John the Baptist, Anthony Abbot (Benedict), Stephen (Leonard), and Jerome (S. Maria Nuova Altarpiece)
Florence, Uffizi, no. 3190.
Panel, 172 x 141.1
Except for a few very small losses, a scratch through the body and knee of the right angel, a crack in the panel at the lower left and another in the neck of St. Jerome, the picture appears very well preserved. Some darkening of the surface has been caused by discolored varnish and dirt. (The Tau on the front of St. Anthony’s garment and the stone above St. Stephen’s forehead would seem to be later additions, on which see below.) Incisions are visible in the gesso ground of the panel to mark the horizontal edges of the steps and the horizontal and vertical edges of the pedestal above which the Virgin is placed, and the pattern of the pavement. The incision for the top of the pedestal goes through the top of the angels’ heads.
St. John has red hair. His mantle, that falls over his left shoulder, down his back, and covers the lower half of his body, is rose violet becoming dark wine red in the shadows and increasingly white in the highlights. The sash across his chest is a light blue green, turning dark olive green where it falls straight down on the left side of his torso. Throughout this piece of drapery are lightly brushed passages of pink lavender. His fur and hide tunic is dark olive-green with passages of brown orange; the sash is a dark dull green. His flesh tends towards an ashen olive tone touched with reddish orange. St. Anthony (originally Benedict), with gray hair and beard, is dressed in black, with a Tau on the front of his garment. The Virgin’s dress is violet highlighted with pink; the shadows on it are gray-plum violet. A part of this garment is also visible above her left foot. The sash at her waist is red-orange. The sleeves from the elbow to wrist are yellow with tan shadows. Her mantle is a dark blue-green. The drapery over her head is lavender with touches of blue-green in the white highlights. St. Stephen (Leonard), with a stone set above the blood on his forehead, wears the garment of a deacon with bands of dark red bordered with tan. This same red, possibly belonging to a skirt, appears alongside St. Jerome’s right leg. St. Stephen may be holding something in his right hand that looks like a black bar (a fetter originally belonging to St. Leonard?). St. Jerome wears a gray-white tunic visible at his waist, and a mantle of dark olive green, his costume related to his life as an anchorite reflecting his admiration of the first generation of the Desert Fathers. His hair is gray with touches of lavender. The cover of the book he holds is green, the book itself indicative of his life as a scholar and as the translator of the Old and New Testaments. The angel seated at the left has reddish hair; his wing is gray at the top and yellow below. The other angel has blond hair; his wing is red at the top and dark gray below. The background of the picture is dull green; the cloth of honor with a design of pomegranates, another fruit, leaves, and crowns is dark ochre simulating gold. The pavement is yellow and tan.
DOCUMENTS: The commission of this altarpiece from Leonardo Buonafede, the head and rector of the Hospital of S. Maria Nuova acting as the executor of the will of Francesca de Ripoi is found in the following document of 30 January 1517 (1518 mod. st.): A.S.F., Notarile antecosimiano, C. 660 (ser Alfonso di Ser Bartolomeo Corsi, 1517–1521), c. 10r.–v:
30 January 1517 (1518 mod. st.). [In the margin: “Promissio.”] “Item dictis anno, indictione et die XXX mensis januarii . Actum ubi supra [=Florentie, in populo Sancte Marie in Champo], presentibus Francisco Vannis de Strozziis cive florentino, et Johanne Bernardi alias Falanguilla et Benedicto Piggielli de Portinaris cive florentino, testibus etc. “Iohannes Baptista alias el Rosso, filius olim Jacobi Ghasparis de Florentia, pictor populi Sancti Marci de Florentia, sponte etc., per se et suos heredes etc., et omni meliori modo etc., promisit et solemni stipulatione convenit Reverendo domino Leonardo Bonefidei, hospitalario et rectori hospitalis Sancte Marie Nove de Florentia, heredi domine Francisce vidue uxoris olim Magnifici viri domini Aloysii de Ripoi Valentiani et filie Magnifici viri domini Benedicti Filippi Falcone Chatelani ibidem presenti et recipienti etc., construere et facere in ecclesia omnium Sanctorum de Florentia unam tabulam pro altari construendo in dicta ecclesia iuxta formam et tenorem testamenti conditi per dictam dominam Franciscam, sub titulo et cum [10v] immagine beati Johannis Baptiste et ab alia parte cum immagine Sancti Hyeronimi, Sancti Leonardi et Sancti Benedicti et in media cum immagine beate Marie Virginis, ornatam et fulcitam auro et aliis ornamentis requisitis et prout asseruerunt de tali ornamento fiendo partes predicte esse in concordia; quam tabulam facere promisit ut supra dictus Johannes Baptista per totum mensen Junii prosime futuri, anni etiam proxime futuri 1518, sine aliqua exceptione, et