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Interviewing the art of Jacopo del Sellaio.


Near the end of June, 1912, the expatriate American poet, Ezra Pound (1885-1972), then living in England, wrote to his future wife Dorothy Shakespear (1886-1973) that on the previous day he had washed his hair and "was in consequence cross & depressed." "So," he continued, "I went to interview the Sellaio."1 Pound means that he visited a painting in the National Gallery in London, then titled Venus Reclining (fig. 1), which was generally considered to be the work of the fifteenth-century, Florentine painter Jacopo del Sellaio (1441/1442-1493). Within a few months after "interviewing" the painting, Pound wrote and published two short poems about it in his Rispostes (London, 1912).

In "The Picture," the voice of the poet describes his response to the figure of Venus in the painting, which he identifies by artist and title in a note to the poem: "Venus Reclining by Jacopo del Sellaio."
   The eyes of this dead lady speak to me,
   For here was love, was not to be drowned out,
   And here desire, not to be kissed away.

   The eyes of this dead lady speak to me. (2)

Pound, playing upon a common Renaissance topos, implicitly pays tribute to the painter for making lifeless paint seem alive. The represented eyes of the "dead lady," a reference to Sellaio's model, but also to Venus, "speak" to him. They are the eyes of a goddess, for they convey love that does not die and everlasting desire.

The second poem is titled "Of Jacopo del Sellaio":
   This man knew out the secret ways of love,
   No man could paint such things who did not know.

   And now she's gone, who was his Cyprian,
   And you are here, who are "The Isles" to me.

   And here's the thing that lasts the whole thing out:
   The eyes of this dead lady speak to me. (3)

Now Pound directly praises Sellaio. He was a man who knew "the secret ways of love," which knowledge he was somehow able to make his painting reflect or embody. The artist's lover and model, his Cyprian Venus, is long departed, but Sellaio's representation of her remains. She is "The Isles," a place of love and beauty, to the poet. The most impressive and enduring part of the painting, "the thing that lasts the whole thing out," is the eyes of the figure of Venus, which Pound again calls a "dead lady," referring to both Sellaio's lover and his representation of her.

Even though Pound seems to have been in a jocular mood when he wrote to Dorothy, who was a visual artist, we should take seriously his choice of the word "interview" to describe the relation that would exist between him and the work of art. Literally, the word suggests a dialogue between the painting and Pound, as if the poet asked questions and the painting responded. The word also implies an imaginary exchange of views, or a "viewing between," as if Pound viewed the picture, and it viewed him. For the poet, the work of art was not completely passive and receptive; it was also an active participant in the act of viewing--the eyes of Sellaio's dead lover in the guise of Venus saw Pound and "spoke" to him; they appealed to his imagination. In "interviewing" the painting, Pound also implicitly admires and praises its maker.

In 1929 the painting about which Pound wrote was reattributed to an anonymous follower of Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510) so that we may no longer cite it as evidence that Sellaio was an artist who knew "the secret ways of love." Nevertheless, following Pound's lead and "interviewing" some of the paintings generally attributed to Sellaio leads to a deeper understanding of certain aspects of the artist and his art than we now enjoy. Just as An Allegory (fig. 1), as the painting is now titled, "spoke" to Pound, Sellaio's works may yet "speak" to us--appeal to our imagination--but, as we shall see, of other matters.

