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Cosimo Rosselli - Predella.jpeg

Cosimo Rosselli

Florence, 1439 - 1507

This panel constitutes one of the sections of a predella and was part of the same unidentified polyptych together with other two now at the Pinacoteca Vaticana.

Cosimo Rosselli - Predella - Flavio Gianassi

Two Franciscan friars 

and a king wearing a Franciscan habit

Tempera on panel, 8.3 x 31 cm


Private collection

Made from a single panel with a horizontal grain, the panel depicts two Franciscan friars, showing large open books, and a crowned man, with a golden globe and sceptre, wearing a Franciscan habit. Of course, there are no known Franciscan sovereigns, so this very unusual iconography makes it impossible to recognise with certainty the person portrayed, who seems difficult to identify, even hypothetically, with Louis of Toulouse - who should be wearing bishop’s robes - or with Louis IX of France, who is often depicted in Franciscan contexts. Traces of gilding are visible along the upper edge of the panel, while in the lower part the plaster beard is preserved, a sign of the presence of an engaged frame, removed at an unspecified date. 

Cosimo Rosselli - Musei Vaticani - Flavio Gianassi
Cosimo Rosselli - Musei Vaticani - Flavio Gianassi

Two other twin panels preserved in the Pinacoteca Vaticana (inv. 135-136), identical in size and compositional choices  can be connected to this panel, unknown to scholars. In each panel are described three Franciscans who, like ours, don’t have the halos, wear large robes, and display large open books. They have no characterising attributes, with the exception of the figure who turns around, wearing a cardinal’s galero, caught in the act of writing, which

can be identified with ease in St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, the Doctor Seraphicus, general of the Franciscan order from 1257.

The figure in the centre of the panel, with his sullen face and prominent nose, recalls, in a minor way, the Saint Francis of the altarpiece in Santa Maria a Lungotuono, near Dogana (Castelfiorentino, Florence), dated 1471. His low, gloomy and somewhat dull gaze is recurrent in Rosselli’s  works, and is shared by the Virgin of the Adoration of the Child with St. Joseph and St. John, once in the collection of Charles Fairfax Murray in Florence and more recently in the collection of Domenico Piva in Milan, or in the similar Madonna of the tondo in the Seattle Art Museum in Seattle.

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