Familiare Del Boccati
Madonna and Child
Oil and tempera on panel
63.5 x 44.5 cm
25 x 17 5/8 in
Umberto Pini collection, Bologna,
J. Pope-Hennessy, Francesco
di Giorgio, Neroccio: two Madonnas and an altarpiece in “The Burlington
Magazine”, CDXLI, 1939, pp. 229-231;
A.S. Weller, Francesco
di Giorgio, 1439-1501, Chicago 1943, pp. 87-88, 95, fig. 25 (as Francesco
R. Longhi, ‘Un 'familiare del Boccati' in “Paragone”,
153, 1962, pp. 62-64, plate 58b (as the "Familiare del Boccati").
Roberto Longhi was first to isolate the personality of this distinct artist, dubbing him the "Familiare di Boccati" and uniting his oeuvre which then comprised the present panel, at that time in the Umberto Pini collection, Bologna; a further Madonna and Child with Two Angels in the Louvre, Paris; a Coronation of the Virgin in the Staedelsches Kunstinstitute, Frankfurt; and a Saint Sebastian in a private collection).
Longhi dismissed previous attributions of this work to the Sienese artist, Francesco di Giorgio, an opinion published by Pope-Hennessey and later reprised by Weller in his catalogue on that artist. Pope-Hennessey believed this panel to be a later work by Francesco, dating it between 1471 and 1475, and rationalising the divergence in style as due to its later execution in a period when "Francesco di Giorgio's art takes on a new firmness and an almost academic severity of outline." He also alluded to manifestations of the influence of Fra Filippo Lippi, citing the smooth features of the Madonna, the plump cheeks of the Christ Child and the extended position of his arm, as derivations in reverse of Lippi's Tondo, now in the Uffizi, Florence. There are however other stylistic peculiarities present in the panel: the sense of depth created by the perspective-drawn halos, most unlike the elaborately decorative designs of the Sienese artist's works; and the unusual rendering of the angels' and Christ Child's hair, falling in long, thin, vertical ringlets rather than the voluminous soft curls generally preferred by Francesco. Both qualities, thought by Weller to be progressions in Francesco's art, are instead features indicative of its execution by a different hand entirely.
Though somewhat elusive as a personality, the grouping of works by this anonymous artist is unmistakably homogenous and the moniker of the "Familiare del Boccati" was coined by Longhi due to the artist's apparent likeness in style to the Perugian painter, Giovanni Boccati, active in Marche and Umbria between 1445 and 1480. Modern scholarship, meanwhile, has disputed the Familiare's association with this region and Andrea de Marchi considers him to have been a Lucchese painter, linking him to the Master of Benabbio (now identified as Baldassare di Biagio del Firenze) and Matteo Civitali, both of whom were active in Lucca during the same period. De Marchi added a further Madonna and Child to the artist's oeuvre which manifests striking physiological parallels with the present picture: the smooth moulding of the flesh of the faces; the Madonna's slightly pronounced and dimpled chin; her half closed eyes; and the stout little nose and Lippesque cheeks of the Christ Child. The similarities between the two panels leave little doubt of their having been painted by the same hand.
We are grateful to Andrea de Marchi and Laurence Kanter for independently suggesting a full attribution to Familiare del Boccati.
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