Lucca's rediscovered altarpiece is now on display in Monte-Carlo at Moretti Fine Art

On display at the Monte-Carlo office of Moretti Fine Art is the altarpiece by Lucchese painter Ansano Ciampanti that was in Lucca Cathedral until 1595. After centuries in the reserved oblivion of prestigious private collections, it is now on public view.

From June 15 to June 30, 2023, the altarpiece depicting St. Jerome and St. Joseph with the priest Clement di Antonio Andrucci as donor, a work by Lucchese Renaissance painter Ansano, known as Sano, Ciampanti (1474-1532/35), is on display at Moretti Fine Art’s 27 Avenue de la Costa location in Monte-Carlo. The masterpiece, after centuries spent in the reserved oblivion of prestigious private collections, is on public view.

“Sano Ciampanti is the most interesting artistic personality of Renaissance Lucca. He stands out for his originality and pictorial wisdom,” Fabrizio Moretti emphasizes. “We are dealing with an artist, deeply tied to his territory, the Filippino Lippi of Lucca. That is why it would be very nice if the altarpiece, which also stands out for its exceptional state of preservation, could return to Lucca, from which Duomo it came.”

This is one of Sano Ciampanti ’s most striking early works, the traces of which had been almost completely lost in Italy and in Lucca. Archival research, conducted on behalf of the gallery, has recently solved the mystery surrounding it. Documents recovered from the archives of the diocese of Lucca revealed that the painting was commissioned specifically for the Cathedral of San Martino in Lucca in 1498. The commissioner was a priest, Clemente di Antonio Andrucci, who can now be identified with certainty as the kneeling figure dressed in black.

The work was originally placed on the altar of St. Peter in Chains (to the right of the high altar), which referred precisely to the chaplaincy of Saints Jerome and Joseph, shown in the foreground next to the donor. The altarpiece remained in the cathedral until the major Vasari-style rearrangement in 1595. Traces of it were then soon lost until, in the mid-19th century, it became part of the prestigious collection of Italian Renaissance paintings of the Reverend Walter Davenport Bromley (1787-1862) at Wootton Hall in Staffordshire, England.

For Ciampanti’s work had begun a new life, albeit one spent in the protected silence of a number of prestigious collections between England, Germany, Austria and, finally, the United States where it was part of one of the most important private collections of medieval and Renaissance Italian art in the world.

Over the years the work has also been attributed to Andrea del Verrocchio and the Master of the Lathrop Tondo, and recent research clears the field of doubt.

The personality of Sano Ciampanti has always intrigued scholars. Originally known as the Master of San Filippo, after the name of a painting in the small church of San Filippo on the outskirts of Lucca, originality and virtuosity became a key feature in his works when the artist combined elements present in the mature works of the leading Florentine painters of his time, such as Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Filippino Lippi, with a luminosity and special attention to detail that found its roots in Flemish painting.

The rarity of Ciampanti’s altarpiece is not to be underestimated, from its exceptional state of preservation to the details related to its commission that have been brought to light by recent archival discoveries. It is hoped that its exhibition at Moretti Fine Art will lead scholars and the public to appreciate this painting anew.

Opening hours: Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free admission.

Pictured is a detail of the Saint Jerome.

Lucca's rediscovered altarpiece is now on display in Monte-Carlo at Moretti Fine Art
Lucca's rediscovered altarpiece is now on display in Monte-Carlo at Moretti Fine Art

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