Description & Technical information

Seated formerly in a frontal austere position wearing a shallow crown, Christ is depicted in a blessing movement, the Word of God held open facing the viewer resting on his left thigh. Modelled with beautiful lines and planes, there is a softness to the drapery which twists and falls to frame the body conveying a rhythm and elegance sympathetic to the formality of the image. 

The style and characteristics of the present sculpture support the conclusion that it was produced within the sphere of the Sienese workshops active at the beginning of the second half of the 14th century. It may be compared from an iconographic perspective to the Christ Enthroned attributed to Giovanni d'Agostino in the Pieve di San Lorenzo alle Serre di Rapolano as well as to the examples in Museo dell'Opera del Duomo di Siena and in the Salini collection, Siena (chronologically the oldest work of the three). The unmistakable form of the imagery make it probable that it is the product of the largest and most significant workshop active in Siena in the mid 14th century started by sculptor and architect Agostino di Giovanni (documented c. 1310 – c. 1346-1347) and continued by his two sons: Giovanni (documented c. 1331 –1348) (who likely died from the great plague of 1348) and Domenico (documented c. 1343 – 1370). All three men were connected with the construction site of the ‘new’ cathedral of Siena.

While scholars have been able to attribute with confidence bodies of work to the former two craftsmen, this task remains to be accomplished for Domenico. It is known that he was registered among the stone masters in the book of arts in 1363 and that he remained a master builder of the Siena Cathedral for some 20 years. It may be assumed that it was to the models of his elder brother Giovanni that Domenico must have looked, while adopting his own taste and interpretation on both an iconographic and stylistic level.

In recent years Bartalini (op. cit.) has given various reliefs to Domenico including those of the Prophets on the arches of the Siena Cathedral attributed to his brother as well as the San Giovanni Battista and the San Pietro of the Cathedral of Montepulciano and the San Giovanni Battista del Fastigio of the collegiate church of the same name in Chianciano. In November 2016 a Saint John the Baptist offered by Cambi (lot 1408) showing many similarities to our Christ Enthroned was attributed to Domenico – for example, the large circled eyes, the frown of the brow with deep furrows and the combed smoothness of the hair which curls up at the ends, seen also particularly on the San Pietro in Montepulciano to segment the thick bunches of hair. The sublime technical detail of the drill work in the curled beard (and even to open the lips) seems to be a constant in the probable corpus of Domenico d'Agostino. The small size of these representations may be seen as conducive to a conscious dilution of expressionism in favour of greater elegance and reflective of an artistic personality which differs from that of his brother. It is likely that the present work, carved three quarters in the round, was commissioned for private devotion and designed to be placed within a niche.

In an excellent state of preservation, this unpublished Christ Enthroned is an important addition to the oeuvre of Domenico and serves to greater inform us of the Siense industry in the aftermath of the devastating plague that struck the city and neighbouring territories like Montepulciano in 1348 and of the notoriety and reputation acquired by Domenico after the death of his brother in the training of the local art scene.

We are grateful to Associate Professor Fabio Massaccesi, Università di Bologna, for confirming the attribution to Domenico d’Agostino based on first hand examination of the work.

Date:  1343 - 1370
Period:  14th century
Origin:  Italy
Medium: Italy, Siena, mid 14th century
Provenance: Private collection, Siena 

Literature: A. Bagnoli, ‘Giovanni d’Agostino, Madonna con il Bambino e due Angeli’ in G. Previtali (ed.), Il gotico a Siena. Miniature, pitture, oreficerie, oggetti d’arte, catalogo della mostra, Siena, 1982 (Firenze, 1982), pp. 210 ff
R. Bartalini, ‘La facciata del battistero di Siena e Giovanni d’Agostino’ in Antichità viva, Vol. XXVIII (1989), 2-3, pp. 57-65
R. Bartalini, ‘Agostino di Giovanni e compagni, II, Il possibile Domenico d’Agostino’ in Prospettiva, Vol. 61 (1991), pp. 29-37
R. Bartalini, ‘Cinque postille su Giovanni d’Agostino’ in Prospettiva, Vol. 73-74 (1994), pp. 46-73
R. Bartalini, ‘Giovanni d’Agostino’ in Enciclopedia dell’arte medievale, Vol. VI (1995), pp. 695-698
R. Bartalini, Scultura gotica in Toscana. Maestri, monumenti, cantieri del Due e Trecento (Firenze, 2005), pp. 215-290
R. Bartalini, ‘Giovanni d’Agostino, Gesù Cristo benedicente’ in L. Bellosi (ed.), La collezione Salini. Scultura e oreficeria, Vol. I, (Firenze, 2009), scheda n. 19, pp. 120-125
R. Bartalini, Il Duomo nuovo di Siena. La fabbrica, le sculture, le dinamiche di cantiere, Cinisello Balsamo (2019)
E. Carli, ‘Scultori senesi a Pistoia’ in Il gotico a Pistoia nei suoi rapporti con l’arte gotica italiana, Atti del convegno internazionale di studi, Pistoia, 1966 (Roma, 1972), pp. 24-30
A. Garzelli, ‘Problemi di scultura senese, I’ in La Critica d’arte, Vol. XII (1966), 78, pp. 17-26
S. Romano, ‘Agostino di Giovanni’ in Enciclopedia dell’arte medievale (1991)
R. Bartalini (ed.), Scultura gotica senese (Siena, 2011), pp. 329-368
G. Kreytenberg, ‘Giovanni d’Agostino’ in Dizionario biografico degli italiani, Vol. 55 (2002)

Categories: Sculpture