Jacopo del Sellaio was born Jacopo d'Arcangelo in Florence in the year 1441, apparently the son of a saddlemaker. He seems to have come of age as an artist around 1460, when he was a member of the Compagnia di San Luca, a confraternity of painters founded in 1339. In October of 1473, he was still a member of the Compagnia di San Luca and shared a studio with another painter, Filippo di Giuliano (flourished 1473-1491). A document dated December 10, 1477 records that Sellaio received a commission for two works, one containing a figure of the angel Gabriel and the other a figure of the Virgin Mary, for an altar in the church of Santa Lucia dei Magnoli in Florence. (4) These works were to flank an already existing panel representing a figure of Saint Lucy--attributed to Pietro Lorenzetti (1290-1348)--which Sellaio agreed to clean and restore. On February 8, 1483 the Compagnia di San Frediano (called "La Bruciata"), a religious confraternity, commissioned Sellaio to paint an altarpiece for their chapel in the church of San Frediano. Unfinished at the artist's death in 1493, that painting, a Pieta with Saints Fredianus and Jerome was completed by his son Arcangelo di Jacopo (1478-1531) before 1517, when Ridolfo Ghirlandaio (1483-1561) and Giuliano Bugiardini (14751564) assessed its monetary value. (5) Unfortunately, Sellaio's Pieta did not survive the Second World War. (6) Sellaio also painted an altarpiece for the chapel of San Lorenzo in the church of San Frediano. That painting, a Crucifixion with Saints (fig. 2), is now located in the seventeenth-century church of San Frediano in Cestello. (7)

In addition to altarpieces, Sellaio often painted literary and mythological subjects. These decorative paintings, many of which are spalliera panels for domestic settings, include four Petrarchan triumphs of 1486-1493 and three panels of 1490-1493 illustrating scenes from the story of Orpheus. (8) Earlier, in 1482-1483, Sellaio had assisted Botticelli with his spalliera paintings representing Giovanni Boccaccio's (1313-1375) story of the knight Nastagio degli Onesti in The Decameron (5.8). Sellaio's hand is often noticed in the last two panels in the series. (9) Sellaio also collaborated with other, less well-known artists, such as Bartolommeo di Giovanni (act. 1475 -1511) and Biago d'Antonio Tucci (1446-1516). (10)

A representative example of Sellaio's domestic paintings is a spalliera panel depicting the Adoration of the Magi (fig. 3). (11) The influence of the art of Botticelli on this painting is most noticeable in the composition, as well as in the elegant poses of the figures and the graceful linearity of their drapery. Unlike Botticelli, however, Sellaio gives almost obsessive attention to details, such as the stones and pebbles in the foreground, which also he fills with animals and architectural fragments. Sellaio's style differs from that of Botticelli in another respect. The festive air of the panel, more appropriate to a gathering of pleasure-seeking aristocrats than to such an important religious occasion, differs from the poised solemnity of paintings of the same subject by Botticelli. (12)

About six decades after Sellaio's death, Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) briefly referred to him in the first edition of his Lives of the Artists (Florence, 1550), specifically in his vita of Fra Filippo Lippi (1406-1469). There Vasari wrote that in their youth, Botticelli, Francesco di Stefano, called Pesellino (1422-1457), and Jacopo del Sellaio, "a Florentine," worked with Fra Filippo, as did, Vasari continues, "many other masters, to whom he [Lippi] always lovingly taught the art [of painting]." Significantly, Vasari wrote separate vite of Pesellino and of Botticelli, but not of Sellaio, whom he even thought necessary to identify as a Florentine, as if the artist were not well remembered. Rather, Vasari says of Sellaio only that "in San Friano [sic] he made two panels, and one in the Carmine, worked in tempera."13 Unfortunately, Sellaio's painting for Santa Maria del Carmine was destroyed in a fire in the eighteenth century, and, as we already have noticed, the Pieta for the church of San Frediano is also destroyed, but the other work for San Frediano, the Crucifixion with Saints (fig. 2), mentioned earlier, is still with us. (14)



Vasari's vita of Botticelli is an extended account of that artist's life and work, filled with enthusiastic descriptions and appreciative evaluations of his paintings, as well as charming anecdotes intended to give the reader insights into the artist's character and personality. For example, in one anecdote Botticelli and an assistant named Jacopo fool another assistant, gullible Biagio, into believing he has not seen what in fact he has seen. At the very end of the vita, adding the final touch to his verbal portrait of Botticelli, Vasari recalls the artist's widely-admired Calumny of Apelles of 1494 (Uffizi Gallery, Florence), the composition of which is based in a description of a work that the fourth-century B. C. Greek master is said to have painted. (15) Here Vasari hints at a parallel between the Flo rentine painter and Apelles, as if Botticelli, in recreating the picture by his illustrious predecessor, had transformed himself into his likeness. (16)