eam perfectam et finitam relinquere in dicta ecclesia per totum dictum tempus et mensem Junii proxime futuri ad instantiam dicti domini Leonardi. Qui dominus Leonardus promisit et dicta Johanne Baptiste presenti etc., postquam finitam et perfectam reliquerit tabulam predictam in dicta ecclesia ad instantiam dicti domini Leonardi, eidem Johanni Baptiste solvere summan florenorum XXV auri largorum in aura, sine aliqua exceptione. Cum pacto etc. quod si predicta infra dictum tempus non adimpleverit et non observaverit, teneatur ed debeat, et sic promisit etc. dictus Johannes Baptista dicto domino Leonardo presenti etc., restituere dicto domino Leonardo omne id totum et quicquid ille tunc et usque in dictum tempus perceperit et habuerit a dicto domino hospitalario occaxione dicte tabule construende ut supra. Et in ditto casu liceat et licitum sit dicto domino Leonardo hospitalario construi facere dictam tabulam alteri magistro cui placuerit; et in dicto casu omne id totum et quicquid expendiderit dictus dominus Leonardo ultra dictus florenos XXV auri largos in auro dictus Johannes Baptista restituere teneatur dicta domino Leonardo, et sic promisit etc. et ipsum dominum Leonardum a predictis conservare indemnem et penitus sine damno. Que omnia etc. promisit etc. attendere etc., sub pena florenorum 50 largorum etc., que etc., qua etc., pro quibus etc., obligans etc. etiam in pleniori forma camere et cum iuramento et cum clausulis consuetis. Renuntians etc. Quibus etiam per guarantigiam etc. Roganus etc.”2
Rosso on 30 January 1518 (modern style), 27 March 1518, 3 April 1518, and 19 June 1518, totaling 16 large florins are recorded in: A.S.F., Archivio dell’Arcispedale di S. Maria Nuova, 5091, Quadernuccio di cassa 1516–18, fol. 80v: G[i]ovanbatista di Iacopo di Guaspare, vocato Rosso, dipintore, de’dare adi 30 di genaio [ = 1517 (modern style 1518)] fiorini sei d’oro in oro, portò lui detto chonttanti, sono per parte d’una tavola dipigne per conto di madona Franzina chatelana f.6.
E adì 27 di marzo 1518 fiorini dua d’oro, portò lui detto chonttanti f.2.
E adì III d’aprile 1518 lire ventuna di piccioli, portò lui detto chonttanti f.3.
E adì XVIII di g[i]ugno 1518 fiorini cinque d’oro, portò lui detto chonttanti f.5.
Anne [ = ne ha ] dato fiorini 16 d’oro, per tanti messi a uscita segnata F, a carta 283, in deto f.16.3
A record of the total payment of 16 large florins is recorded on 8 October 1518 in: A.S.F., Archivio dell’Arcispedale di Santa Maria Nuova, 4535, Registro Uscita F 1516–18, fol. 283v: mercholedì adi VII d’ottobre 
A G[i]ovanbatista di Jacopo Guaspare, vocato Rosso, dipintore, fiorini sedici d’oro in oro, portò ichonttanti in più volte; al quaderno segnato F, c.80, per conto d’una tavola. d’altare à dipinta, chome sa messere nostro mag[gi]ore; a libro giallo segnato F, c. 427 f.16.4
The sum of 16 florins is again recorded on 13 October 1518 along with a fine of 1 florin 4 soldi paid in 1525 to the Arte degli Speziali in: A.S.F., Archivio dell’Arcispedale di S. Maria Nuova, 5887, Debitori e Creditori Maestro Giallo F 1516–18, fol. 427r-v:
Giovan Batista di Iacopo di Guasparre, vocato Rosso dipintore, de’dare adì XIII d’ottobre 1518 fiorini sedici d’oro in oro larghi, portò contanti in più volte, come apare al quadernuccio del camarlingho F, c.80; sono per conto d’una tavola d’altare à dipinta, come sa messer nostro maggiore; a uscita F, c.283f._____ f.16____
[in a different hand] E addì XXIIII di marzo 1524 [modern style 1525] lire VIII s.VII d.VII piccioli, per lui a Girolamo d’Iacopo, nostro rischotitore, posto avera a libro biancho J a c.34, sono per tanti à paghati in sino adì XIIII di febraio 1524 [ = 1525] al’Arte degli Speziali, per sentenza e richiamo datogli sopra a detti fiorini XVI d’oro in oro, roghato ser Giova’Batista da Ter[r]anuova____f.1 s.4__
Giova Batista di contro de’avere per tanti posto dare a libro T secondo, c. 34_____f.17 s.4___5
The fine paid to the Arte degli Speziali is again recorded in: A.S.F., Archivio dell’Arcispedale di S. Maria Nuova, 5890, Debitori e Creditori, Maestro Bianco I 1524–35, Fol. 34: avere:
Girolamo d’Iachopo, barbiere e nostro ministro, de’avere … E addì XXIIII detto [ = March 1524, modern style 1525] lire VIII soldi VII denari VII piccioli, per lui da Giovanfrancesco [sic] d’Iachopo, dipintore; posto dare a libro gialo segnato F, a c.427; sono per ispese datogli al’Arte degli Speziali, per sentenza f.1 s.4.6
The selection on 3 November 1518 of Giuliano Bugiardini and Francesco Granacci as arbitrators of a dispute between Leonardo Buonafede and Rosso over the picture that the latter painted for the former is recorded in: A.S.F., Notarile antecosimiano, C. 660 (ser Alfonso di Ser Bartolommeo Corsi, 1517–1521). cc. 82v–83r:
[In margin: “Compromissum.”] “Item postea, dictis anno, indictione et die tertia mensis novembris. Actum Florentie, in populo Sancte Marie in Champo, presentibus Filippo Bartholomei cive florentino et Hyeronimo magistri Angeli alias Chozzoncino, testibus etc.
