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Death in Florence: the seventh work of Mercy and the early Misericordia.

Sooner or later all visitors to Florence invariably congregate in the city's Cathedral Square, the famous Piazza del Duomo and the contiguous Piazza San Giovanni, to marvel at the enormous Santa Maria del Fiore church, its baptistry and bell tower, and the mosaics, sculptures, and paintings that they house. Casual sightseers are often contentedly oblivious to the fact that many among those artworks are reproductions

of--or even scarcely related replacements for--the originals that have migrated to museums, especially the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo located behind the apse end of the cathedral. Yet so impressive are the buildings themselves, whose present aspect in many ways preserves the appearance that each achieved by the middle of the fifteenth century, that even veteran observers and connoisseurs are likely to turn their backs unwittingly to the fairly non-descript Renaissance-era structure that stands across the wide street encircling the cathedral and directly opposite (i.e., south of) the bell tower. Since 1576 this structure has served as the seat of the Compagnia Maggiore di Santa Maria della Misericordia, the Greater Company of Saint Mary of Mercy (Fig. 1). (1) A confraternity founded almost certainly in the thirteenth century for both devotional and charitable purposes and well documented since the fourteenth, today the Misericordia is principally engaged in providing Florentine residents and visitors with ambulance service as well as medical assistance of virtually every sort in clinics scattered around the city. (2) Occasionally, however, one spots a draped coffin set upon an ornate bier parked in front of the headquarters building, ready to transport for burial the body of a deceased member of the organization following a funeral service conducted in the ground-floor oratory just inside the main entrance (Fig. 2). This lesser though still honored aspect of the Misericordia's current mission has a long history, one that the evidence strongly suggests stretches back to the company's earliest days and originally had far greater reach. The purpose of this essay is to marshal that evidence through an examination of both the written record and several extant early paintings included within the company's rich artistic patrimony in order better to understand the vital role of the Misericordia in the life of the city through one of its traditional functions.

Most public, and therefore most significant, among the latter pieces of evidence is the recently restored yet often ignored Allegory of Mercy fresco on the western wall of the Sala dell'Udienza (audience hall) on the ground floor inside the original--or at least earliest known--Misericordia Confraternity headquarters, today the Museo del Bigallo. (3) This small late-medieval building complex is positioned immediately across the Via dei Calzaiuoli from (i.e., west of) the far larger present offices of the company and facing the south doorway of the baptistry (Fig. 3).The painting in question ranks as one of the most estimable works of Italian didactic art of any era (Fig. 4). Executed in 1342 by an artist in the circle of Bernardo Daddi and sharing much compositionally with the newly emergent Madonna of Mercy image-type, from the moment of completion the Allegory of Mercy became the fourteenth-century company's inspirational centerpiece. One way that the Allegory distinguishes itself from previous representations celebrating the Virgin Mary is in the inscribed and historiated roundels decorating the embroidered orphrey on the mantle of the towering, approximately life-size frontal figure identifiable through the inscription on her conical tiara as Misericordia Domfini], the Lord's Mercy personified. (4) Heralding and describing what theologians of the Middle Ages and later came to refer to as the Corporal Works of Mercy, as a group these roundels defined for and reminded the confratelli of their institutional vocation, their commitment to aiding not only one another but all members of the Florentine community in need. A host of documents housed in the Archivio di Stato di Firenze--the Florentine state archives--reaffirms this, as indicated below, establishing beyond doubt that the Misericordia was indeed an organization with an expansive outlook already during the trecento.

The many inscriptions in the Allegory of Mercy are indicative of the enhanced literacy rate among the Florentine populace during the trecento, and of the changing character of their society. (5) Indeed, their presence makes it clear that the fresco's primary audience--persons formally affiliated with the Misericordia, donors to it, and perhaps even many of its beneficiaries--was a rather sophisticated cohort. For these learned viewers, furthermore, the fact that all of the inscriptions are in Latin and derived from the then-standard Vulgate version of the Bible, emphasized the scriptural and doctrinal basis of the painting's message and sacred character. Less erudite Florentines, however, illiterate or educated to a degree but without training in Latin, depended solely on the representational aspects of the Allegory to access its meaning. For them, the figural elements of the painting constituted its vernacular, an important point to consider given that the entrance to the Sala dell'Udienza remained perpetually open, with the Allegory ever visible to all passers-by in the street outside, until the erection of the current facade wall in 1777. (6)


The large inscription at the shoulders of the personified virtue Misericordia along with the passages in smaller characters filling the upper three roundels of her orphrey, all taken from the Vulgate, introduce within the fresco the theme of the Corporal Works of Mercy as they are enumerated in Scripture, and by extension the lesson that the painting intends to convey. (7) Together these four sentences define the merciful among humankind--those individuals who follow God's mandate to aid their less fortunate brethren--as the blessed of the Lord, the persons to whom He in turn will show His limitless mercy by admitting them to His heavenly realm at the Last Judgment. Moreover; the fact that the Latin word misericordia (mercy) appears in all three verses inscribed in the upper medallions ties their unified message, in concert with that of the larger inscription, specifically to adherents of the Misericordia Company. Through merciful actions dutifully performed, they stood to receive in return God's bountiful mercy and inherit His kingdom. (8)

Below the upper three medallions, which contain only words, each of the first six historiated roundels cascading down the personified virtue's orphrey presents a clause in Latin drawn nearly verbatim from Matthew 25:35-36 that describes the action of the accompanying two male half-figures, the one on the left in every case in an attitude of offering and his companion on the right in a posture of receiving. (9) It is in these two verses from Matthew that Jesus Christ itemized more explicitly the several Corporal Works of Mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and succor the imprisoned. Their order of presentation in the Allegory of Mercy's medallions matches that of the gospel: they read as horizontal left-to-right pairs arranged in a descending three-step sequence. The two verses in question are but part of a longer discourse (Matt. 25:31-46) prophesying and warning of the Last Judgment, in which Jesus instructed His followers that in order to achieve salvation in Paradise through His mercy they must act mercifully in this life toward other persons requiring assistance. This message, both a promise bestowed by Jesus upon the faithful and His contract with them, expands open that of the other four passages in the fresco, which include an abridged verse from within that same disquisition at the shoulders of the personified virtue Miscericordia (Matt. 25:54, Christ's offer of redemption to the blessed) and three more of her orphrey just above those naming and illustrating the Six Works of Mercy. In abbreviated form, those acts of charity are reiterated in the fresco as a common mnemonic formula in the Latin verbs, each in the first-person singular of the present tense, flanking the figure of Misericordia. Reading top to bottom, the entire left-hand column before that on the right, the formula proceeds thus: I visit, I give to drink, I feed, I set free (i.e., I redeem, I ransom), I cover, I gather together, and I bury. Perhaps for its recited metrical quality, it is clear that Conrad of Saxony, the thirteenth-century Franciscan usually credited for this popular verbal device, ignored the order in which the Bible presents the works. (10) And to them he also elected to append one item at the end.


Elsewhere the author has shown the canonical Six Works of Mercy to correspond to various philanthropic deeds of the company in its early years. (11) As intimated earlier, those actions are documented as secretarial notations and testamentary bequests favoring the Misericordia in several volumes housed in the Archivio di Stato di Firenze containing records pertaining to the company beginning in the mid trecento. Though incomplete and otherwise limited, from these records we learn that the beneficence of the confratelli--their collective mission--extended well beyond the membership itself to include all needy constituents within the Florentine community. By its very nature, therefore, as I concluded in an earlier study, and putting more profound theological aspects of the fresco aside, the representations of the works of mercy within the Allegory of Mercy functioned as a handbook for the company brethren, guiding them in carrying out their charitable calling. (12)


Thanks in part to notices in the archival record reviewed later in this essay, one may plausibly infer similar ideas about the added seventh work of mercy named by Conrad of Saxony, burial of the dead. It, too, is pictured in the Allegory of Mercy, in the pair of historiated roundels with inscriptions at the base of the orphrey (Fig. 5). (13) Like two more embroidered miniatures resembling those found on actual clerical vestments, evidently the left-to-right sequential reading of the six works depicted above is here reversed. The damaged narrative on the right shows a funeral cortege proceeding from the right. Accompanied by two ecclesiastics dressed in white, one perhaps carrying a holy book and the other what may have been a banner topped by a small and still-visible Cross, the two men bearing the coffin and the group leader holding two candles all wear the same red mantle as that adorning the personified virtue Misericordia herself. Red is also the color of the garments covering the two men (joined by three other persons) lowering a shrouded body presumably into its grave in the medallion opposite, and so it is for those individuals dispensing charitable aid in the six narratives above as well. The liberal application of the color red is not surprising considering that it is traditionally regarded as the color of charity and mercy. These figures are identifiable as confratelli of the Misericordia Company, who in that early period wore red mantles while engaged in the activities of the company. (14) The stemma of the Misericordia upon the coffin in the right-hand roundel, with Gothic-style letters "F" and "M" (for "Fratres Misericordiae") flanking a Cross, confirms this. The two Latin phrases not found in the Bible that are inscribed within the medallions, right and then left, emphasize once more the reciprocal nature of the human relationship with the Lord: "For the mercy of God on high have mercy," and "Let no one despair for the mercy of God." We earn His saving grace, which is both real and assured, through the help we render to persons in need.

The anonymous members of the Misericordia who planned the Allegory of Mercy with the similarly unidentified artist who executed it clearly sought to feature, perhaps even prioritize, burial of the dead as a service provided by the company. Not only is this subjoined single work of mercy unique here in occupying two medallions, but as noted, the sequential right-to-left ordering of this pair, and even the composition within the roundel on the right, is in sharp contrast to what is above them. This offers an unexpected departure from an established left-to-right pattern that in and of itself commands the viewer's attention. (15) Furthermore, located at the bottom of the fresco, these scenes are simply more readily legible to observers than are those higher up. In addition, the five living figures visible in each of the burial roundels far outnumber the two individuals in each of the other miniature narratives in the fresco picturing the works of mercy. In addition, the persons in these two roundels are all closer to full length than the half-figures in those other medallions. Finally, while red mantles are in evidence throughout the series, the stemme on the coffin carried in the funeral procession and perhaps originally present on the proposed banner in that same vignette anchor this seventh work more firmly yet to the program of good works of the Misericordia.

