Printer Friendly

The Guidoriccio fresco: a new attribution: Thomas de Wesselow argues that the celebrated fresco, traditionally known as Guidoriccio, in Siena's Palazzo Pubblico, is not by Simone Martini, and proposes an alternative candidate.

The well known controversy over the authenticity of the so called Guidoriccio fresco in Siena's Palazzo Pubblico (Figs. 1 and 2) has now been running for over a quarter of a century. (1) It is one of the peculiar features of this dispute that, although it revolves around a problem of attribution whether or not the fresco should be ascribed, as traditionally thought, to Simone Martini--the battle has not been fought on stylistic grounds. While those who defend the traditional attribution of the Guidoriccio have on occasion demonstrated the work's evident affinity with Simone's art, (2) their principal opponents, Gordon Moran and Michael Mallory, have tended to avoid detailed discussion of its style, casting doubt on the validity of such methods (3) and concentrating instead on chronological arguments designed to show that it was painted later than the fourteenth century. (4) As a result, the stylistic evidence that has been presented in favour of Simone's authorship has been discussed in detail only by those who adhere to the traditional attribution. This is unfortunate; indeed, it might even be argued that the dispute remains unresolved with certain deleterious consequences for the study of fourteenth-century Sienese painting--largely because a proper stylistic debate has not taken place. Rather than being an unfortunate consequence of traditional art historical preoccupations, then, the 'Guidoriccio problem' might be seen, conversely, as a symptom of the current devaluation of, and reluctance to develop, the methods of formalist criticism."


Of course, it is not only a matter of scrutinising the current attribution. Those who have tried to overturn orthodox opinion have yet to propose a credible alternative to Simone Martini. (5) Emboldened (and also frustrated) by the apparent lack of competition, Piero Torriti threw down the gauntlet in 1989, saying that he 'would like to challenge art historians to produce a Trecento painter other than Simone Martini capable of painting the Guidoriccio'. (6) Fifteen years later, I should like to take up the challenge.

The artist I shall champion is one whose work has, in fact, frequently been confused with that of Simone: his brother-in-law, Lippo Memmi. (7) It must be said at the outset that Lippo is somewhat of an enigmatic figure: while there exist a number of signed and documented works universally accepted as his, these are all representations of the Madonna and Child and thus afford only a restricted view of his artistic achievement. (8) Some scholars are happy to attribute to him, in addition, works given traditionally to the fictitious 'Barna' (most notably the New Testament frescoes in the Collegiata of San Gimignano), but this is still a contentious move and requires detailed argumentation. (9) For the purposes of this brief article, therefore, despite the inherent difficulty of comparing the Guidoriccio--a unique secular composition--with paintings of the Madonna and Child, I shall limit the discussion to Lippo's universally accepted works.

Whatever range is allowed Lippo's surviving oeuvre, there is no doubt that his work is both profoundly Simonesque and of very high quality. Sharing the same workshop as his brother-in-law, (10) he adapted himself with remarkable fidelity to Simone's manner of painting. Vasari, for one, thought their styles indistinguishable, advising rather unhelpfully that their works might best be told apart by attending to the different forms of their signatures. (11) Even today, most art historians would agree that their hands cannot always clearly be distinguished--witness the vexed case of the "St Ansano Altarpiece" (Fig. 3), a picture which we know to have been worked upon by both Simone and Lippo, but whose style is considered perfectly, or almost perfectly, homogenous. (12)


Despite the two artists' extremely close stylistic affinity, however, salient differences can be discerned between them, principally in their depiction of architectural structures and three-dimensional relationships and in their attitudes towards pictorial depth and surface pattern. I shall here concentrate on these differences--which have not, as yet, been sufficiently addressed--and consider them in relation to the composition of the Guidoriccio, for it is my contention that careful analysis of the fresco's design reveals certain modes of thought and visual expression habitual to Lippo Memmi but quite foreign to Simone Martini. (13)

Consider, to begin with, the representation of the battifolle (Fig. 12). Though delightfully imaginative, this reconstruction of a temporary siege fortress is structurally incoherent. It is unclear, for instance, how each of the two central towers is joined to the section of wall to its right: the walls should abut the forward faces of the towers, yet they slide out of sight behind. Equally unnerving is the spatial paradox whereby the sides of the two left-hand towers, notionally orientated at 90[degrees] to each other, are joined by a section of straight wall. (14) Clearly, the artist who unwittingly created this Escher-like effect did not really understand (or necessarily care) how right-angle planes intersect one another in three dimensions. The masonry course that skirts the fort's foundations gives cause for concern as well, and the two low towers that appear in the background are not logically related to the rest of the building. The battifolle, then, displays only a superficial appreciation of the 'perspectival' innovations made in Italy during the late Dugento and early Trecento. As a realistic construction it may be counted a failure, though it looks splendid as an emblematic fortress.


The spatial uncertainty which is so evident in the battifolle recurs in other parts of the painting. Below the belly of Guidoriccio's steed, one finds, rather surprisingly, a small glimpse of the wooden barricade (Fig. 5). This totally disrupts the imagined line of the horizon, resulting in a strange ambiguity of viewpoint. Similarly, different ground planes seem confused in the military encampment (Fig. 6): the rough, thatch shelters crowd together at conflicting angles, jostling and colliding in amongst the spears and banners as if, in the absence of any men, it were down to them to enact a battlefield skirmish.


