Rossello di Jacopo Franchi

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Rossello di Jacopo Franchi
approximately 1376-1456
Pentecost
ca. 1428-1429
Pen and brown ink, with white opaque watercolor, on parchment; verso: three horizontal ruled lines, in red chalk.
2 13/16 x 4 15/16 inches (71 x 125 mm)
Gift of János Scholz.
1986.71:1

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Provenance: 
Art market, London; supposedly acquired in London by Julius H. Weitzner (1896-1986), New York and London; from whom purchased by János Scholz, New York (1903-1993; no mark; see Lugt S. 2933b).
Description: 

These two drawings, executed in pen and brown ink on parchment, were excised from a choir book, where they were originally part of a unified representation of the Pentecost with the scene organized on two different registers.1 In the upper section was the fragment representing the Virgin Mary surrounded by the Apostles with the Holy Spirit descending upon them in the form of tongues of fire; below was the scene with the devout men of different nations standing in great astonishment outside the doors of the cenacle. Laurence Kanter has suggested that the two cuttings were part of an initial letter S, with each of the fragments occupying respectively the upper and lower compartments of the letter.2 The initial S, richly decorated with the elaborate Pentecost scene, most likely marked the beginning of the Introit of the Pentecost Mass: Spiritus domini replevit orbem terrarium. The manuscript, a large choir book, remained unfinished, as is evident from the Morgan drawings, which were never completed with colors. The verso of the drawing with the Four Figures Standing Outside the Cenacle shows lines for musical notations that were left only faintly traced in red chalk. Although the attribution of these two cuttings cannot be confirmed with certainty, the rarity of similarly early drawings for illuminations (or even for panel paintings) make these fragments two extremely important documents for the development of Florentine draftsmanship in the first half of the fifteenth century.

Scholars agree on the stylistic affinities of the figures in the Morgan drawings with works by Lorenzo Monaco or by artists in his circle, but Roberto Longhi was the first to recognize in these drawings the hand of the Florentine artist Rossello di Jacopo Franchi, a plausible attribution supported by several art historians since Longhi’s time.3 One can convincingly compare the typologies of the figures in the Morgan drawings with those in Rossello’s paintings, even if the scarcity of surviving illuminations and drawings by Rossello makes it difficult to be certain of his authorship for the Morgan fragments.4 Rossello was primarily a painter, but a 1429 document attests that he was a “not less capable illuminator than painter.”5 Archival sources also document the artist’s collaboration with the book illuminator and miniaturist Matteo di Filippo Torelli in at least two different instances. Between 1428 and 1429, the two artists worked together on the decoration of the Graduale D for Santo Stefano in Prato.6 In 1429, both Franchi and Torelli received further payments for illuminations for an Antiphonary commissioned by the Oratorio del Bigallo; unfortunately, the manuscript is now lost. Another only partially finished illuminated initial, a letter G decorated with an image of Christ in Glory surrounded by a chorus of saints, is thought to have been cut from the same choir book as the Morgan Pentecost.7 If by Rossello, both the initial G (whereabouts unknown) and the Morgan drawings were most likely executed at the time of his collaboration with Torelli.8

—GD

Footnotes:

  1. Degenhart and Schmitt 1968–2010, 2:184.
  2. Kanter 2004, 918–19.
  3. The drawings were first published as attributed to Rossello di Jacopo Franchi in 1967 (Los Angeles and Seattle 1967, no. 19), but the attribution had previously been suggested by Roberto Longhi, as indicated by notes in Janos Scholz’s card catalogue of his collection.
  4. On the artist, see Peters 1981, and on his illuminations, Levi D’Ancona 1962, 234–36.
  5. See Pini and Milanesi 1876, no. 28: “non meno Valente miniatore che pittore.”
  6. On this work, see Pieroni 2009.
  7. Kanter 2004, 919.
  8. In 1940 this initial was in Eugene Garbaty’s collection but today is known to scholars only through photographs. I thank Laurence Kanter for his help and his suggestions about this other fragment.
Bibliography: 

Rhoda Eitel-Porter and and John Marciari, Italian Renaissance Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2019, no. 8.
Selected references: Oakland and Berkeley 1961, nos. 90-91; Los Angeles and Seattle 1967, no. 19; Degenhart and Schmitt 1968-2010, 2: no. 184; Ragghianti Collobi 1974, 39; Florence 1978, xviii-xix; Fellows Report 21 1989, 340; Kanter 2004, 918-19.
Drawings from Tuscany and Umbria, 1350-1700. Mills College Art Gallery, Oakland, University of California Art Gallery, Berkeley. Berkeley : Gillick, 1961, nos. 90-91 (as Tuscan, ca. 1420-30).
Ryskamp, Charles, ed. Twenty-First Report to the Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1984-1986. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1989, p. 340.

Notes: 

Formerly attributed to Pietro di Giovanni (Lorenzo Monaco) Florence or Siena? 1370/75?-1425/30? Florence?

Associated names: 

Lorenzo, Monaco, 1370 or 1371-1425, Formerly attributed to.
Weitzner, Julius, -1986, former owner.
Scholz, János, former owner.

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