Upon what authority did those persons who conceived the Allegory feel justified and comfortable in enlarging the canonical list of merciful works to include burial of the dead? (16) During the patristic era Lactantius had referred to the Apocryphal Old Testament Book of Tobit 1:16-18 (Vulg. 1:19-21), where the elderly protagonist is praised for giving alms, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and burying the dead among his people. (17) Lactantius called the latter action the first among the seven (not six) works of mercy. Tobit 2:1-8 (Vulg. 2:1-9) and 12:12 reiterate the old man's role as undertaker in particular, while the good works of his son Tobias and the angel Raphael (especially healing the sick) are brought to bear elsewhere in the book. While late-medieval writers such as Bernard of Clairvaux and Jacobus de Voragine invoked Tobit as an exemplar of philanthropy in general, on occasion, as in the Dominican Gulielmus Peraldus's popular mid-thirteenth-century penitential treatise De Vitiis et virtutibus and its many vernacular translations and adaptations (including the Esposizione del Paternostro by the fourteenth-century Florentine notary Zucchero Bencivenni), Tobit was also praised specifically for having interred the dead. (18) Contemporaneously the prayers comprising the Office of the Dead, germinating within certain religious orders, became ever more firmly embedded within the lexicon of Christian devotions, doubtlessly playing a role as well in elevating burial of the dead to equal status with the canonical Six Works of Mercy. (19)

Scholarly opinions differ on which theologian was the first to include burial on the "official" list of works. Johannes Belethus, Petrus Comestor, and Petrus Cantor, all active during the second half of the twelfth century, were certainly among the earliest. (20) Before the end of the following century, however, the notion enjoyed universal acceptance, moored by authorities such as the Dominicans Peraldus and Thomas Aquinas, the Franciscan Johannes Metensis, and the canonist Gulielmus Durandus. (21) Surely playing an important part in this decision to expand the list was their desire to add yet one more category to complement the already numerous sequences of seven--including such groupings as Virtues, Vices, Deadly Sins, Requests of the Lord's Prayer, Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and of course the Spiritual Works of Mercy--that together rendered memorable even for illiterate believers the bases of Christian belief. (22)

These theological threads converge at the Misericordia, joined by historical and legendary events. At the corner of the company's Sala dell'Udienza to the left of the Allegory of Mercy and contemporaneous with it are large inscriptions in the vernacular recording, in addition to the Ten Commandments, the Seven Principal Articles of the Faith and the Seven Sacraments, certainly intentioned to echo and respond to the Seven Works of Mercy in the fresco. (23) More tellingly, the name Tobit, biblical archetype for the seventh work, appears repeatedly in fourteenth-century documents of the confraternity. (24) Prefatory invocations ask his blessing upon a 1361 alteration to the statutory procedure for selecting company captains and also open a volume initiated on 1 January 1368 recording testamentary bequests. (25) An inventory of the confraternity's premises dated 19 February 1368 mentions "two books of the legend of Saint Tobit, the one green and the other red ... in the small ground-floor chamber where the captains meet." (26) And during the trecento, too, the confratelli of the Misericordia celebrated his feast day in September every year with a banquet. (27) A century later, in 1489, following dissolution of its infamous, unhappy union with and submission to the Bigallo Company decreed in 1425--the Compagnia di Santa Maria del Bigallo, ostensibly founded in 1244, administered hospices and hospitals in and around Florence--the Misericordia resurfaced and reestablished itself as an independent entity under Tobit's protection. (28) Perhaps resuming a practice predating the merger, the amended statutes of the Misericordia from 1490 require as dues that associate members "pay every year three soldi each, and the women two soldi, for the feast of Saint Tobit that is in the month of September." (29) Linking Tobit to his most praised good work, the same statutes mandate for the next day of "every year in the month of September, that is, following the feast of the patriarch of the poor, Saint Tobit, that all the above-mentioned priests must ... prepare and celebrate an office for the soul[s] of the deceased of [the] said brotherhood and company and of its benefactors." In 1501 new statutes add that the departed be remembered as well "with a procession outside," all of this enacted "for the praise and honor of the omnipotent God and of the patriarch of the poor. Mister Saint Tobit." (30) Clearly the renewed veneration for Tobit was a means by which the rejuvenated confraternity anchored itself in its own past. Moreover, significantly the revised statutes of 1501 also mention the biblical hero with specific reference to what from its re-foundation just twelve years earlier became, along with caring for the sick, the Misericordia's principal service to the entire Florentine community: "that for the love of God [the company] performs interment according to the command of the patriarch of the poor, Saint Tobit ... practicing the works of mercy and charity ... and especially burial [of] the destitute poor and likewise of others." (31)



By 1501 the Misericordia's practice of interring the indigent along with its close corollary, tending to the sick among them, had ample recent precedent. Repeatedly since the seicento historians have recounted the story of the angry resident who in 1475 or thereabouts transported to Palazzo Vecchio, Florence's city hall, a cadaver that for days had remained unburied on a public street, the Via dei Macci, demanding that the comune ensure that all persons receive prompt and respectful Christian burial as it once had. This by implication referred to the time prior to the inauspicious confraternal merger of a half-century earlier. (32) If true, this tale would suggest two things: that the Misericordia had been engaged in carrying out the seventh work of mercy prior to 1425, and that the incident was at least in part directly responsible for the company's reestablishment as an autonomous body. What in effect forms a moving prologue in Latin to the statutes of 1489, though neither confirming nor disproving the story in itself, tends to validate both conclusions: "It was discovered that in the old days the Society of the Misericordia ... attended to burying the dead.... And with the understanding that many, out of a new impulse of piety and mercy, might begin to come together for the said office and practice and for burying the dead for the love of God and not for any reward ... they enacted the several chapters [of statutes], whose entire sequence that follows is such." (33) Chapter one of the ensuing statutes directs that the company brethren "go forth throughout our land of Florence always performing the works of mercy and charity, and especially [the one] concerning the burial of the poor and destitute deceased, without any fee or reward but only for the love of Jesus Christ," and chapter ten, after repeating this injunction, stipulates the process for doing so. (34) Archiepiscopal decrees of 24 September and 9 December 1496 bring this directive to bear in response to the outbreak of a years-long wave of the bubonic plague, testifying to the selflessness of the confratelli in caring for the sick and defining their collaborative role alongside parish priests in burying the impoverished. (35) On 4 November 1498 another such edict granted each of them forty days of indulgence for their charitable deeds on behalf of the poor, mentioning by name, along with helping the infirm, the seventh work of mercy while pointedly remarking that members of the confraternity, "imitating that most holy Tobit," were deeply engaged in that task. (36) And a communal provision of 30 July 1499 authorized subventions for the Misericordia to cover expenses incurred in aiding indigents stricken with the plague and in burying those carried off by the disease "as thus they have already [and] with great diligence begun to do." (37) The comune continued to rely on the Misericordia to perform the same services in countering the ravages of the plague during subsequent episodes, in 1522-30, 1630-31, and 1633. (38)


While the written record proves the dedication of the Misericordia from the late quattrocento forward to providing proper burial both to members of the confraternity and to the impoverished within the larger Florentine community, often couched in terms that reference the venerable Tobit, historians have voiced skepticism that the company did so prior to that. And yet, besides the prominent inclusion of the seventh work in the Allegory of Mercy of 1342, joined by those archival invocations, the mention of two copies of (presumably) the Book of Tobit kept in the company headquarters, and records of the annual banquets of the confratelli celebrating his feast, esteemed legends and additional documentation further suggest that burial of the dead was elemental to the purpose of the Misericordia from its earliest years. According to one tale first recorded late in the sixteenth century, Piero di Luca Borsi, mythic founder of the Misericordia in 1240, encouraged his fellow porters of woolen cloth to transport the sick to hospitals and to carry away the deceased for burial. (39) At the time of Borsi's own death, the porters designated alms that they had collected to purchase from the prominent Adimari family some rooms where they had always gathered informally located above a basement warehouse in a tower-like structure on the Piazza San Giovanni, which they then equipped as an oratory and formal meeting place. In part, the intention of this story unquestionably was to identify the Adimari property with the confraternity's early headquarters, specifically the portion of it known as the residence, inside of which is the Sala dell'Udienza and the Allegory of Mercy fresco. (40) Positioned close to that site, where the Misericordia established itself during the early trecento, was a second Adimari edifice known as the Torre di Guardamorto, and according to another possibly related legend, until its (partial) destruction by a Ghibelline mob in 1248, cadavers were kept there during a death-watch lasting eighteen hours prior to entombment in order to ensure that they were lifeless. (41) Justifiably historians have doubted the veracity of both stories on various grounds. But despite their reservations, the former existence of a cemetery intended for important residents adjoining the baptistry, after which the Adimari tower across the street likely took its popular name--the Tower of the Death-Watch--not to mention the mere existence of a neighboring building known as such, may have associated the Misericordia headquartered nearby with the good work of burial from an early date. (42) More broadly, too, these accounts relating something of the company's origin and urban context and invoking the act of interment, however imaginative, may represent embellished late versions of stories with early antecedents, retaining faint echoes of the truth. Indeed, one other aspect of the Borsi tale points toward the seventh work of mercy as central to the intent of the Misericordia from the beginning: at its inception, reportedly, the woolen-cloth porters named Tobit among the foursome chosen as confraternity patrons, a role for the biblical hero that, as noted, was in actual fact well established already in the trecento.


Moreover, there exist a number of archival references testifying to the importance for the confraternity of affording dignified burial in that early period that tend to ground those foundation myths in reality. (43) Company deliberations from as early as 1358 concern funerary Masses for deceased brethren and their benefactors customarily celebrated not (as later) in conjunction with Tobit's feast day but on that of Saint Lucy. These brief notices mention which Florentine church was to host the Mass, celebrated annually on 13 December, the expenses involved, and distributions of money to other pious foundations to pay for additional commemorative prayers for Misericordia associates. (44) A host of other deliberations record payments for candles used in celebrating these funerary Masses, with a certain Stagio Barducci speziale emerging late in the fourteenth century as a favored supplier. (45) Yet just as other documents reveal for the period beginning in the late quattrocento, the archives also yield occasional pieces of evidence from the trecento regarding the confraternity's performance of the seventh work of mercy on behalf of persons not affiliated with it. On 15 July 1348, in the midst of the initial occurrence of the bubonic plague, Cabiozzo del fu Neri Aldobrandini Bellincioni left twenty-five lire "to the Society of Mercy for burying the dead." (46) Among the possessions of the Misericordia, the aforementioned inventory of 1368 lists separately "five sacks with covers in order to bury the poor abandoned dead" and another "three covers in order to carry the dead to bury [them]." While the terminology is somewhat unclear--were the funeral shrouds in the first group utilized exclusively for the parentless children cared for by the company who did not survive?---the ambiguity in the two listings suggests that all eight shrouds were put to use in the burials of persons not otherwise associated with the confraternity. (47) On 22 April 1379 and 7 December 1380 the same Stagio Barducci speziale mentioned above received payment for supplying candles in part to be used "for [the] funeral of any soldier" and "for [the] poor deceased," respectively. On three other such occasions the wording is less complete, but each notice likely reflects the same purpose of providing decent burials to non-members. (48) And on 8 December 1410 the Misericordia awarded six lire to the heirs of a woman named Lady ("D[omi]na") Lisa to pay "for the assistant in the burial of the said lady, for the love of God, who was poor." (49)


Explicit archival testimony from the fourteenth (and early fifteenth) century of this sort is, to be sure, rare. Yet such records are telling when considered alongside the Piero di Luca Borsi and Torre di Guardamorto foundation myths; the Via dei Macci re-foundation account that also informs the preamble to the 1489 statutes; the several attestations by both Church and state of the confraternity having effectively fulfilled its self-imposed obligations during that later period in dealing with the effects of the plague; and the various references to Tobit among the statutes of the reestablished Misericordia that clearly evoke and reaffirm the reverence shown to him in an earlier era, as revealed in company documents from the second half of the trecento. Indeed, together with the indication provided by the Allegory of Mercy fresco, the weight of accumulated evidence demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that from the earliest days in which we are able to ascertain its existence, burial of the dead--the added seventh work of mercy endorsed by theologians--was fundamental to, possibly even paramount among, the philanthropic actions of the Misericordia, directed both inward to the confratelli themselves and their benefactors and outward to the entire community.

