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Evangelists with iconographic symbol

Antonio Puglieschi

Firenze 1660 – 1731

San Giovanni con l’aquila

San Marco con il leone

San Luca con il toro

San Matteo con l’angelo

Material: Oil on panel

Size: 10 cm

Review by Prof. Sandro Biellesi

Each of the four evangelists is greatly depicted with his own iconographic symbol: John’s eagle, Mark’s lion, Luke’s bull and Matthew’s angel.

Despite the small size, each character’s well defined features are vividly emphasized unlike the achromatic backgrounds of the paintings. Their solemnity is improved by the pictorial originality all the saints’ upper bodies show as well. A golden wooden frame, whose elegant inlays are said to recall the wide world of nature, enhances then each painting.

We can appreciate John’s writing his own evangelical message with an eagle at his left. We can then look up to the austere mysticism of the scene by focusing on his hand, close to some sheets, holding a quill and on the halo shining above his head.

Since he’s turning upwards, John is said to be speaking to God himself, just as Mark. His proudly refined face is looking upwards too: its austerity is greatly enhanced by the dark brown thick hair as well as by the bushy beard. Unlike the others, Luke is depicted sideways: he’s turning outwards, as he’s very likely to be looking to someone else.

Just like John, Matthew is supposed to be writing his evangelical message, although the eagle is replaced by a tiny baby-looking angel standing at his right.

According to some thorough stylistic surveys, as well as to Pullieschi sign on the back of Saint Luke and the bull painting, we can surely ascribe all the four medal-looking pictures to Antonio Puglieschi.

Thanks to two articles of mine – S. Bellesi, La formazione artistica e la prima attività del pittore Antonio Puglieschi, “Critica d’Arte”, 1991, 5/6, pp. 63-75; S. Bellesi, La maturità artistica e l’ultimo tempo di attività del pittore Antonio Puglieschi, “Arte Cristiana”, 1996, 772, pp. 37-50 – such an artist has been recently rediscovered and revalued.

Antonio Puglieschi was born in Florence in 1660 approximately. Since his childhood, he was steered to painting by Pier Dandini from Cortona. He looked after Antonio’s artistic education till he was admitted to the Art and Drawing Academy in 1684.

However, Puglieschi had lived in Rome some time before he successfully attended Ciro Ferri’s school. Thanks to all these experiences, he started busily painting at the beginning of the seventeenth century. His early artworks recall Dandini and Roman school’s leading marks although Carlo Maratta and his own crew borne upon him mainly.

After realizing lots of astonishing allegorical and profane theme frescoes, Antonio Puglieschi worked for some of the most important Tuscan families, as the paintings he realized for Medici, Capponi, Marucelli and Del Vernaccia’s can prove.

Then, he carried out several altarpieces: those at Santa Maria delle Grazie in San Giovanni Valdarno, Santa Maria in Vallombrosa, San Giovannino degli Scolopi and San Jacopo sopr’Arno in Florence are surely worthy of note.

As a successful and greatly renowned painter, he died in Florence in 1731 (for further informations, please see S. Bellesi, Catalogo dei pittori fiorentini del ‘600 e ‘700, Firenze, 2009, I, p. 233 and III, figg. 1334-1348).

The paintings we’re analysing were realized in the late seventeenth century. The main characters’ features, which are said to be a typical mark of Puglieschi’s earliest production, are highly influenced by the classical Roman school.

We can prove that by comparing them to those of some other artworks he realized, such as Raccolta della Manna painting – now belonging to Harris collection, New York – and Madonna della cintola e santi altarpiece at Santa Maria delle Grazie church in San Giovanni Valdarno (for further informations about them, please see S. Bellesi, La formazione, op. cit., pp. 66 fig. 3 e p. 68 fig. 5).

By focusing on the works we’re analysing, we can notice Mark and the tiny angel’s features are greatly refined. Because of that, they highly recall the main characters’ faces of the two artworks we’ve just mentioned.

All the four paintings we’ve analysed are then published on: S. Bellesi, Pittura e scultura a Firenze (Secoli XVI-XIX), ed. Polistampa, 2017, p. 101.

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