On this day (13 September) in 1470, the Badia of Florence acquired a new artwork by the Tuscan sculptor, Mino da Fiesole (Mino di Giovanni). Interestingly, this altar front was not commissioned by the monks of the abbey, rather it came to them by way of a deal that was made in order to save its creator from having to suffer financial loss because a client had defaulted on payment.
Mino had originally completed the sculpture for Deitisalvi Neroni, once a close confidant of Cosimo “il Vecchio” de’ Medici and Gonfaloniere di Giustizia (1454). However, Neroni’s involvement in the Pitti Conspiracy of 1466 (a coup against Piero “the Gouty” de’ Medici and the Florentine government) had ensured that he had swiftly become a persona non grata in Florence. Accordingly, Deitisalvi Neroni was sent into exile and Mino da Fiesole had a marble relief that needed to be paid for. This is where the Badia stepped in, paying Mino the money that he would have lost and gaining a sculpture of the Madonna and infant Christ, flanked by Saints Leonard and Lawrence.
The record of the transaction reads as follows:
In the name of God Amen. In the year of our redeemer’s incarnation 1470, September 13, in Florence, in the Piazza della Signoria, in the parish of San Piero Scheraggio, in the presence of … witnesses…
Antonio, son of the late Michele da Rabatta, Florentine citizen, attorney, in the name of the attorney and of the creditors of Master Dietisalvi son of Dietisalvi, Florentine citizen, having heard certain judgement by the Court of Eight, by which they decided and gave permission to the monks of the Badia of Florence to take on deposit a panel of white stone, on which are carved the Virgin Mary with her son in her arms, St. Leonard and St. Lawrence with two little angels, which panel was made by Mino the son of Giovanni, sculptor, on order of Master Dietisalvi, son of Dietisalvi, and to lend 32 large florins on its security, which the said Mino said was the balance due to him, with this condition, that if at any time Antonio da Rabatta [and two others] attorneys of the creditors o the said Master Dietisalvi wish to get the said panel back, that the said monks are required to give back the same, receiving in return the said 32 florins…
The sculpture however, was never returned and remains in the Badia to this day.
Images: Mino da Fiesole, The Neroni Dossale, before 1470, marble, Badia Fiorentina, Florence.
Anonymous, Portrait of a Man Looking Down (Mino da Fiesole), 16th century, metalpoint highlighted with white gouache on blue/grey prepared paper, Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, United Kingdom.
Mino da Fiesole, Bust of Dietisalvi Neroni, 1464, marble, The Louvre, Paris.
References: Margery A. Ganz, “Acciaiuoli, Neroni and Medici Relationships in the 1460s.” In William J. Connell ed., Society and Individual in Renaissance Florence, London: University of California Press, 2002, pp. 155-172.
George R. Goldner, Carmen Bambach, The Drawings of Filippino Lippi and His Circle, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997.
Creighton E. Gilbert, Sources and Documents in the History of Art Series: Italian Art 1400-1500, ed. H. W. Janson, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1980, pp. 34-35.