Confirmation of this is provided by three further works of art commissioned by the Misericordia, each featuring Tobit, the Israelite praised for his various good works but venerated above all as the one who "if [he] saw any of [his] nation dead ... buried him" (Tob. 1:17 [Vulg. 1:20]). (50) The first of these is a well-worn fresco cycle of his life painted ca. 1360 on the wall opposite the Allegory of Mercy in the Sal a dell'Udienza of the company headquarters. This mural originally consisted of eighteen scenes organized in three registers but is now reduced to twelve. The other two works include a miniature at the bottom of the opening text page of the revised statutes of 1501, and one of the predella panels by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio at the base of the gilded wooden tabernacle added in 1515 as a framework to the Misericordia Altarpiece in the oratory of the early seat of the confraternity (Figs. 6-8). (51) The latter two images and the second episode in the earlier fresco cycle all concern Tobit's performance of the seventh work of mercy, but only in the miniature does he work alone. The fresco and predella scenes picture him acting in conceit with his son Tobias, in accordance with the biblical narrative implying their collaboration in burying a fellow Israelite (Tob. 2:1-7). (52) Significant here, too, is the fact that in the illumination from the early cinquecento Tobit wears a bright red mantle, and while the color of his outer garment in the roughly contemporaneous predella panel modulates from a softer shade of red to dull orange, his companion Tobias is cloaked entirely in that same pale red. Throughout the fresco cycle, too, the younger man wears red, the color of charity and mercy (although inexplicably Tobit dresses in contrasting blue). Beyond his role in the second episode of the cycle, Tobias's red mantle surely also alludes to the pious burials that he eventually provided for both of his parents (Tob. 4:3-4, 14:10-12 [Vulg. 4:3-5, 14:12-14]), the culminating incident of the entire narrative that was almost certainly represented among the now-missing scenes at the far right of the bottom tier. It probably also refers to his earlier role in curing the blindness of his father, which appears to be depicted for maximum visibility in what was once one of the two central panels of the lowest register (Tob. 6:18, 11:4-15 [Vulg. 6:1-9, 11:4-17]). (53) Similar; then, to the men clad in red conducting a funeral in the pair of medallions near the bottom of the Allegory of Mercy, Tobit and/or his son are depicted in these images as confratelli of the Misericordia. (54)

However, more than just a desire to associate symbolically those scriptural exemplars of philanthropy with the brethren of the Misericordia who regarded the aged father and by extension his devoted son as patrons, there is in this surely an historical dimension. The miniature introducing the company's statutes of 1501 and Ghirlandaio's predella panel of 1515 must be understood in light of the advent in Florence of the bubonic plague in 1495 and then continuously from 1497/98 to 1509, during which the Misericordia served so nobly and tirelessly, as described previously. (55) Much earlier, the fresco cycle in the Sala dell'Udienza generally dated ca. 1360 on stylistic grounds was likely conceived in response to the high mortality accompanying the second great outbreak of the plague in Florence, specifically in 1363, when one may safely assume that company members similarly tended the afflicted and buried the many who did not survive it. (56) Lastly, following this same logic, the focus on the seventh work given such pictorial emphasis in the Allegory of Mercy of 1342 on the wall facing the Tobit cycle certainly bears witness to the lurid recollection among Florentines of the brutal, still poorly understood epidemic that had devastated their city a mere two years earlier. Unintentionally as well, of course, but in retrospect portending a greater misfortune to follow, the distinction assigned to burial of the dead within the fresco presaged the even greater demand for that service resulting from the yet more appalling desolation that would accompany the Black Death--the initial appearance of the plague--in 1348. (57)

All of these paintings, then, reiterate and confirm the evidence proffered by confraternity statutes, archival documents, and cherished legendary accounts. They make clear the fact that, from its early years, meeting the final needs not just of fellow members of the company and its benefactors but of all Florentines was pivotal to the Misericordia's charitable mission. Not only did the performance of that newly accepted act of mercy along with the canonical other six works render communal life infinitely more agreeable and secure for all residents of the city. More than that, in accordance with Christ's teachings and the purport of the company's own motivational cornerstone and performance manual, its frescoed Allegory of Mercy, offering the benefit of proper burial to others--universally and without discrimination--went far toward ensuring that the confratelli who provided that blessing would enjoy in return the Lord's mercy in Heaven.

[Introductory Note] This essay reframes, updates, expands upon, and in certain details corrects research by the author appearing elsewhere. Biblical citations are to the King James Version; concordances with the Vulgate are supplied only where different. All translations are by the author. Ms. Candace Wentz was of great assistance in preparing the illustrations. This essay is dedicated to the author's wife, Maria Grazia Nardelli Levin, whose interest, encouragement, help, opinions, and patience above all--not only during the writing of this article but continually over many years--are hereby gratefully acknowledged.


(1.) The building occupied by the Misericordia in 1576 was previously in the possession of the Florentine grandducal Magistrate dei Pupilli, which during the sixteenth century supervised the care of parentless children. By 1580 the Misericordia had refurbished the structure for its own use. Bernardino Poccetti, according to scholarly tradition, completed frescoes on the facade representing the Seven Works of Mercy--the canonical six works plus burial of the dead--in 1581, but these were destroyed in 1780 when the building was enlarged. Luigi Passerini, Storia degli stahilimenti di beneficenza e d'istruzione elementare gratuita della cittd di Firenze (Florence: Tipografia Le Monnier, 1853), 469-70; Cesare Torricelli, La Misericordia di Firenze: Note storiche (Florence: Arciconfraternita della Misericordia, 1940), 69; and William R. Levin, "Advertising Charity in the Trecento: The Public Decorations of the Misericordia in Florence," Studies in Iconography 17 (1996): 280 nn. 14-15. Passerini recorded that small copies of the facade frescoes survived, which he referred to as "quadri" executed by the painter Antonio Fedi. Surely these copies are in fact the watercolor drawings by Fedi mentioned frequently by scholars, catalogued and reproduced by Monica Bietti Favi in Foresto Niccolai, Monica Bietti Favi, and Giancarlo Gentilini, La Misericordia di Firenze: Archivio e raccolta d'arte (Florence: Offkine Grafiche, 1981), 218-20 (cat. nos. 27a-g), pis. 26a-f, and fig. 26. Bietti Favi provided documentation establishing that the facade frescoes were executed not by Poccetti but rather by the lesser-known Giovan Maria Casini.

(2.) While often inaccurate and contradictory in their details, standard accounts of the history of the confraternity--not specifically of its artistic and architectural patrimony--that include information pertaining to the uncertain origins and the documented early centuries of the Misericordia are Placido Landini, Istoria dell'oratorio e della Venerabile Arciconfraternita di Santa Maria della Misericordia della cittd di Firenze (1779), reprint ed. with notes by Pietro Pillori (Florence: Cartoleria Peratoner, 1843); Passerini, Storia degli stahilimenti, 440-82, 902-29; Celestino Bianchi, La Compagnia della Misericordia di Firenze: Cenni storici (Florence: Barbera, Bianchi, & Co., 1855); Giovanni Poggi (with Corrado Ricci and I[gino] Bfenvenuto] Supino), "La Compagnia del Bigallo," Rivista d'arte 2 (1904): 189-244, esp. 192-97, 203-13, 225-30; Ugo Morini, Documenti inediti o poco noti per la storia della Misericordia di Firenze (1240-1525) (Florence: Venerabile Arciconfraternita [della Misericordia], 1940); Torricelli, La Misericordia (see note 1 above; reissued and enhanced 1975, 2000, and 2014); Guglielmo Francis, La Misericordia di Firenze: Note illustrative (Florence: San Sebastiano, 1954); "Breve storia della Misericordia di Firenze," in Niccolai, Bietti Favi, and Gentilini, La Misericordia, 9-11; William R. Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy in Late Medieval Italian Art" (Ph. D. diss., University of Michigan, 1983), 330-50 and accompanying notes; Foresto Niccolai, Opere di caritd a Firenze: Notizie storiche (Florence: Edizione Arciconfraternita della Misericordia di Firenze, 1985), 25-48; Levin, "Advertising Charity," 21718, 278-80 nn. 6-14; William R. Levin, "'Lost Children,' a Working Mother, and the Progress of an Artist at the Florentine Misericordia in the Trecento," Publications of the Medieval Association of the Midwest 6 (1999): 34-84; Phillip Joseph Earenfight, "The Residence and Loggia della Miseri cordia (II Bigallo): Art and Architecture of Confraternal Piety, Charity, and Virtue in Late Medieval Florence" (Ph. D. diss., Rutgers University, 1999), 36-66, 11830; and William R. Levin, The Allegory of Mercy at the Misericordia in Florence: Historiography, Context, Iconography, and the Documentation of Confraternal Charity in the Trecento (Dallas, Lanham, Boulder, New York, and Oxford: University Press of America, 2004), esp. chap. 6.

