(Venetian, active 1356-1372)
Saints Mary Magdalene and Catherine of Alexandria
Oil on panel
5 ¼ x 4 inches (13.3 x 10 cm)
inset into a larger panel, 6 ½ x 5 inches (16.5 x 12.7 cm)
Faintly Inscribed in red to the right of St. Catherine’s head: CAT…
Bearing the red wax collector’s seal of Carlo Lasinio and inscribed, presumably in Lasinio’s hand on a label verso: Gaddo Gaddi / comprato dalla Galleria Sacchi
Bears printed inventory number “31”
Carlo Lasinio, Pisa (1759-1838), as Gaddo Gaddi
E. A. Silberman Galleries, New York, ca. 1955, as Paolo Veneziano
Selma Herringman, New York, 1955- 2013
Private Collection, 2013-2017
Lorenzo Veneziano was the leading Venetian painter of the second half of the fourteenth century. He is traditionally thought to have trained in the workshop of his elder brother Paolo Veneziano, whose work was firmly rooted in the Byzantine tradition, but Lorenzo’s style is from the first more expressive and shows a broader awareness of artistic activity outside of Venice. His earliest surviving signed work is the Annunciation with Saints and Prophets of 1357 (Venice, Accademia), known as the Lion Polyptych. The full-length saints share the elongated proportions of Paolo’s figures but differ in the urbanity of expression in the faces, and the draperies already show a version of Gothic style typical of Lorenzo. The Annunciation from the Lion Polyptych, the Mystic Marriage of St Catherine (also in the Accademia) and a Virgin and Child (1361; Padua, Museo Civico) all show a naturalism new to Venetian art with a greater interest in the relationships between the Virgin of the Mystic Marriage and the typically lively child. A particular sweetness and intimacy of expression are associated with more fluent draughtsmanship and more refined and continuous modelling than was characteristic of earlier Venetian painting. The variety of Lorenzo’s invention and the vitality of individual poses in the Lion Polyptych range from the gravity of St Anthony Abbot to the sympathetic and gracefully swaying stance of the Magdalene. Draperies are sometimes sharply cut and angular (e.g. Gabriel), sometimes powerfully rhythmic or more playful (e.g. St John the Evangelist and the Magdalene). Colours are bright and often juxtaposed in sharp contrasts.
These characteristics may be observed in almost miniaturist scale in the present work, which was first attributed to Lorenzo Veneziano by Prof. Mauro Lucco. At the right Catherine stands in a comfortably pose, turned slightly to her left, her iconic wheel resting by her side. She wears a crown and her drapery is lined with ermine, as befits her royal stature and the martyr’s palm she holds alludes to her death. Mary Magdalene faces forward, holding a scroll in her right hand and an unguent jar in her left, her long golden hair framing a pensive, expressive face that even on the small scale, engages the viewer. This panel was likely part of a small domestic altarpiece, one of a series depicting other saints. Two panels of similar size and format were recently on the Art Market. These, however, are of a somewhat earlier style, and the figures of a different scale.