Pesellino's vita is a great deal shorter than that of Botticelli, a circumstance that suggests the former's lower position in the hierarchy of Renaissance artists as understood by Vasari. Nevertheless, Vasari says that, had Pesellino not died at an early age, he would have been as great as, or greater than, his master, Fra Filippo Lippi. At the very end of Pesellino's vita Vasari continues his praise of the artist. There he records some anonymous verses that link Pesellino and Apelles: just as Apelles earned fame through his drawings, so, too, did Pesellino in his rare works. (17) Sellaio, then, is the only one of the three followers of Fra Filippo Lippi whom Vasari did not link to Apelles. Evidently Vasari ranked him lower than Pesellino, who in turn was not the equal of Botticelli.

Vasari, who obviously knew precious little about Sellaio and his works, considered him to be a minor painter, a nearly anonymous follower of Fra Filippo Lippi. Still, as Vasari often demonstrates, to place an artist at the bottom of a hierarchy does not mean that he and his work should be ignored or deprived of close attention, for even minor artists, those less adept at the representation of beauty and the skillful imitation of nature than their more accomplished contemporaries, made significant contributions to Renaissance art and its history. In other words, like Pound before the anonymous Allegory (fig. 1), we may appreciate Sellaio's works on their own terms and in so doing, expand our understanding of Renaissance art and culture beyond the pages of Vasari's Lives. For instance, as Vasari does not tell us, but as Anne Barriault and others have recently demonstrated, Sellaio was among those minor masters who played a vital role in the growing market for domestic paintings in the fifteenth century.18 Moreover, although Sellaio, derived his style from the art of Fra Filippo Lippi and Botticelli, in regard to subject matter, he is a very inventive artist. That is to say, in some of the paintings attributed to him the treatment of subject matter is unusual and in a few instances seemingly unique.



One such painting is the Penitent Saint Jerome and the Stigmatization of Saint Francis (fig. 4) in which the artist reveals himself to be a bold inventor of unusual scenes. (19) To an otherwise conventional representation of the penitent Saint Jerome (ca. 347-420) kneeling before a crucifix, he added a figure of Saint Francis (1181-1226). In front of Saint Jerome are two of his usual attributes, his companion, a lion, and his cardinal's hat, as well as two snakes and a lizard. To one side of him pure white lilies have blossomed. Nearby on the ground lies a book with blue binding and another with red binding placed upright with its white pages open. Above and behind Saint Jerome, Saint Francis appears as he normally would in scenes of his stigmatization, which event occurred in 1224. This unusual composition suggests a parallel between Saint Jerome's penitential stay in the Syrian desert, here represented as a lush landscape with a river running through it, and Saint Francis' visit to the wilds of Mount Alverna, where he meditated on the Passion of Christ and received the vision of the seraph-Christ. (20)

Sellaio's painting implicitly invites us to imagine ourselves in this landscape occupied by the two saints and to witness and to meditate on this engaging scene. We are asked to compare these two saints, each of whom has retired to the wilderness, and to see them as imitators of Christ. We are called upon to consider the likeness between Saint Francis' vision, which hovers aloft, silhouetted against the sky, and Saint Jerome's crucifix, which, like the trees in the middle ground behind it, is rooted to the earth. We are invited to notice, too, that both saints are wounded. Saint Francis' wounds, the stigmata in his hands, feet and side, which according to his earliest biographers appeared after his vision had subsided, are the signs of his spiritual transformation into the likeness of Christ, while the wounds on Saint Jerome's chest--emblems of his turning away from sin and of penitence--are self-inflicted. The message is repentance and love and through love, transformation into the likeness of Christ.

