Scanning the Baptistery - A Tale of Wonder
January 4, 2018 Day One
“Jet lagged, but determined”
What a day we had.
Nardo di Cione partnered with his brother, Andrea di Cione, to form one of the most successful and influential artistic workshops in post-plague Florence. Particularly gifted in the realm of fresco painting, Nardo’s works adorned a wide array of institutions across the city, and the famous letter of 1349 lists him (as well as his fraternal colleague) as one of the best painters working in Florence at the time.
Most of Nardo’s life was lived in the parish of S. Michele Visdomini, the neighborhood abutting the cathedral to the north that was heavily populated by painters. But near the end of his life, Nardo moved closer to S. Maria Novella, at the city’s west end. He died there in 1365 and, like his older brother, he seems to have felt a spiritual tug that caused him to bequeath to the Company of the Misericordia a decent sum of money in his will, one of a number of documents pertaining to his life and legacy that have been discovered in the Florentine Archives.
Nardo’s earliest works may have been produced in the nave of the Franciscan church of S. Croce, where Andrea di Cione appears to have led a large-scale project to paint a vast image of the Last Judgment on the south wall of the nave (image). He then seems to have worked inside the headquarters of the Arte della Lana, the Wool Guild, where we still see an image of the Judgment of Brutus that adorns the north wall of the Audience Hall (image). After surviving the Black Death of 1348, Nardo was engaged in the complicated fresco cycle of the Last Judgment in the recently constructed chapel in the transept of S. Maria Novella that was maintained by the Strozzi Family. He painted frescoes in the Bigallo as well, but also produced modestly-sized devotional triptychs for private viewers, like the one in Washington’s National Gallery, and altarpieces for local churches, like the Trinity and Madonna and Child Enthroned for the Chapterhouse of the Camaldolese monastery of S. Maria degli Angeli.
Nardo’s stylistic approach matches that of his brother, Andrea. His proportionally accurate figures exert a kind of volumetric heft that’s articulated by subtle suggestions of light that move across draperies undulating over bodies. Facial features suggest of stoic rigor, and often include furrowed brows and drooping lips surrounded by white whiskers. The throats of his male characters in particular often bulge with shaded muscles that converge in a V pattern around the Adam’s Apple.
Nardo’s stylistic choices influenced generations of painters – including such popular figures as Niccolò di Pietro Gerini, Giovanni del Biondo, and his younger brother Jacopo di Cione. Even the florid brushwork of Lorenzo Monaco, the great painter of the early fifteenth century, can be considered as a form of dialogue with the approaches taken by Nardo di Cione.
Bracketed by the sparkling innovative spirit of Giotto and the equally transformative approach of Masaccio, Nardo di Cione and his mid-fourteenth-century peers often get overlooked when considering the grand sweep of Italian art in the early Renaissance period. But his adoption of the tenets of the older artist, combined with his own nuanced sense of spiritual rigor, formed a transitional bridge between the early fourteenth century and the fifteenth in ways that cannot be over-emphasized. He’s truly one of the great painters of the Florentine Trecento.
Becherucci, Luisa and Giulia Brunetti. Il Museo dell’Opera del Duomo di Firenze I and II (Milan and Florence, 1969-70).
Bent, George R. Monastic Art in Lorenzo Monaco’s Florence: Painting and Patronage in Santa Maria degli Angeli, 1300-1415 (Lewiston, NY, 2006).
____. Public Painting and Visual Culture in Early Republican Florence (Cambridge University Press: New York, 2016).
Boskovits, Miklos, and Angelo Tartuferi. Dipinti, Volume Primo: Dal Duecento a Giovanni da Milano (Florence, 2003).
Giles, Kathleen. “The Strozzi Chapel in Santa Maria Novella: Florentine Painting and Patronage, 1340-1355.” Ph.D. dissertation (New York University, 1977).