There is at the heart of the Guidoriccio, therefore, a consistent indifference towards rigorous spatial coherence and structural solidity. Unfortunately, comparable examples of complex spatial relationships and architectural configurations are not plentiful in the Madonnas to which orthodox opinion limits Lippo's surviving oeuvre. The impressive form of the canopy that shelters the crowded gathering in his San Gimignano Maesta (Fig. 7) (15) can hardly be taken into consideration, since it derives in toto from Simone's example (Fig. 8). However, one glaring spatial inconsistency occurs here, despite the guidance of Simone's prototype: three of the poles held by the foreground saints define the foreground plane of the picture, but the fourth is drawn behind St Nicholas and the kneeling donor, Nello di Mino Tolomei. Apparently, Lippo decided not to include the pole in its rightful place because it would have partially obscured the figure of the donor and the scroll held by his patron saint. Thus, spatial rationality is sacrificed to compositional convenience. The form of the throne in this work is structurally unsound, as well (Fig. 9): the gables simply slide down behind the pinnacles in a way that echoes the somewhat disjointed construction of the battifolle's walls and towers. Compare this with the highly rational structure of the throne in Simone's Maesta (Fig. 10), where the gables are securely attached to the pinnacles--a comparison that encapsulates the difference between the two artists' abilities to conceive architectural form, especially considering that Lippo almost certainly worked as an assistant on Simone's fresco.


Paradoxical effects are present, too, in the 'Madonna del Latte' attributed to Lippo in the church of S Agostino, San Gimignano (Fig. 11). (16) The throne in this painting, which copies a standard early Trecento model, is relatively secure, but its relationship with the foreground architecture is incoherent. The throne is seen from directly in front, but the entablature and column capitals are seen from the left. Further problems abound towards the bottom of the picture. The side of the Virgin's footrest is drawn in at an acute angle to complement the perspective of the seat, but because the base of the throne is extended too far down, the footrest is made to seem sloped. And whereas the footrest is viewed from above, the bases of the colonnettes are seen from different heights, one at eyelevel, the other from fractionally below.


It has been necessary to draw attention to such 'errors' in order to demonstrate one aspect of the continuity of thought that exists between the Guidoriccio and the works of Lippo Memmi. Equally, though, this critical emphasis serves to highlight the differences between the Guidoriccio and the works of Simone Martin[, whose intuitive grasp of architectural form and spatial continuity was second to none (save Giotto). (17) One further example will suffice to show his ability in this respect. In The Miracle of the Child Saved from a Dog (Fig. 13), part of the Pala of Beato Agostino Novello, painted c. 1324, (18) Simone has visualised a group of buildings which is entirely coherent despite being immensely ambitious in its complexity. The composition may not be governed by any geometrical method, let alone any rule of perspective, yet the artist has been able to describe the structural significance of every plane. There is no ambiguity, no uncertainty, and no paradox. To compare this minor miracle of intuitive spatial reasoning with the confused and insubstantial battifolle is to comprehend the gap that separates the thinking of Simone from that of the painter of the Guidoriccio.


Closely allied to Simone's ability to think clearly in three dimensions is his tendency to conceive his compositions in depth. The stage he creates may frequently be shallow, but his figures always inhabit a well-defined spatial environment that has the potential to extend further into the background. In this he is distinct from Lippo Memmi, who tends to accentuate surface pattern at the expense of pictorial depth. A straight-forward comparison of their two Town Hal] Maestas adequately illustrates this difference (Figs. 7 and 8). Simone's communion of saints and angels seems to fill the ample space beneath the rectangular canopy, their heads and haloes forming gentle, arching lines that lead the eye back and around the celestial throne; in contrast, the isocephalic row of figures standing on either side of Lippo's Virgin forms a two-dimensional barrier. The alliance of Lippo's fresco with the surface plane of the wall is underscored by various additional means: the rigid symmetrical outline of the Virgin and the formal echo of the throne's triple gable in the folds of her dress; the repetitive stress upon horizontal and vertical elements, particularly in the central group; the careful centralisation of the Virgin's halo against the gable of the throne and its perfect coincidence with that of her son; and the strategic drawing of a curtain in front of the lateral sections of the throne, which might otherwise have hinted at a limited sense of pictorial depth. All these devices draw attention to the surface pattern of the work and hence compromise the illusion of space.

An identical tendency is discernible in the Guidoriccio. Perhaps the most notice able feature of the landscape is the way in which it stops abruptly at the line of the horizon, a line that runs continuously across the picture, descending the steep hill to the right, slipping momentarily into a ditch, dancing along the battlements of the battifolle, hopping onto the back of Guidoriccio's steed, and eventually sweeping up and over the town of Montemassi. Rather than marking the limits of the visible, this horizon-line defines the limits of the possible: it is the edge of a precipice that curtails the spatial potential of the fresco's world. Consequently, the little tents peeping up at the base of the right-hand hillside, superficially reminiscent of those in Simone's St Martin's Renunciation of Arms, (19) appear to be suspended in a void, quite unlike those in the Assisi fresco, which seem to be pitched firmly on unseen ground. This 'precipice effect' is most evident in the area of the battifolle, which balances precariously on top of its artificial mound in front of two 'floating' towers, intended, somewhat optimistically, to indicate the far side of the fortress.