Color, of course, is important to the unity of the composition of Sellaio's painting. Red, for example, is the color of two books, of the cardinal's hat, of the titulus at the top of Saint Jerome's crucifix, of the wings of the seraph-Christ, and of the blood in the wounds in each saint's body. Sellaio also uses color to suggest meaning and significance. For instance, red not only helps to connect the figures of Saint Francis and Saint Jerome, it underscores the relation between them and the crucified Christ. The color red hints, too, at the importance of books for both saints. On Mount Alverna, Saint Francis often opened the Gospels at random, but always to a passage telling of Christ's Passion. Saint Jerome, condemned by God in a vision for being a Ciceronian scholar, began to study the Bible and eventually translated it into Latin. Perhaps, the closed, blue book behind Saint Jerome is one of the Ciceronian texts he cast aside, while the open, red book with its visible writing is the Holy Bible. White, too, is an important color, for the purity of the lilies, which symbolize Saint Jerome's virginity and connects him with the mother of Christ, echoes in the whiteness of his tunic and of the pages of the red book. (21)


In another painting about repentance, a Saint John the Baptist attributed to Sellaio (fig. 5), the artist again demonstrates his powers of invention. In this picture the youthful saint stands just outside the city of Florence in a wilderness near the Arno River. A baptismal bowl is at his feet. As Saint John looks directly at the viewer and gestures toward the city, a blue-jay flies above his head, while a goldfinch, its red markings, according to legend, made by pricks from Christ's crown of thorns, has alighted at his feet near his bowl. The saint holds an exceptionally slender staff ending in a golden crucifix, which is visually linked to the foliage of the trees behind him. To the lower left-hand side of the painting, a female figure, the penitent Saint Mary Magdalen (or perhaps Saint Mary of Egypt), seems to have emerged from the dark wood to stand in the road that winds through the middle-ground of the painting. In this picture Sellaio has depicted a patron saint of Florence bringing spiritual enlightenment to the city, which is represented as an ideally beautiful place, as the New Jerusalem. (22)

The axe lodged at the base of the tree in the lower left-hand corner is in keeping with the theme of spiritual enlightenment, for it refers to the time when Saint John was in the region of the river Jordan "preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." (23) As the saint explained to the multitude that came to be baptized, "the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down and cast into the fire" (Luke 3: 9). Metaphorically speaking, viewers of this painting are trees potentially threatened by the axe. If they do not bring forth good fruit, they will not reach the New Jerusalem. Instead, they will be cut down and thrown into the fire and consumed.

Sellaio's powers of invention are especially evident in a small devotional painting representing Christ with the In struments of the Passion (fig. 6). That panel seems to have been painted for private worship in a domestic setting or perhaps for devotion in a religious organization, such as the Compagnia di Gesu Pellegrino. (24) In this painting, the half-length figure of Christ, wearing a deep blue mantle over a crimson tunic, stands in a room behind a ledge separating the viewer from Him. He has a light, blonde beard and long curly hair which prominently divides to display His left ear, as if He is listening to an unheard voice, reminding the viewer to listen for the Word, spoken and unspoken. With the long, slender fingers of His left hand, He gracefully reveals a small opening in his tunic, through which we see the wound in His right side. In His right hand He holds a crown of thorns, the shape of which echoes that of the golden halo behind His head. To the viewer's left, a window, through which we cannot see, allows light to enter the room. Behind Christ another window opens onto another enclosed space, a kind of loggia. Beyond the arches of the loggia stretches a city, inhabited by small, indistinct figures and a deer standing in the street. Beyond the buildings of the city is a river or lake upon which boats glide. The vista ends in rolling hills beneath a sky, the light blue color of which echoes the darker blue of Christ's tunic.

On the ledge in front of Christ lie some of the arma Christi, objects that are related to the crown of thorns, which is also an instrument of Christ's Passion. They are the sponge, three nails--one of them curved, like a snake--and a scourge, all objects or instruments associated with Christ's crucifixion, which is symbolized by the cross in His halo. According to the Gospels of Saint Matthew (27:29) and of Saint Mark (15:17), before He was led to Golgotha to be crucified, Christ was mockingly crowned King of the Jews with a circle of thorns and was tied to a column and beaten with a whip. On Golgotha the sponge was soaked in vinegar and gall and again later in wine and myrrh and offered to Him for His thirst; and the nails were used to attach His hands and feet to the Cross. Other reminders of Christ's Passion are the wounds in His hands and side, which wounds are without blood, as if they have been washed. (25) Now, after His death, Christ stands before us, alive again, resurrected. Indeed, part of the fiction of the painting is that He once again dwells among us, sad-eyed, displaying the instruments of His triumph, objects that remind the viewer of the pain He endured to conquer sin and to overcome death.


