Researching Florentine Workshop Practice is a project that seeks to better understand fourteenth-century Florentine workshop practice and how the materials chosen by artists working in both panel painting and manuscript illumination impact the present-day appearance, stability, and conservation of these works. Scientists from the Getty Conservation Institute, working together with conservators and curators from the J. Paul Getty Museum, conducted in-depth studies of over thirty manuscript illuminations and panel paintings as one component in a multidisciplinary initiative culminating in the exhibition Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination, 1300–1350, on exhibit at the Getty Center from November 13, 2012 to February 10, 2013 and at the Art Gallery of Ontario from March 16 to June 13, 2013.

Background

In the early 1300s Florence experienced a period of unprecedented creativity, prosperity, urban expansion, and intellectual innovation. During this time, the city emerged as a leading center of artistic culture, perhaps best exemplified by the work of Giotto di Bondone (ca. 1267–1337), whose remarkable frescoes and panel paintings inspired the creation of the Florentine school of followers. In an effort to expand the knowledge of painting during this period, this project brought together art historians, conservators, curators, and scientists to explore the broader community of panel painters and manuscript illuminators of early Trecento Florence.
detail from The Resurrection and the Three Marys at the Tomb   detail from Scenes from the Life of Christ 
Left: The Resurrection and the Three Marys at the Tomb, by Pacino di Bonaguida, tempera, gold, and ink on parchment. Image: Lent by the Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, MS 194. Right: Tabernacle with Scenes from the Life of Christ, tempera and gold leaf on panel (Tucson, The University of Arizona Museum of Art, 61.118)

Overview

Pacino di Bonaguida, a follower of Giotto, was a hugely prolific and versatile artist who worked both as a panel painter and a manuscript illuminator. Active in Florence from around 1300 until the 1340s, Pacino dominated the market for illuminated manuscripts in that city, producing many of the first illustrated copies of the Divine Comedy by Florentine poet Dante Alighieri, as well as the Laudario of Sant'Agnese, the most lavish manuscript commission in Florence from the first half of the fourteenth century. Given the large number of works attributed to Pacino, it is generally agreed that he must have assembled a workshop of artists who worked in the style of the master artist. He also is known to have collaborated with other master artists who had their own distinctive artistic styles. For example, the Laudario of Sant'Agnese contains illuminations attributed both to Pacino and an artist known as the Master of the Dominican Effigies.

Four remarkable works from Pacino's workshop in the Getty's collection—three illuminated leaves from the celebrated Laudario of Sant'Agnese (Ms. 80, Ms. 80a, and Ms. 80b), and a panel painting known as the Chiarito Tabernacle (85.PB.311)—represent the core of the study. The opportunity to study works by a single artist on two different media—panel and parchment—served as the foundation for a scientific and technical study to better understand artistic collaboration and workshop practice in fourteenth-century Florence, and how the materials and techniques employed in each medium may have affected the appearance and aging of the works over time.

To more fully examine the nature of workshop collaboration, additional works by both Pacino and the Master of the Dominican Effigies on both media were also examined. In total, thirty-one works were studied: twenty-four attributed to Pacino (seventeen illuminations and seven panel paintings) and seven attributed to the Master of the Dominican Effigies (four illuminations and three panel paintings).

Project Goals

The goals of the project are:
  1. To increase our understanding of panel painting and manuscript illumination techniques and workshop practice in early Trecento Florence.
    • To investigate the extent to which pigments and painting techniques traditionally reserved for panel paintings were utilized in manuscript illuminations, and vice versa.
    • To explore the work of Pacino di Bonaguida and his collaborators and the extent to which individual artistic hands may be differentiated through material analysis.
    • To utilize better preserved manuscript illuminations to inform our understanding and conservation of the original appearance of works on panel that have changed over time.

  2. To support the exhibition Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination, 1300–1350, at the Getty Center through catalogue essays, exhibition displays, and other didactic material.
  3. To disseminate information resulting from the research to a diverse audience, including conservators, art historians, and scientists through a variety of channels, including publications, presentations at conferences, symposia, and public programming.






detail of The Trinity 
  detail from Chiarito Tablernacle  
Details from a panel painting and illuminated manuscript by Pacino di Bonaguida. Left: The Trinity, tempera and gold leaf on parchment (New York, The Morgan Library & Museum, MS. M.742) Right: Detail from Chiarito Tabernacle, by Pacino, tempera on panel (J. Paul Getty Museum, 85.PB.311)
Banner image: The Ascension of Christ (detail) from the Laudario of Sant'Agnese, about 1340, Pacino di Bonaguida. Tempera and gold on parchment, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 80a, verso.

Last updated: December 2012