It is worth contrasting the Guidoriccio with a landscape of Simone's. Though it is only a fraction of the size of the Palazzo Pubblico work, the Miracle of the Man who Fell off his Horse (Fig. 4), another of the Beato Agostino Novello panels, achieves a far greater sense of landscape depth, it does so by various means: paths and valleys twist into depth and out of sight; distant castles perch on top of increasingly distant mountains; and sunlit hillsides overlap with those in shadow. Crucially, the implicit horizon is placed low in the picture field, complementing the lateral view of the foreground scene. None of these effects is utilised in the Guidoriccio, though the artist obviously wished to create an expansive vista. Whereas Simone's small picture attempts, not unsuccessfully, to evoke the broad surface of the earth, the Guidoriccio adheres faithfully to the broad surface of the wall. (20)


This should not necessarily be taken as a criticism. In fact, the fresco's tremendous visual impact depends upon its flowing lateral composition and its bold use of abstracted pattern. At its centre is the spectacular figure of the horseman, a glorious panoply of line, shape and colour (Fig. 5). This equestrian group was conceived in the artist's mind not as a sculptural element but as a thorough-going two-dimensional motif. Consider especially the curving lines of heraldic lozenges that remain completely unforshortened: they do not respond to any folds in the fabric--as Simone's drapery patterns characteristically do--nor do they describe the three-dimensional form of the horse or of Guidoriccio's chest; they play their own game, creating an autonomous pattern that finds echoes throughout the painting. Note, for instance, how the prominent black curve that runs down the horse's neck is repeated immediately below in the sweep of the gualdrappa, is echoed in the line that unites Guidoriccio's sword with the lower rim of the gualdrappa, and is then inverted in the outline of the charger's hind quarters. This quasi abstract approach is developed further elsewhere in the composition. The battifolle, for example, is designed as an almost perfectly symmetrical motif, betraying the fact that it was not designed as a realistic building but as a decorative facade, a concertinaed abstraction inserted into the picture and supplied with two background towers as an afterthought.

The quintessence of Lippo Memmi's comparable, quasi abstract aesthetic is found in his Madonna del Latte in S Agostino (Fig. 11). The incomplete figure of St Michael and the dragon are here enclosed within an almost perfect oval formed by the outline of the angel's wing, the top of his halo, and the curved neck of his defeated foe. Originally, this elongated oval, itself perfectly aligned with the vertical of the colonnette, would have been cut precisely in half by the diagonal of the spear. Within the framework of these basic shapes, various linear rhythms cut back and forth across the figure: the inside edge of the wing, echoing the circular form of the halo, runs smoothly into the line of the stole; the liturgical bands fall from side to side, unforeshortened and unrumpled, creating a two-dimensional pattern analogous to that developed in the equestrian figure; and the vertical of the central band is deflected through the saint's foot into the twisting spine of the dragon, and thence back along the straight diagonal of the spear. This fantasy of form and line continues in the figure of the Virgin, and in her throne. A more exuberant display of two-dimensional compositional patterning would be hard to find--even the Guidoriccio seems sober by comparison. This particular type of compositional artifice is, at root, antithetical to a spatial conception of the picture: the determinant is surface pattern, not depth.


Simone's approach is entirely different, as a comparison with his Maesta (Fig. 8) once again makes clear. The linear rhythms he develops in this fresco, as in all his works, derive their fascination from their complexity and from their three-dimensional character. (21) Form and line are interdependent in Simone's art: bounded as they are by an infinite variety of outline, mere shapes never attain an autonomous existence. He is careful, also, to avoid the compositional repetitions so loved by Lippo. A telling detail is his depiction of the two angels on either side of the Madonna: he carefully differentiates their poses, alternating the folding of their arms, unlike Lippo, who, in his San Gimignano version, simply reflects the same figure. (22)

Ideally these broad stylistic arguments should be accompanied by strict morphological connections. As I have indicated, such a requirement is not easy to fulfil in this instance, for the simple reason that the subject of the Guidoriccio is entirely unrelated to the Madonnas that constitute Lippo's universally-accepted oeuvre--an unfortunate accident of history. But it is possible, nevertheless, to make one or two direct and telling comparisons. Most saliently, perhaps, the profile portrait of Guidoriccio (Fig. 14) may be compared with that of Nello di Mino Tolomei in Lippo's San Gimignano Maesta (Fig. 15). (23) Though the two men possess quite different physiognomies, the actual execution of their faces demonstrates a notable affinity: one may draw attention to the heavy laying in of shadow around the eye and cheek, the distinctive shaping of the nostril and the bridge of the nose, the emphatic relief given to the lips, and the slightly coarse handling of the whole. It is surely permissible to see in these two portraits the hand of a single painter. With them may be compared Simone Martini's exquisite portrayal of Cardinal Gentile da Montefiore at Assisi, which Joseph Polzer regards as the closest comparison to be made with the face of Guidoriccio. (24) In my view, this is clearly the work of a more refined and subtle draughtsman. (It may also be noted, in passing, that the striped cloak worn by Nello is strikingly similar in its two-dimensional effect to the flat field of Guidoriccio's costume).


