Giovanni Francesco Bezzi (Nosadella) (Italian, Bologna ca. 1530 - 1571 Bologna)
The Presentation in the Temple, ca. 1567
Oil on panel
25 13/16 x 17 5/8 in. (65.6 x 44.8 cm)
Mrs. F. F. Prentiss Fund and R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund, 1982
The complex architctural setting and gracefully contorted figures of Nosadella's composition reflect the influence of the Florentine maniera, and indicate that this partially unfinished painting is probably a late work by the artist.
Nosadella's painting depicts the infant Jesus brought to the Temple in Jerusalem to be consecrated to the Lord, in accordance with Jewish tradition (Luke 2:22-29). The child is held by the aged priest Simeon, to whom it had been disclosed that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. The Virgin, seated to the left with Joseph hovering beside her, holds an open book in her left hand and with the other grasps a small cage with two white doves, supported on the head of a kneeling child. The doves are probably a reference to the Jewish rite of the "purification" of the mother, which required the sacrifice of a pair of white pigeons or turtle doves.1 The rituals of Purification and Consecration were adopted by the early Christian church, and were often celebrated simultaneously; thus in Renaissance and Baroque art the imagery was commonly combined, as in Nosadella's composition.
Details of Nosadella's stylistic development over his twenty-year career are still somewhat shadowy. Malvasia noted that "those few works by him that are known--and they are mostly frescos--are distinguished by their good color, as with his master [Tibaldi] and are full of erudition. If they are not as perfect and studied [as those of Tibaldi], they are perhaps more powerful, singular, and resolute."2 Nosadella seems to have progressed from a heavy, almost sculptural style indebted to Tibaldi's idiosyncratic interpretation of Michelangelesque mannerism, to a more refined and naturalistic style in the 1560s, reflecting a more Florentine maniera. While there are some lingering similarities between Nosadella's mature paintings and works by Tibaldi, they are generally more delicate than the latter's compositions, which are crowded with powerful forms and taut energy. Nosadella's paintings show a greater emphasis on linear, decorative qualities, more complex arrangements of drapery, and a greater sense of space within the composition.
As suggested by Sambo, Winckelmann, and Romani, the Oberlin Presentation in the Temple was probably executed between the mid 1560s and the artist's death in 1571.3 It can be grouped with several other works attributed to this period, which are similar in style and in the distribution of figures within a well-articulated interior space: most notably a Circumcision in a private collection,4 and the larger altarpiece of the same subject done for the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, Bologna, and completed by Prospero Fontana in 1571.5
At least two drawings can be associated with the Oberlin painting. A sketch for the Figure of the Virgin is in the National Gallery, Scotland;5 and several figures in the Presentation --specifically the figure of Joseph to the left of the Virgin, the figure of Simeon, and the temple attendant standing behind him and to the right--correspond closely to analogous elements in a drawing of the Adoration of the Magi in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.6
M. E. Wieseman
Little is known of the life of the Bolognese painter Giovanni Francesco Bezzi, called Nosadella. He is mentioned briefly by Malvasia 7 as a pupil of Pellegrino Tibaldi (1527-1596) and a painter of frescos, none of which survive. Nosadella was probably born in Bologna about 1530; he enrolled in the Quattro Arti di Bologna in 1549, and was a member of the Bombasari and Painters' guilds in 1571. He apparently traveled frequently and spent time in Rome. Among the handful of securely documented works by the artist are a Madonna and Child with Saints, painted for the Oratorio of Santa Maria della Vita, Bologna; and a Circumcision, painted in 1571 for the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, Bologna (completed by Prospero Fontana). There has been considerable debate about paintings traditionally attributed to Nosadella; many have been proposed instead as the work of Pellegrino Tibaldi.
Voss, H. "Giovanni Francesco Bezzi, gennant Nosadella." Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorisches Instituts in Florenz 3 (1932), pp. 449-62.
Winckelmann, Jürgen. "Giovanni Francesco Bezzi detto il Nosadella." In Vera Fortunati Pietrantonio, ed. Pittura bolognese del '500. Vol. 2. Bologna, 1986, pp. 457-74.
Romani, Vittoria. Problemo di Michelangiolismo Padano: Tibaldi e Nosadella. Padua, 1988.
Sale Sir Thomas Lawrence, London (Christie's), 15 May 1830, lot 113 ("Lorenzo Sabbattini The Presentation in the Temple; on panel, which is cracked, 25 3/4 x 27 3/4; a very fine picture"; £26.15.6) 8
Collection John Neeld, Grittleton House, by 1854 9
By descent in this family to sale L. W. Neeld, London (Christie's), 13 July 1945, lot 36 (as by Sabatini, 25 x 17 in.; £94.10, to Fischer)
Sale London (Sotheby's) 15 July 1970, lot 73 (as by Nosadella; £950, to Poggi)
Sale London (Christie's) 24 April 1981, lot 95
With Matthiesen Fine Arts Limited, London, from whom purchased in 1982
Waagen, G. F. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. Vol. 2. London, 1854, p. 244.
