Luca di Tomme: A Sienese Fourteenth-Century Painter

By Sherwood A. Fehm Jr. | Go to book overview

Catalogue

This catalogue of the oeuvre of Luca di Tommè, in addition to providing physical and bibliographic information, gives the literary and photographic sources and provenance for each of the paintings included herein. Of most interest to us is the way in which the catalogue reveals the changing, developing, and sharpening perceptions of the artist's work over the last four hundred years. The growth of literature on Luca reflects the increasing interest in Italian trecento artists in general, and distinguished scholars and connoisseurs such as Millard Meiss, Federico Zeri, Bernard Berenson, and Raimond van Marle--to name a few--have considered Luca's contribution and importance in their studies of pre- Renaissance Italian painting.

While Siena had no major propagandist for her art as Florence did in Giorgio Vasari, accounts of some of the more illustrious artistic figures do appear in the latter's Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architettori. The first mention of Luca di Tommè occurs in the second edition of Vasari's work, which appeared in 1568. In the biography devoted to Barna da Siena Luca is referred to not only as a former pupil of that artist, but also as a master painter in his own right. He is also reported to have been quite prolific. Among his works Vasari cites an altarpiece and frescoes in the chapel of the "Dragomanni" family in the Church of San Domenico at Arezzo.1.

Luca di Tommè's name does not appear again until 1786 when, in an apology for Sienese art, Padre Guglielmo Della Valle claimed to have found an inscription bearing both Luca's name and a date in the Chapel of the Concezione in San Francesco in Siena. Della Valle made two other attributions to Luca.

These were the signed and dated altarpiece depicting the Madonna and Child with Saint Anne (Cat. 22) of 1367, and the Crucifixion (Cat. 19) in Pisa.2. Here, in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, a touchstone for subsequent attributions was established.

Gaetano Milanesi, in his edition of Vasari Lives ( 1878-85), suggested that Luca had been a follower of Simone Martini rather than of Barna.3. In addition, Milanesi made one new attribution to Luca in his collection of Sienese documents--which had appeared in 1854--that of a signed stepped polyptych in the Oratorio of the Monastery of the Tolfe near Siena (Cat. 32).

Throughout the nineteenth century enthusiasm for Italian "primitives" increased greatly on both sides of the Atlantic. Toward the middle of the century James Jackson Jarves attempted unsuccessfully to establish a public art museum, first in Boston and then in New York, using his own collection as a nucleus. Although his idea came to naught, his efforts did play a major part in the generation of interest in early Italian painting in America. Housed with his large collection of thirteenth-, fourteenth-, and fifteenth-century Italian pictures was Luca Assumption of the Virgin (Cat. 15). Jarves considered this work so important that he had it engraved for inclusion--one of the very few--in the 1861 catalogue of his own collection.4.

The first real attempt to establish the extent of Luca's oeuvre was made by F. Mason Perkins, a specialist in Sienese painting, in a series of articles published between 1905 and 1938.5. Perkins attributed seventeen pictures to the artist, the most important of which are the 1362 altarpiece (Cat. 13),

____________________
1.
Vasari, 1568, ed. Milanesi ( 1878- 1885) I, p. 651. Salmi, 1930, pp. 1-8, deals with the problem of the chapel and its frescoes at length. He shows that the chapel was the responsibility of the Dragondelli (not "Dragomanni") family, and that the frescoes are from the following of Barna da Siena. (See also Fehm, 1978, p. 159.)
2.
Della Valle, 1786, II, p. 119. I have not been able to locate the inscription in San Francesco.
3.
Vasari, op. cit., p. 651 n. 3; and Milanesi, 1854, vol. I, p. 28 n. 1.
4.
Jarves, 1861, plate B.
5.
The numerous articles by Perkins appear in the Bibliography below. The more important of these are: Perkins,

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