“Reverendus pater dominus Leonardus Bonefidei, hospitalarius et rector hospitalis Sancte Marie Nove de Florentia, et ut hospitalarius et rector predictus et omni meliori modo etc. ex parte una, et Johannes Baptista [lacuna] alias el Rosso, pictor populi Sancti Marci de Florentia, per se et suos heredes etc. et omni meliori modo etc., ex patee alia, generaliter omnes et singular dictarum partium dictis modis et nominibus lites etc. inter dictas partes dictis modis et nominibus vertentes occaxione cuiusdam tabule picte per dictum Johannem Baptistam ad instantiam dicti domini Leonardi et ad quam pingendam et faciendam dictus Johannes Baptista se obligavit per publicum instrumentum inde confectum manu mei notarii infrascripti, et de omnibus et singulis dependentibus et connexis ab ea et eis, compromiserunt etc. et de eis compromissum tam generale quam speciale fecerunt etc. in prudentes viros Julianum [lacuna] de Bugiardinis et Franciscum [lacuna] de Granacciis, pictores, ambos in concordia, dantes etc. baliam etc. laudandi etc., de jure et de facto etc., et de jure tantum et de facto tantum etc., diebus feriatis etc., sedendo etc., alte et basse etc., semel et pluries et totiens quotiens dictis arbitris et arbitratoribus ambobus in concordia libere videbitur et placebit. Promictentes etc. stare et parere omni laudo etc. et non appellare etc., nec petere quad reducatur ad arbitrium boni viri, sub pena florenorum quinquaginta largorum etc., que pena etc., qua pena etc., pro quibus etc., obligantes etc., renuntiantes etc., quibus etc., per guarantigiam etc. Rogantes etc.
“Et durare voluerunt hoc compromissum per totam diem quindecimam presentis mensis novembris. Rogantes etc.”7
The payment of 6 November 1518 to the notary Alfonso Corsi for drafting the summons handed to Rosso regarding the arbitration of his dispute with Buonafede is recorded in: A.S.F., Archivio dell’Arcispedale di S. Maria Nuova, 5092, Quaderno di Cassa 1518–20, fol. 4 left:
Spese di nostro spedale deono dare…E adi VI detto [November 1518] soldi XIIII piccioli, portò ser Alfonso nostro notaio chonttanti, disse per far fare uno chomandamento a Batista di Jacopo detto Rosso dipintore, y.14 [soldi 14].
A payment from Leonardo Buonafede, probably of the mid-1520’s, of 10 florins to Ridolfo Ghirlandaio for a frame for Rosso’s painting in the church of S. Stefano at Grezzano is recorded in: A.S.F., Archivio dell’Arcispedale di S. Maria Nuova, 5887, Debitori e Creditori, Maestro Giallo F, 1516–18, fol. 464 dare (left) :
Chiesa di Santo Istefano a Ghrezano di mugelo de’dare…E de’dare fiorini X d’oro in oro per lei a Ridolfo del Grilandaio, portò chontanti, al quadernucio segnato C, ac.26, di messer Leonardo buonafè, sono per l’adornamento d’una tavola averla fatta Rosso dipintore; posto avere Leonardo a libro biancho I, c. 307,fiorini.10.9
The payment to Ridolfo Ghirlandaio is also recorded in: A.S.F., Archivio dell’Arcispedale di Santa Maria Nuova, 5890, Debitori e Creditori, Maestro Bianco I, 1524–1535, fol. 307 avere (left, but a credit):
Messer Lionardo di Giovanni buonafè nostro magiore de’avere… E de’avere fiorini X d’oro in oro, per noi a Ridolfo del Grilandaio, e a lui per chiesa di Santo Stefano a Grezano, posto dare a libro Giallo segnato F. ac. 474, — fiorini 10.10
PROVENANCE: Rosso’s altarpiece was painted for an altar that was to be built in the church of Ognissanti according to the wishes of a Catalan widow, Francesca de Ripoi, as expressed in her wills of 1516 and 1517.11 In a codicil of 2 May 1517 she specified a chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist to be completed in Ognissanti within six months of her death, which occurred a few days later (before 6 May 1517). The friars of Ognissanti conceded a chapel in their church to the executor of Francesca’s will and her universal heir, Leonardo Buonafede, and to the Hospital of S. Maria Nuova, of which he was the head and rector, on 18 March 1518 (a month and a half after Rosso’s altarpiece was commissioned). In the document recording this concession the location of the chapel, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is specified as “a latere dextro dicte cappelle maioris, hoc est inter cappellam maiorem et aliam cappellam positam in angulo dicte ecclesie versum sacristam” (at the right side of the main chapel, that is between the main chapel and the chapel placed in that corner of the church toward the sacristy).12 Although the sacristy of Ognissanti is now at the far left of the main altar, it would seem from the document of 1518 that at that time it was at the right, situating Francesca de Ripoi’s chapel immediately to the right of the high altar. (The church was completely reconstructed just before the middle of the seventeenth century).13However, it cannot be determined if Rosso’s altarpiece was ever placed on the altar of this chapel. Because of Buonafede’s discontent with it (see below) it is likely that it never was. In 1550 Vasari makes no mention of it having been in Ognissanti. By the mid-1520s it was most likely in the church of S. Stefano at