BORGHESE DI PIETRO
(OR BORGHESE DI PIERO BORGHESE
(Italian, 1397 - c. 1463)
Baptism of Christ
Tempera on panel
9 ½ x 6 ¼ inches
(24.1 x 15.8 cm)
Achillito Chiesa, Milan
Albrighi Collection, Florence (ca. 1955)
Private Collection, Connecticut
Carlo Volpe, “Alcune restituzioni al Maestro dei Santi Quirico e Giulitta,” in Quaderni di Emblema 2 Miscellanea di Bonsanti, Fahy, Francisci, Gardner, Mortari, Sestieri, Volpe, Zeri, Bergamo 1973, pp. 19-20, reproduced fig.18 (as by the Master of Saints Quiricus and Julitta)
This fine predella panel depicting the Baptism of Christ is a work by the Pisan artist Borghese di Pietro (or Piero), largely active in the first half of the fifteenth century. His identity was first established by Maria Teresa Filieri in a 1995 article publishing documentation of his authorship of the high altar of the Church of San Quirico in the village of Cappanori, near Lucca. Previously, art historians –and, in particular, Roberto Longhi and Carlo Volpe-- had established a corpus of works by an anonymous artist styled the Master of Saints Quiricus and Julitta, named after predella panels depicting those saints, now in the Courtauld Institute of Art, London; these in fact formed the predella of the documented altarpiece in Cappanori.
The present panel was first classified among the works of Fra Angelico by Bernard Berenson (in a photograph in the Berenson Fototeca). Later Federico Zeri advanced the name of Battista di Gerio as author. It was Carlo Volpe, in his 1973 article, who associated the panel with the Master of Saints Quiricus and Julitta, later to be identified as Borghese di Pietro. This master’s style is essentially Florentine, but with some provincial qualities and an appealing sweetness in the characterization of his figures. The figure of Christ in the present work, standing in a relaxed pose in the River Jordan, is innocent and charming – as are the two angels at the lower right, bundled in their robes like members of a boy’s choir. The haloes of two more figures are seen at the left, the rest of their bodies missing, as the panel has clearly been trimmed. Maria Teresa Filieri has confirmed the attribution of the present panel to Borghese di Pietro, dating the work to the middle of the fifteenth century, roughly contemporary with the San Qurico di Cappanori altarpiece, which is documented in 1448.