The exhibition project, curated by Francesca Baldry and Daniela Magnetti, was born and developed around two large matching paintings by Federigo Angeli (1891-1952) entitled “Dama a cavallo con corteo cavalleresco” and “Signore a cavallo con corteo cavalleresco” belonging to the collection of Sella Sgr on which the Artistic Direction of Banca Patrimoni Sella & C. carried out an important work of conservation, analysis, and correct attribution of the works, thanks also to the collaboration of various art historians, public bodies and private institutions. The documentary evidence from the archives at the Cultural Association, Il Palmerino aps proved to be crucial.
The two paintings on canvas can be directly traced back to the fresco cycle painted by Benozzo Gozzoli for the Magi Chapel in Palazzo Medici Riccardi, between about 1459 and 1464, both in terms of the overall construction of the scene and of precise literal references: the steed in step and the rampant steed, the ornamented noblemen, the rocky backdrop on which the turreted cities stand out, the treatment of vegetation. Compared with Gozzoli’s precedent, however, Angeli’s workshop stands out for its innovations and contamination of sources. If in the richly decorated walls of the Medici Riccardi Palace chapel female figures are either totally absent or relegated to the margins of the scene, in the two canvases signed Angeli, women appear as protagonists of the procession. Inspired by Ghirlandaio (1448-1494) from Cappella Tornabuoni in the Church of Santa Maria Novella, the woman on horseback echoes the profile of Giovanna Tornabuoni in the Birth of Mary, while the woman with a basket on her head holding the rabbit is a reference from the Birth of St. John the Baptist. Alongside the two large canvases, the exhibition places other evidence of the wide and varied artistic production of the Bottega Angeli, with displays of sketches, paintings and richly decorated furnishings that can tell the story of the family of artists’ inexhaustible search around the sources of inspiration from the Renaissance.
The exhibition is an opportunity to learn more about the artist and the context in which his workshop operated. In Florence, in the period between the 19th and 20th centuries, a real cult for Renaissance art developed thanks to the strong presence in the city of many Anglo-American tourists; in this cultural context the workshop of Federigo (1891), Alberto (1897) and Achille (1899) Angeli took on the dimension of a great artistic forge capable of satisfying the ambitious extravagances of patrons and clients: from the restoration of paintings to copies from antiquity, from weddings coffers to the tempera paintings, to the wall paintings decoration of entire villas in the United States, the French Riviera and Monte Carlo, contributing to disseminate the taste for fourteenth and fifteenth-century painting abroad.