Gaddi, Taddeo in the Baroncelli Chapel (Santa Croce) III

Cappella Baroncelli  

Cappella Baroncelli  Santa Croce Taddeo Gaddi
photo: dvdbramhall

The wall at the altar (south)
East and south wall

Cappella Baroncelli  altar wall Taddeo Gaddi
photo: jean louis mazieres

The south wall has a lancet window in the middle and to the right and to the left of it the fresco cycle continues detailing Mary’s life. Because of the limited space, these frescoes are smaller. Moreover, this is a subdued, or even supernatural, magical atmosphere. There is a stark difference with the rowdy marriage of Mary and Joseph. To the left of the stained-glass window are three annunciations: Mary, the shepherds and the three kings. On the right are the earthly reactions to these annunciations, such as Mary’s visit to her cousin, the worship by the shepherds and that of the three kings. The story of Mary also begins on this wall at the top of the lunette.

Annunciation of Mary and Mary’s visit to Elisabeth

Mary is shown twice in the lunette. First at the annunciation and on the right she visits her old cousin Elisabeth. The humility of Mary is emphasized by her austere clothing and the fact that she sits on the floor. The book now appears to float in the air, but that’s because parts of the original paint have disappeared. The angel falls from the sky like a meteorite and goes straight for his target. This announcement is not, as usual, accompanied by a pigeon, a white lily, or God the Father. However, there is a remarkable supernatural light. Taddeo must have read carefully what was written about the announcement in Luke 1:35 and in the Legend of Aurea.

Taddeo Gaddi 'Annunciation' detail Baroncelli chapel
photos: Sailko

Taddeo Gaddi ‘Annunciation’      The angel
On the question of Mary to the angel how she will become pregnant, it is written: “Virgin, as a human being, could not comprehend the fullness of the Divine; but the power of the Most High overshadowed her, while the immaterial light of His Divinity gave birth to a human body within her, and so she could give birth to a God.” Jacobus de Voragina; cited from: Janson-La Palme, R.J.H., ‘Taddeo Gaddi’s Baroncelli chapel Studies in Design and context’, Dissertation Faculty of Princeton University 1975 291

Taddeo Gaddi ‘Mary’s visit to Elisabeth’

In this case, the human body is only represented by light. The white lily may not be visible in the fresco, but it can be seen in the decoration motifs around and inside the Gothic lancet window. According to Lucas, Mary went to Elisabeth immediately after the annunciation. Opposite the Annunciation on the other side of the window we see how Mary meets Elisabeth.

Despite her advanced age, Elisabeth was pregnant with a son. This son is John the Baptist, who would baptize Christ. Mary stayed to help her cousin for three months. This fits well with the views of the Franciscans. After all, charity is central to this order. In the upper part of the stained-glass window between the Annunciation and Mary’s visit to Elisabeth we see Francis receiving the marks of the cross from the angel in the adjoining window.

Taddeo Gaddi 'Mary’s visit to Elisabeth' detail
photos: Sailko
Cappella Baroncelli  altar wall Taddeo Gaddi detail
photo: jean louis mazieres

Annunciation to the shepherds and the worship of the Christ Child

Taddeo Gaddi 'Annunciation to the shepherds' Baroncelli chapel
photos: Sailko

Taddeo Gaddi ‘Annunciation to the shepherds’     Zoom in

Directly under the lunette on both sides of the window we see an Annunciation and a Worship. Having a separate scene for the annunciation to the shepherds is very rare in the trecento (fourteenth century). In this nocturnal scene, we observe a very special, almost mystical light, surrounding the angel. The landscape, the animals and the shepherds get an unnatural tint. There is no shadow. Luke mentions in his gospel that the shepherds were surrounded by a shining light that shocked them greatly (Luke 2: 9). The dog looks frightened and barks. However, most animals do not know what is going on above their heads, they are still asleep. Only one of the two shepherds is looking up with his outstretched right arm. It seems as if his hand is shielding his eyes from the light radiated by the angel. This light and this nocturnal scene sets Taddeo apart from his teacher Giotto. As he had already done with the temple in the presentation of Mary (eastern wall) with a depth effect unprecedented for that time. In these two respects, Taddeo Gaddi surpasses the ‘father of painting’: Giotto. A strange cut-off of the two sheep and the angle of the slope that slopes to the right quickly leads the viewer’s eye to the opposite fresco. The story continues here, because after the Annunciation the shepherds went in search of the newborn child of Christ.

Taddeo Gaddi ‘Adoration of the Magi and the worship’       In situ

Taddeo Gaddi 'Adoration of the Magi and the worship' Baroncelli chapel
photos: jean louis mazieres

This fresco lacks an open composition. Just a world that only refers to itself. The plaster on the right of and above the shepherd’s head appears to be a scaffolding pole. The later applied paint, a secco, is peeled off. Here too, as in the lunette at the Annunciation, Mary sits on the ground. This shows her humility. This is the only fresco in the entire cycle where Mary is looking at the churchgoer in the chapel.

This subject is extremely rare in the late Middle Ages in Italy. Moreover, it is the first time that the star has the shape of a Christ child. The inspiration for this work comes directly from the Legend of Aurea. In the inner arch, in the middle, right at the entrance, the prophet Baladan points to the stars. Voragine cites the Greek theologian John Chrysostom, who in turn refers to the prophecy of Baladan. According to the Greek church father, the three were actually astrologers who spent three days of each month on a mountain from generation to generation, waiting for the star Baladan had predicted. Taddeo did indeed paint a mountain with three figures on it.

Taddeo Gaddi ‘Announcement to three kings’       In situ

photos: Sailko and in situ: jean louis mazieres

Unfortunately this fresco is badly damaged, much of the original paint is gone. This is due to the fact that a large part was applied a secco. Here too, as with the annunciation to the shepherds, the slope runs down to the right so that you can quickly look at the opposite fresco. This is where the story continues.


Taddeo Gaddi ‘Adoration of the Magi’     In situ

After seeing the star, the three kings go in search of the newly born child. In the adoration of the magi, Mary now sits on a precious throne. In this fresco it is Joseph who exudes humility. He sits on the ground next to the throne. Above the building the star appears again in the form of a Christ Child. A horse looks at this remarkable phenomenon at the firmament.

Taddeo Gaddi ‘Adoration of the Magi’ detail Baroncelli chapel
photos: MenkinAlRire and situ: jean louis mazieres

Continuation Florence day 5: Gaddi, Taddeo in the Baroncelli Chapel (Santa Croce) IV