Grezzano, outside Borgo San Lorenzo in the Mugello, which was a benefice of S. Maria Nuova. It would have been for this location that St. Leonard was changed to St. Stephen and St. Benedict to St. Anthony Abbot, the former as related to the name of the church at Grezzano, the latter because of the Tau cross associated with him as related to the crutch as a symbol of the hospital of S. Maria Nuova (on which transformations, see below). It was again in Florence by 1841 (L. Bartolini, G. Bezzuoli, and S. Jesi, Imperiale a Reale Galleria di Firenze pubblicata e con incisioni in rame di una Società…ed illustrata da Ferdinando Ranalli, I, Florence, 1841, 315. According to Paatz, IV, 1952, 31, around 1870 or shortly thereafter Rosso’s altarpiece was in the newly created Gallery of S. Maria Nuova, where it certainly was by 1885 (see Bartolucci, F., “La Galleria del R. Spedale di Santa Maria Nuova,” Il Nuovo Osservatore Fiorentino, Florence, 1885–1996, 189–192, and Ridolfi, 1898; 1899, 162, It was moved to the Uffizi in May of 1900 (see Uffizi Cat., 1979, 460, P1373, as from the Arcispedale di S. Maria Nuova that year, and Franklin, 1994, 275, n. 45).
Franklin, 1987, 658, and 1994, 41, 275, n. 40, pointed out that in the 1568 edition of the Lives (Vasari-Milanesi, VI, 539) Vasari mentioned a Madonna and Child with Sts. John the Baptist and Romuald by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio in Ognissanti that had been commissioned by Leonardo Buonfede. Vasari does not say where in the church it was, and the altarpiece itself is no longer known. In 1677 it was recorded in Bocchi-Cinelli (225) as in the Marinozzi chapel which was confirmed by Richa in 1756 (IV, 270) who, however, stated that it had by this time been moved from that chapel located just to the left of the main altar to above the arch of the altars (chapels) of S. Diego and of S. Rosa (in the right transept). From its placement in Vasari’s “Life” of Ridolfo Ghirlandaio the date of this lost altarpiece would seem to be shortly after 1514. Franklin thought it might have been Buonafede’s replacement for Rosso’s rejected altarpiece, which Franklin overstated as a fact. It did contain St. John the Baptist, which was required by the dedication of Francesca de Ripoi’s chapel, although with St. Romuald instead of the three other saints that Rosso’s altarpiece was to show. This change seems strange, especially the elimination of St. Leonard, who referred to Buonafede whose chapel this was also, according to the documents. Nevertheless, it is possible that Ghirlandaio’s altarpiece was the replacement for Rosso’s particularly as it was also Ridolfo Ghirlandaio whom Buonafede had design the frame for Rosso’s picture for its placement in the church at Grezzano by the mid-1520s.
On 14 December 1520 Giovanbatista di Francesco di Jacopo was paid 2 florins for painting two coats-of-arms of Buonafede and an altarpiece curtain (cortina) “tutto per l’altare di Madonna Franzina [Francesca] posto in Omnisanti.”14 This would seem to indicate that by this time there was an altarpiece in Francesca’s chapel. Franklin implies that Giovanbatista had a more extensive working relationship with Rosso.15 (Was he the handsome Battistino, mentioned by Vasari as one of Rosso’s assistants in the story about the ape and the guardian with the grapevine at S. Croce?).16 If he was an associate of Rosso’s then perhaps the altarpiece for which the cortina was made was Rosso’s, in which case Rosso’s altarpiece could have hung in Francesca’s chapel at least for a few years. Hence it would have had a frame, possibly decorated with Buonafede’s arms, as suggested by Franklin’s reading of the documents. This frame would not have been moved to Grezzano but could have been used for the replacement altarpiece, perhaps the one by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, who in turn would have designed a new frame for Rosso’s picture in its location at Grezzano, as noted by Franklin (1994, 275, n. 44). But I am more inclined to believe that while the cortina may have been made for Rosso’s altarpiece and possibly begun by Giovanbatista di Francesco well before the moment that he was paid for it, it was never hung in front of Rosso’s picture in the chapel, but rather before its replacement. It is also not clear that a frame for the Ognissanti chapel was actually made for Rosso’s picture.
Vasari, 1550, 797 (Vasari-Ricci, IV, 243), immediately after the Assumption of 1513–1514 and before the (lost) coat-of-arms of Leo X paid for in September 1515: “fecegli fare lo spedalingo di Santa Maria Nuova una tavola, la quale vedendola abbozzata, gli parvero, come colui ch’era poco intendente di questa arte, tutti quei Santi diavoli avendo it Rosso un costume nelle sue bozze a olio, fare certe arie crudeli et disperate; e nel finirle poi addolciva l’aria, e riducevale al buono. Perche se li fuggì di casa, e non volse la tavola, dicendo, che lo aveva giuntato.” The same in Vasari, 1568, II, 205 (Vasari-Milanesi, V, 157, and IX, 263, where the two documents of 30 January and 3 November 1518 are summarized.)