(3.) Generally discussions of the fresco focus on the Florentine cityscape at its base. Studies addressing the painting's iconographical content more broadly include Passerini, Storia degli stahilimenti, 450-53; Richard Offner, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting, sec. 3, vol. 8 (New York: New York University Press, 1958), 159-63; Hanna Kiel, II Museo del Bigallo a Firenze, Gallerie e Musei di Firenze, ed. Ugo Procacci (Milan: Electa Editrice, 1977), 118-19 (cat. no. 3); Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," chap. 1 and passim; Earenfight, "The Residence and Loggia della Misericordia," chap. 4; Levin, The Allegory of Mercy; Phillip Earenfight, "Catechism and Confratemitas on the Piazza San Giovanni: How the Misericordia Used Image and Text to Instruct its Members in Christian Theology)" Journal of Religious History 28, no. 1 (February 2004): 64-86; Federico Botana, The Works of Mercy in Italian Medieval Art (c. 1050-c. 1400), Medieval Church Studies, vol. 20 (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols Publishers, 2011), 166-84 (reviewed by William R. Levin in Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies 88, no. 3 [July 2013]: 762-65); William R. Levin, "Il Mantello della virtu in un affresco della Misericordia: Guida pratica di filantropia," San Sebastiano: Periodico della Misericordia di Firenze, anno 64, no. 252 (July-September 2012): 34-36, reprinted as "La Misericordia in un affresco: II 'Mantello della virtu,' una guida pratica di solidarieta," in Misericordia Firenze 770 (1244-2014): Una Sconfinata caritd, supplement to San Sebastiano: Periodico della Misericordia di Firenze, anno 66, no. 258 (January-March 2014): 88-91; and Phillip Earenfight, "'Civitas Florentifa] e': The New Jerusalem and the Allegory of Divine Misericordia," in A Scarlet Renaissance: Essays in Honor of Sarah Blake McHam, ed. Arnold Victor Coonin (New York: Italica Press, 2013), 131-60. On the recent (2012-14) restoration see Maria Matilde Simari, "La Madonna della Misericordia: Alla Scoperta di un restauro," in Misericordia Firenze 710 (1244-2014): Una Sconfinata caritd, supplement to San Sebastiano: Periodica della Misericordia di Firenze, anno 66, no. 258 (January-March 2014): 92-94; Alexandra Korey, "Mercy Over the City: Friends of Florence Restores Important Bigallo Fresco," The Florentine, Wednesday, 21 May 2014; and Cristina Acidini, "La Mater Misericordiae rornata all'antico splendore," San Sebastiano: Periodico della Misericordia di Firenze, anno 66, no. 260 (July-September 2014): 4-5. Each of these studies includes reproductions of the entire fresco and/or portions of it. The most interesting revelation of the restoration campaign--mentioned only by Korey!--is the previously obscured small male figure standing outside the city gateway in the view of Florence at the bottom of the fresco, who evidently is seeking entrance into the city to avail himself of the charitable assistance offered by sodalities such as the Misericordia.

(4.) Despite recent clarifications, from the 1980s on, of the subject of the fresco as representing the virtue of mercy in human form (for bibliography see the preceding note), an identification that in fact has ample historiographical precedent dating back to the fifteenth century (see Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," 17; idem, The Allegory of Mercy, esp. 20, 34-37; Earenfight, "Catechism and Confratemitas," 74-75 n. 19; and idem, "'Civitas Florentijaje,'" 140-41 n. 28), the tendency to refer to the painting as a Madonna of Mercy stubbornly persists, as evidenced in the titles of the brief articles by Simari and Acidini cited in the preceding note. Indeed, closing statements by both authors suggest a stunning lack of awareness of the more recent literature on the fresco.

(5.) Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 41-42, based on the undoubtedly comparable high rate of literacy in nearby Siena noted in Randolph Starn, Ambrogio Lorenzetti: The Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, The Great Fresco Cycles of the Renaissance (New York: George Braziller, 1994), 20-22. Starn viewed this development as both symptomatic of and necessary for the emergence of a new class of communal leaders in the administrative and commercial affairs of Siena--and implicitly of other republican cities in early-modern Italy--challenging the traditional hegemony of the clergy and aristocracy in the process.

(6.) On the original facade wall, eradicated in 1777, see Levin, "Advertising Charity," 221-28 and accompanying notes, and esp. 233 for the fact that the Allegory was visible from the street until the creation of the new facade in 1777; reiterated in idem, 'Lost Children,' 42; and again in idem, The Allegory of Mercy, 15. See the useful drawings illustrating this point in Earenfight, "The Residence and Loggia della Misericordia," figs. 32, 137; idem, "Catechism and Confratemitas," fig. 5; and idem, "'Civitas Florentijaje,'" fig. 5.

(7.) These four inscriptions are transcribed with minor variations in most of the detailed studies of the fresco listed in note 3 above, as well as in Pillori in Landini, Istoria, 1843 ed., 38 n. 1; Poggi in idem, Supino, and Ricci, "Bigallo," 204-6; and Torricelli, La Misericordia, 178-80. Beginning with the inscription at shoulder level and continuing with the top roundel, then right and then left with the two medallions just below that, they read as follows: "Venite benedicti patris mei possidete paratum vob[is] regnum a[b] co[n]stitutione mundi" (Matt. 25:34: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world"); "Misericordia Dei plena est terra" (Ps. 33:5 [Vulg. 32:5j: "The earth is full of the goodness [i.e., mercy] of the Lord"); "Misericordia & veritas no[n] te desera[n]t, circu[n]da eas gutjtjuri tuo" (Prov. 3:3 [see also 6:21]: "Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck"); and "Bead misericordes q[uonia]m misericordia[m] consequents" (Matt. 5:7: "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy").

(8.) Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," 26; idem, The Allegory of Mercy, 43; and idem, "II Mantello della virtu," 34.

(9.) With one minor correction the following discussion of the first six historiated roundels and the verb forms alongside the personified virtue Misericordia summarizes those found in Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," 26-29 and accompanying notes; in idem, The Allegory of Mercy, 4345 and accompanying notes; and far more briefly in idem, "II Mantello della virtu," 34-35. The inscriptions based on Matthew 25:35-36 written within the descending sequence of three pairs of medallions, each pair read left to right, are as follows: "Exur[i]vi (sic) & dedistis m[ihi] ma[n]ducare" ("I was an hungred, and ye gave me to eat"); "Sitivi et dedistis mic[h]i bibere" ("I was thirsty, and ye gave me to drink"); "Hospe[s] era[m] & collegistis me" ("I was a stranger, and ye took me in"); "Nudus eram [et] operuistis me" ("I was naked, [and] ye covered me"); "Infirmus errm (sic) & visitastis me" ("I was sick, and ye visited me"); and "In carc[ere] eram & venisti[s] ad me" ("I was in prison, and ye came unto me").

(10.) In its original Latin Conrad of Saxony's (died 1279) formula reads thus: "Visito, Poto, Cibo, Redimo, Tego, Colligo, Condo." Otto Schmitt in Reallexikon zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte, s.v. "Barmherzigkeit, Werke der Barmherzigkeit," vol. 1, col. 1459; Louis Reau, Iconographie de Part cbretien, 3 vols. (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1955-59), vol. 2, pt. 2 (1957), 748; Offner, Corpus, sec. 3, vol. 8, 160 n. 1; Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," 26-28; and idem, The Allegory of Mercy, 43-44, 127-28 n. 40. The same mnemonic device reappears in the great work of Conrad's Dominican contemporary, Thomas Aquinas's (ca. 1225-1274) Summa theologica 2. 2, qu. 32, art. 2.1. Astrik L. Gabriel, Student Life in Ave Maria College, Mediaeval Paris: History and Chartulary of the College, Publications in Mediaeval Studies, The University of Notre Dame, vol. 14 (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1955), 160 n. 1. But see Ulrike Ritzerfeld, "Pietas-Caritas-Societas: Bildprogramme karitativer Einrichtungen des Spatmittelalters in Italien" (Ph. D. diss., Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitat, Bonn, 2007), 2 vols., 1:28,28 n. 163, who maintained that the phrase as inscribed in the Allegory of Mercy fresco is that of Aquinas, while Conrad's formulaic ordering of the seven works, found in his first sermon for the fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Sermo I, Dom. IV post. Pentec.), is "Colligo, Poto, Cibo, Redimo, Tego, Visito, Condo." In either case, Earenfight's incisive analysis ("Catechism and Confratemitas," 78-79) of the role of the formula within the fres co as a rhyming, "rhythmic chant ... to he read at a distance, presumably by a group, aloud, and in unison," one that alters the biblical verses of Matthew 25:35-36 "from the second-person [plural] past tense ... to the first-person singular present" in order "to manifest Scripture in action," is fully in accord with the point made in the following paragraph of this essay.

(11.) Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, chap. 6; and more succinctly in idem, "II Mantello della virtu."

(12.) Levin, "II Mantello della virtu." Essentially this point concurs with that presented in Earenfight, "Catechism and Confraternitas," 78-82, with the difference that the present author's essay "deformalized" the didactic aspect of the works of mercy within the Allegory, interpreting their role there in the manner of a handbook--a guidebook--for the philanthropic actions of the confratelli rather than strictly as part of a methodical lesson in Christian theology. But it should be clear that the author also acknowledges the fundamental role of the works in achieving salvation.

(13.) With certain notable emendations the following discussion of the two burial medallions derives from those found in Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," 29-30 and accompanying notes; and idem, The Allegory of Mercy, 45-46 and accompanying notes. The inscriptions within the two roundels read, right and then left: "[Pro] misericordia Dei mi[sere]re sur[su]m" and "Nullus de misericordia Dei desperet." In accord with the recent restoration of the fresco, however (see note 3 above), the inscription in the right-hand medallion might be read alternatively as "Misericordi[a]e Dei mir[a]e sunt"--"The mercies of God are wondrous"--diluting somewhat the fullness of the message of reciprocity carried by the first reading, as proposed later in this paragraph.

(14.) Landini, Istoria, 1843 ed., 37-38; and Passerini, Storia degli stabilimenti, 456-57; followed by Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," 20, 24, 40 n. 32; and reiterated together with various citations and references concerning the theological significance of the color red in Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 33-35 and 120-21 nn. 6, 8. (Passerini [pp. 467, 479], followed by Levin [The Allegory of Mercy, 120 n. 6], stated that the black mantles of confraternity members currently in use supplanted the earlier red ones late in the quattrocento.) In addition, Bishop Sicardus of Cremona (1155-1215), in his Mitrale, sive Summa de officis ecclesiasticis, wrote of clerical garments, "Lineae coccineae, ante et retro, dilectio dei et proximi in utroque testamento mandata"; and Honorius of Autun (1080-1154), in his Sacramentarium, commented, "Dalmatica habet duas coccineas lineas retro, similter in anteriore parte.... Color coccineus opera misericordiae [sunt]." Both are quoted in Botana, The Works of Mercy, 47 nn. 120-21. An analogy to the Allegory in this particular is found inside the baptistry at Parma, where in a partially abraded niche fresco of ca. 1370-80 a man clad in red, probably representing the local confraternity known as the Consortium Vivorum et Defunctorum, performs each of the seven works of mercy. Discussed, contextualized, and illustrated ibid., 85-103 (esp. 87), 218-19, pi. 6, and figs. 32-42. This seems to be the case as well, or at least mostly so, for a damaged fresco cycle of ca. 1320-30 painted for an undocumented nascent parish confraternity in the church of San Nicola just outside the village of San Vittore del Lazio, near Montecassino. Ibid., 205-17, pis. 10a-b, and figs. 100-1.