A more surprising parallel, perhaps, can be drawn between Guidoriccio's hand holding the reins and the podgy fist of the Christ child holding a greenfinch in Lippo's celebrated Madonna del Popolo. (25) Though painted in different media, these two hands possess a very similar form and outline; the comparison is at least as close, I believe, as any adduced on behalf of Simone. (26)

Last but not least, there is the technical evidence. The rich texture of Guidoriccio's costume and the gualdrappa of his steed depends upon a sophisticated, and highly unusual, punching technique: a large square tool, comprising sixteen pyramidal 'teeth', was repeatedly applied to the wet intonaco (Fig. 16). It has been claimed in the past that this type of stamped decoration, and even the particular variety of punching tool used, can only be found in the works of Simone Martini. (28) However, this is not strictly accurate, since the technique was also employed by Lippo Memmi in his San Gimignano Maesta, where he used a punch motif closely related to that in the Guidoriccio. (29) Moreover, according to Cathleen Hoeniger, Lippo Memmi 'is the only [other] artist known to have used a similar motif on the wall'. (30) Since Lippo is known to have shared a workshop with his brother-in-law, there can in principle be no objection to the idea that he used the same tools as Simone. It should be borne in mind, as well, that Simone's set of punching tools would almost certainly have been left, either at his death or, more probably, at the time of his departure for Avignon, to his brother-in-law and professional colleague. (31) For these reasons, the observation that the stamped design most nearly identical to the one found in the Guidoriccio occurs in Simone's Maesta, (32) at the opposite end of the Sala del Mappamondo, is quite compatible with the idea that Lippo Memmi executed the equestrian portrait, it would suggest, perhaps, that Lippo consciously resurrected one of Simone's old tools after looking afresh at the Maesta, calculating that this would help promote the stylistic unity of the room's decoration.


There are, in addition, two further details of technique that connect the fresco to Lippo's oeuvre. Present in the costumes of Guidoriccio and his steed are complex motifs moulded into the intonaco, a procedure found only in the works of Lippo and Simone; (33) and the metallic trappings of the horse were originally made of tin, glazed with a colored varnish, a technique, once again, associated almost exclusively with 'i Memmi'. (34) Furthermore, Cathleen Hoeniger is of the opinion that 'the skill and imagination with which the relief work on the fresco is carried out, supports an attribution of at least these portions of the painting to Simone Martini or a skilled associate'. (35) The 'skilled associate' who springs immediately to mind is Lippo Memmi, a superb craftsman who had already used the techniques extensively in his own work, certainly in his San Gimignano Maesta, a fresco that Tintori has called 'unique in the range of handling of gold and tin leaf'. (36)

The implications of this reattribution are far-reaching. If accepted, it would, of course, provide new evidence regarding the date and historical significance of the Guidoriccio, and it would thus also have repercussions for our understanding of the development of fourteenth-century governmental iconography. Moreover, it would entail revising, to a certain extent, current estimations of Simone, his long overshadowed brother-in-law and the artistic relation between them. On the one hand, expunging the Guidoriccio from Simone's oeuvre opens the way to a reassessment of his mature style and prompts one to question certain traditional assumptions regarding the nature of his artistic significance--principally, the idea that he provides a lyrical, immaterial counterpoint to the relatively prosaic, realistic Lorenzetti. (37) On the other hand, to recognise in Lippo Memmi the author of this imposing and celebrated fresco is to abandon altogether the unduly influential characterisation of his manner as a rather feeble and monotonous imitation of Simone's. (38) It allows one to appreciate that the signs of energy and dramatic expression so evident in his San Gimignano Town Hall Maesta are not merely the result of an early aberration, as some scholars have tried to suggest, (39) but remained with in his repertoire, to be brought forth whenever appropriate. That this quality is rarely discerned in his other signed paintings is hardly surprising, given the restricted subject matter of those works. Most importantly, it may make it possible, following on the arguments of Peleo Bacci, Antonio Caleca, and Gaudenz Freuler, to confirm Lippo Memmi's authorship of the New Testament frescoes in San Gimignano's Collegiata (for example Fig. 17), frescoes which betray an extremely close stylistic relationship to the Guidoriccio. (40) The artistic stature of Lippo Memmi is ripe for reassessment; he is a painter whose fame has understandably been obscured by that of Simone, but whose art, on occasion, could be as impressive as anything produced in the fourteenth century.


The reattribution proposed here, then, should not affect our appreciation of the painting's intrinsic value. Painted by Lippo and not Simone, the Guidoriccio remains a superb work of art and a glorious monument to Siena's Golden Age. Its limitations, as we might perceive them, detract neither from its sense of latent drama, nor from its decorative beauty; indeed, they are essential components of its peculiarly expressive style.

This article derives from research that I undertook for my doctoral thesis, generously funded by the British Academy T. de Wesselow, The wall of the Mappamondo: the trecento decoration of the west wall of the gala del Mappamondo in Siena's Palazzo Pubblico, PhD thesis, Courtauld Institute of Art, London University, 2000 [2000a]. I would like to thank Joanna Cannon, Susie Nash, Evelyn Welch and Francis Ames-Lewis for reading and examining the thesis chapter upon which it is based. I would also like to thank Gordon Moran for discussing the topic with me on several occasions, Susanna Avery-Quash for reading a draft of this article, and David Ekserdjian for his sustained encouragement.

