting.  One such subject is the homunculus, a Latin word meaning “little man/human.”  Often the homunculus is shown in moments of Mary’s annunciation by the angel Gabriel: in place of the dove, representing the Holy Spirit, a small image of baby Jesus flies from Heaven towards the Virgin.  Take a look at one example below.

Pacino di Bonaguida, Tree of Life (detail), 1310, tempera on panel.  Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence

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Pacino di Bonaguida, Saint John on Patmos, Madonna and Child Enthroned, and Death of the Virgin; The Crucifixion, early 14th century

"The left wing of this diptych shows Saint John the Evanglist on the island of Patmos, the Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints Paul and Francis, and the Death of the Virgin. On the right wing is the Crucifixion, with Saint John the Baptist, the Virgin, Saint Mary Magdalen, Saint John the Evangelist, and a bishop saint.

Pacino was a leading illuminator in Florence, and the pale colors and elegantly patterned textiles in this diptych reflect that activity. This very fine diptych dates from about 1320–25. Although Pacino has clearly studied the work of Giotto, he was a more conservative artist and his figures never aspire to convey a quality of grave majesty.” (x)

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This week’s Modern Art Notes Podcast features J. Paul Getty Museum curator Christine Sciacca, whose "Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination, 1300-1350" is on view at the Getty through Feb. 10. It opens at the Art Gallery of Ontario on March 16.

The exhibition argues for the existence of a link between manuscript painting and panel painting, two practices that scholars have long considered as unrelated disciplines. It also argues for a significant re-evaluation of Pacino di Bonaguida, a little-studied near-contemporary of Giotto. (Giotto is represented in the exhibition with an astonishing seven paintings.) Sciacca also edited the exhibition’s terrific, richly illustrated and readable catalogue. The exhibition was included on MAN’s 2012 top ten list. The Getty’s Iris blog has a super lineup of posts on the show.

This is a detail from a Pacino illuminated manuscript at The British Library. Note the painting of what may be the night sky at the bottom of the page and compare it to this Pacino Crucifixion I posted yesterday. On this week’s show, Sciacca and I discussed whether this was another Pacino ‘night scene.’

Listen to the program: Download the show to your PC/mobile device by clicking here. Subscribe to The Modern Art Notes Podcast via iTunesSoundCloud or RSS. See images of artworks discussed on the show.

Image: Pacino di Bonaguida, Appeal of Prato to Robert of Anjou, about 1335-1340. Collection of The British Library, London.

REVEALING The Early RENAISSANCE @ the Art Gallery of Ontario

Revealing the Early Renaissance: Stories and Secrets in Florentine Art is a large-scale exhibition that brings together an unrivalled collection of more than 90 paintings, manuscripts, sculptures and stained glass from the 4th century, many of which have never travelled before. The exhibition is presented in partnership with the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario. March 16 - June 16th.

"Bringing these works together offers an unprecedented opportunity to learn about the practices of artists at this crucial time in history and uncover new information that has lain dormant for centuries." states Sasha Ruda, the AGO’s assistant curator of European art.

Puccio Capanna - Italian

Madonna and Child with Angels and Female Saints (Tempura and gold leaf on panel), Musei Vaticani

Giotto di Bondone - Italian

The Appartition of God the Father (Pinnacle from the Baroncelli Altarpiece, Florence, Santa Croce)

Tempura and gold leaf on panel

San Diego Museum of Art

Master of the Dominican Effigies - Italian

Pentecost/Leaf from the Laudario of Sant’Agnese about 1340

Detached leaf: Tempura, gold, and ink on parchment

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Bernarco Daddi - Italian (Florentine) about 1280-1348

The Virgin Mary with Saints Thomas Aquinas and Paul

Tempura and gold leaf on panel

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Bernardo Daddi - Italian

The Martyrdon of Saint Usula and 11,000 Virgins

Tempura and gold leaf on panel

Schweizerisches Nationalmuseum Landesmuseum

Giotto di Bondone - Italian, about 1266-1337

The Peruzzi Altarpiece

Tempura and gold leaf on panel

The North Carolina Museum of Art

Bernardo Daddi - Italian (Florentine) about 1280-1348

A Crowned Virgin Martyr

Tempura and gold leaf on panel

The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

Pacino di Bonaguida - Italian 1302-1340

Tripych with the Crucifixion, the Lamentation, and the Ascension of Christ

Tempura and gold leaf on panel

The Alana Collection

Bernardo Daddi - Italian

Triptych with the Crucifixion

Tempura silver and gold leaf on panel

National Gallery of Scotland

Pacino Di Bonaguida active around 1303-1347

Saint Sylvester - tempera and gold leaf on panel. Museo e Chiostri Monumentali di Santa Maria Novella, Fondo Edifici di Culto, Ministero dell’Interno, Florence

Curators, conservators and scientists at the Getty Center in Los Angeles began investigating the works of art in this exhibition almost ten years ago in search of an understanding of how artists in Florence “humanized” art in the years between 1300-1350. The research team traveled far and wide to analyze works in situ, keen to find answers to questions that have remained unanswered for centuries. Institutions also sent their works to North America to be analyzed.

The Tree of Life, Pacino di Bonaguida (1310), Accademia Gallery, Florence

This painting is based on a text by Bonagiunta di Bagnoregio that compares the stories of human salvation to a tree; it’s a comparison full of symbological meanings, the tree of life is the Eucharistical sacrament, in which the Christians can find salvation, but it’s also a link to the history of the true cross, according to which from the seed of the forbidden fruit was born the tree used to make Christ’s cross. In Pacino di Bonaguida’s painting the fruits are the stories from the Bible. On the lowest part there was a representation of the devil that has been scratched in the XVIth century.

Read the blog post here.