(15.) As this essay seeks to demonstrate, allocating two medallions to the burial of the dead cannot be simply "for the sake of symmetry," as maintained in Earenfight, "'Civitas Florenti[a]e,'" 137-38 n. 20. For other instances of the seventh work pictured in two (or more) scenes see Botana, The Works of Mercy, 91 and figs. 34-35 (regarding the Parma baptistry fresco referred to in the preceding note), and 129-31 and fig. 59 (the Liber regulae Sancti Spiritus [Rome, Archivio di Stato, MS. OSS 3193, fol. 25rj, ca. 1350). Perhaps to be interpreted in this way, too--at least from a visual standpoint--are the final two vignettes on fol. 80v of Matfre Ermengaud's Breviari d'amor in the British Library, MS. Royal 19C.i, ca. 1310-20, illustrated ibid., fig. 23. Conversely, on occasion feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty were conflated into a single event, both textually and pictorially: see ibid., 55 and fig. 22 (again, the Breviari d'amor [London, British Library, MS. Royal 19C.i, fol. 80r], ca. 1310-20), 62 n. 59 (Laurent d'Orleans, La Somme le Roi, composed in 1279-80), 105 and fig. 44 (Viterbo, Santa Maria della Salute, portal relief, 1322-23), and 166 and fig. 80 (Simone Martini, Saint Louis of Toulouse Altarpiece, central predella panel, Naples, Museo di Capodimonte, 1316-19). Even denser conflations of the works are employed for their earliest representations: in Italy the Last Judgment panel of ca. 1061-71 signed by Nicolaus and Iohannis in the Vatican Pinacoteca and the fragmentary Last Judgment fresco of ca. 1090 in Santa Maria Immacolata in the town of Ceri, north of Rome, discussed together ibid., 1524, 223-25, pl.2, and figs. 2-7; in Northern Europe the frontispiece illustrating Gregory the Great's Moralia in Job for the Bible of Floreffe (London, British Library, MS. Add. 17738, fol. 3v), ca. 1155, ibid, 50-52, pi. 4, and fig.19. For further discussion of early illustrations of the works of mercy in art (including, among those mentioned in this and the preceding notes, the examples in the Bible of Floreffe, the baptistry in Parma, the Vatican Last Judgment, the church in Viterbo, and the church in San Vittore del Lazio) see Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," chap. 2.

(16.) With one correction and several clarifications and additions the following discussion of the expansion of the canonical list of six works to include burial of the dead and the pertinence to it of the Book or Tobit is based on Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy, 31-36 and accompanying notes; and idem, The Allegory of Mercy, 46-47 and accompanying notes.

(17.) Lactantius (ca. 240-ca. 320), Epistles 65. C. Schweicher in Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographie, s.v. "Barmherzigkeit," vol. 1, col. 245.

(18.) Jacobus de Voragine (ca. 1230-1298), Legenda aurea, quoting Saint Bernard (1090J-1153): "'There is a three-fold martyrdom without blood [suffered by the saints remembered on All Saints' Day, 1 November] ... [the second one is] generosity in poverty, which Tobias manifested.'" Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend, translated and adapted from the Latin by Granger Ryan and Helmut Ripperger (New York: Amo Press, 1969), 645. Gulielmus Peraldus (ca. 1190-1271), in his De Vitiis et virtutibus, praised Tobias as an exemplar for his various charitable deeds and stated, "One sees that the interment of the dead is counted as the seventh branch of the Tree of Mercy." Translated from an excerpt in Italian of the original Latin text in Geza de Francovich, Benedetto Antelami: Architetto e scultore e l'arte del suo tempo, 2 vols. (Milan: Electa Editrice, 1952), 1:219-21 n. 247. The "Tobias" named by both authors actually refers to Tobit, not his son; almost certainly the confusion arises from the fact that medieval writers relied on the Vulgate's Latin version of the Book of Tobit, originally composed in Hebrew or Aramaic toward the end of the third or beginning of the second century B. C., that did not distinguish the two by name. Peraldus and the vernacular translators of his Latin treatise were wrong, however, to include assistance to prisoners as one of the good works performed by the apocryphal book's protagonist, for the only time in the book that the subject of forcible detention arises other than in reference to Tobit's own and his people's deportation to Assyria (Tob. 1:10 [Vulg. 1:11]) occurs in the final verse of the book, according to some recensions (e.g., The New English Bible with Apocrypha, Tob. 14:15) although not the Vulgate, which relates how in old age Tobias--not Tobit--viewed the people of Nineveh led into captivity by their Median conquerors, and rather than come to his captors' aid, Tobias praised the Lord and rejoiced over the downfall of the Assyrians, who had ruled over the Israelites so pitilessly. For a complete early-fourteenth-century Italian translation of Peraldus's treatise see Luigi Rigoli, Volgarizzamento dell'Esposizione del Paternoster fatto da Zucchero Bencivenni (Florence: Luigi Piazzini, 1828); specific references to Tobit's charitable actions appear on pp. 66-67, 70-72. Rigoli (page iii) claimed that Bencivenni based his version on an intermediate French edition, La Somme le Roi, the Dominican Laurent d'Orleans's translation of 1279-80 from the original Latin ordered by King Philippe 111 le Hardi for the benefit of his son, the future Philippe IV.

(19.) The Office of the Dead, recited on certain specified occasions within the liturgical calendar, includes some components of ancient origin but is no older than the seventh or eighth centuries. Even though in the late Middle Ages it did not yet have an official place in the liturgy, its recitation achieved increasing acceptance during that period such that the Office of the Dead came to occupy an important place among the group of devotions then coalescing in more or less codified form around the Little Office of the Virgin--itself an accepted part of the liturgy since the tenth century--in the popular compendium known as the Book of Hours. Fernand Cabrol in The Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. "Office of the Dead," vol. 11, pp. 220-21; and James Hall, Dictionary of Subjects and Symbols in Art (London: John Murray [Publishers], 1974; rev. ed. New York: Harper and Row, Icon Editions, 1979), 51.

(20.) Botana (The Works of Mercy, 1-2) noted that, following a patristic-era tendency to vacillate in regard to both the identification and number of good works, it was only in the early twelfth century that theologians settled on the list of six enumerated in Matthew 25:35-36; Rupert of Deutz's Commentaria in Apocalypsim and Hugh of Saint-Victor's De Sacramentis fidei Christianae, both written ca. 1120 or shortly thereafter, contain "the first references to the sexenary as a canonical list" (ibid., 2 n. 2). Scholarly opinion concurs that the addition of the seventh work of mercy occurred later in the twelfth century. See, for example, Craig Harbison, The Last Judgment in Sixteenth Century Northern Europe: A Study of the Relation between Art and the Reformation, Outstanding Dissertations in the Fine Arts (New York: Garland Publishing, 1976), 107. For Johannes Belethus in his Rationale divinorum offtciorum, written prior to 1165, as the seminal authority see Schmitt, "Barmherzigkeit," col. 1459; and Reau, Iconographie de Part chretien, vol. 2, pt. 2, 748. Botana {The Works of Mercy, 2 n. 3, 38, 38 n. 80) favored Petrus Comestor as providing "the first reference to the complete septenary," including "seplire mortuum," in his Historia scholastica (written ca. 1175), and called Petrus Cantor's discussion involving the seven works in his Verbum adbreviatum (written before 1187)--in which he alluded specifically to Tobit 12:12--"one of the earlier references to the full septenary." Contemporaries of these three theologians, however, continued to write of the works of mercy as six in number, including Abbot Odo of Morimond, Achard of Saint-Victor, and Pope Innocent III. Ibid., 37, 193-94.

(21.) Gulielmus Peraldus (ca. 1190-1271), De Vitiis et virtutibus, who, in addition to the statement quoted in note 18 above, asserted that "he who loves the soul of his neighbor must love the body, and render unto it at death all the humanity he can muster," and that "princes, when they see a dead prince, assemble and carry him down to the sea and inter him there." Translated from the Italian and French versions, respectively, of the original Latin text in Rigoli, Volgarizzamento, 72; and [Adolphe Napoleon] Didron (Aine), "Les Oeuvres de misericorde," Annales archeologiques 21 (1861): 199n; see also Botana, The Works of Mercy, 62 n. 59 (citing Laurent d'Orleans's French translation). Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1225-1274), Summa theologica 2. 2. qu. 30. Cited in Schmitt, "Barmherzigkeit," col. 1466; de Francovich, Benedetto Antelami, 1:219-21 n. 247; and Botana, The Works of Mercy, 4, 11. Johannes Metensis (late thirteenth century), Speculum theologiae, with the seventh work labeled "sepeli defunctos" on the diagram illustrating the "Turris sapientiae," which in some editions is accompanied by a textual explanation. Cited in [Adolphe Napoleon] Didron (Aine), "Iconographie des trois vertus theologales," Annales archeologiques 20 (1860): 150-63, 196-207 passim; idem, "Iconographie de la foi," ibid., 244 n. 1; idem, "Iconographie de la charite," ibid. 21 (1861): 65-66; idem, "Les Oeuvres de misericorde," ibid., 199; and Adolf Katzenellenbogen, Allegories of the Virtues and Vices in Medieval Art: From Early Christian Times to the Thirteenth Century, Studies of the Warburg Institute, London, vol. 10 (London: Warburg Institute, 1939), 72, 72 n. 3. Gulielmus Durandus (1230-1296), Rationale divinorum officiorum, bk. 6, chap. 19, nos. 5-6, who like Thomas Aquinas drew upon the conceit of Pope Innocent III (see the preceding note) equating the six jugs of wine at the biblical Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11) to the Six Corporal Works of Mercy, but then included the seventh work in his listing: "Ibi siquidem positae sunt sex hydriae, id est instituta sunt et perfectissime exercentur sex opera misericordi[a]e, quae sunt: pascere esurientem, potare sitientem, colligere hospitem, vestire nudum, visitare infirmum, adire incarceratum, et mortuum sepelire." Quoted in Didron (Aine), "Les Oeuvres de misericorde," 198 n. 1, who reasoned (p. 198) that Durandus may have understood the last two works as one, suggesting "qu'une prison est ordinairement line tombe veritable, et qu'on visite souvent un prisonnier pour le voir mourir et lui donner l'ensevelissement."

