(Florence 1297 - Pratovecchio 1358)
San Miniato and scene of his life
Jacopo del Casentino - Florence 1297 - Pratovecchio - 1358)
Tempera on panel, 190 x 116cm - San Miniato al Monte Basilica, Florence
On the big panel, we can see in the centre of the composition St. Miniato bringing in one hand the palm of martyrdom, and the figure of the painting client standing at the Saint's feet. Beside that, we can see some scenes of the Saint's life. On the left side, starting from the top we find the following scenes: the Saint's capture; death of a leopard set on the Saint; the Saint put in a boiling caldron; the Saint sent to the gallows; the Saint tortured with boiling oil in the ears; the Saint refuses the gold plate offered to corrupt him; the Saint is beheaded; the Saint brings his head in the place where his church will built. The painting was at the beginning on the altar of San Miniato crypt, then in the 18th century it was said to be in the sacristy (as Cambiagi wrote in 1790) and in the 19th century it was on the right side of the apse (Cavalcaselle 1883). The picture was first attributed to Agnolo Gaddi, then to Santa Cecilia Master, until Offner said it had been painted by Jacopo del Casentino. This last attribution was accepted by many critics, such as Gronau, Salmi, Toesca and Berenson. The cuspidate panel has an old shaped composition which reminds the Santa Cecilia Master altar frontal, kept in the Uffizi. As it is in this work, the panel has a vertical composition, with the side scenes forming a frame around the Saint. Critics consider this picture as a painter's early work, even though we can already see the influence of the Sienese art in the lengthened figures and in the side scenes structures. According to the critic Dal Poggetto, these scenes are real miniatures which punctually refer to the St. Francis Stories in Assisi, and strongly emphasize the Gothic and French styles in the lively syntax of the story.
According to an other critic, whose name is Boskovita, the picture was painted between 1315 and 1325, which is about the same period of Cagnola triptych (now kept in the Uffizi Gallery), the only work signed by the artist. This dating is justified by the fact that hems and aureoles decorations were free - hand carried out, instead of being composed by stamped motives. The St. Miniato picture represents a Jacopo del Casentino masterpiece, thanks to the wonderful and kind narration sense. Furthermore it is really important to reconstruct the artist pictorial activity, making us know one of the most interesting personalities of the first half of the 14th century. Jacopo del Casentino was a prolific and eclectic painter and miniaturist and he had an important role in the Florentine painting evolution leading to Orcagna and the "Orcagneschi".