Giovanni dal Ponte: Coronation of the Virgin. © l'Accademia di Firenze

Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-1437)

Giovanni dal Porte is an important artist bridging late Gothic and Early Renaissance. Known as a copyist, an exhibition in Florence aims to give him a more secure position on the Parnassos.

Giovanni dal Ponte (1385-1437)
A Protagonist of Late Gothic Humanism Florentine
Firenze, Galleria dell’ Accademia
22.11.2016 – 12.03.2017

Giovanni dal Ponte (Giovanni di Marco di Giovanni, detto) Firenze 1385-1437/1438 Madonna col Bambino tra i santi Giovanni battista, Caterina e due angeli Nell’incorniciatura: Angeli Secondo quarto del XV secolo Tempera su tavola, cm 114,3 x 67,6 Hartford (Connecticut), Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund
Giovanni dal Ponte: Madonna with the Baby flanked by St. John the Baptist and St. Catherine. Hartford (Connecticut), Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund

Giovanni dal Ponte (1385 – 1437) acquired his name “dal Ponte” due to the location of his studio near Santo Stefano a Ponte in Florence. Member of different artistic confraternities or companies from c. 1410, he obviously had troubles making a living and in 1424 he was taken to a debtor’s prison. However, by the late 1420s he partnered with Smeraldo di Giovanni and opened his own studio. He is known for a varied and prolific production, which includes panels, fresco cycles and decorated objects like cassoni or marriage chests.

The exhibition at the Galleri dell’Academia in Florence this winter aims at curating an exhibition showing some fifty works of his art and thus introducing him to a wider public. Although he is known to have been inspired by such artists as Gherardo Starnina, Lorenzo Monaco, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Masolino da Panicale, and Fra Angelico, he was no mere copyists.

His main surviving work from the earliest period is the triptych, which he painted for Sant’ Andrea in Brozzi, which is now in the Museum of San Donnino in Campi Bisenzio (c. 1410). This contains a number of clear references to the work of Gherardo Starnina. Later, his work became more inspired by the dawning Renaissance and a painter like Massachio, as witnessed by the polyptych of the Madonna and Child Enthroned, which currently hangs in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. This artist also inspired a predella depicting the Deliverance of St. Peter and a number of other panels currently kept and exhibited in the Uffizi.

Giovanni dal Ponte: Fragment of a frontal of a Cassoni. Private Collection
Giovanni dal Ponte: Fragment of a frontal of a Cassone. Private Collection of the Prince of Monaco

Concomitantly with this, he made a living from painting the extremely popular bridal chests, the cassoni. One of his best works in this genre is the front panel of a bridal chest, currently belonging to Museo Civico “Amedeo Lia” in La Spezia. This is not exhibited in Florence this winter, but other examples of this enchanting genre are shown, for instance the frontal currently kept in the Institut de France, Musee Jacquemart-Andre. Such chests were costly. Prices listed for his work lies within the price range of 20 – 25 florins or the equivalent of the yearly income of a daily worker or servant. [1] Another type of minor works, which artists like Giovanni dal Ponte might have carried out were cards. One such deck is the so-called “Rothschild-Bergamo cards”, which have been argued were painted by the artist around 1420 (Currently kept at Louvre)

Giovanni dal Ponte: The Anncoation. Tempera su tavola, cm 205 x 230 Campi Bisenzio (Firenze), Museo di Arte Sacra di San Donnino
Giovanni dal Ponte: The Annonciation. Campi Bisenzio (Firenze), Museo di Arte Sacra di San Donnino

One of the exhibited masterpieces is the large triptych entitled The Coronation of the Virgin with Four Saints. This has been undergone restoration and can now be seen in all its dazzling colours. The wonderful carpet on which the figures stand has shed its former darkness to once again reveal its original brilliant green decorated with rich gilded tendrils. But the restoration has also revealed the delicate drawing-technique characteristic of the artist. He was definitely able to handle painterly naturalism on par with his contemporaries.

The exhibition also marks the museum’s definitive acquisition of another work by Giovanni dal Ponte, a tender and luminous Madonna and Child Enthroned, originally from the church of the Badia Fiorentina in the heart of the city but stored for many years at the Certosa del Galluzzo. It has too been splendidly restored for the occasion. In this picture the artist offers us a highly original take on the manner of Masolino da Panicale, Masaccio’s partner in art.

A number of pieces have generously been made available by the National Gallery of Art, the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire de Belgique in Brussels, the Baltimore Museum of Art in Baltimore, Maryland, the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Musée Jacquemart-André de l’Institut de France in Paris and the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon. Other important pieces have unfortunaly not joined this exhibition (for instance the “Virgin and Child Enthroned with the Archangel Michael, and Saints Lawrence, Stephen, George” which hangs in the Columbia Museum of Art. The colours of this triptych are especially delicate in their rich pastel tone.

Curators of the exhibition are Angelo Tartuferi and Lorenzo Sbaraglio. The layout of the exhibition has been designed by the architect Piero Guicciardini . The exhibition is promoted by the Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo with the Galleria dell’ Accademia di Firenze.

 Giovanni dal Ponte Cassone or Bridal Chest: Garden of Love. Cassone: Giardino d’amore 1430-1435 circa Paris, Institut de France, Musee Jacquemart-Andre
This marriage chest shows pairs of lovers, in full length, strolling across a meadow full of flowers. Some represent ancient heroes like Paris and Helen, others are believed to be Tristan and Iseult. Immortal lovers, dressed in fantastical clothes, in flowery Elysian Fields, were often painted by Giovanni dal Ponte on his cassoni, which proves that it must have been a popular theme. Giovanni dal Ponte: Cassone or Bridal Chest: Garden of Love.Ca. 1430 – 35. Paris, Institut de France, Musee Jacquemart-André.

NOTES:

Prices from: The Renaissance in the Fields. Family Memoirs of a fifteenth-Century Tuscan Peasant. By Duccio Balestracci. Penn State Press 1999, pp. XXII.

Giovanni dal Ponte Catalogue 2016 coverGiovanni dal Ponte. Protagonista dell’umanesima tardogotico fiorentino.

Ed. By Lorenzo Sbaraglio,Lorenzo and Angelo Tartuferi
Giunti Editore S.p.A 2016

The catalogue includes a full inventory (2016) of the work of the artist  in both public and private collections

 

 

FEATURED PHOTO:

Giovanni dal Ponte (Giovanni di Marco) Firenze 1385-1437/1438. Coronation of the Virgin c. 1430. Source: Firenze, Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze

 

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