(1) The controversy has generated a large literature, much of it journalistic and relatively inaccessible. The following list includes only those books and scholarly articles which are essential for a full understanding of the issues involved: G. Moran, 'An investigation regarding the equestrian portrait of Guidoriccio da Fogliano in the Sienese Palazzo Pubblico', Paragone, vol. 28, 1977, pp. 81-88; F. Zeri, 'Guidoriccio due volte sfregiato', La stampa, 4 June 1981, p. 3 (reprinted in F. Zeti, L'inchiostro variopinto, 2nd edition, Milan, 1986, pp. 268-73); M. Mallory and G. Moran, 'Guidoriccio da Fogliano: A challenge to the famous fresco long ascribed to Simone Martini and the discovery of a new one in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena', Studies in Iconography, vol. 7-8, 1981-82, pp. 1-13; G. Moran, 'Guidoriccio da Fogliano: A controversy unfolds in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena', Studies in Iconography, vol. 7-8, 1981-82, pp. 14-20; M. Seidel, ' "Castrum pingatur in Palatio" 1: Ricerche storiche e iconographiche sui castelli dipinti nel Palazzo Pubblico di Siena', Prospettiva, vol. 28, 1982, pp. 17-41; L. Bellosi, ' "Castrum pingatur in palatio" 2: Duccio e Simone Martini pittori dei castelli senesi "a l'esemplo come erano" ', Prospettiva, vol. 28, 1982, pp. 41-65; J. Polzer, 'Simone Martini's Guidoriccio da Fogliano: A new appraisal in the light of a recent technical examination', Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, 1983, pp. 103-41; A. Wohl, "In Siena, an old masterpiece challenged, and a new one discovered', News from RILA, vol. 2, 1984, pp. 1, 4-5, 11; M. Mallory and G. Moran, 'Precisazione e aggiornamenti sul "caso" Guido Riccio', Bulletino senese di storia patria, vol. 92, 1985, pp. 334-43; eidem, 'A border incident in the war over Guidoriccio', Source, vol. 5, 1985, pp. 14-17; G. Ragioniere, Simone o non Simone, Florence, 1985; J. Polzer, 'The technical evidence and the origin and meaning of Simone Martini's Guidoriccio fresco in Siena', RACAR, vol. 12/2, 1985, pp. 143-48; M, Mallory and G. Moran, 'New evidence concerning Guidoriccio', Burlington Magazine, vol. cxxviii, 1986, pp. 250-56; G. Gavazzi, 'Technical report on the Guidoriccio fresco', Burlington Magazine, vol. cxxviii, 1986, pp. 256-59 (published as an appendix to the article by Mallory and Moran); A. Martindale, 'The problem of Guidoriccio', Burlington Magazine, vol. cxxviii, 1986, pp. 259-73; M. Mallory and G. Moran, 'Letter: the border of Guidoriccio', Burlington Magazine, vol. cxxix, 1987, p. 187; C. Strehlke, 'Niccolo di Giovanni Francesco Ventura e il Guidoriccio, Prospettiva, vol. 50, 1987, pp. 45-48; L. Bellosi: 'Ancora sul Guidoriccio', Prospettiva, vol. 50, 1987, pp. 49-55; J. Polzer, 'Simone Martini's Guidoriccio fresco: The polemic concerning its origin reviewed and the fresco considered as serving the military triumph of a Tuscan commune', RACAR, vol. 14/1-2, 1987, pp. 16-69; P. Torriti, 'La parete del Guidoriccio', in L. Bellosi (ed.), Simone Martini: Atti del Convegno, Florence, 1988, pp. 87-95; G. Gavazzi, 'Esperienze sul restauro del Guidoriccio', in L. Bellosi (ed.), Simone Martini: Atti del Convegno, Florence, 1988, p. 97; H. Maginnis, 'The Guidoriccio controversy: notes and observations', RACAR, vol. 15/2, 1988, pp. 137-44; F. Zeri, 'Ma io credo che questa sin la solo spiegazione plausiblle', Giornale dell'arte, September 1988, pp. 4-5; P. Torriti, 'Letter', Burlington Magazine, vol. cxxxi, 1989 pp. 485-86; M. Mallory and G. Moran, 'The Guido Riccio controversy and resistance to critical thinking', Syracuse Scholar, Spring 1991, pp. 39-63 [1991a]; eidem, 'Letter', Burlington Magazine, vol. cxxxiii, 1991, p. 37 [1991b]; T. de Wesselow, 'The decoration of the west wall of the Sala del Mappamondo in Siena's Palazzo Pubblico', in Art, politics and civic religion in central Italy, 1261-1352, Courtauld research papers 1, Aldershot, 2000, pp. 19-68, [2000b].

(2) See Bellosi, op. cit in n. 1 above (1982), pp. 52-56; Polzer, op. cit in n. 1 above (1983), pp. 112-20; Bellosi, op. cit in n. 1 above (1987), pp. 49-50; and Torriti, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1988). While Bellosi and Torriti concentrate on morphological similarities, Polzer provides a detailed discussion of the painting's composition, though one conditioned by his prior conviction that it must be by Simone c. 1330 and must, therefore, stylistically complement his other work around that date.

(3) For example, consider the following remark, made in relation to the so-called 'New Fresco' discovered in 1980 on the wall immediately below the Guidoriccio: 'the multiple attributions for the fresco discovered in 1980 might well lead to confusion among scholars and even to distrust on the part of younger scholars of the traditional methodology of connoisseurship' (M. Mallory and G. Moran, 'The Guido Riccio Controversy in Art History' in Confronting the experts, ed. B. Martin, New York, 1996, pp. 131-54, at p. 149). For further questioning of the value of stylistic analysis, see eidem, op. cit in n. 1 above (1981-82), p. 18; and eidem, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1991a), p. 41.

(4) I shall hem avoid any discussion of the date of the Guidoriccio, a topic I shall address fully on another occasion (see, for the moment, de Wesselow, op. cit. above (2000a), pp. 80-98; idem, op. cit. in n. 1 above (2000b), pp. 25 30). Suffice it to say that I am convinced it is a genuine work of the fourteenth century.

