The Panzano Master
active in Siena, second half of the 14th century
Tempera on wood
57 x 55 cm
The Virgin Enthroned Nursing the Child between Saint Lucy, Saint Paul, Saint Catherine, and Saint Peter: in the wings, Saint Christopher and Saint Anthony Abbot. In the central cusp, The Trinity; in the side cusps, The Annunciation Angel and The Virgin Annunciate. Above, in two tondoes, The Prophet Jeremiah and The Prophet Daniel. On the predella, The Dead Christ between the Four Evangelists
The panel, originally in the church of Santi Vincenzo and Anastasio of the Contrada of the Istrice (Porcupine) in Siena, seems to have been conceived by this anonymous artist as an imitation of the precious objects made by the skillful jewelers and goldsmiths of Siena during the fourteenth century. The motifs in relief, molded of stucco and then gilded, simulate the precious effect of the embossed gold plate used to make chalices and reliquaries, while the rich texture of punched decorations adorning the haloes of the saints, the Virgin’s throne and the borders of the individual panels give a more subdued version of the elaborately pierced and hammered precious metals used to make the most beautifully crafted liturgical objects.
Despite the less costly materials used (wood, tempera, stucco, gold leaf), the reference to these precious techniques ensured the possessor of this work a no less impressive and valuable object in the eyes of the beholder. The painting style of this anonymous artist is marked by a nervous handling of the line and a pronounced taste for dramatic, poignant facial expressions. Notice especially the sudden swirl of the billowing cloaks of Saint Christopher and of the Child perched on his shoulders, balanced in the right section of the small painting by the severe, glowering face of Saint Anthony Abbot. The meticulous description and exaggerated facial features of the figures point to an essentially popular culture for this as yet unnamed painter. Working at the close of the fourteenth century, the Panzano Master seems to take a position half-way between the style of Bartolo di Fredi, reminiscent of the example of Simone Martini, and the late Gothic elements of the art of Taddeo di Bartolo.