Sambo, Elisabetta. "Tibaldi e Nosadella." Paragone 379 (September 1981), pp. 20-21, ill. fig. 29.
Bean, Jacob, and Lawrence Turcic. 15th and 16th Century Italian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1982, pp. 49, 50.
DeGrazia, Diane. Correggio and his Legacy: Sixteenth-Century Emilian Drawings. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C., 1984, pp. 321-23.
Winckelmann, Jürgen. In Pittura bolognese del '500. Edited by Vera Fortunati Pietrantonio. Vol. 2. Bologna, 1986, pp. 460, 468 ill.
Romani, Vittoria. Problemo di Michelangiolismo Padano: Tibaldi e Nosadella. Padua, 1988, p. 20, n. 50.
The original wood panel has been thinned to about 1/16 inch and attached to a thicker panel, with strips of wood added to cover all edges. The painting also seems to have been reduced considerably in width (ca. 10 in. [25 cm]) between 1830 and 1945 (see Provenance), and may have been thinned and cradled at this time. Several vertical cracks in the original support are still clearly visible.
The thin white ground was applied using horizontal brushstrokes in the center of the panel, and with vertical or diagonal strokes elsewhere. Underdrawing, executed with a brush in black paint, outlines the architecture, some drapery contours, and other elements of the composition not carried out in the paint layer (especially in the Virgin and the kneeling figure to her right). A thin brown imprimatura was applied over the ground and underdrawing. The paint layer varies from thin transparent layers to thicker, more opaque ones; all areas are very sketchily executed with many areas left unfinished, revealing the imprimatura and underdrawing. There are fills along the top and bottom edges of the panel, and along the vertical cracks; inpaint is extensive in the lower portion of painting and along the cracks.
1. Alternatively, Diane DeGrazia interprets the caged doves as symbolic of the Annunciation and of the Madonna's virginity; see her Correggio and his Legacy: Sixteenth-Century Emilian Drawings (exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1984), p. 322.
2. Carlo Cesare Malvasia, Felsina pittrice. Vite de' pittori bolognesi, 1678, reprint, ed. Giampietro Zanotti, vol. 1 (Bologna, 1841), p. 161; for English translation, see The Age of Correggio and the Carracci: Emilian Painting of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C., 1986), p. 147.
3. Elisabetta Sambo, "Tibaldi e Nosadella," Paragone 379 (September 1981), p. 20; Jürgen Winckelmann, in Vera Fortunati Pietrantonio, ed., Pittura bolognese del '500, vol. 2 (Bologna, 1986), p. 460; and Vittoria Romani, Problemo di Michelangiolismo Padano: Tibaldi e Nosadella (Padua, 1988), p. 20 n. 50. Other late paintings cited by Romani include the Annunciation (Princeton University Art Museum), Circumcision (private collection), Virgin and Child with Saints (Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie), and Holy Family with Saint Catherine and Two Other Saints (Florence, private collection).
4. Oil on panel, 67.3 x 42 cm, sale New York (Christie's), 9 January 1981, lot 77, as attributed to Raffaellino da Reggio.
5. Pen and wash, squared in black chalk, 23.7 x 17.5 cm, The National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, inv. D1530; reproduced in Keith Andrews, National Gallery of Scotland. Catalogue of Italian Drawings, vol. 2 (Cambridge, 1968), no. 155 (as by Nosadella).
6. Pen and brown ink, brown wash, heightened with white over traces of black chalk, 36.4 x 24.5 cm; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. 19.76.18; reproduced in Jacob Bean and Lawrence Turcic, 15th and 16th Century Italian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 1982), p. 49, no. 33.
7. Carlo Cesare Malvasia, Felsina pittrice. Vite de' pittori bolognesi (Bologna, 1678); reprint, ed. Giampietro Zanotti, vol. 1 (Bologna, 1841), pp. 160-61.
8. Sabbatini (ca. 1530-1576) was a Bolognese contemporary of Nosadella whose work of the 1560s and '70s is particularly close to that artist. Although the painting at Oberlin is approximately 10 inches narrower than the dimensions given in the 1830 sale, this might be the result of severely split or damaged pieces having been removed from the sides of the panel in the interim. See Technical Data.
9. The Oberlin painting was mentioned by Waagen as in the collection of John Neeld, Grittleton House, in 1854: "Lorenzo Sabbatini--The Presentation in the Temple: a powerfully-coloured picture by this otherwise mannered painter." See G. F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, vol. 2 (London, 1854), p. 244.