New Exhibition: ‘Maestà’: Gaddi’s Triptych Reunited at the New York Historical Society, 11 December 2015­­–20 March 2016.

Today, Taddeo Gaddi’s Madonna and Child Enthroned with Ten Saints returns to its home at New York’s Historical Society after a two-year conservation treatment at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The painting’s restoration and return will be celebrated by a small exhibition focusing on the conservation process and the discoveries it engendered.

Also known by the Italian term Maestá, ‘majesty,’ which designates the iconography of the enthroned Madonna with the child Jesus, the jewel-like altarpiece was painted ca. 1334 by Taddeo Gaddi, the major disciple of Giotto. From its golden background to its innovative and refined craftsmanship, the panel was an expensive and “cutting-edge” commission probably realized for the private chapel of a rich and powerful Florentine family.

In addition to the Maestá scene itself, the altarpiece originally comprised two folding wings, or sportelli. Long separated from the central panel, the wings might have recently been rediscovered in the Alana Collection in Newark, Delaware. The New York Historical society exhibits the three pieces together for the first time, revealing the strong structural, stylistic and iconographic similarities which arguably link them together. The three panels would originally have been framed by a complex, custom-made carpentry frame. Although the frame is completely lost, its probable appearance was carefully reconstructed in research related to the exhibition, allowing visitors to imagine the Maestá in its original splendor.

Along with new discoveries on the piece, the exhibition will also showcase the legacy of Thomas Jefferson Bryan (1800–1870), an early connoisseur of Italian painters before Raphael (known as the ‘primitives’). In 1852, Bryan opened his collection to the public as the Bryan Gallery of Christian Art at his own residence; later on in 1867, he bequeathed more than 500 pieces to the New-York Historical Society. Thanks to this donation, Gaddi’s painting will be fittingly displayed with several other fourteenth- and early-fifteenth-century Italian panels, including cassoni panels (paintings realized for the sides of chests or boxes, often associated with dowries or marriage provisions).

Find out more on the exhibition and watch an animated reconstruction of the Maestá’s original appearance here.

Discover the Alana Collection: Miklos Boskovits, ed., The Alana Collection: Italian Paintings from the 13th to the 15th Century (Florence: Polistampa, 2009).

Posted by Costanza Beltrami

Maestà,ca. 1330–34, tempera, gesso, gold leaf, and traces of silver on panel, 35.1 x 25.4 cm. New York: New York Historical Society, gift of Thomas Jefferson Bryan.

Shutters, exterior view: St. Catherine of Alexandria; St. Christopher. Ca. 1330–34, tempera and gold leaf on panel with possible touches of silver, 39.5 x 14.4 cm (left panel) and 39.5 x 13.9 cm (right panel). Newark: The Alana Collection, 2006.08.

Digital composite of: Maestà, with interior view of the shutters representing the Annunciation and Nativity, and Crucifixion. Ca. 1330–34, tempera, gesso, gold leaf and traces of silver on panel. New York: New-York Historical Society, gift of Thomas Jefferson Bryan; Newark: The Alana Collection, 2006.08.

Thomas Sully (1783–1872), Portrait of Thomas Jefferson Bryan, 1831, oil on panel, 50.8 x 41.6 cm. The Watson Fund.

Thomas Jefferson Bryan, Catalogue of the Bryan Gallery of Christian Art, from the Earliest Masters to the Present Time (New York: G. F. Nesbitt and Co., 1852).

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