Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 1832
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Corrie , Rebecca W.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Constantinople, Siena, and the Polesden Lacy Triptych: An Angevin Commission for a Crusader Empress
  • Source: Byzantine Studies Conference. Abstracts of Papers 28, ( 2002): Pages 39 - 40.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Art History- Painting Byzantium Catherine de Valois Courtenay, Wife of Philip, Prince of Taranto Devotional Art Polesden Lacey Triptych- Virgin and Child with Saints
  • Geographic Area: Eastern Mediterranean;Italy
  • Century: 14
  • Related Resources:
  • Primary Evidence:
  • Illustrations:
  • Table:
  • Abstract: In its 1994 exhibition of Byzantine art, the British Museum brought a spectacular and intriguing tabernacle to scholarly attention. Clearly made for personal devotion, it resides today in the collection at Polesden Lacey in Surrey. Owing to its combination of Greek and Latin saints and Byzantine and Italian stylistic elements, Mojmir Frinta had earlier attributed the image of the Virgin and Child with scenes and saints to the Dalmatian coast. But Maria Vassilaki and Robin Cormack, who wrote the 1994 entry, identified a Byzantine origin for one of the two hands, and wisely attempted a more precise localization, proposing even the possibility of Constantinople. In this paper, I follow their preference for a more precise localization, but with a somewhat different result, for I think that a close look at its likely client as well as its prototypes, identifies this work as the collaboration between Byzantine and Sienese painters at Siena in the second decade of the fourteenth century. At the outset, astonishing matches between our tabernacle and several others produced by the Ducciesque painters identified as the Monte Oliveto Master and the Masters of Tabernacles 35 and 39 encourage this hypothesis, matches not only in format, but in the Virgin herself, her throne, and her throne cloth. Ath the same time the saints arrayed around the central portion argue that the triptych was intended for a female member of the Angevin dynasty that ruled the Kingdom of Naples, while carrying out a policy aimed at asserting control over the Crusader states between 1267 and the later part of the fourteenth century. Indeed, these saints point to Siena, the house of Anjou, and the Crusader states, for we find on the right Saints Francis, Dominic, and Louis of Toulouse, along with Nicholas, John the Baptist, and Anthony Abbot. To the left is a similar array: Saints George, Cosmas and Damian, and Michael. Several of the male saints appear in distinctly Byzantine form. But it is the four female saints who may be most significant. Centered beneath of the Virgin are Saints Lucy and Mary Magdalen, as they appear in Sienese images, and Saints Theodosia of Constantinople and Catherine of Alexandria in Byzantine form. But I think we can get still closer to the events surrounding the production of this tabernacle. In 1993 Hayden Maginnis provided Siena's Tabernacle 35 with a thoroughly convincing client, the son of Robert, King of Naples, Peter of Anjou, who was in residence in Siena in 1314 and 1315, along with his brother Philip, Prince of Taranto. Philip had just married Catherine de Valois Courtenay, titular Empress of Constantinople, through whom the Angevins hoped to claim an increasingly elusive Crusader kingdom, and she is a likely recipient for the Polesden Lacey Trptych. Certainly it remains tempting to place the production of this triptych in the East, identifying it as a Greek copy of a Sienese tabernacle. But the apparent inclusion of a Sienese hand in the painting of the saints and the itinerary of our Angevin princes suggest instead the presence of a Greek painter in Siena, along with the many historical and methodological considerations such a localization might entail. [Reproduced by permission of the author.]
  • Author's Affiliation: Bates College
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2002.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 01473387
  • Material/Technique :
  • Rights: