Coppo di Marcovaldo was born in the San Lorenzo district of Florence in around 1225. One of the first references documenting his existence is his inclusion on a list of combatants who were involved in the Battle of Montaperti in 1260. By all accounts this conflict was a bloody one and subsequent to the conflict, where the Guelf-led Florentines fought the Ghibelline-led Sienese, the hill that provided the theatre of war was renamed Montaperti – the hill of death.
Coppo may have been taken prisoner by the Sienese as a painting of the Madonna and child (above), which still resides in the Chiesa dei Servi, Siena, bears the following inscription:
Following his time in Siena, Coppo is documented as being present in Pistoia as in July, 1265 he was paid 32 lire for the some internal decorations to the chapel of San Jacopo there and also 30 soldi for some gilding. Later, in 1274, Coppo was certainly joined in Pistoia by his artist son, Salerno. The pair are mentioned in documents relating to the commission of a crucifix and two panels, the first depicting the Virgin Mary, the second, Saint John.
It is believed that Coppo spent the last days of his life in Pistoia, although documentation relating to the date and place of his death remain elusive. During his lifetime however, he would have travelled and worked on various lucrative commissions. His surviving works attest to this theory, especially the mosaics that he is thought to have assisted with in the Baptistry of San Giovanni Battista, Florence.
Images: Coppo di Marcovaldo, Madonna del Bordone, 1261 tempera on panel, Chiesa dei Servi, Siena. Wikimedia Commons.
Attr. Coppo di Marcovaldo, Madonna and Child. c. 1265, tempera on panel. St. Martino dei Servi, Orvieto. Wikimedia Commons.
Crucifix, after 1261, tempera on wood, Pinacoteca Civica, San Gimignano. Wikimedia Commons.
St Francis and Twenty Episodes from his Life,1240-45, tempera on panel, Bardi Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence. Web Gallery of Art.
Virgin in Majesty, 1250s, tempera and gold on wood, Santa Maria Maggiore, Florence. Web Gallery of Art.
Detail from The Last Judgement, 13th century, mosaic, Battistero di San Giovanni Battista, Florence. Wikimedia Commons.
Detail from Hell/The Inferno, 13th century, mosaic, Battistero di San Giovanni Battista, Florence. Wikimedia Commons.
References: D. E. Colnaghi, A Dictionary of Florentine Painters from the 13th o the 17th Centuries by Sir Dominic Ellis Colnaghi, k. B., Late H. M. Consul-General at Florence, eds. P. G. Monody and Selwyn Brinton, London, John Lane The Bodley Head Ltd., 1928.
J. A. Crowe and G. B. Cavalcaselle, A New History of Painting in Italy, London 1864, I, pp. 180, 200.
Niccolò di Giovanni di Francesco Ventura, La sconfitta di Monte Aperto; Edizione Critica a cura di Alice Calvinato, presentazione di Salvatore Settis, Siena, Accademia Senese degli Intronati, 2016.
Posted by Samantha Hughes-Johnson.