The Illuminating Lives of Gherardo, Bartolommeo and Monte del Fora

Bartolommeo (1442-1494), Gherardo and Monte del Fora (1448-1533 ) were sons of the sculptor, Giovanni di Minialo (1398-1479) and the shoemaker, Domenica di Bartolommeo di Bartolo. Giovanni was known to have worked in Florence during the early quattrocento and had collaborated with Donatello. Accordingly, his sons followed their father into Florence’s artist milieu and by at least 1460, had established their own workshop. Records show that by May 1st, 1465, they had been renting their bottega, at the Canto del Garbo, from the monks of the Badia for five years.  Two years later, in 1467, they had moved into a former barber’s shop, which was also rented from the same oblates. 

Although there are thought to be no surviving works executed solely by the eldest of the del Fora brothers, Bartolommeo di Giovanni, it is maintained that along with his other two siblings, he was active in illuminating volumes of choral music commissioned by the monks of the Badia (perhaps somewhat similar to the image shown below). Bartolommeo is also thought to have managed the brothers’ business, at least until 1476, when it is thought that he left, apparently due to financial reasons.

The artistic legacy of the middle brother (Gherardo di Giovanni) however,  is considerably more abundant, with works in both miniature and monumental scale surviving into the present day. In 1474 Gerardo can be found working in fresco at the church of San Egidio (Santa Maria Nuova), Florence and in 1486, he completed a rendering of the Madonna for Santa Maria del Sasso, near Bibbiena. During the years that followed, Gherardo and his younger brother, Monte, completed various tabernacles in and around Florence: including the Madonna del Garullo outside the Porta alla Croce and another located on the corner of the Piazza San Marco and the Via Cavour. 

Simultaneous to his involvement in the aforementioned works of monumental scale, Gherardo also appeared to be busy with various commissions for illuminated manuscripts. For example, between 1474 and 1478 he completed a lavish missal for the church of San Edigio (below) and four similar volumes for Santa Maria del Fiore. 

He also illustrated books commissioned by, for and dedicated to various illustrious Florentine clans and European individuals, including the Strozzi, the Medici and Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary. 

While the artistic contributions of Gherardo’s younger brother, Monte, are often difficult to discern from Gherardo’s, Monte was certainly a valued artist in his own right. In 1504, Monte and Davide Ghirlandaio were commissioned by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore to execute likenesses of the head of San Zenobi in mosaic (below). One year later, an illustrious panel of artists, including Pietro Perugino, Lorenzo di Credi and Giovanni delle Corniole gathered to proclaim the winner of the competition. Monte del Fora’s effort triumphed and in return he received 100 gold florins. 

Following the death of Gerardo, Monte continued to work as an artist and manuscript illuminator,  completing a further commission for five antiphonaries that were required by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore (below).  

Images: Gherardo di Giovanni del Fora, Monte di Giovanni del Fora and Sigismondo de’ Sigismondi, Crucifixion. In the Strozzi/Accaiuoli Hoursfol. 216v., 1495, black, brown and red inks, tempera and gold leaf on parchment; modern binding, 14.7 × 10.0 cm (folio), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. © National Gallery of Victoria, through the generous support of the Joe White Bequest.

Monte di Giovanni del Fora, Initial V with Annuncuation and View, 1514, tempera and gold on parchment, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence. Wikimedia Commons.

Gherardo di Giovanni del Fora, The Combat of Love and Chastity, 1475 – 1450, tempera on panel, National Gallery, London. Wikimedia Commons.

Gherardo di Giovani del Fora, Pope Martin V Confirming the Privileges of the Hospital, 1473, detached fresco, Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova, Florence. Wikimedia Commons. 

Attr. Gherardo di Giovanni del Fora, Saint Sebastian, 1479, tempera on panel, 128.3 x 61.3 cm (50 ½ x 24 1/8 in.), Yale University Art Gallery. Wikimedia Commons. 

Gherardo di Giovanni del Fora, Illustration to a Missal, 1474-75, manuscript, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence. Web Gallery of Art.

Gherardo di Giovanni del Fora, Portrait of Piero di Lorenzo de’ Medici (1472 – 1503). In Homer: Works 1488, incunable (S. Q. XIII. K. 22), 330 x 225 mm, Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III, Naples. Web Gallery of Art.

Gherardo di Giovanni del Fora, Bible of Matthias Corvinus, c. 1490, manuscript (Plut. 15. 17), Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence. Web Gallery of Art.

Monte di Giovanni del Fora, Head of Saint Zenobius, c.1505, mosaic, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence. Wikimedia Commons.

Monte di Giovani del Fora, Initial I With A Story From Genesis, 1508 – 1526, tempera and gold on parchment, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, 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.

http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/gherardo-di-giovanni-di-miniato-detto-anche-del-fora/

http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/monte-di-giovanni-di-miniato-detto-anche-del-fora/

Posted by Samantha Hughes-Johnson.

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