Corsica wants to acquire Madonna of Brando

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28/3/23 - Fundraising - Corsica - The Corsicans are mobilising to acquire Brando’s Madonna, estimated at between 200,000 and 300,000 euros. It will face the auction fire at Drouot on 31 March, put up for sale by De Baecque-D’Ouince-Sarrau, with the expertise of the Turquin firm [1]. Not only was this work in Corsica, but the Virgin is the patron saint of the island. A public fundraising campaign has been launched, through the Fondation du patrimoine, while the Corsican local authority has already announced that it has released a budget of 300,000 to 400,000 euros. Such an approach is disconcerting: by shouting loudly about its intentions, the local authority risks scuttling itself. It would have been more logical to resort to preemption without announcing anything beforehand.

Simone da Firenze and Rocco (Rocho) di Bartolomeo (active around 1500)
The Virgin on a Throne Holding the Child, Surrounded by Four
Musician Angels
known as Madonna of Brando
Panel - 198 x 94,8 cm
Sale De Baecque, Drouot, 31 March 2023
Photo: De Baecque et Associés
See the image in its page

This altarpiece shows Mary seated on a throne and surrounded by angel musicians; the Child Jesus on his knees holds a thistle symbol of the Passion. It was brought back from Corsica in 1839 by Albin Chalandon, who tells of his discovery in the village of Brando, not far from Bastia: "I found this painting in the parish church in 1837, it once belonged to the chapel of a Franciscan convent located in the neighbourhood". It is more precisely the convent of San Francescu de Castello built in 1474, occupied by the Récollets, abandoned after the Revolution and fallen into ruin. "It was probably offered as an ex-voto by some Genoese merchant. I acquired it in 1839 with the authorisation of the bishop of Ajaccio".
Albin Chalandon, a polytechnician and captain in the army of engineers, was the son of Antoine Chalandon (1768-1832), deputy mayor of Lyon and administrator of the city’s civil hospices. An avid amateur, he built up a collection in which Italian primitives played an important role. The works he accumulated were of undeniable quality and some of them are now in museums. For example, the Louvre holds the Calvary by Jean de Beaumetz and an Angel of the Annunciation carved in ivory in the 13th century. The National Gallery in London has Sasseta’s Scenes from the Life of St Francis, and the San Francisco Museum has Fra Angelico’s Meeting of St Francis and St Dominic.

A new attribution has been proposed for this Madonna: its enigmatic signature has finally been deciphered and it is now considered to be the work of the Italians Simone da Firenze and Rocco di Bartolomeo, made in 1500.
Orazio Lovino has recently studied the career of Simone da Firenze who, originally from Tuscany, came to work first in Liguria, where, at the beginning of the 16th century, he created the Madonna of Brando together with Rocco di Bartolomeo. Both Florentines, they were influenced by Venetian painting and above all by Genoese painting, which was still marked by the end of the Gothic period and already turned towards the Renaissance. The gold background decorated with guilloche lozenges is typical of the technique of the Ligurian workshops of the late 15th century. Simone is also said to have painted an altarpiece in Genoa comprising a Saint Michael fighting the fallen angel (Milan, Saibene collection) and a St Catherine of Alexandria (Robilant-Voena Gallery). Then he went to southern Italy, to Basilicata, where in 1523 he signed the great altarpiece of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Senise, near Potenza.

Let us recall that the Corsican community had acquired in 2019 a landscape by Henri Matisse painted during his stay on the island, put on sale by Artcurial (see article 20/2/20).

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