Spanish school (16th century’s first decade), Blessing Saint bishop
Tempera on a gold background panel of 50 x 48 cm dating from around 1510.
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In a 1977 report, Ferdinando Bologna identifies in the work presented the upper right compartment of a polyptych from the second half of the fifteenth century, referable to southern Italy. For Bologna, the work shows precise relationships with the Palermitan pictorial culture of the third quarter of the fifteenth century, the one not touched by Antonello da Messina, which forms the basis of the master of the cross in Piazza Armerina and Pietro Ruzzolone; from another, with the pictorial culture of Valencia, that represented above all by Rodrigo de Osona the Elder. Since such a historical-artistic crossroads is the constitutive feature of Riccardo Quartararo (Sciacca 1433 – Palermo 1506) from Palermo, Bologna assumes the Sicilian painter as the author of the painting, in a phase immediately preceding that (1494 – 1506) of his most well-known Palermitan works. In fact, relations with the parties due to Quartararo are very close in the polyptych already in Fondi, today in Gaeta, which must be considered carried out during the years 1491-1494, spent by the master in Naples. These reports may even suggest that this Holy Bishop was part of one of the now dispersed polyptychs that Quartararo made a commitment to perform in Naples in those years, as various documentary attestations certify. Of high and suggestive quality, and of very original characteristics compared to the rest of the southern coeval painting, the painting is also very well preserved.
More recent studies have compared this gold background to the school of the so-called Master of the Legend of Sant’Orsola, a Flemish painter active in the last quarter of the fifteenth century, and to the context of Antoine de Luhny, a painter long active in Piedmont in the second half of the XV century, at the service of the most refined and prestigious clients of the second half of the XV century, active in the field of miniature, stained glass, panel and wall painting.
Despite this, Frédéric Elsig, author of the monograph dedicated to Antoine de Luhny published in 2018, has identified in this blessing holy bishop an additional compartment of an altar which originally included two other plates (53 x 45 cm) depicting a Virgin in prayer and a San Giacomo Maggiore, works proposed in Rome by Finarte in 2007, works attributable to a Spanish (perhaps Castilian) painter and datable within the first decade of the 16th century.