(5) In his original article of 1977, Moran mentioned a couple of atists, Buonocorso di Pace and Giovanni di Sera, both of whom were employed on the painting of "coverte, bandiere, penoni, sopraveste, schudi, e altre cose' for the funeral of Guidoriccio in 1352, half-heartedly suggesting that they might have had a hand in the fresco (see Moran, op. cit in n. 1 above (1977), p. 84). Zeri hazarded two names: first of all, he seems to have made a verbal attribution of the work to Martino di Bartolomeo (reported in Ragioniere, op. cit. in n. 1 above p. 38, where it is reported neutrally, and in Torriti, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1988), p. 90, where it is rebuffed); later, he opted for Ambrogio Lorenzetti as author of the equestrian group itself (sec Zeri, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1988), p. 4; and Torriti, op. cit in n. 1 above (1989), p. 486 for counter-arguments). From idem, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1988), p. 87 it seems that members of the Nasini family of painters have also been suggested, attempting to corroborate a 17th or 18th century, date for the fresco.

(6) Idem, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1989), p. 486. Torriti's frustration is clearly felt in his response to Zeri's suggestion that the fresco might have been painted by Martino di Bartolomeo. Though he disagrees, he is evidently relieved to be joining a stylistic debate: 'cosi entriamo nel campo della critica pura, una critica positiva, adottata da sempre alla ricerca della verita. Sono questi i normali studi che gli specialisti di critica d'atte svolgono ... solo con questi metodi si fa storia dell'arte' (idem, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1988), p. 90).

(7) Lippo Memmi's career has yet to receive adequate monographic treatment. The most significant publication so far is B. Bennett, Lippo Memmi, Simone Martini's 'Fratello-in-arte': The image revealed by, his documented works, PhD thesis, Pittsburgh University, 1977 (published London, 1979), though this has serious limitations (see n. 8 below). See also R. van Marie, The Italian schools of painting, The Hague, 1924, vol. H, pp. 251-74; P. Toesca, Storia dell'arte Italiana, 1: il Trecento, 3. vols., Turin, 1951, vol. In, pp. 549-54; E. Carli, 'Ancora dei Memmi in San Gimignano', Paragone, vol. 14, 1963, pp. 27-44; B. Cole, Sienese painting from its origins to the 15th Century, New York, 1980, pp. 98-100; E. Carli, La pittura senese del trecento, Venice, 1981, pp. 120 22; A. Martin dale, Simone Martini, Oxford, 1988, pp. 55-64; and C. De Benedictis, 'Lippo Memmi,' in Enciclopedia dell'arte medievale, vol. VII, Milan, 1996, pp. 731-36. For articles that present an alternative view of Lippo, see n. 9 below.

(8) In the past, many scholars have considered Lippo's style to be a known quantity, equating 'the image revealed by his documented works' (to quote the subtitle of Bennett's thesis) with a rounded understanding of his artistic output, which it is very unlikely to be. Consider, for instance, the image of Giotto that would be revealed by an exclusive study of his signed or 'documented' works: left out of consideration would be every fresco currently regarded as his and such masterpieces on panel as the Ognissanti Madonna and the Arena Chapel Crucifix; Giotto would be represented instead only by the Bologna polyptych, the Louvre Stigmatisation, and the Baroncelli Coronation of the Virgin--an entirely unrepresentative sample of his work.

(9) For strong arguments in favour of Lippo Memmi's identification with the fictitious 'Barna', see P. Bacci, 'Il Barna o Berna, pittore della Collegiata di San Gimignano, e mai esistito?', La balzana, vol. 20, 1927, pp. 249-53; A. Caleca, 'Tre polittici di Lippo Memmi, un ipotesi sul Barna e la bottega di Simone e Lippo, 1', Critica d'arte, vol. 150, 1976, pp. 49-59; Idem, 'Tre polittici di Lippo Memmi, un ipotesi sul Barna e la bottega di Simone e Lippo, 2', Ctitica d'arte, vol. 151, 1977, pp. 55-80; M. Boskovits, 'Il gotico senese rivisitato: proposte e commenti su una mostra', Arte Cristiana, vol. 71, 1983, pp. 259-76, at pp. 264-5; G. Freuler, 'Lippo Memmi's New Testament Cycle in the Collegiata in San Gimignano', Arte cristiana, vol. 74, 1986, pp. 93-102; A. Caleca 'Quei che resta del cosidetto "Barna" ', in Bellosi (ed.), op. cit. in n. 1 above (1988), pp. 183 85; and M. Frinta, 'Stamped haloes in the Maesta of Simone Martini', in Bellosi (ed.), op. cit. in n. 1 above (1988), pp. 159-45, at pp. 143-44. The reasons for supposing Barna to be fictitious are effectively presented in G. Moran, 'Is the annie "Barna" an incorrect transcription of the name Bartolo?', Paragone, vol. 27/1, 1976, pp. 76-77. (It should be noted, however, that Moran favours the idea that 'Barna" should be identified with Lippo's brother, Tederico--an artist who is documented but whose style is entirely unknown.)

(10) Documentary proof that Simone and Lippo shared the same workshop in the early 1330s, at least, is provided by their jointly signed 1333 'St Ansano Altarpiece', payment for which was made to both Simone and Lippo (for the documentation, see P. Bacci, Fonti e commenti per la storia dell'arte sanese, Siena, 1944, pp. 168-72). For a detailed discussion of the professional basis of the relationship between Lippo and Simone, see Bennett, op. cit., pp. 212-47, esp. pp. 235-47. See also Previtali's introduction to A. Bagnoli and L. Bellosi eds., Simone Martini e 'chompagni', (exh. cat. Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale), Florence, 1985, pp. 11-32, especially pp. 12, 27-28; and H. Maginnis, The world of the early Sienese painter, Pennsylvania, 2001, pp. 90-92. For additional technical evidence of their earlier collaboration, see L. Tintori, "Golden Tin in Sienese Murals of the Early Tre cento', Burlington Magazine, vol. cxxiv, 1982, pp. 94-95, at p. 95; and C. Hoeniger, The painting technique of Simone Martini, PhD thesis, Princeton University, 1989 [published London, 1990], pp. 82, 123.