(22.) Samuel C. Chew, in his The Virtues Reconciled: An Iconographie Study (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1947), 104, observed with considerable insight that at the time of His pronouncement in Matthew 25:35-36, Christ could not have been a recipient of the seventh work of mercy as He claimed to be of the other six ("I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat...."). "But despite the authority of the words of the Evangelist [Matthew]," Chew continued, "the pull of the mystic number seven was so strong that seven is the more popular number of the works." On various sequences of the number seven see J[ules] Lutz and P[aul] Perdrizet, Speculum bumanae salvationis: Texte critique, traduction inedite de Jean Mielot (1448): Les Sources et l'influence iconograpbique principalement sur Vart alsacien du XIVe siecle, 3 vols. (Mulhouse: Imprimerie Ernest Meininger, 1907-9), vol. 1, pt. 3 (1909), 236-37; Schmitt, "Barmherzigkeit," col. 1459; Katzenellenbogen, Allegories of the Virtues and Vices, 72 n. 3; Chew, The Virtues Reconciled, 103; and the pertinent comments and additional references in Earenfight, "The Residence and Loggia della Misericordia," 165-66; reiterated in idem, "Catechism and Confraternitas," 79-80.

(23.) For these inscriptions--clearly repainted but without altering their content and appearance--and their initial setting entirely on the western wall of the original Sala dell'Udienza contiguous with the Allegory of Mercy, and then the reduction in size of the room by the introduction in 1777 of a wall running east-west such that now those texts, partially transplanted onto the newly inserted wall, wrap around the southwestern corner of the contracted audience hall, see variously Howard Saalman, The Bigallo: The Oratory and Residence of the Compagnia del Bigallo e della Misericordia in Florence, Monographs on Archaeology and the Fine Arts sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America and the College Art Association of America, ed. Anne Coffin Hanson, vol. 19 (New York: New York University Press for the College Art Association of America, 1969), chap. 5; Kiel, Il Museo del Bigallo, pl. 22; Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," 11-12, 37 n. 4, 43 n. 47; Earenfight, "The Residence and Loggia della Misericordia," 166-67,293; Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 15, 110-11 nn. 1-3, 127-28 n. 40 (with earlier references); Earenfight, "Catechism and Confraternitas," 69, 80-81; and idem, "'Civitas Florenti[a]e,"' 134 n. 10.

(24.) The discussion that follows of the written documentation for the Misericordia's devotion to Tobit proceeds from Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 76, 157-58 nn. 4446.

(25.) Archivio di Stato di Firenze (hereafter: A. S. F.), Bigallo, vol. 2, fasc. 2, fol. 37v (1361) (excerpt): "In prima nel nome del padre e del filio e dello spirito santo, e della vergine madre madonna sancta maria e dello beato messer sancto Tobia e di tutta la corte di paradiso." Bigallo, vol. 722, fol. lr (1 January 1368) (excerpt): "Al nome del nostro signiore giesocristo e della sua groliosa (sic) madre vergine maria madre di mi sericordia e del beato messer santo giovanni batista e de groliosi (sic) apostoli messer santo piero e messer santo pagholo e del beato messer santo zanobi e di messer santo Tobia e di tutti glialtri santi e sante della corte del celestiale al chui onore e riverenza la detta chompagnia si regie e ghoverna." Morini, Documenti inediti, 30-32 (doc. 10), 42-43 (doc. 16).

(26.) A. S. F., Bigallo, vol. 724, fol. 86r (19 February 1368) (excerpt): "Due libri dela legienda di San Tobia luno verde e laltro rosso ... nel fondachetto dove siraghunano i chapitani." Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 76, 157 n. 44. The full inventory of 1368 remains unpublished.

(27.) Reimbursements for expenses are noted, for example, in A. S. F., Bigallo, vol. 2, fasc. 3, fols. 61 v (22 October 1387), 70v (11 November 1389), and 86v (23 October 1391). Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 76, 157 n. 44. The Feast of "Saint" Tobit occurred on the third Sunday of September; now it is celebrated on 23 September of every year. Foresto Niccolai, ed., La Misericordia di Firenze: memorie, curiosita, tradizioni (Florence: Officine Grafiche Firenze, 1984), 25.

(28.) For the 1425 merger of the Misericordia and the Bigallo and related developments--historical and art-historical--occurring both before and after the fact, including many earlier references, see Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," 313-30; idem, "Advertising Charity," 279-81 nn. 13, 17; William R. Levin, "Confraternal Self-Imaging in Marian Art at the Museo del Bigallo in Florence," Confraternitas 10, no. 2 (Fall 1999): 3-14; and idem, The Allegory of Mercy, 22, 129-30 n. 48, 159 n. 49. On the reestablishment of the Misericordia's independence and pertinent subsequent facts, including the ceding of its early headquarters to the Bigallo (hence ultimately the establishment of the Museo del Bigallo inside those premises), again with ample earlier references, see idem, "Advertising Charity," 280 n. 14, 283-84 n. 28; and idem, The Allegory of Mercy, chap. 6 passim.

(29.) Archivio della Compagnia della Misericordia (hereafter: A. C. M.), MS. 1, chap. 2 (excerpt): "Eanchora uogliamo che esopradetti scripti della fraternita paghino ogni anno per uno soldi 3. Elledonne soldi 2. per la festa di sancto tobbia la quale e del mese di settembre." Morini, Documenti inediti, 60 (doc. 23); and Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 76, 158 n. 45. Based on the heading atop the first page of these statutes and a mention in chap. 22 of their text, Morini (pp. 59, 70, and pi. viii) gave the date of this manuscript as 1490. Passerini (Storia degli stabilimenti, 26, 27 n. 1, 465, 465 n. 1)--citing instead, as for the prologue to the new statutes, A. S. F., Bigallo, vol. 11, fasc. 2, fol. 25v (see note 33 below)--dated the earliest statutes of the revived company to 1489, subsequently alluding (p. 466) somewhat ambiguously and with no archival reference to corrections and amplifications to them made in 1490.

(30.) A. C. M., MS. 1, chap. 13 (excerpt): "Anchora uogliamo et ordiniamo che ogni anno del mese di settembre cioe dopo la festa del patriarcha depoveri sancto aibbia che tutti esopradetti preti debbino ... fare et celebrare uno ufficio per lanima depassati di detta fraternita et compagnia et de benefattori diquella." MS. 2, chap. 19 (excerpt): "Ancora uogliamo et ordiniamo che ogni anno del mese di Septembre il di dopo la festa del patriarcha de poueri messer Sancto Thobia sicelebri nello oratorio di sancta Maria della misericordia uno solemne officio di trenta nostri sacerdoti colla procissione fuora et con quattro torchi, colle croci et con ilayci uestiti colle ueste: il quale officio uogliamo si celebri ad laude et honore dello omnipotente Dio et del patriarcha de poueri Messer sancto Thobia et perla anima di tutti I passati di nostra compagnia et per lanime di tutti e benefactori et mantenitori et augumentatori di nostra compagnia che fussino passati di questa presente uita. Et uogliamo che i Sacerdoti sieno tenuti ad fare tanto quanto si contiene nel capitolo quando emuore uno de nostri fratelli et tanto piu quanto e landare ad procissione.... Et in caso che la Compagnia fussi in grado che il di dinanzi, cioe il di susa [i.e., stessa] celebrare la festa di sancto Thobia, i Capitani uolessino tal festa honorare et celebrare. ..." Morini, Documenti inediti, 66-67 (doc. 23), 119-20 (doc. 29); and Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 76, 158 n. 46.

(31.) A. C. M., MS. 2, chap. 1 (excerpt): "In primo dichiaramo et uogliamo che glhuomini di nostra compagnia della misericordia della citta di firenze che amore Dei opera il sobterrare secondo lordine del patriarcha de poveri sancto Thobia sieno et habino ad essere a numero septanta dua et non piu ... Cosi uogliamo che decti septantadua uadino perla citta di Firenze et fuora, come da esuperiori sia loro ordinate exercitando lopere della misericordia et charita iuxta il loro potere con quelli ordini e modi che ne presenti capitoli si dira, et maxime ad sepellire ipoveri miserabili et etiam deglialtri quando ne fussino amore Dei richiesti...." Morini, Documenti inediti, 87-88 (doc. 29; see also chap. 15 regarding the treatment of persons suffering from the plague and of the bodies of the deceased [ibid., 108-12]); and Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 76, 158 n. 46.

(32.) For this event, the exact date and even the veracity of which are uncertain, as well as for earlier published accounts of it see Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," 329, 344-45, 424 n. 385; and idem, The Allegory of Mercy, 74, 155 n. 33.

(33.) A. S. F., Bigallo, vol. 11, fasc. 3, fol. 79r (12 September 1488): "Reperto quod ab antiquo societas misericordi[a]e qu[a]e unita fuit cum sotietate sanct[a]e mari[a]e del bigallo vacabat et attendebat ad sotterrandum mortuos. Et propter unitatem pr[a]edictam dimiserunt offitium seu exercitium pr[a]edictum et inceperunt se non congregari, quod non bene fuit nec est, maxime quod in hac civitate reperiuntu[r] omnia bona provisa a[b] principio hominis usque ad eius mortem, et quando moritur et est mortuus nihil provisum fuit nec est; v[i]delicet quando aliquis venit ad lucem in hoc mundo, si est pauper, ubi portari debet et ibi alimentari, et quando aliquis infirmetur, et si pauper est et non habet facultatem se gubernari facere, ubi et in quo loco portari [debet] et gubernari, et quando aliquis moritur et est mortuus et sit pauper, non est aiiquid provisum quod amore dei portetur ipsum ad foueam et secundum stilum christia norum cum cruce et presbiteris. Et intellecto quod multi de novo motu pietatis et misericordi[a]e inceperunt se congregari pro dicto offitio et exercitio et ad sotterrandum mortuos amore dei et absque aliquo premio, quod est multum laudabile, et ad hoc ut duret, fecerunt plura capitula, quorum tenor qui sequitur talis est." With very few minor alterations made for the sake of clarity, this is a composite version of the text as transcribed in Passerini, Storia degli stabilimenti, 26-27; and in Morini, Document! inediti, 58-59 (doc. 22), who differed on the exact wording, the year (but not on the month and day) of the document, and on its archival source. The reference and date introducing this note is that of Morini, while Passerini (pp. 26,27 n. 1,465, 465 n. 1) connected the text of the story directly to that of the first statutes of the revitalized Misericordia, dated both to 1489, and provided for them a single archival reference: Bigallo, vol. 11, fasc. 2, fol. 25v. See note 29 above on the dating of those statutes. Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," 345, 428 n. 416; and idem, The Allegory of Mercy, 74, 155-56 n. 34.

