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A late contemporary of the famous painter Giotto di Bondone, Bernardo Daddi (ca. 1280 – 1348) became one of Florence’s most popular and most important producers of panel pictures during the two decades that preceded the advent of Bubonic Plague. The identity of his master remains unclear, and speculations range from Giotto himself to obscure miniaturists like the elusive Master of the Dominican Effigies.
His approach to figures and scenes belies an understanding of popular trends in Trecento painting, with a complete reliance on layered hues of egg tempera pigments creating colorful (if somewhat rigid) forms that immediately capture one’s attention. But Daddi was no slavish imitator, and he intentionally departed from the naturalistic and expressive figures produced by his more famous predecessor in his quest for painting characters deserving of devotional attention from viewers. His traditionalist, somewhat conservative approach retained much of the brilliance of earlier Tuscan painting in Florence and nearby Siena without the addition of potentially distracting gestural or overly emotional elements.
The first mention of Bernardo Daddi appears in a document dated 1312, when the artist matriculated into the Arte dei Medici e Speziali (Guild of the Doctors and Apothecaries), which included in its membership the painters of Florence. He signed his name on a triptych (now in the Uffizi, Florence) in 1328, and did the same in 1333 at the base of a similarly designed devotional painting now in the Bigallo. At that point, the painter began to enjoy considerable favor among local patrons. Daddi’s works dotted the Florentine urban landscape by the time of his death in 1348, and the location of his paintings reveals both his popularity with lay viewers and his importance as something of a civil servant. In addition to the altarpiece he produced for the Dominicans in S. Maria Novella and the frescoes of Saint Stephen that he painted in the massive Franciscan church of S. Croce, Daddi’s images adorned the audience hall of the Misericordia, the guild residence of the Arte dei Medici e Speziali, the high altar of the cathedral, and in 1335 the private chapel for the city’s governors inside the Palazzo della Signoria. He was responsible for a popular pictorial type called the Madonna del Bagnuolo, produced in the mid-1330s, a painting within a painting that shows the activation of an altarpiece before devotees on bended knee before it.
In 1346 Daddi was the painter selected by the Captains of Orsanmichele to replace a miracle-working panel that had adorned a column there in the grain distribution center since at least 1292. Indeed, Daddi’s version of this cult image gained an immediate following after its completion in 1347, as confraternity members soon engulfed the single dossal panel within Andrea Orcagna’s enormous and elaborate sculpted marble baldachin, the likes of which had never been seen before, and the single object that consistently received praise as the most important impressive object in the entire commune. Were it not for the massive and extensive polyptych that the painter produced for the high altar of the Duomo in 1342, known today as the S. Pancrazio Altarpiece and exhibited today in the Uffizi Musuems, the Madonna of Osanmichele would have been his best-known painting. Daddi was obviously a trusted commodity, and that fact that his rise to prominence and popularity among some of the city’s most important civic patrons coincides almost exactly with the election of Giotto to the post of “City Artist” in 1334 suggests that public commissions may have been sub-contracted by Giotto to Daddi as the older artist’s output slowed near the end of his life.
Although Giotto is usually credited with the transition away from “Romanesque” or “Byzantine” painting to a more proto-Renaissance style, it was Bernardo Daddi who probably had the greatest impact on successive generations of Florentine artists. His students appear to have included Andrea Orcagna and possibly Nardo di Cione, the two brothers who survived the plague of 1348 and inherited the mantel of “Best Artists Alive” soon thereafter. Their students – among them Andrea di Bonaiuto, Jacopo di Cione, Giovanni del Biondo, and probably Niccolò di Pietro Gerini – went on to train the next generation of great Florentine artists (including, probably, Lorenzo Monaco), and so on, right on into the middle of the fifteenth century. Blasphemous as it may sound, there is more of Bernardo Daddi’s art and legacy to be found in Trecento Florence than that of Giotto’s.
Archival References to Bernardo Daddi
Recorded in Richard Offner, A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting, Section III, Volume III (New York, 1930).
- Florence, R. Archivio di Stato. Matricole dell’Arte de’Medici e Speziali, Cod. VII.
“Al libro terzo – segnato C, che comincia l’anno – MCCCXII: Bernardo di Dado.”
“Al libro quarto – segnato D, che comincia – MCCCXX: Bernardo Daddi.”
Frey, Loggia dei Lanzi, 1885, 315.
- Inscription on the triptych in the Uffizi, Florence, No. 3073.
ANO . DNI. M. C.C.C.XXVIII . FR . NICHOLAUS . DE . MACINGHIS . DE . CANPI . ME . FIERI . FECIT . PRO . REMEDIO . ANIME . MATRIS . ET . FRATRUM . BERNARDUS . DE . FLORENTIA . ME . PINXIT .
Milanesi, Nuova Antologia, 1870, 12.
- Inscription on the Panel in the Accademia delle Belle Arti, Florence, No. 8564
NOMINE BERNARDVS DE FLORETIA PIXIT H . OP.
Passerini – Milanesi, Del Ritratto di Dante, Firenze, 1865, 17.
