Master of the Unruly Children, (active 1st half of the 16th century), Angels as candlebearers. © Tomasso Brothers Fine Art
LONDON.- Tomasso Brothers Fine Art returns to the International Antiques Biennial (BIAF) in Florence with a display paying homage to Florentine art. The Fair, to be held from 23 September to 1 October 2017 in the magnificent Palazzo Corsini, is one of the world’s greatest showcases for Italian art. Tomasso Brothers Fine Art, renowned specialist in important European sculpture, will focus exclusively on the art of Florence, with all works being either by Florentine artists, or created in Florence.
Amongst the highlights is a pair of heavenly terracotta angels as candle-bearers by the exquisitely accomplished Master of the Unruly Children, a distinctive voice within Florentine Cinquecento Renaissance sculpture. Recent analysis of documentary sources has strengthened this sculptor’s identification with Sandro di Lorenzo di Smeraldo, who is recorded in Anton Francesco Doni’s I Marmi (1552-1553) as an artist specialising in modelling wax. Distinguished by a rapid and vibrant sculptural technique, the Master is skilful in giving voice to a diverse range of human states of mind. Divinely youthful in appearance, the angels are a beautifully preserved and important addition to the oeuvre of this Renaissance artist. Their composition pays homage to Luca della Robbia’s classicizing candle-bearing angels executed between 1448 and 1451 for the tabernacle of the Holy Sacrament in the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence.
An important centrepiece of the stand is a masterful bronze allegorical group circa 1695 by Massimilio Soldani-Benzi (1656-1740) depicting “a figure by Algardi representing Charity, with three putti, one at her chest, the other two at her feet, adapted in a beautiful manner”, a model first conceived by the Roman Baroque sculptor Alessandro Algardi (1598-1654). It was soon renowned as a masterwork, and was one (priced at 80 Florentine piastre) of several that Soldani-Benzi described in correspondence with his client Johann Adam Andreas, Prince of Liechtenstein (1657-1712), offering to create it in bronze. Beautifully cast, with a finely worked surface and an extremely high quality of finish, the sculpture’s complex, translucent, golden patina reveals warm, red undertones that are highly characteristic of Soldani-Benzi’s bronzes.
Born to an aristocratic cavalry captain from Tuscany, Soldani-Benzi became the finest bronze caster in late 17th and early 18th century Europe and, along with Giovanni Battista Foggini, is considered the most significant proponent of the Florentine late Baroque style in sculpture. His workshop sometimes employed over ten assistants and was located in the heart of Florence, on the ground floor of the Galleria degli Uffizi.
Two exquisite Renaissance Madonna and Child compositions are further highlights on Tomasso Brothers’ stand at BIAF, one a polychrome stucco circa 1423-1440 attributed to Lorenzo Ghiberti (c.1378-1455), and the other an oil on panel circa 1525 by Domenico di Bartolomeo Ubaldini (1492-1527), known as Il Puligo. The polychrome sculpture is one of the finest known examples of a greatly revered Madonna and Child composition from the first half of the fifteenth century. It represents a remarkable survival from the moment when the ‘springtime’ of the Renaissance was coming into full bloom. Ghiberti trained as a goldsmith in Florence. He was considered something of a prodigy when, in 1400, at around twenty years old, he was awarded the commission to make the bronze doors of the Florentine Baptistery, after winning a famed competition in which the losers included Filippo Brunelleschi (1377–1446). This award, by the leading guild in Florence, made his foundry the most important in the city.
Domenico di Bartolomeo Ubaldini, known as Il Puligo, specialised in paintings for private devotion. This sensitive portrayal of the Madonna and Child reveals the characteristic traits of Puligo’s masterworks: vivid colours, languid poses, and a soft, suffused light that creates a gentle chiaroscuro effect. Puligo’s works are visible today in major museums worldwide.
Domenico di Bartolomeo Ubaldini (1492-1527), known as Il Puligo, Madonna and Child, c. 1525. Oil on panel, 68.5 cm (27 in.) high, 51.5 cm (20 ¼ in.) wide. © Tomasso Brothers Fine Art
Another important Madonna with Child to be unveiled at the Fair, accompanied by choirs of angels, is in the form of a stucco roundel. It is a significant, early, devotional composition by the studio of the young Luca della Robbia (c1400-1482), reminiscent of his experience in Ghiberti’s workshop, where he had worked on the first set of bronze doors for the Florence Baptistery. The graceful hovering angels, with their calligraphic folds of drapery, mark a debt to his master Ghiberti. The roundel was formerly in the collection of the great American philanthropist and collector John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913).
Luca della Robbia (1400 -1482) (Studio of), The Madonna and Child with a Choir of Angels. Stucco, with traces of polychromy, 46 cm ( 18 in.) diameter; 59 cm (23 1/4 in.) high; 58.5 cm ( 23 in.) wide. © Tomasso Brothers Fine Art