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Bartolomeo Bulgarini
Saint Catherine of Alexandria

c. 1335/1340
tempera on panel
painted surface (edge of gilding to edge of gilding): 73.5 × 40.5 cm (28 15/16 × 15 15/16 in)
Monastery of San Cerbone, near Lucca, by 1706 until no later than 1845; [1] possibly Carlo Lasinio [1759–1838] or his son, Giovanni Paolo Lasinio [c. 1796-1855], Pisa; probably Monsignor Gabriele Laureani [d. 1849], Rome; [2] Giulio Sterbini [d. 1911], Rome, by 1905; (Pasini, Rome). [3] (Godfroy [sometimes spelled Godefroy] Brauer, Paris and Nice), by 1921; [4] his estate; (sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 5 July 1929, no. 29); half shares purchased by (Kunsthandel A.G., Lucerne) and (antique dealer, Amsterdam); sold 18 October 1932 to (Julius Böhler, Munich); [5] sold 4 September 1937 to (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); [6] sold 1940 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1943 to NGA.

[1] The church of San Cerbone near Lucca is mentioned for the first time in a document of 1059. Another document, of 1140, also records the Benedictine monastery annexed to the church. In 1234 the community of nuns assumed the Cistercian rule. They abandoned the monastery in 1442, when a community of Franciscan Observants was established in its place. See Enrico Lombardi, San Cerbone nella leggenda, nel culto e nell’arte, Massa Marittima, n.d. [c. 1970-1975]: 34-35. Antonio da Brandeglio (Vita di S. Cerbone Vescovo di Populonia e confessore, Lucca, 1706: 214-218) described the painting as extant in the chapel of the Madonna. Michele Ridolfi (“Sopra i tre più antichi dipintori lucchesi dei quali si conoscono le opere: cenni storici e critici,” Atti dell'Accademia lucchese di scienze, lettere ed arti 13 [1845]: 349-393) does not find the NGA painting; it was probably dispersed after the 1806 Napleonic suppression of religious orders.
[2] David Farabulini (La pittura antica e moderna e la Galleria del cav. Giulio Sterbini, Rome, 1874), who does not cite the painting now in Washington, states that the central nucleus of the Sterbini collection was formed of paintings collected by Monsignor Gabriele Laureani, custodian of the Biblioteca Vaticana from 1838 to 1849. Laureani is known for having acquired a large number of “primitives” for what is now the Pinacoteca Vaticana. Probably this prelate also collected paintings for himself and, following his death, his collection passed into that of Sterbini. It is also known that Laureani purchased Tuscan paintings of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries from Carlo Lasinio, keeper/curator of the Camposanto in Pisa from 1807, whose collection was swollen in large part by paintings amassed at the time of the suppression of the convents in the early nineteenth century. It seems plausible to assume, therefore, that the panel now in the National Gallery of Art reached Rome through the intermediary of Carlo Lasinio (who in addition to being an engraver, is known to have been an art dealer as well as a collector) or his son Giovanni Paolo Lasinio (see Christopher Lloyd, “A note on Carlo Lasinio and Giovanni Paolo Lasinio,” The Bodleian Library Record 10 [1978-1982]: 51-57; Donata Levi, "Carlo Lasinio, curator, collector and dealer," The Burlington Magazine 135 [1993]: 133-148). For the paintings in the Biblioteca Vaticana with a provenance from the collection of Lasinio or his son through that of Laureani, see Wolfgang Fritz Volbach, Catalogo della Pinacoteca Vaticana. Vol. 2. Il Trecento. Firenze e Siena, Vatican City, 1987: 23, 24, 40; Francesco Rossi, Catalogo della Pinacoteca Vaticana. Vol. 3. Il Trecento. Umbria, Marche, Italia del Nord, Vatican City, 1994: 139, 142.
[3] Adolfo Venturi (“La quadreria Sterbini,” L’Arte 8 (1905): 422-440; La Galleria Sterbini in Roma, Rome, 1906: no. 6) first mentions the panel, together with two companion pieces now in the collection of the Pinacoteca Capitolina in Rome, as belonging to the Sterbini collection, but it had probably been there for several decades by then. After the collector’s death, at least part of the works formerly belonging to him passed to the Pasini collection in Rome (Raimond van Marle, The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting, 19 vols., The Hague, 1923-1938: 4[1924]:288, 378; 13[1931]:454 n. 1) and, possibly, to other collectors as well. Federico Zeri wrote to Robert O. Parks that Pasini was the dealer who sold the entire Sterbini collection; Parks in turn passed this information on to John Walker (letter, Parks to Walker, 27 December 1949, in NGA curatorial files).
[4] The painting was in Brauer’s collection at least by 20 May 1921, when the Paris office of Duveen Brothers describes it in a letter to their New York office: “A picture of ‘Saint Catherine,’ about 18 inches by 14, which he attributes to Ambrogio Lorenzetti.” The dimensions are more accurate in their description two years later (31 March 1923): “1 picture ‘St-Catherine of Alexandria.’ Pointed top. Gold background. Red cloak. Large gold plaque on breast. School of LORENZETTI. About 28 inches high.” Brauer died in December 1923, and Duveen Brothers remained in contact with his widow, Lina Haas Brauer (1868-1936), although they made no purchases from her. Duveen Brothers Records, accession number 960015, Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles: reel 82, box 227, folders 26–28, and reel 115, box 260, folder 24 (copies in NGA curatorial files).
[5] Newspaper coverage of the 1929 sale, as well as an annotated copy of the sale catalogue (copies in NGA curatorial files), record Böhler as purchaser of the painting. Inventory card no. 164-32, in the Records of Julius Böhler Munich, Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (copy in NGA curatorial files), documents instead the 1932 purchase by Böhler and the half shares owned by the other dealers. The Lucerne and Munich firms, however, were intimately connected, as the Lucerne firm had been founded in 1920 by a son of the founder of the Munich firm. In 1930, Emilio Cecchi (Pietro Lorenzetti, Milan, 1930: 7) stated that the panel of Saint Catherine “è ora passata alla raccolta Ringling in Monaco.” Fern Rusk Shapley (Catalogue of the Italian Paintings, 2 vols., Washington, D.C., 1979: 1:271), as well as the prospectus assembled by Duveen Brothers (in NGA curatorial files), also speak of an otherwise unspecified Ringling collection in Munich. However, in view of the fact that the painting had been publicized as having been purchased by Böhler’s in Munich, the possible new owner was presumably the circus tycoon John Ringling (1866-1936), who is known to have used Böhler’s services in building up his art collection (now the Ringling Museum) in Sarasota, Florida, since the late 1920s. By 1930-1931, however, Ringling’s collecting had come to a rather abrupt halt as a consequence of the economic crisis (Peter Tomory, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings before 1800. The John Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, 1976: ix–xiii). Possibly for this reason the painting never in fact joined the rest of the Ringling collection. Instead, it must have remained in Europe, and Andrea Péter (“Ugolino Lorenzetti e il Maestro d'Ovile,” Rivista d'Arte 13 (1931): 2-44) also cites it as being with Böhler’s, whereas its two companion pieces were still in a private collection, presumably one of Sterbini’s heirs. It is noted in the 1929 newspaper coverage that Ringling was a purchaser at the sale, and perhaps because of this his name was linked with the painting by mistake.
[6] See the Böhler inventory card cited in note 5. The card also notes that the painting was first sold to Carl Hamilton in May 1937, but was then returned. Hamilton (1886-1967) was a client of Duveen Brothers; the dealer had offered him a large collection of Italian paintings on approval by 1920, but Hamilton did not purchase them and returned the paintings to Duveen the following year. .
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