Sellaio's presentation of his figure seems to draw upon several images of Christ that were usually presented separately. In other words, there are paintings, such as a Redeemer (fig. 7) attributed to Botticelli, in which Christ, wearing a crown of thorns, raises His right hand to bless the viewer while simultaneously displaying the wound in His side. Sellaio has altered this conventional image by having Christ hold the crown of thorns. Another image upon which Sellaio seems to have drawn is that of Christ displaying His wounds. In paintings of that subject, the dead Savior stands in or sits on a sarcophagus surrounded by instruments of His Passion. (26) In the Christ with the Instruments of the Passion (fig. 6), Sellaio has not only included some of the instruments that usually appear in depictions of Christ displaying His wounds, he has employed the ledge at the front of the picture on which those objects rest to suggest the sarcophagus in which Christ was buried and from which He was resurrected.

By uniting these two conventional subject matters--Christ as the Redeemer and the wounded Christ--and placing his figure in a domestic setting, Sellaio has created an unusual variation on the themes of Christ's resurrection and of His triumph over death and sin through the Crucifixion. (27) In Sellaio's painting the theme of resurrection extends into the loggia of the middle ground where three men are seated at a table while a fourth man, a servant wearing a red cap, busies himself. Christ, holding a walking stick or staff, sits at the head of the table. Flanking Him are two disciples, an older, gray-haired man on the far side and a younger man dressed in a yellowish tunic and blue mantle on the near side. Although the buildings beyond the loggia remind us of Florence, they represent Emmaus, for the scene in the loggia is the moment when the resurrected Christ reveals His true identity to the two disciples He met along the road to that village (Luke 24: 13-32). On the road to Emmaus, before this moment of recognition, the disciples mistook Him for a stranger, and, as they walked, they told Him of the death of Christ and of how they had expected Him to redeem Israel. He in turn chastised the disciples for being "slow to believe what the prophets have spoken," and asked them, "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?" Now, at table, just as the bread is broken, the disciples realize that they have walked and talked with Christ, and they are startled. The older disciple has raised his right hand in a gesture of surprise, and the younger one leans forward as if in amazement.


In this painting Sellaio has, so to speak, resurrected Jesus, has brought Him to life in paint, and this painted image appears to the viewer just as the historical Christ appeared to His disciples. In a sense the painting transforms its viewers into the likeness of Saint Thomas, to whom Christ also appeared after His resurrection (John 20: 19-31). Indeed, as we meditate on this engaging image of the resurrected Christ, we, the viewers, become like the figure of Saint Thomas in Andrea del Verrocchio's (1435-1488) famous sculpture, begun in 1476 and completed in 1483 for Orsanmichele in Florence (fig. 8). In that work Christ's gestures echo those of the figure in Sellaio's painting, as if the painter deliberately recalled the sculpture. (28)

As we gaze at Sellaio's painting, we remember that on one occasion, after His resurrection, Christ showed Himself to some of His disciples, who later told Saint Thomas of His visit (John 20:19-29). But Thomas doubted the other disciples, saying, "Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." Eight days later, Christ again appeared to the disciples, this time to address Saint Thomas directly. He said to him, "Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing." Then Thomas believed and replied, "My Lord, and My God." Lastly, Christ said to the saint, "Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed."

Sellaio's melancholic Christ looks out toward the viewer --"speaks" to the viewer, as Pound would say--transforming him or her into the image of Saint Thomas. He displays His wounds and the instruments of His Passion, engaging the viewer emotionally, soliciting his empathy. Indeed, just as it did in the fifteenth century, the painting presses its viewers who have not seen, to see, to put away their doubts and to believe in the risen Christ, who died for their sins.