(34.) A. C. M., MS. 1, chap. 1 (excerpt): "Chosi uogliamo chelsopradetto numero della nostra fraternita et compagnia de. 72. uadino per la terra nostra di firenze sempre exercitando lopere della misericordia et charita et maximamente circha del sepellire imorti poveri et miserabili sanza alchuno prezo o premio ma solamente per lamore di Yehsu Christo el quale ancora per nostro amore uolle patire morte et passione." Morini, Documenti inediti, 60 (doc. 23), and also pp. 64-65 for chap. 10 containing the phrase "sotterrando e morti poueri et miserabili"; and Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 74, 156 n. 35. With only slight modifications this passage from chapter one is quoted as well in Passerini, Storia degli stabilimenti, 465, evidently from an earlier (1489) redaction of these statutes, regarding which see note 29 above.

(35.) A. C. M., Doc. 4. (The archiepiscopal decrees of 24 September and 9 December 1496 are catalogued together.) The first of the two decrees of 1496 testifies to the newly revived Misericordia's actions on behalf of both sick and deceased victims of the dreaded disease, thus intimating the fifth work of mercy along with the seventh (the second edict addresses only burial), as is clear from this excerpt: "Cum itaque, prout accepimus sepius accident per Civitatem et Diocesem nostram Epidemia, sive Peste laborantes absque sacramentis mortuos et sine Cruce tamquam bestias sepeliri, Nos volentes huiusmodi nefandis abusibus et scandalis quantum possumus obviare, presertim cum dilecti Filii Homines et Personae Societatis Misericordiae Florentiae gratis huiusmodi Peste pro tempore laborantes, nec non quoscumque alios Egenos et Pauperes infirmos visitaturos et eos quos mori contigerit, sepulturae mandaturos, sponte se nobis obtulerint...." Morini, Documenti inediti, TS-76 (doc. 24); and Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 74, 156 n. 36. The first decree is summarized but not transcribed in Passerini, Storia degli stabilimenti, 468. According to Passerini (pp. 467, 473), the plague had appeared in 1495 and returned three years later, in 1498, lasting with little interruption until 1509; the year of its return was put at 1497 in Ann G. Carmichael, Plague and the Poor in Renaissance Florence, Cambridge History of Medicine, ed. Charles Webster and Charles Rosenberg (Cambridge, New York, New Rochelle, Melbourne, and Sydney: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 103. 36. A. C. M., Doc. 5 (4 November 1498) (excerpt): "Digna charitatis opera, quae vos in pauperes infirmos, ac defunctos (Sanctissimum ilium Thobiam imitantes) accepimus et vidimus, misericorditer exercere. Nos aliqua retributione augure volentes, ut qui seritis in lacrymis in exultatione metatis, et qui misericordiam exercetis (iuxta Evangelicum dictum) misericordiam consequamini: Ea propter omnibus et singulis, qui in Constitutionibus et Capitulis vestris hodie a[b] nobis approbatis quomodolibet comprehenduntur, qui in deferendis ad hospitalia pauperibus infirmis, sepeliendisque defunctis[b] et aliis secundum praenominatas uestras Constitutiones se exercuerint, ac diebus statutis et statuendis in loco uestrae solitae Residentiae convenerint, et qui etiam extra uestrum Collegium rnanus tantae charitati adiutrices porrexerint, aut alias de bonis sibi a Deo collatis Elemosinas tribuerint, et cuilibet eorum pro qualibet vice, ac toties quoties, etiam si centies in die, XL Dies de iniuncta sibi pro peccatis penitentia pastorali offitio relaxamus, nostra hac indulgentia in perpetuum valitura." Morini, Documenti inediti (doc. 25), 77-78; and Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 74-75 and 155-58 nn. 32, 37, 46. The indulgence is summarized but not transcribed in Passerini, Storia degli stabilimenti, 468-69.

(37.) A. S. F., Prowisioni, vol. 190, fols. 33v-34v (30 July 1499). This governmental action was repeated and enhanced on 17 March of the following year (Prowisioni, vol. 191, fol. 73r. An excerpt from the earlier measure records that officials of the Florentine government, "come essendo loro concessa la cura del rimediare et provedere che nella Citta non sapi[cci]chi el morbo[,] et come ricercando loro de piu facili et utili remedi[h] si sono convenuti co[n] capitani et huomini della compagnia di Sancta Maria della misericordia della citta di Firenze che loro attendino a tal cosa et mettino ad effecto tale opera pia et misericordiosa in beneficio de poveri cosi sani come infermi o morti etiam di morbo, et di qualunque altra infermita[,] et come cosi hanno digia con gran diligentia cominciato a fare, et intendono seguire con lo adiuto dello omnipotente Iddio et delle persone misericordiose: Et desiderando dar loro etiam qualche aiuto et subsidio dal publico per qualche tempo accio possino piu promptamente attendere a tale opera[,] per tanto providero et ordinorono: Che per virtu della presente provisione sintenda essere et sia assegnato alia decta compagnia della misericordia per fare et seguire lopera sopradetta denari quattro piccoli per ogni partita che si mettera aentrata dagli infrascripti Camarlinghi per tempo danni tre proximi futuri da cominciare inmediate doppo la final conclusione di questa ... Morini, Documenti inediti, 80-82 (doc. 27), 83-86 (doc. 28); and Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 73, 75, and 154-56 nn. 31, 38. These governmental actions are summarized but not transcribed in Passerini, Storia degli stahilimenti, 467-68. The two directives paved the way for pertinent portions of the revised company statutes of 1501 that expanded upon those sections of the 1490 amended statutes concerning burial of the poor, including stipulations in regard to funding this good work during periods of pestilence. See the references above in notes 31 (1501 statutes, chaps. 1, 15; see also chaps. 16, 23 [Morini, Documenti inediti, 112-15, 122-23]) and 34 (1490 statutes, chaps. 1, 10).

(38.) For these later occurrences of the plague see in general Passerini, Storia degli stahilimenti, 473-75; and Torricelli, La Misericordia, passim. For the actions of the Misericordia during the outbreak of 1522-30 in particular see Morini, Documenti inediti, xix-xx, 124-33 (docs. 30, 31), restricting the duration of the epidemic to 1522-24; John Henderson, "Epidemics in Renaissance Florence: Medical Theory and Government Response," in Maladies et societe (XIIe-XVIIIe siecles): Actes du colloque de Bielefeld, ed. N. Bulst and R. Delort (Paris: Editions du Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, 1989), 171, 179-86; and Esther Diana, "La Sanita delle origini: Cosi nacque l'assistenza," in Misericordia Firenze 770 (1244-2014): Una Sconfmata caritd, supplement to San Sebastiano: Periodico della Misericordia di Firenze, anno 66, no. 258 (January-March 2014): 21-25.

(39.) The earliest account of the Piero di Luca Borsi legend is by a certain Francesco Ghislieri in the late sixteenth century, transcribed or summarized in Landini, Istoria, 1843 ed., 31-35; Passerini, Storia degli stahilimenti, 440-43; Gennaro Maria Monti, Le Confratemite medievali dell'Alta e Media Italia, 2 vols., Storici Antichi e Modemi, ed. G. Maranini (Venice: "La Nuova Italia" Editrice, 1927), 1:153; Torricelli, La Misericordia, 7-8; Francois, La Misericordia, 11-15; Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," 330-31; Earenfight, "The Residence and Loggia della Misericordia," 47; and Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 73, 75-76.

(40.) The purchase by the Misericordia of a "casa dirimpetto alia porta del Battistero di S. Giovanni, comperata da Baldinaccio Adimari" is recorded in a seventeenth-century summary of a lost document of 1321/22 (A. S. F., Carte Strozziane [old classification], MS. Magliabecchiano, class. 37, no. 300, fol. 132) first published and discussed by Poggi in idem, Supino, and Ricci, "Bigallo," 192-94, 194 n. 1, and then in, among other studies, Morini, Documenti inediti, xii, 1 (doc. 1); Saalman, The Bigallo, 10, 44 (doc. 1); Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," 14, 38 n. 13, 334, 425 n. 393; Earenfight, "The Residence and Loggia della Misericordia, 79-80, 79-80 n. 174, 118-30 (this is the most thorough discussion of the document); and Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 17. It is clear that this is the same property subsequently used by the Misericordia for its residence, which includes the Sala dell'Udienza and the Allegory of Mercy fresco. Whether the casa Adimari was restructured for the confraternity's purposes or razed and replaced by a new edifice for the company's use is unclear: Saalman's figs, iii-vii intimated the former possibility, Levin claimed the latter in both of his studies, but rightly Earenfight (p. 55) stressed the impossibility of determining the matter conclusively.

(41.) For the Torre di Guardamorto legend see Passerini, Storia degli stahilimenti, 453 n. 1; Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," 331-32; and idem, The Allegory of Mercy, 75-76. But evidently their contention that the Guardamorto, part of the Adimari compound at the head of the Via dei Calzaiuoli, is identical with the (nearby) Adimari building purchased by the Misericordia in 1321/22 was incorrect, for as Earenfight noted in his discussion of the Guardamorto ("The Residence and Loggia della Misericordia," 96, 98-99, 99 n. 234; he did not mention the Torre di Guardamorto in the context of the Borsi legend, nor did he introduce the tale of its use as a mortuary), its location was on the eastern--not western--side of the Via dei Calzaiuoli at the point where that street flows into the Piazza del Duomo. Earenfight's sound conclusion was grounded in a document of 7 November 1376 describing very precisely the footprint of the Guardamorto that was published in Cesare Guasti, Santa Maria del Fiore: La Costruzione della chiesa e del campanile secondo i documenti tratti dall'Archivio dell'Opera Secolare e da quello di Stato (Florence: Tipografia M. Ricci, 1887), 235 (doc. 263). Intriguingly, therefore, the Torre di Guardamorto occupied a portion of the land that since 1576 has been the site of the Misericordia headquarters (see note 1 above), a fact that does little to sever--and perhaps enhances or even validates--a possible connection between the company's long-established mandate to inter the dead and the Guardamorto legend.