- Inscription on a Tabernacle in the Bigallo, Florence.
ANNO . DOMMINI . M . CCC . XXX . III .
- Florence, R. Archivio di Stato. Archivio de’Contratti di Firenze. Rogiti di Sir Bernadetto di Michele. Protocollo dal 1333 al 1335, carta 215 verso.
“Anno .. Millesimo Trecentesimo trigesimo quinto, Indictione tertia, di octavo decimo mensis maii . . vendidit – Bernardo olim Daddi pictori populi sancti Laurentii de Florentia – tertiam partem pro indiviso cuiusdam domus…”
Milanesi, Nuovi Documenti, 1893, 30-31, No. 49.
- Inventario delle Masserize del Palazzo della Signoria di Firenze, 1432.
“ . . . feciono nettare e ripulire la tavola … dell’altare di San Bernardo . . . la quale trovano fu dipinta nel 1335 per maestro Bernardo dipintore…”
Milanesi, Nuova Antologia, 1870, 13.
- Inscription on a lost altarpiece, representing three Dominican saints, once in S. maria Novella, Florence
PRO ANIMABUS PARENTUM FRATRIS GUIDONIS SALVI ET PRO ANIMA DOMINE DIANE DE CASINIS. ANNO MCCCXXXVIII. BERNARDUS ME PINXIT.
Rosselli, Stafano, Sepoltuario Fiorentino, 1657, II, 729 (ASF)
Milanesi, Vasari I, 673, n. 2
- Florence, R. Archivio di Stato. Archivio dell’Accademia del Disegno, No. 1, Libro Vecchio della Compagnia di San Luca intitolato “huomini,” fol. 1 recto.
“Questi chapitoli et ordinamenti della compagnia del glorioso messer Santo Luca . . . Et fu trovata et cominciata nelli anni domini [MCCC] XXXVIIIJ a di XVIJ d’ottobre . . .
Bernardo daddi dipintore” as one of the Chonsiglieri della detta compagnia.
See Baldinucci II, 1686, 48 et seq.
Manzoni, 1904, 117
Horne, 1909, 98-99.
- Inscription on a lost panel in the choir of S. Maria a Quarto.
“A. D. 1340 BERNARDUS ME PINXIT
Sepoltuario Strozziano, Cod. XXVI, 170, carta 81verso [Biblioteca Nazionale, Firenze]
- Inscription on the lost high altar in S. Maria a Quarto.
ANNO DNI 1341 BERNARDUS ME PINXIT
Sepoltuario Strozziano, Cod. XXVI, 170, carta 161 verso [Biblioteca Nazionale, Firenze]
- Florence, R. Archivio di Stato. Archivio de’Capitani della Compagnia d’Orsanmichele, Libri di Elemosine fatte dai Camerlinghi di Or San Michele, 244, fol. 8.
“MCCCXLVI di I di marzo a bernardo daddi dipintore che dipingne la detta tavola di nostra donna in prestanza per la detta dipintura, fiorini quattro doro.”
Frey, Loggia dei Lanzi, 1885, 61.
Milanesi in Nuova Antologia, 1870, 9.
- Florence, R. Archivio di Stato. Archivio de’Capitani della Compagnia d’Orsanmichele, Libri di Elemosine fatte dai Camerlinghi di Or San Michele, 245, fol. 6.
“MCCCXLVII a di XVI di gungno a bernardo di daddi dipintore per parte di pagnamento dela dipintura dela tavola nuova di nostra donna fiorini quattro do[ro].”
Frey, Loggia dei Lanzi, 1885, 61.
Milanesi in Nuova Antologia, 1870, 9.
- Florence, R. Archivio di Stato. Archivio de’Medici e Speziali, Cod. VIII
“. . . initavit die kallendis Madii currentis anni Domini MCCCXLVII, indictione XV et finire debit ultimo Agusti . . . Bernardus Dadi.
Frey, Loggia dei Lanzi, 1885, 329-330.
- Inscription on the polyptych in the Collection of Major Gambier-Parry, Highnam Court, Gloucester.
ANNO DNI . M . CCC . XLVIII . BERNARDVS . PINXIT . ME . QVEM . FLORENTIE . FINSIT
Rumohr II, 1827, 223.
- Florence, R. Archivio di Stato. Notarile. Protocollo C. 478 di Francesco di Giovanni Ciai da Pulicciano, carta 189 tergo.
“Millesimo trecentesimo quadragesimo octavo indictione prima . . . die decimo octavo mensis augusti . . . Thomasius filius condam Bernardi Daddi pictoris populi Sancti Laurentii de Florentia adultus, cognito quod dictus Bernardus olim eius pater decessit nullo condito testmento, relictis Daddo et Francischo filiis . . .”
Milanesi, in Crowe and Cavalcaselle, Italian ed., 1883, II,430, n. 1.
- Florence, R. Archivio di Stato. Archivio dell’Accademia del Disegno, no. 1, Libro Vecchio della Compagnia di San Luca intitolato, “huomini.”
“Bernardo daddi dipintore . . . MCCCLV
Gualandi, 1845, VI 177.