Berenson, 1896, 129. Ridolfi, 1898, 20 and 1899, 179, as in the gallery of S. Maria Nuova.
Uffizi catalogue, 1902, 214, no. 1177, and B. Marrai, La primavera, 1907, 78 (both from Paatz, IV, 1952, 63, n. 190). Berenson, 1909, 180, as 1517.
Goldschmidt, 1911, 18, 49, as 1517; he discusses its relation to Sarto’s Madonna of the Harpies and its departure from Andrea’s style as well as its dependence on Fra Bartolommeo’s.
Pieraccini, 1912, no. 47.
Voss, 1920, 184, as showing Rosso’s individuality mitigated by Sarto’s influence and by the patron’s wishes.
Kusenberg, 1931, 11–12, 128, 182, ns. 16–21, Pl. IV, as 1517, or more probably 1518; as recalling compositions of Fra Bartolommeo but “manière”.
Venturi, IX, 5, 1932, 194, 202–204, 205, Fig. 113, 206, Fig. 114, 230; he sees the angels as related to those in Raphael’s Madonna del Baldacchino and to Fra Bartolommeo’s but with the execution of them dependent on Sarto; the St. Jerome as related to Signorelli’s representations of this saint. While Venturi lists the documents of 1518 he considers them as recording a commission that Rosso did not fulfill and that was then transferred to Bugiardini and Granacci.
Kusenberg, 1935, 62, around 1517.
Becherucci, 1944, 27–28, as commissioned in 1518.
Barocchi, 1950, 32–35, 245, Figs. 8–10, considers its sources in the Frate and Sarto and, for the saints, in Dürer.
Longhi, 1951, 59, sees the refusal of the picture by the “spedalingo” of S. Maria Nuova as the first criticism of Rosso’s “manierismo”.
Paatz, IV, 1952, 34, 63, n. 190.
Bologna and Causa, 1952, 4–5, no. 3.
Freedberg, 1961, 545–548, as dependent on Fra Bartolommeo and on Sarto in such a work as the Madonna of the Harpies.
Briganti, 1961, 25 (1962, 23), as commissioned in 1518.
Anthony Blunt and Phoebe Pool, Picasso, The Formative Years, London, 1962, text to Fig. 29, as related to Picasso’s Frugal Repast.
Shearman, 1963, 218, and n. 62, as 1517–1518, and as showing the influence of Donatello’s late style as in the S. Lorenzo pulpits which were set up in 1515 for Leo X’s visit to Florence.
Berenson, 1963, 194, Pl. 1461. Carroll, 1964 (1976), I, Bk. I, 46–52, 54–55, 62, 69–71, 75, 78, 86, Bk. II, 5–6, 8–9, 11, 17, 113–115, P. 10, II, Bk. III, Fig. 16.
Becherucci, 1965 41, no. 11, as valued at $100,000.
Hauser, 1965, 191, as more bizarre and grotesque than the restrained Assumption.
Borea, 1965, Pl. IV, believes the picture is the second version replacing the first that was not accepted by the “spedalingo.”
Shearman, 1965, I, 141, n. 1, 167, n. 2, as 1518 or 1519; he speaks of its expressive color as dependent on Sarto’s but free of chiaroscural inhibitions.
Theodore Reff, Art Bulletin, XLVIII, 1966, 266, criticizes the connection made by Blunt and Pool.
Kettering, 1966, 51, n. 8, relates the drapery of the saints to that of the wood statue by Veit Stoss in SS. Annunziata, which she says, without proof, was placed there in 1518.
Freedberg, 1966, 583, as done in 1518.
Clark, 1967, 17–18, gives Vasari’s story.
Fagiolo dell’Arco, 1970, 109, n. 12, spoke of alienation and schizophrenia in regard to the commissioner’s reaction to this work.
Weiss, 1971, 36, remarks on its “ascetismo gotico.”
Freedberg, 1971, 127, 482, n. 22, as showing an overt break with the classical style and possibly the influence of Donatello, as least in the figure of St. Jerome, and also as exhibiting a sardonic element.
McKillop, 1974, 66, 85, mentions that in the use of the cloth of honor behind the Virgin Rosso is exploring an arrangement in Venetian terms also used at the same time by Franciabigio but also found in earlier pictures.
Dunkelman, 1976, 151, states that in the figure of St. Jerome Rosso duplicates the figure of the Baptist in Donatello’s Christ in Limbo in S. Lorenzo.
Nyholm, 1977, 144–145, 151, 154, Fig. 72, discussed the drama in the picture to that of the spectator with regard to the picture from outside of it.
Walters, 1978, 158, gives an account of Vasari’s story.
Barolsky, 1978, 102–105, as unfinished and that possibly Bugiardini and Granacci were asked to finish it; also as satirical, mocking, and parodic.