(42.) For these demurrals see Passerini, Storia degli stahilimenti, 443-46, 453 n. 1, 468-69; partially reiterated in Torricelli, La Misericordia, 8-9 (see further the added introductory chapter in the 1975 edition by Mario Lopes Pegna titled "Critica della tradizione pseudostorica"); in Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," 331-34; and with certain inaccuracies in Earenfight, "The Residence and Loggia della Misericordia," 48-50. Objections to the Borsi legend include, among other things, Ghislieri's anachronistic reference to Florentine monetary denominations that were non-existent in the thirteenth century, the lack of any archival documentation for Piero di Luca Borsi (in contrast, a Piero di Gherardo Borsi verifiably did play a leading role in the confraternity although not until the 1360s, then during the following decade in the Florentine government, and in any case he was not a porter by trade but a purse-maker), a similar lack of documentary evidence prior to the late quattrocento for the company's practice of transporting the infirm to hospitals supposedly instituted by Borsi, and the unlikelihood--true or not--of finding day-laborers such as Borsi's porters inscribed in the company during its early history. Passerini rejected the pertinence of the Torre di Guardamorto tale to the founding of the Misericordia on the grounds that the Adimari never would have permitted the existence of a mortuary on their property; rather, following a plausible earlier historical tradition, Passerini supported the idea that the Tower of the Death-Watch was named for the well-documented cemetery reserved for leading citizens and churchmen at the base of the baptistry immediately across the street.

(43.) The following summary of the early archival evidence for the Misericordia's commitment to afford proper burial to persons associated with the confraternity --deceased confratelli and company benefactors--as well as to non-members whose circumstances otherwise did not permit respectful Christian entombment mirrors in somewhat abbreviated form that found in Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 78-79, 159-60 nn. 50-54.

(44.) For example, A. S. F., Bigallo, vol. 2, fasc. 2, fols. 2r (12 December 1358, for Mass in San Firenze), 17v (two entries, both dated 19 November 1359, for Mass in Santa Croce), and 60v (6 December 1364, for Mass in Santa Trinita). Ibid., 78, 159-60 n. 50.

(45.) For example, A. S. F., Bigallo, vol. 724, fol. 324r-v (two entries, the first dated simply 1379 and the second 11 December 1379). Additional mentions of Barducci as a supplier to the Misericordia of candles for funeral Masses along with notices of other speziali (apothecaries) in their role as candle vendors are listed ibid., 159-60 n. 50.

(46.) A. S. F., Bigallo, vol. 56, fol. 2r (15 July 1348) (excerpt): "societ[atis] Misericordi[a]e pro mo[r]tuis seppelliendis." Ibid., 78, 160 n. 51.

(47.) A. S. F., Bigallo, vol. 724, fols. 85v, 86r (19 February 1368) (excerpts): "cinque sacchi co[n] choltre per sopellire e morti poveri abandonati" and "tre choltre per portare amorte a sopellire." Levin, "'Lost Children,'" 39-40, 65-66 n. 20; and idem, The Allegory of Mercy, 78, 160 n. 52. On the oversight exercised by the Misericordia of foundlings and orphans in general, as well as that wielded by other early-modern charitable institutions in Italy, see the first-cited essay and idem, "Advertising Charity," 22133, both with abundant references to earlier literature on the subject.

(48.) A. S. F., Bigallo, vol. 724, fob 324v (both entries, the first dated 22 April 1379 and the second 7 December 1380): "p[er] [il] mortorio dalchuno soldato" and "p[er] [i] mo[r]ti poveri," respectively. For these two notices and one of the other three mentioned here see Levin, "'Lost Children,'" 38-39, 65 n. 17; and idem, The Allegory of Mercy, 78, 160 n. 53. The two remaining entries referred to here are also noted in the latter study.

(49.) A. S. F., Bigallo, vol. 2, fasc. 3, fob 164r (8 December 1410) (excerpt): "p[er] adiutorio sepultur[a]e d[i]c[ta]e d[omi]n[a]e amore dey qu[ae] paup[er] erat." The last three words might also be translated as "because (i.e., 'qu[od]' or 'qu[ia]') she was poor." Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 78-79, 160 n. 54.

(50.) Much of the following discussion of artworks illustrating the Misericordia's calling on behalf of the deceased reflects that set forth ibid., 76-78, 158-59 nn. 47-49.

(51.) For the fresco cycle see Poggi in idem, Supino, and Ricci, "Bigallo," 206-8; Kiel, Il Museo del Bigallo, 6, 119 (cat. no. 4), and pis. 23-35 (her ordering of the reproductions does not match that of the apocryphal book nor their alignment on the eastern wall of the Sala dell'Udienza); Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," 33-34, 46 n. 59; idem, "Advertising Charity," 233; Earenfight, "The Residence and Loggia della Misericordia," chap. 6, esp. pp. 267-90, and figs. 89, 118-31; and Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 47, 76, 129-30 n. 48. Correctly rejecting Poggi's dating to the 1420s, Kiel--followed by Levin (here and in all three earlier studies) and Earenfight (pp. 274-75, 284-86)--dated the frescoes back to ca. 1360 on stylistic and iconographical grounds while assigning them to an anonymous Florentine painter: Levin (The Allegory of Mercy, 47, 76) stipulated this artist as "a follower of Andrea Orcagna," while Earenfight (pp. 285-86) favored a Florentine painter influenced more strongly by Sienese art. Earenfight's analysis (esp. pp. 247-67)--his is by far the fullest treatment of these frescoes--signaled the relative rarity of Tobit as the subject of both narrative and devotional imagery, especially prior to the fifteenth century and outside the realm of illuminated manuscripts. But depending on where and when Tobit does appear in art before that, according to Earenfight, he is conceived generally as an example of the interrelated notions of deliverance and salvation, of forbearance and self-sacrifice, and--essentially combining these concepts and corresponding to the theme informing the Allegory of Mercy on the wall opposite the Misericordia's Tobit frescoes, as suggested in this article--of "charity as the means to salvation" (p. 257) in imitation of Christ. Earenfight (pp. 267-83) followed Poggi's identification of each of the twelve extant scenes in the Tobit cycle; unfortunately the two scenes originally on the right end of each of the three registers along the Sala dell'Udienza's eastern wall were separated from the remaining twelve with the division of the room in 1777 into two chambers (see note 23 above), and by 1843 the six episodes located beyond (i.e., south of) the added wall had disappeared, as pointed out in Saalman, The Bigallo, 34, and reiterated by Kiel, based on the fact that they were "passed over ... without a word of comment" by Pillori in the notes to his 1843 edition of Landini's Istoria (p. 39 n.1). (Earenfight [p. 268] stated erroneously that the six scenes were destroyed in 1777.) For the miniature initiating the 1501 statutes (A. C. M., MS. 2, fol. 3r) see Morini, Document! inediti, pi. ix; and Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, IT, 158 n. 47, noting that the text of the statutes in Italian commences with an invocation in Latin beginning with the words that once again celebrate "Divine" Tobit: "In capitula Misericordiae Collegii Divo Thobi[a]e dedicata Prooemium." A detail only of the has-de-page featuring the roundel picturing Tobit piously lowering a corpse into the ground is reproduced in Giuseppe Vignini, "La Consegna della veste agli stracciafogli," Misericordia Firenze 770 (1244-2014): Una Sconfinata caritd, supplement to San Sebastiano: Periodico della Misericordia di Firenze, anno 66, no. 258 (January-March 2014): 86. For the predella panel by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio see Poggi in idem, Supino, and Ricci, "Bigallo," 197 and fig. 5; Kiel, 11 Museo del Bigallo, 6, 123-24 (cat. no. 24), and pis. 69-71; Levin, "Studies in the Imagery of Mercy," 346, 428 n. 418, and fig. 56; and idem, The Allegory of Mercy, 77, 158-59 nn. 47-49 (with additional analysis and references pertaining to its setting within the Misericordia Altarpiece).

(52.) In its deteriorated condition, the second episode of the fresco cycle seems to be a three-part conflation of related events. Earenfight ("The Residence and Loggia della Misericordia," 273-74, 274 n. 572) maintained that these events include: (1) the haloed Tobias and a second, un-nimbed figure kneeling in the left foreground as they discover the body of an Israelite outside his father's house; (2) above the first event, Tobias standing atop a stairway at the entrance to the loggia-like banquet hall in which Tobit, also with halo, and three guests dine and telling his father of the unburied body; and (3) to the right, Tobit about to ascend the same stairway in order to sequester the corpse inside his house prior to bestowing upon it a nighttime burial. Earenfight pointed out that while it is tempting to identify the first event pictured as the conclusion to the entire episode--namely, Tobit and a helper actually burying the cadaver--the haloed figure here appears not to be the aged, bearded Tobit but rather his youthful son, thus rendering that final event in the narrative sequence unseen and merely implicit.

(53.) This conclusion regarding depictions of the pair of episodes in the third row follows Earenfight's reasoning and credible suggestions, ibid., 280-82.

(54.) See note 14 above. If Passerini was precise in claiming that the company's current black mantles first replaced its red ones late in the quattrocento, then the red--or at least reddish--garb of Tobit in the manuscript detail and of Tobit and his son Tobias in the painting by Ghirlandaio, both executed early in the cinquecento, must be considered slightly anachronistic, albeit surely purposely so for iconographical reasons. Indeed, the five confratelli of the Misericordia transporting an ailing patient--or perhaps it is another corpse--in the background at left of the predella panel are clad in the company's then recently adopted black attire.

(55.) Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 76-77, 158 n. 47. For the bracketed dates of this wave of the plague see note 35 above.

(56.) Ibid., 76. References to the plague of 1363 and its effects in Florence and elsewhere are abundant in the scholarly literature but pale in comparison to the overwhelming focus placed on the first, far more destructive outbreak of 1348. An exception to this pattern is offered by Samuel K. Cohn, Jr., Death and Property in Siena, 1205-1800: Strategies for the Afterlife, The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, 106th Series, no. 3 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988), pt. 1. Based on contemporary accounts, the bubonic disease that constitutes "true plague" was exacerbated in 1363 to deadly effect, especially among children, by smallpox. Carmichael, Plague and the Poor, 11-12 and 145 nn. 2, 7. To judge from the symptoms recorded by chroniclers and diarists of the later fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, such a mixture of infections was quite common during subsequent pandemics, too, when not only smallpox but dysentery, influenza, anthrax, typhus, meningitis, ergot, and other diseases took their toll alongside or in conjunction with bubonic plague. Ibid., esp. chaps. 1-2.

(57.) Levin, The Allegory of Mercy, 77-78. Worth noting is the fact that the pestilence that struck Florence in the spring of 1340 leaving more than 15,000 persons dead was certainly not bubonic plague, for the latter disease always carries off the great majority of its victims during the hotter summer months. Carmichael, Plague and the Poor, 60, 63-65.
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Author:Levin, William R.
Publication:Southeastern College Art Conference Review
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Jan 1, 2015
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