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St John the Evangelist

Boccaccio Boccaccino (Ferrara 1466? - Cremona 1524/1525)

c. 1503
B4 Giovanni Bellini
Oil on panel
Contini Bonacossi no. 14

Together with the painting of St Matthew (Contini Bonacossi Inventory no. 13), it was perhaps part of an altar piece, even if past tampering with the wooden support does not permit a more detailed hypothesis. As usual, St John is wearing a red cloak over a blue robe and he is holding the book and goose quill that refer to the Gospel and the Book of Revelations, both of which he wrote. Alongside him is an eagle, symbol of the tetramorph usually connected with the saint, according to Ezekiel’s inaugural vision (1, 1-10) and to Revelations (4, 7).    

Restoration of the two paintings has returned the fabrics to their original bright colors, together with the rich decorative details.  It is quite a usual characteristic of  the works of Boccaccio Boccaccino, painter from Ferrara, but active in various towns in Northern Italy, who spent the last years of his life in Cremona, where he gave a notable boost to the local artistic school. The Uffizi panels show color passages from light to dark, highlighting the refined sensitivity to light shown by Boccaccio Boccaccino during the first decade of the 16th century, a period that he spent in Venice, a city where he was able to get to know the painting of Giorgione.

The two panels reflect the vast scale of the antiquarian interests of Alessandro Contini Bonacossi, whose collection came to the Uffizi with a core group of paintings from Lombardy-Veneto that includes some very important pieces.   A fragmented label on the back of the panel of St Matthew shows that the two pictures were once in the collection of Giuseppe Baslini, one of Milan’s most important antiquarians in the early 19th century.

Text by
Daniela Parenti
Related artworks

Saint Matthew

Boccaccio Boccaccino (Ferrara 1466? - Cremona 1524/1525)

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