click image to enlarge

Lippo Memmi
Saint John the Baptist

probably c. 1325
tempera on panel
painted surface (incised line to incised line): 88.7 × 42.2 cm (34 15/16 × 16 5/8 in)
Probably church of San Francesco, San Gimignano, until 1553; [1] church of San Giovanni Battista, San Gimignano, until 1782/1787; [2] church of San Francesco, Colle Val d’Elsa, between 1787 and mid-nineteenth century. [3] Graf von Oriola, Schloss Budesheim, Oberhessen; (his sale, Mensing & Fils at Frederik Muller & Co., Amsterdam, 13 April 1932, no. 3, as by Taddeo di Bartolo). [4] (Jacques Goudstikker, Amsterdam), by 1934; [5] purchased February 1937 through (Paul Cassierer & Co., Amsterdam) by (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); [6] sold June 1938 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; [7] gift 1939 to NGA.

[1] In 1865 Francesco Brogi saw two of the original companion panels to the NGA’s painting in the church of the Franciscans of Colle Val d’Elsa (not published until 1897: Francesco Brogi, Inventario generale degli oggetti d’arte della provincia di Siena, Siena, 1897: 158). However, it has been convincingly suggested (Alessandro Bagnoli, "La Chiesa di San Francesco a Colle di Val d'Elsa, intenti per un restauro globale," in Restauri e Recuperi in terra di Siena. XI Settimana dei Beni Culturali, Sienna, December 1995: n.p.; Alessandro Bagnoli, La Maestà di Simone Martini, Milan, 1999: 151 n. 184; Marianne Lonjon, “Précisions sur la provenance du retable dit 'de Colle val d’Elsa' de Lippo Memmi,” Revue des Musée de France 56, no. 2 [2006]: 31-40) that they were transferred there only in the late eighteenth century from the church of the same order in San Gimignano; it may be presumed that they had originally adorned its high altar. Situated outside the city walls, the church of San Francesco in San Gimignano was demolished in 1553, when, by order of Cosimo I de’ Medici, a new system of fortifications was erected around the city.
[2] After the 1553 demolition of their church of San Francesco, the Franciscans moved inside the city of San Gimignano, settling in the convent annexed to the church of San Giovanni Battista. In 1782 Duke Leopold suppressed this convent, forcing the friars to make another move.
[3] The community of friars moved to the convent of San Francesco in Colle Val d’Elsa in 1787, likely bringing with them all the church furnishings from San Gimignano. As mentioned above (note 1), two companion panels, Memmi’s Saint Francis and Saint Louis of Toulouse (both now in the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Siena), were recorded by Francesco Brogi in 1865 as hanging in the sacristy of the Franciscan church of Colle. The other panels of the dismembered altarpiece were no longer there at this time.
[4] The auction catalog offered for sale a “Collection Comte Oriola, formée en Italie de 1860-1896 env.,” without further explanation. Lot 1 of the sale was a detached fresco by Perugino representing the Pietà, which apparently remained unsold (now in the collection of the Cassa di Risparmio in Florence). Walter and Elisabeth Paatz (Die Kirchen von Florenz. Ein kunstgeschichtliches Handbuch, 6 vols., Frankfurt am Main, 1940-1953: 4 [1952]: 649-650, n. 35) cite the fresco as belonging to the heirs of Graf Oriola in Büdesheim, Oberhessen, the location of the collection. The year 1883 is stated as the date of Graf Oriola’s acquisition. An Italian stone relief representing the Profile Portrait of a Man, lot 46 of the 1932 sale in Amsterdam, which similarly found its way into the Kress Foundation’s collection in 1938 and subsequently into the Philbrook Art Center in Tulsa, is also stated to have belonged to the Oriola Collection in Büdensheim; see Ulrich Middeldorf, Sculptures from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. European Sculptures, London, 1976: 67. It is possible that the “Comte Oriola” named in the sale catalogue referred to Eduard Ernst Lobo da Silveira (1809-1862) and his sons, Waldemar (1854-1910) and Joachim (1858-1907) Lobo da Silveira, all of whom were known as Graf von Oriola. They were the son and grandsons, respectively, of a Portuguese minister, Joaquim José Lobo da Silveira (1772-1846), who was given a title in the Prussian nobility by Friedrich Wilhelm III, king of Prussia (1770-1840) and who resettled his family in Prussia. Waldemar had Schloss Büdesheim constructed in 1885 near an older castle of the same name, and Joachim was a naval attaché in the German embassy in Italy.
[5] Goudstikker lent the painting to an exhibition in Amsterdam in 1934. On the life and career of the Dutch dealer see Charlotte Wiefhoff, “De Kunsthandelaar Jacques Goudstikker 1897 - 1940,” Nederlands Kunsthistotisch Jaarboek 32 (1982): 249-278.
[6] Duveen Brothers Records, accession number 960015, Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles: reel 119, box 264, folder 8; reel 121, box 266, folder 18 (copies in NGA curatorial files).
[7] The bill of sale for eight paintings, including this one, is dated 21 June 1938; payments were to extend through November 1939. The attributions on the bill, in this case to Simone Martini, were those of Bernard Berenson. Duveen Brothers Records, accession number 960015, Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles: reel 329, box 474, folder 5 (copies in NGA curatorial files).
Record Link