(11) G. Milanesi (ed.), Giorgio Vasari, Le vile de piu eccellenti architetti, pittori e scultori italiani (1568), Florence, 1878, vol. 1, pp. 558-59.

(12) For the most recent contributions to this debate, see J. Polzer, 'Symon Martini et Lippus Memmi me Pinxerunt', in Bellosi (ed.), op. cit. in n. 1 above (1988), pp. 167-73; and M. Boskovits, 'Sul trittico di Simone Martini e di Lippo Memmi', Arte cristiana, vol. 74, 1986, pp. 69-78. Current opinion is characterised by Maginnis thus: 'long-standing debates have ended in tacit agreement that we cannot separate Lippo's contribution from Simone' s' (Maginnis, op. cit. in n. 10 above, p. 92). The stylistic distinctions to be proposed in the present article, though, may assist in furthering the debate.

(13) It should be noted that the entire left-hand third of the fresco has been completely refabricated (see Gavazzi, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1986), p. 256). The depiction of the hill-town, therefore, is not original and cannot be included in the present discussion. I agree with Bellosi's attribution of this repainting to Taddeo di Bartolo (see Bellosi, op. cit in n. I above (1987), pp. 52-54).

(14) Polzer, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1987), pp. 65-66, similarly criticises the spatial construction of the battifolle, but does not explain how this connects it with the art of Simone Martini.

(15) For this fresco, see Bennett, op. cit. in n. 7 above, pp. 57 77; Mostra di open' d'arte restaurate nelle province di Siena e Grosseto, 3 vols, Genoa, 1979 83, vol. II, pp. 24 25; and H. Riedl, Das Maesta-Bild in der Sieneser Malerei des Trecento: unter besonderer Berucksichtiging der Darstellung im Palazzo comunale von San Giminagno, Tubingen, 1991, pp. 51 67.

(16) For this fresco, see Bennett, op. cit in n. 7 above, pp. 100-105. It is datable to the early part of his career, almost certainly before 1327.

(17) It is received wisdom that Simeon rather lagged behind the Lorenzetti in his ability to construct a convincing pictorial space (cf. K. Christiansen, Painting in Renaissance Siena, New York, 1988, p. 4: 'The Lorenzetti brothers had been innovators in pictorial perspective and illusionism, while Simone Martini had provided the model that was to become the International Gothic style') Without denying the spatial ambition of many of the Lorenzetti's compositions, I would argue that Simone's achievements in this regard have been undervalued, partly as a result of misattributions The questionable ascription to him of the Guidoriccio itself has helped foster this general perception (see also n. 36 below).

(18) For this work, see A. Bagnoli and M. Seidel, 'Cat. No. 7: Il Beato Agostino Novelle e quattro suoi miracoli', in Bagnoli and Bellosi (eds.) op. cit. n. 10 above (1985), pp. 56 72; and Martindale, op. cit in n. 7 above (1988), p. 213. Although not documented, the date of this painting is now generally accepted as being c. 1324, i.e. a few years before Simone Martini is supposed by many to have designed the Guidoriccio and its structurally incoherent battifolle. There is no justification, in my opinion, for the view that Lippo Memmi contributed substantially to the execution of these panels (for this idea, see Bagnoli and Seidel, op. cit., p. 60; and Previtali, op. cit, in n 10 above (1985) p. 27).

(19) This is one of the frescoes from the St Martin chapel in the Lower Church of S Francesco in Assisi. These paintings are now usually dated to the second decade of the century, perhaps contemporaneously with Simone's Palazzo Pubblico Maesta (see Martindale, op. cit. in n. 7 above (1988), pp. 21 22; and A. Bagnoli, 'I tempi della Maesta, in Bellosi fed.), op. cit. in n. 1 above (1988), p. 114). The comparison noted here has been emphasised in Bellosi, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1982), p. 53; Polzer, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1983), pp. 119 20; and Torriti, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1988), p 91.

(20) Polzer, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1983), pp. 113 14, similarly stresses the planar quality of the Guidoriccio's composition: 'A wave-like rhythm prevails, following the plane of the wall ... a two-dimensional effect predominates in the extended silhouette of the landscape and its architecture ...' He fails, however, to relate this effect to other compositions by Simone; indeed, he actually calls attention to the very different spatial character of Simone's compositions, with the significant exception of fine 1333 Annunciation, which was painted, of course, in conjunction with Lippo Memmi: 'At the beginning of his known career, in the Maesta, the frescoes from the St Martin Chapel, and the predella panels of the Naples Saint Louis altarpiece, Simone was more concerned with architecture used as a spatial determinant, defining coherent volumes into which his figures are inserted Latin on, in the thirties, this spatial concern is played down. On the main panel of the Uffizi Annunciation an immaterial ground prevails; the composition is essentially linear and lateral ... the Guidoriccio fresco leans towards the flatter two-dimensional character of Simone's and Lippo's Annunciation of 1333'.

(21) As Bennett says, 'Simone's line is never so simple and always more interesting' (Bennett, op. cit. in n. 7 above (1979), p 105).

(22) This significant difference is noted in ibid., p. 71.