Becherucci, in Uffizi Cat., 1979, 88, Color Pl., 460, P1373, as documented as commissioned in 1518; she also states that another document hints at a controversy the arbitration of which was assigned to Bugiardini and Granacci, a controversy that may be the same one mentioned by Vasari.
Burresi and Caleca, 1981, 29, as indicating the study of cadavers.
Darragon, 1983, 23, Fig. 5, says that although Vasari states that the picture was refused the altarpiece was finished.
Berti, 1983, 52, suggests that St. John the Baptist is a self-portrait.
Lévêque, 1984, 167, probably refers to this picture.
Mirollo, 1984, 60, mentions Barolsky’s remarks.
Natali, 1985, 42–43, 210, believes Vasari’s account of the refusal of the picture by the “spedalingo” and that the picture was in fact worked on a second time by Rosso, as implied by Vasari, when two of the saints mentioned in the document of the commission, St. Benedict and St. Leonardo, were, by the simple addition of a Tau and a stone and the suppression of fetters held by the latter, transformed into St. Anthony Abbot and St. Stephen, a transformation that would also indicate a change of patrons for the altarpiece.
Wilmes, 1985, 64, 67, 70, 73, 81, 83, 94, 96, 105–107, 109–112, 114, 122, 174, Fig. 7, recognized its conventional composition and its unreal atmosphere.
Carroll, 1987, 17, 33–34, ns. 31–37.
Franklin, 1987, on all the documents related to this altarpiece.
Paolucci, in Pittura, Cinquecento, 1988, I, 300, 309, Fig. 461 (color), as radically anti-classic and eccentric.
Caron, 1988, 359, 361–362, Fig. 3, considered its color as related to Sarto’s.
Kornell, 1989, 846, mentioned the desiccated body of St. Jerome in relation to the study of anatomy.
Paolucci, 1989, 65, 162, 165.
Natali, in Natali and Cecchi, 1989, 14–15.
Ciardi and Mugnaini, 1991, 11, 15, 18–19, 20, 50–55, no. 5 with 4 Color Pls., 60, 86, believed that the picture was not placed in Ognissanti because Rosso received only two-thirds of the price he was promised; the figure of St. Jerome giving evidence of Rosso’s study of cadavers and the figure of St. John reflecting the influence of the statue of the Baptist in the Bargello once attributed to Donatello.
Rubin, 1991, 175–178, 188–189, Figs. 9, 11, as creating relief through juxtaposed planes related to Donatello’s sculptural technique, and its manner of painting (colorito) as Rosso’s means of interpreting “the spiritual excitement of divine love (rapture).”
Natali, 1991, 144, 146, Fig. (detail).
Hall, 1992, 153, as Sartesque in color.
Natali, 1992, 212.
Franklin, 1993, 4, 14, 16.
Franklin, 1994, 8, 35, 37–48, 50–53, 67–70, 72, 79–80, 82, 90, 209, 212, 214, 216, 275, n. 62, 316, 297–302, Appendix B, DOCUMENTS 1–5, 7, 9–10, Color Pls. 26, 28, 31, 34, discusses the altarpiece and the rejection of it in relation to the conservative taste of Leonardo Buonafede who commissioned, especially as indicated by his preference for the work of Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, and notes the influence of Donatello and Sarto, the expressive technique of the painting as a metaphor for the spiritual agitation of the saints, and the sixteenth century use of “vivezza” as a distinguishing characteristic of Rosso’s art.
Brilli, 1994, 23, 60, Color Pl., 61.
Falciani, in Gnocchi and Falciani, 1994, 63, 64, Color Fig., 67.
Falciani, 1994, 20, 25, n. 92, interprets the forms that frightened Buonafede as indicating “la via verso la contemplazione dell’assoluto” and thought that Buonafede preferred the up-to-date and eclectic art of Pontormo’s frescoes at the Certosa di Galluzzo, which he commissioned rather than the “arcaizzante” figurative style of Rosso.
Marchetti Letta, 1994, 4, Color Pl. 4 of angels, 28–30, 31, Color Pl. 36, 65.
Costamagna, 1994, 23, 27, 33, 34, 36, 38, 60, 134–135, under Cat. 134, 172, under Cats. 41–45, as anti-classic and related to a contemporary artistic crisis, it and Pontormo’s Pucci altarpiece showing Rosso and Pontormo as “nouveaux chefs de file de la peinture florentine,” suggesting, too, that Rosso was probably referred to Buonafede by Fra Jacopo at the Annunziata who shared certain religious scriptures, the debates of which are at the heart of the S. Maria Nuova Altarpiece as in Pontormo’s Visdomini Altarpiece.
Mugnaini, 1994, 102.
Valle, 1994, 23, 24, Color Pl., 29, 55, its refusal related to Rosso’s going to Piombino.
Ciardi, 1994, 16, Figs., 36–37, 41, 43, Fig., 57, 66, 68, 70–72, 81, 91, n. 44, 95, n. 123, 97, ns. 153 and 155, noted the influence of Donatello, Francesco da Sangallo, Sarto, and Luca della Robbia, and its gold haloes and the drapery behind the Virgin as old fashioned elements that persist into the Cinquecento, stating also that one must recognize a difference between fortuitous non-finito and intentional non-finito, not to be confused with sprezzatura.
