On 30 December 1365 Andrea di Firenze Signed a Contract for the Decoration of the Spanish Chapel, Santa Maria Novella in Florence.

By Costanza Beltrami

On 30 December 1365 painter Andrea di Firenze signed a contract for the decoration of the chapter house (known as the Spanish Chapel) of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. According to the contract, he was to complete the chapel’s frescoes in two years, or less. During this period, Santa Maria Novella’s friars would allow the painter and his wife to live in a nearby house free of charge.

Although Andrea only started working on the frescoes in 1365, the decoration was actually conceived in 1355, when Florentine merchant Buonamico di Lapo donated the necessary sum to the monastery. The contemporary prior Fra’ Jacopo Passavanti, his successor Fra’ Zanobi Guasconi, or an expert committee at the monastery’s theological school chose the content of the frescoes, which glorify the Dominican order. Thus, main scenes are dedicated to the thirteenth-century saints Peter Martyr and Thomas Aquinas, both Dominican friars. Other frescoes represent episodes in the life of Jesus and the Apostles, for example the Crucifixion and Pentecost. The theological structure of the Church is also represented as Church Militant and Church Triumphant.

While Andrea is generally considered a minor painter among fourteenth-century Florentine artists, his work at the Spanish Chapel reveals great skill in organizing complex scenes without using the decorative bands typical of earlier painting. Moreover, he added realism and appeal to the composition by giving individual features to each of the innumerable characters he depicted. The Chapel’s decoration was indeed considered a success by his contemporaries, leading to important commissions at the Camposanto (graveyard) of Pisa, where he worked until his death in 1379.


Reference: Angelo Tartuferi, “Andrea da Firenze (i).” Grove Art Online, Oxford University Press, http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T002753.

Bearing of the Cross, Crucifixion, Descent into Hell (north wall), 1366-67, fresco. Spanish Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Source: Web Gallery of Art.

Bearing of the Cross, 1366-67, fresco. Spanish Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Source: Web Gallery of Art.

Descent into Hell (detail), 1366-67, fresco. Spanish Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Source: Web Gallery of Art.

The Church Militant and the Church Triumphant (east wall) 1366-67, fresco. Spanish Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Source: Web Gallery of Art.

The Church Militant and the Church Triumphant

(detail) 1366-67, fresco. Spanish Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Source:

Web Gallery of Art.

The Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas (west wall), 1366-67, fresco. Spanish Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Source: Web Gallery of Art.

Miracle of Pentecost (west vault cell), 1366-67, fresco. Spanish Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Source: Web Gallery of Art.

Salvation of Peter (Navicella) (east vault cell), 1366-67, fresco. Spanish Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Source: Web Gallery of Art.

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