(23) It has been mooted by Cathleen Hoeniger that Nello's tare and those of the Virgin and Child might have been painted by Memmo di Filipuccio, a suggestion based solely upon their supposedly old fashioned secco technique (Hoeniger, op. cit. in n. 10 above (1990), p. 296, note 62). However, the secco technique could just as well have been used by Lippo himself, and on stylistic grounds I find it impossible to attribute these areas of the painting to Memmo. For a discussion of Memmo's role, if any, in the painting, see Bennett, op. cit. in n. 7 above (1979), pp. 57-62.

(24) See Polzer, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1983), p. 117. For a good illustration of this portrait, see Martindale, op. cit. in n. 7 above (1988), plate 24.

(25) For this work, see Bennett, op. cit. in n. 7 above (1979), pp. 110-16; and Bagnoli and Bellosi (eds.) op. cit. in n. 10 above (1985), pp 86-87.

(26) For comparisons with hands painted by Simone, see Bellesi, op. cit in n. 1 above (1981), p. 54; Poker, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1983), p. 117; and Torriti, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1988), p. 91. Since Lippo shared an essentially identical technique with Simone, the observations these authors make regarding the brushwork are compatible with an attribution to Lippo.

(27) See Hoeniger, op. cit. in n. 10 above (1990), p. 322; and L. Tintori, Ricerche tecniche sul Guido Riccio e gli altri affreschi nella Sala del Mappamondo del Palazzo Pubblico di Siena, typescript, 1979 pp 17-18 (copy available in the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence).

(28) See G. Dillon, 'Guidoriccio the pasticcio', Giornale dell'arte, 21, March 1985, pp. 3-4, at p. 4; L. Bellosi, 'Zeri e i falsi', Giornale dell'arte, vol. 59, September 1988, p. 4; and Torriti, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1988), p. 91.

(29) See Hoeniger, op. cit. in n. 10 above (1990), p. 322, note 105; and Polzer, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1985), p 145. As Polzer says, 'one should realise that the use of the motif punch in fresco painting was restricted to the Italian proto Renaissance and within the period, with the fewest possible exceptions, to the circle of Simone Martini, Lippo Memmi and Barna'.

(30) Hoeniger, op. cit. in n. 10 above (1990), p. 322.

(31) See ibid., pp. 68, 115 16. Simone left Siena for Avignon in 1336: see J Rowlands, 'The date of Simone Martini's arrival in Avignon', Burlington Magazine, vol. evil, 1965, pp. 25-26.

(32) See Hoeniger, op. cit. in n. 10 above (1990), p. 322, note 105; and Polzer, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1985), p. 144.

(33) See Hoeniger, op. cit. in n. 10 above (1990), p. 322.

(34) See Tintori, op. cit. in n. 10 above (1982); Polzer, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1987), p 23; and Hoeniger, op. cit. in n. 10 above (1990), p. 286.

(35) Ibid, pp 323-24

(36) Tintori, op. cit. in n. 10 above (1982), p. 94. For the technique of this fresco, see also Hoeniger, op. cit. in n. 10 above (1990), pp. 293 98.

(37) This misleading distinction, a general assumption among many scholars of Sienese art, is repeated by Polzer in one of his articles on the Guidoriccio, where it functions as a key compositional justification for the attribution of the work to Simone: 'As is well known, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, within this setting, evolved toward a more unified natural language, whereas the later Simone Martini was very much absorbed with the immaterial, the precious and the formal' (Polzer; op. cit. in n. 1 above (1983), p. 115). See also n. 17 above.

(38) Cf. Toesca, op. cit. in n. 7 above (1951), p. 551: 'Le opere certe del Memmi sono d'ispirazione delicata ma monotona, spesso stanca ...'

(39) For example, Polzer has said, 'The problematic appearance of a heavy dramatic linear style evident in the male saints of the 1317 Maesta seems to have no bearing on the subsequent artistic career of Lippo since it is not evident thereafter (Polzer, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1988), p. 173, note 4); while Volpe, faithful to Toesca's formulation, stresses 'la quieta statura poetica e le paziente meditazione di Lippo Memmi, anche sea lui accordiamo il merito del vigore dimostrato ai suoi inizi nel 1317' [my italics] (C. Volpe, ' "Barna" (Federico Memmi?)', in G. Chelazzi Dini (ed.), Il Gotico a Siena: Miniature, pitture, oreficerie oggetti d'arte, exh. cat., (Palazzo Pubblico, Siena), Florence, 1982, pp 186-87) there is an implicit admission in these statements that if the orthodox view of Lippo Memmi is to be upheld, then his most important public commission, and the only 'documented' work in which he was able to include full-length saints, has to be bracketed out of the picture.

(40) For a brief analysis of the affinity between the Guidoriccio and the Barna frescoes, see de Wesselow, op. cit., in n. 1 above (2000b), p. 30. In this regard, Polzer has made a particularly interesting observation: 'It is worth noting that [Barna] ... used a type of punch for rendering the relief of the coat of mail of certain soldiers, which resembles the design evident on the armour of Guidoriccio'. (Polzer, op. cit. in n. 1 above (1985), p. 145). This distinctive technique, it may be noted, is found nowhere in the accredited work of Simone Martini.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Apollo Magazine Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:de Wesselow, Thomas
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Mar 1, 2004
Previous Article:Diary: February 2004.
Next Article:Oh monstrous lamp! Wendy Bird examines the special effects in Goya's a scene from El Hechizado por Fuerza in the National Gallery, London.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |