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San Miniato, Master of (Italian, active 1450-1512), Artist
Madonna and Child with Pomegranate
Circa 1470
tempera and gold on panel
555 x 420 mm sight size; 695 x 562 mm frame size
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Given 1955 by Archdeacon F H D Smythe.
Despite its lack of sophistication, this is an attractive painting of the Madonna and Child and one of four Christian works of art given to the Gallery by Archdeacon Smythe in the 1950s. When he donated the work in 1955, Smythe had no attribution for it and thought it was Ferrarese, but after consulting ‘the experts’, decided it was best described as Florentine School, about 1470. The attribution to the Master of San Miniato was made in 1980 by Everett Fahy, then director of the Frick Collection in New York, after he had written to the Gallery requesting photographs of early Italian paintings (before 1500) from the collection. Fahy described it as ‘a characteristic work by the Master of San Miniato’. This name, given to this otherwise unidentified artist in 1913 by the famous art historian Bernard Berenson, was ascribed on the basis of a panel painting of the Madonna and Saint Sebastian, held at San Miniato, between Empoli and Pisa, in Tuscany.
A follower of Fra Filippo Lippi, Botticelli and Benozzo Gozzoli, Berenson described this particular ‘little master’s’ style as ‘soft and pleasant’. The work has an illustrative quality, relying on line and areas of colour to define the sitters. The use of gold leaf applied to gesso and stamped with patterns, recalls the pre-Renaissance technique used for depicting haloes and for highlighting the elaborate braiding on costumes. The face and hands of both the Madonna and baby Jesus are stylistically similar to those found in paintings of the same subject by Lippi and Botticelli.

not on view

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