Vasari's Lives remains fundamental to any serious, historical study of Italian Renaissance art and culture. Nevertheless, Sellaio and other little-known masters remind us that the hierarchies articulated by Vasari are based in sixteenth-century aesthetic values, and that we are free to appreciate their art in other ways. Minor artists like Sellaio sometimes produced work the subject matter of which is innovative and imaginative. These artists teach us not to lose sight of the fact that nearly every true work of art, even the most modest--from the Renaissance or from any period in art history--offers a unique experience for the viewer. One work will have a certain unconventional beauty, another, a curious inscription, and yet another a rare color or attractive expression. In the case of Sellaio, as has been argued here, we are introduced to unusual inventions, engaging presentations of subject matter that suggest an imagination of great strength, one that outstripped the artist's relatively limited skills in the representation of nature. If we ignore the works of Sellaio and of other minor artists, if we concentrate exclusively on the acknowledged major artists and their masterpieces, we miss many opportunities for visual and intellectual delight. We also deprive ourselves of the opportunity to deepen our understanding of the history of Renaissance art and culture.


(1.) This is a revised version of a lecture I delivered at the symposium, The Kress Collection: Renaissance Masters at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama in 2001.

Ezra Pound and Dorothy Shakespear, Their Letters: 1909-1914, eds. Omar Pound and A. Walton Litz (New York: New Directions, 1984), 120. Pound also says that he went to see "the Crivelli."

(2.) Ezra Pound, Ripostes (London: Stephen Swift, 1912), 51. He also mentions Sellaio in The Cantos (New York: New Directions, 1996), canto LXXX. See also Peter Robinson, "Ezra Pound and Italian Art," in Pound's Artists: Ezra Pound and the Visual Arts in London, Paris and Italy (London: Tate Gallery, 1985), 154-155.

(3.) Pound, Ripostes, 52.

(4.) For an illustration of these panels and for further bibliography concerning Sellaio, see Eliot W. Rowlands, "Jacopo del Sellaio," in Encyclopedia of Italian Renaissance and Mannerist of Art, ed. Jane Turner, 2 vols. (London and New York: Macmillan, 2000), 2: 1516-1517. Additional documents have been published by Nicoletta Pons, "Jacopo del Sellaio e le confraternite," in La Toscana al tempo di Lorenzo il Magnifico: Politica economia cultura arte, 3 vols. (Pisa: Pacini, 1996), 1: 287-295; and ibid., "La pala del Sellaio per il Carmine: un ritrovamento," Antichita viva 29, no. 2-3 (1990): 474-479. Still valuable is Herbert P. Horne, "Jacopo del Sellaio," Burlington Magazine 13, 64 (1908): 210-213.

(5.) For the document recording the evaluation by Bugiardini and Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, see Laura Pagnoto, Giuliano Bugiardini (Turin: Umberto Allemandi, 1987), 244, no. 13.

(6.) For this painting, see Cristelle L. Baskins, "Jacopo del Sellaio's 'Pieta' in S. Frediano," Burlington Magazine, 131 (July 1989): 474- 479 (with extensive bibliography).

(7.) For this painting, see Nicoletta Pons, "Una Predella e altre cose di Jacopo Sellaio," Paragone 487 (1990): 46-52.

(8.) These paintings are discussed and illustrated in Anne Barriault, Spalliera Paintings of Renaissance Tuscany: Fables of Poets for Patrician Homes (University Park: Pennsylvania State U P, 1994): 146-147, no. 7.1-7.4 and 147-148, no. 7.1 - 8.3, respectively.

(9.) For these paintings and Sellaio's collaboration with Botticelli, see ibid., 109-113 and 142-144, no. 3.1-3.4.

(10.) For Sellaio's collaboration with Biagio di Antonio Tucci, see ibid., 34 and 36, fig. 13; and with Bartolommeo di Giovanni, see ibid., 129-130 and 131, fig. 32.

(11.) For the painting in Memphis, see Fern Rusk Shapley, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, Vol. 1: Italian Schools XIII-XV Century (London: Phaidon, 1966), 134; and Perri Lee Roberts, Sacred Treasures: Early Italian Paintings from Southern Collections (Athens: Georgia Museum of Art, 2002), 180-183.

