Cosimo Rosselli's Birmingham altarpiece, the Vallombrosan Abbey of S. Trinita in Florence and its Gianfigliazzi Chapel

Noszlopy, George T. and May, Susan (2015) Cosimo Rosselli's Birmingham altarpiece, the Vallombrosan Abbey of S. Trinita in Florence and its Gianfigliazzi Chapel. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 78. pp. 97-133. ISSN 0075-4390

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Abstract

The subject of the present study is Cosimo Rosselli's The Adoration of the Child Jesus (c. 1485), today in the collection of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham. It takes as its starting point two factors noted from the Barber Institute guide - the ‘complex subject matter’ and the painting’s unknown original location. The paper thus falls into two sections. Part 1 consists of a fresh iconographical analysis of the altarpiece grounded in accepted historical and contextual scholarship. This section underscores Rosselli’s indebtedness to his contemporaries, showing however that he was immediately responsive to the latest conceptual innovations taking place around him and that he was himself capable of a degree of novelty. Part 2 addresses the question of the site for which Rosselli’s altarpiece may have been made. As is the case with the overwhelming majority of extant works of art, an extensive search notwithstanding, no contractual document or early description of the altarpiece in situ has so far come to light. A detailed hypothesis is, nonetheless, put forward, which proposes the identity of the patronal family and the chapel for which the painting may have been commissioned. Thorough research into family history, topographical information and circumstantial particulars renders the hypothesis entirely plausible. It should be reiterated that no documentary evidence directly supporting the patron and position put forward here has been uncovered to date. By the same token, nothing has so far been found that negates the possibility. The findings of this research are therefore set before the scholarly community for their value, and/or potential, as contributions to knowledge about the iconography, date and context of the altarpiece. The paper shows, in short, that Cosimo Rosselli’s Adoration of the Child Jesus is to be understood as a contemplation on the mystery of the incarnation and that it was probably painted in, or very shortly after, 1485. It makes a case for the altarpiece having been commissioned by the Gianfigliazzi clan of Florence for its family chapel in the abbey church of Santa Trinita.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: V100 History by period
V200 History by area
V600 Theology and Religious studies
W100 Fine Art
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > School of Art
Depositing User: Susan May
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2017 13:40
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2017 13:54
URI: http://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/5332

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