Nova, 1995, 553.
Jollet, 1994, 76, 77, 80, Figs., as criticized by the patron, and as showing “corps…décharné.”
The attribution of this altarpiece to Rosso has never been questioned. Its provenance from S. Maria Nuova and the appearance in it of Sts. John the Baptist and Jerome confirm its relation to the contract of 30 January 1518 in spite of the change of the other two saints mentioned in the contract from Sts. Leonard and Benedict to Sts. Stephen and Anthony Abbot (on which see below). According to that contract the altarpiece was to be placed on an altar in Ognissanti by 30 June 1518. That altar was to be in a newly established chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist provided by the will of a Catalan woman, Francesca de Ripoi, who died in Florence, the widow of Luigi de Ripoi, from Valencia, and the daughter of Bendetto Filippo Falcone. Rosso was to be paid twenty-five large florins. Payments for the altarpiece from the day of its commission until 24 June 1518 total sixteen florins. Rosso seems never to have received the other nine florins to complete the sum of twenty-five stipulated in the contract. And in March 1525, when he was already in Rome, he was fined one florin four soldi by the Arte degli Speziali for some unknown reason pertaining to the altarpiece.
A document of 3 November 1518, and a summons to Rosso three days later, indicate that a dispute over the picture had arisen between Rosso and Leonardo Buonafede, who, as the executor of Francesca de Ripoi’s will, commissioned the altarpiece. This dispute was to be arbitrated by Guiliano Bugardini and Francesco Granacci. Unfortunately we do not know from the documents what the trouble was that required arbitration. But as the judgment of two mature painters was called upon it is likely that the dispute turned on the quality of the painting and its value.
It is also most likely that this suit is related to Vasari’s story of Buonafede’s dislike of the painting and his wish to refuse it. Apparently the missing nine florins were never paid to Rosso and Buonafede received the painting for the already paid sum of sixteen florins. Franklin brought up the possibility that the missing nine florins may have been related to the making of the frame which is alluded to in the commission. Later Ridolfo Ghirlandaio was paid ten florins for a frame for the altarpiece in its new location at Grezzano.
The documents would seem to indicate that the picture was executed between 30 January and 19 June 1518 when the last of the sixteen florins was paid just eleven days before the terminal date set for the setting up of the altarpiece in Ognissanti. Vasari’s misplacement of this altarpiece immediately after the Assumption of 1513–1514, the only chronological mistake he makes in his account of Rosso’s career in Italy, may be due to a certain confusion over the circumstances of an earlier altarpiece of 1514 or 1515 that may have been left unfinished and was then abandoned and forgotten but of which the Angel playing a Lute in the Uffizi is a fragment (P.4).
Vasari, writing three decades after the altarpiece was painted, related that the refusal of the picture by the “spedalingo” followed upon his having seen it “abbozzata.” This could suggest that the state of the picture as we see it today is unfinished. But its execution is wholly compatible with the degree of “finish” of Rosso’s Deposition in Volterra, which Borghini in 1557 or 1558 had called unfinished, and with that of the Moses defending the Daughters of Jethro. Buonafede probably saw the picture shortly after 19 June 1518 and refused to accept it for Francesca de Ripoi’s chapel, in which case the final payment to Rosso would not have been made. This, then, resulted in the legal suit indicated by the document of 3 November 1518. There is no reason to believe that between 19 June and 3 November Rosso worked further on it to bring it to a more finished state. The free brushwork throughout the altarpieces indicates a subtle artistic intention that a higher degree of finish would surely have obliterated. The full definition of the halos, of the rich garment of St. Stephen, of the lines of script in St. Jerome’s book, of the decoration of the cloth of honor behind the Virgin, and of the pattern of the floor indicates that the state of the altarpiece as we now see it presents Rosso’s completed conception. To Vasari, wishing in the 1540’s to make an apology for Rosso’s brushwork, the story he told of the “spedalingo” having judged the picture in an unfinished state may have seemed a good explanation for Buonafede’s reaction. From Vasari’s point of view the painting might, in fact, have seemed unfinished. But the painting gives every indication of being completed.
Natali pointed out how easily the changes were made to transform St. Benedict into St. Anthony Abbot and St. Leonard into St. Stephen. (Natali thought the fetters of St. Leonard had been eliminated but one still seems to be held by St. Stephen.) He also thought these changes indicated a change of patronage. Franklin pointed out why they would have been made when the picture was sent to the church of S. Stefano at Grezzano which was under the care of the Hospital of St. Maria Nuova, the symbolic crutch of which is reflected in the Tau painted on St. Anthony Abbot’s garment. It might also be pointed out that by this latter change Leonardo Buonafede removed his own personal identification from Rosso’s painting, as he would also have removed its frame bearing his coats-of-arms if the frame had already been made. Natali thought the changes were made by Rosso himself in a second period of working on the painting, as he believes is suggested by Vasari’s story of Buonafede’s dislike of the painting. I doubt that these changes were made by Rosso as the placement of the rock on St. Stephen’s head is so awkwardly done. Then, too, after he was paid his sixteen florins the picture would seem to have been out of his hands.
