After conservation at the J. Paul Getty Museum and a two-year absence, New-York Historical's Madonna and Child Enthroned with Ten Saints: Maestà (1867.375) will be back on Central Park West. Painted ca. 1334 by Taddeo Gaddi, the major disciple of Giotto, it was recently shown at both the Getty and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, in the major exhibition Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination, 1300-1350. To celebrate its triumphal return, the jewel-like panel will take pride of place in a small focus exhibition highlighting its conservation treatment.
With its lavish gold leaf background, Gaddi’s panel was an expensive commission for a private Florentine palazzo and for its time was cutting-edge art. Originally the central section of a folding triptych consisting of three panels, it will be exhibited with two wings (sportelli) from a private collection that recently have been linked to it. Their similar dates, measurements, traces of hinges, and related iconographies suggest that the trio may once have been part of the same triptych. At the very least, seen together they help us to envision and reconstruct how the Maestà appeared in its original glory. Thomas Jefferson Bryan bequeathed the Gaddi panel to the Historical Society in 1867, along with his entire collection. Bryan was an early connoisseur of Italian “primitives,” i.e., painters before Raphael, a taste then avant-garde. As the New York City's first museum, New-York Historical wrote an early chapter in preserving the culture of the City, and Bryan played a pioneering role in its collecting history, amassing works by both European and American artists. Fittingly, Gaddi's painting will be displayed with a several other fourteenth- and early-fifteenth-century Italian panels from the Bryan (both sacred and profane, such as a cassone front with the Triumph of Caesar) and Thomas Sully's dashing portrait of the young Bryan. Other materials will illuminate this donor's contribution to the history of American collecting.