A Panel by Pietro Lorenzetti Stays in England

Pietro Lorenzetti
(active around 1306-1345)
Christ surrounded by Saint Peter
and Saint Paul
, c. 1320
Tempera and Gold on Panel - 32.2 x 70.4 cm
Hull, Ferens Art Gallery
Photo : The National Gallery of London/Ferens Art Gallery

28/8/13 - Acquisition - Hull, Ferens Art Gallery - The work, practically unknown, came up for auction at Christie’s London on 3 July 2012, selling for £5,081,250 to a New York dealer who chose to await its export licence before paying. The English government stepped in, issuing a temporary export ban, in order to raise the funds needed for the purchase, and renegotiating the price in a direct transaction as the winning bidder had not made final payment. The reduction is quite significant as it corresponds just about to the initial estimate, that is £1,612,940. The amount was raised with the help of the Art Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

This is a work by Pietro Lorenzetti painted in tempura with gold background around 1320, representing Christ surrounded by Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The National Gallery has promised to finance the necessary restorations, notably stabilizing the structure and cleaning the pictorial layer. The panel will then join the collections of a provincial museum : the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, in 2014.

The work was probably part of an altarpiece. The entry in the auction catalogue from Christie’s suggests that it might have been the predella in a polyptych with a central composition depicting the Virgin with Child Enthroned with a Donor, residing in Philadelphia.
Christ, despite being presented face on, has His head slightly turned, not towards Peter, but rather Paul, the pagan who converted. Lorenzetti’s figures already appear imbued with a certain humanity and the two saints are holding their attributes in a pose which is not at all static. Probably trained in Duccio’s studio along with his brother, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, and also Simone Martini, Pietro adopted a more naturalist and narrative approach in the Siennese school which was dominated by the Byzantine tradition, as reflected by the polyptych which he painted in 1320 for Santa Maria della Pieve in Arezzo. A panel held in Seattle shows the Virgin also surrounded by Saints Peter and Paul, both similar to those with Christ here.

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Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, jeudi 29 août 2013

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