(12.) See for example, Botticelli's Adoration of the Magi in the National Gallery of Art, Washington D. C. and the painting of the same subject in the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

(13.) Giorgio Vasari, Le vite de' piu eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori italiani da Cimabue insino a' tempi nostri, ed. Giovanni Previtali (Turin: Einaudi, 1986), 380.

(14.) Fragments seemingly belonging to Sellaio's altarpiece for the Carmine are discussed by Pons, "La pala del Sellaio per il Carmine," 474-479.

(15.) Ibid., 478-479. Apelles' painting, we should recall, might never have physically existed.

(16.) For "Botticelli as a born-again Apelles," see Charles S. Mack, Looking at the Renaissance: Essays toward a Contextual Appreciation (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005), 86.

(17.) Vasari, 400-401, seems to have thought that Pesellino was the son of Giuliano di Arrigo, called Pesello (ca. 1367-1446), who was also a painter. Pesellino was actually Pesello's grandson. The lines recorded by Vasari are as follows: "Se pari cigne il cielo i duoi gemelli, / Tal cigne il padre e 'l figlio la bella arte / Che Appelle fa di se fama in le carte / come fan le rare opre a duoi Peselli." Curiously, Vasari omitted these lines in the 1568 edition of his Lives.

(18.) Barriault, Spalliera Paintings. See also Ellen Callmann, "Spalliera," in Encyclopedia of Italian Renaissance and Mannerist of Art, 2:1553 -1557.

(19.) For this painting, see Fern Rusk Shapley, Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools. XIII-XV Century (New York: Phaidon Press, 1966), 133-134.

(20.) In a painting attributed to Fra Filippo Lippi, Saint Francis, Saint Jerome and the lion appear together in a rocky landscape, but otherwise there is no overt parallel between the two saints. For this painting, see Mary Pittaluga, Filippo Lippi (Florence: Del Turco Editore, 1949), 196 and plate 138. For a discussion of Sellaio's Penitent Saint Jerome (John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida), which contains a figure of Saint John the Baptist, see Roberts, Sacred Treasures, 176-179.

(21.) The lily is also an attribute of Saint Eustochium, a follower of Saint Jerome. For this see, Millard Meiss, "Scholarship and Penitence in the Early Renaissance: The Image of Saint Jerome," Pantheon: Internationale Zeitschrift fur Kunst 32, no. 2 (1974): 137.

(22.) Paul Barolsky, "Savonarola and the Beauty of Florence," Source: Notes in the History of Art, 15, no. 2 (Winter 1996): 11-14.

(23.) See also Fra Filippo Lippi's painting sometimes titled The Mystical Nativity (Gemaldegalerie, Berlin) in which there appears the stump of a tree with an axe lodged in it. The symbolism also appears in a Saint John the Baptist attributed to Sellaio in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest of ca. 1485.

(24.) For Sellaio and the Florentine compagnie, see Pons, "Jacopo del Sellaio e le confraternite," 287-295. See also John Henderson, Piety and Charity in late Medieval Florence (Oxford, 1994).

(25.) A similar display of the arma Christi also appears in an Entombment (Samuel H. Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.) attributed to Sellaio. For that painting, see Fern Rusk Shapley, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols. National Gallery of Art (Washington, D. C., 1979), 1: 425-427 and 2: pl. 305.

(26.) For example, see the untraceable Man of Sorrows, perhaps painted ca. 1480 and attributed to Sellaio. An illustration of that panel appears in Bernard Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School, 2 Vols. (London: Phaidon, 1963), 2: 1101.

(27.) Sellaio might also have recalled paintings of the Salvator Mundi in which Christ appears half-length behind a ledge, blessing the viewer, but without the crown of thorns.

(28.) For a recent discussion of Verrocchio's sculpture in relation to the viewer, see Paul Barolsky, "Verrocchio's Vision in Bronze," in Visions of Holiness: Art and Devotion in Renaissance Italy, ed. Andrew Ladis and Shelley Zuraw (Athens: Georgia Museum of Art, 2001), 191-193.
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Date:Jan 1, 2011
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