The appearance of St. John the Baptist in Rosso’s altarpiece can be explained by Francesca di Ripoi’s dedication of her burial chapel to that saint. As Franklin pointed out (1987, 656; 1994, 38, 40) the other three saints would have been selected by Leonardo Buonafede. Franklin believes that these were selected because just six months earlier Buonafede had selected for Buglione’s terracotta altarpiece at the Badia Tedaldi of St. Michele where St. Michael appears instead of St. John the Baptist as the fourth saint. St. Leonard is, of course, related to Leonardo Buonafede. Franklin believes that the inclusion of St. Jerome was in Rosso’s altarpiece appropriate to the penitent Humiliati who controlled Ognissanti. For St. Benedict it might be recalled that Francesca’s father’s name was Benedetto.
The rejection of this picture has always been one of its most discussed aspects. Costamagna’s suggestion that Rosso was recommended to Buonafede by Fra Jacopo at the Annunziata might point to Buonafede having seen the Madonna and Child with St. John the Evangelist (P.2) that Rosso had painted for the friar in 1513. In spite of its iconographical and even stylistic strangeness it is sufficiently Bartolommesque to have been found quite possibly satisfactory by Buonafede. Even if he had heard of the difficulty that Rosso had had with his Assumption at the Servite church, that was a fresco and Buonafede was looking for a painter for an altarpiece, and Fra Jacopo may have made something of an excuse for the young Rosso in saying that he was unfamiliar with fresco painting, a technique that we know from Vasari Rosso always disliked. The architecturally unarticulated background of Rosso’s altarpiece, the brocade cloth-of-honor behind the Virgin, and the rigid placement of the figures all point to a deliberate old fashionedness that Rosso may have used in deference to what he thought were Buonafede’s preferences. Certainly the altarpiece shows none of the flamboyance of the draperies in the Assumption. But the execution of the altarpiece and the characterization of the figures are not what Buonafede liked, it would seem from what Vasari wrote. The will to be unusual even as he may have tried to please the conservative inclinations of Buonafede gives evidence of Rosso’s ambitions in competition not with the art of Ridolfo Ghirlandaio and similar painters, but with the art of Sarto and Fra Bartolommeo, neither of whom was on the Florentine scene in 1518. Interestingly, Rosso would later do something similar with the Dei altarpiece of 1522 (P.12) the composition of which is rather staid while many of its figures and its execution are extravagant. That altarpiece, too, was not much appreciated at first, if we are to believe Vasari.
2 Here as transcribed by Gino Corti. See Milanesi in Vasari-Milanesi, V, 157, n. 4, and IX, 263. Published by Franklin, 1987, 658, Appendix A, Document 3, and 1994, 297, Appendix B, DOCUMENT 2. Mentioned by Von Holst, 1974, 44, n. 49. Franklin, 1987, 656, n. 43, and 1994, 274, n. 30, states that there is a more legible but slightly shortened copy of this document by Alfonso Corsi under A.S.F., Notarile Antecosimiano, 5715, C659, 1514–17, fol. 473v–474r.
7 Here as transcribed by Gino Corti. Published by Von Holst, 1974, 14, 218, Doc. 44, and by Pagnotta, 1987, 244–245, Doc.14. Mentioned by Franklin, 1987, 657 and n. 51, and published by Franklin, 1994, 300–301, Appendix B, DOCUMENT 7.
10 Published by Franklin, 1987, 658, n. 56, Franklin, 1993, 16, XIX (46), and Franklin 1194, 302, Appendix B, DOCUMENT 10b. Franklin stated (1987, and 1994, 41–42, 275, ns. 41,42, 44) that this entry and the preceding one are by the same scribe employed by the Hospital of S. Maria Nuova in the mid-1520s. He pointed out that the last date entered among the entries containing the second entry of payment to Ghirlandaio is of 13 April 1526. Although the volume containing the preceding document purports to contain entries of 1516–18, Franklin indicated that it also contains entries for later years. Hence Franklin concluded that it is impossible to be more accurate than the mid-1520s for the date of payment to Ghirlandaio for his frame. By this time, Rosso’s picture would have been in S. Stefano at Grezzano. Franklin stated also that a painted altar frontal for this church was purchased on 23 December 1524, and other objects also were acquired in 1524–1525, suggesting that it was at this time that Rosso’s painting was sent there to embellish the church.
13 Franklin, 1987, 655, chose to place the chapel to the left of the main altar because of the present location of the sacristy in spite of the fact that the document specifies the right side. This document makes no reference to a chapel owned by the Vespucci family that Franklin mentions to locate Francesca’s chapel. Razzòli, 1898, 15–16, stated that the present sacristy was already the sacristy in 1561, but that it was not the original sacristy. Natali, 1991, 146, agreed with Franklin that the Ripoi chapel was to the left of the high altar; he stated that at the immediate right was the chapel of the Bartoli family, not indicating, however, how he knows this and when this was the case.
Giovanbatista di Francesco dipintore avere… Et sino a dì XIIII di Dicienbre 1520 lire quattordici piccioli per dipintura di due armi dipinte choll’arme di messer nostro maggiore, messe d’oro fino, et dipintura d’una cortina, tutto per l’altare di madonna Franzina, posto in Onnisanti — lire 14