Levin, William. “A Lost Fresco Cycle by Nardo and Jacopo di Cione at the Misericordia in Florence.” Burlington Magazine 141 (1999): 75-80.
Meiss, Millard. Painting in Florence and Siena after the Black Death (Princeton, 1951).
Offner, Richard. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting, Section IV, Volume II (New York, 1960).
Pitts, Frances. “Nardo di Cione and the Strozzi Chapel Frescoes.” Ph.D dissertation (University of California, Berkeley, 1982).
As the Florentine new year began on March 25, all references to events transpiring in the three preceding months are marked with both the original year according to the old calendar and, in parentheses, the year according to our modern one.
The following archival references appear in Richard Offner, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting, Section IV, Volume II (New York, 1960), 3-4.
ASF, Arte de’ Medici e Speziali, Cod. VIII, fol. 76.
1343-1346 Nardus Cionis, populi Michelis Vicedominorum.
ASF, Sega dell’Anno 1351, fol. 181v.
1351 De populo Sancti Michaelis Vicedominorum. . . Nardus Cionis pictor lb. septem et s. decem.
ASF, Sega dell’Anno 1354, ff. 169v, 278v.
1354 de populo sancti Michaelis Vicedominorum Nardus Cionis pictor lb. septem et s. decem Nardus Cionis pictor lb. sex
Inscription, Lost panel, Gabella de’ Contratti. Offner, corpus iv, ii, 4. A.D. 1356 NARDUS CIONIS DE FLORENTIA ME FECIT
ASF, Arte de’ Medici e Speziali, Cod. IX, fol. 24. 1358 sub anno . . . millesimo trecentesimo quinquagesimo ottavo. . . Nardus Cionis, pictor populi sancti Michaelis Vicedominorum.
ASF, Prestanza, Cod. 9, S. Giovanni, fol. 30v.
July 23, 1359 de populo sancte reparate de vexillo draconis viridis. . . Nardus pictor–flor. tres auri. . . mccclviiii. . . die xxiii Julii.
ASF, Prestanza Cod. 16, S. Giovanni, fol. 29.
July 6, 1362 De vexillo draconis viridis. . . de populo sancti Rophilli. . . Nardus pictor–flor. tres auri. . . mccclxii. . . die vi Julii
ASF, Bigallo, Deliberazioni dei Capitani, II, fol. 47.
October 24, 1363 MCCCLXIII die 24 mensis octobris. . . Item che il lavorio che si dee fare del dipignere la volta e le altre cose si de a fare a Nardo dipintore per infino in pregio di fiorini XL
ASF, Accad. del Disegno, Cod. I, Libro Vecchio, fol. 13.
1364 Nardo Cioni dipintore MCCCL(xiiii)
ASF, Prestanza, Cod. 119, S. Giovanni, fol. 93.
Sept. 29, 1364 De vexillo draconis. . . Nardus Cionis pictor–flor. sex auri. . . mccclxiiii . . . die xxviiii septembris.
ASF, Diplomatico, S. Maria Nuova, 21 Maggio 1365.
Anno . . . millesimo trecentesimo sexagesimo quinto . . . die vigesimo primo mensis mai. . . Nardus olim Cionis pictor, populi sancte Maria novelle de Florentia.. . volens sibi suisque bonis salubriter provvidere et per hoc sine scriptis suum condere testamentum et ultiimam voluntatem condendam, disposuit in hunc modum . . . In omnibus autem aliis bonis suis et sibi universales ereds instituit fecit et esse foluit Andream, Mactheum et Iacopum fratres suos. . . equis portionibus.
ASF, Bigallo, Cod. 723: Registro de’ Lasciti fatti alla Compagnia della Misericordia dal 1351 al 1397, fol. 157v. May 16, 1366 hanne dato a di’ XVI di maggio anno 1366 fior. trenta d’oro per lui da Andrea Matteo e Iacopo fratelli e filiuoli di Cione e fratelli ereda del detto Nardo.