A Hunting Scene

Piero di Cosimo (Piero di Lorenzo di Piero d'Antonio) (Italian, Florence 1462–1522 Florence)

Tempera and oil transferred to Masonite
27 3/4 x 66 3/4 in. (70.5 x 169.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Robert Gordon, 1875
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    Dating about 1507–8, these companion panels showing a hunt by men and satyrs and their return from the hunt are among the most singular works of the Renaissance. Their principal inspiration was the fifth book of the De Rerum Natura by the Epicurean poet and philosopher Lucretius (ca. 99–55 BC). A manuscript of Lucretius’s work was discovered in 1417 and published in Florence in 1471–73. Lucretius believed that the workings of the world can be accounted for by natural rather than divine causes and he put forward a vision of the history of primitive man and the advent of civilization. For the dispute about their function and patron see metmuseum.org/collections.

  • Catalogue Entry

    This picture, showing a hunt of lions, bears, and other creatures by men and satyrs in a forest, and a companion panel also in the MMA (75.7.1), are among the most singular works of the Renaissance. In a fundamental study of 1937, Erwin Panofsky established the parameters for understanding the subject they treat and the approach taken by Piero. He identified them as belonging to a series devoted to the history of primitive man and associated them with the following passage in Vasari’s 1550 life of Piero di Cosimo (p. 38): "For the house of Francesco Pugliese [Piero] likewise made diverse stories with small figures to go round a room. Nor is it possible to describe the fantastic things that it pleased him to paint, whether buildings or animals, clothes, diverse implements and other fantasies that occurred to him, since they are fables, such as the painting of Mars and Venus with cupids, and Vulcan done with great art and incredible patience." The passage is not without ambiguity, and there is nothing that definitively identifies the MMA panels with the description. In the second, expanded edition of the Lives (1565), Vasari notes that after Pugliese’s death in 1519 the pictures were sold, "and I don’t know where they ended up." Thus, there is a question about Vasari’s actual knowledge of the pictures he describes.

    Be that as it may, Panofsky, like some earlier authors (see London 1930 and Gamba 1936), associated the two MMA pictures with the above passage of Vasari's, identifying further pictures from the cycle with a painting of a forest fire in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, that measures 71.2 x 202 cm and two larger canvases showing the finding of Vulcan (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford) and Vulcan and Aeolus as teachers of mankind (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa), which measure 155 x 174.5 and 155.5 x 166.5 cm respectively. He imagined the five pictures as forming a cycle tracing the early history of man, the two large canvases displayed in one room of the Pugliese palace on the via de’ Serragli in Florence and the three panels in another. A wool merchant, Francesco del Pugliese (1458–1519) was the nephew of Piero del Pugliese (1430–1498), a prominent citizen and an avid patron of the arts: he commissioned an altarpiece from Piero di Cosimo (Saint Louis Museum of Art) and seems to have been interested in stoic literature. Francesco commissioned devotional works from Filippino Lippi and, notably, Botticelli’s Last Communion of Saint Jerome (MMA 14.40.642). From Vasari’s text he emerges as a major patron of Piero di Cosimo. However, given the fact that Vasari mentions the subject of only one work, and that as a sort of disconnected afterthought, with the subject described rather generically as showing Mars, Venus, cupids, and Vulcan, the identification of the MMA panels with the paintings in the Pugliese palace must be considered tentative. Nonetheless, Panofsky argued his thesis so convincingly that it has been taken up repeatedly over the years. Yet objections can and have been made. With reason, Fermor (1993) has argued that neither of the Vulcan paintings—so different from the three other panels in scale, color, support, and style—nor even The Forest Fire—a work composed quite differently from the two MMA pictures and conceivably painted to stand alone—are likely to have come from a single, unified cycle. What cannot be questioned is that the MMA panels were conceived as a pair. As Agosti (2004) pointed out, they appear in two successive inventories of the Sacchetti family in Rome, one of 1705 and the other of 1744. Despite their erroneous attribution to Andrea Mantegna, the descriptions are precise enough to leave no doubt that they are the MMA panels: "A landscape and lake with many boats where women and satyrs get off with hunting in the distance. 4 palmi high and 8 1/2 palmi wide . . . by Mantegna", and, "A hunt through mountains and forests with men and satyrs . . . by the same." (The dimensions are equivalent to 89 x 189 cm, and may well include the frames.)

    The Sacchetti family was Florentine in origin, the Roman branch having been established by Giovanni Battista Sacchetti (1540–1620). It is therefore possible that a member of the Sacchetti family rather than Francesco del Pugliese was Piero di Cosimo’s original patron, though they could also have purchased the pair following the dispersal of Pugliese’s collection. Whatever the case, there is no question that Panofsky was correct in identifying the principal inspiration for Piero’s paintings in the fifth book of the De Rerum Natura by the first century B.C. Epicurean poet and philosopher Lucretius, though another possible source is Diodorus Siculus’s Bibliotheca historica (see Geronimus 2006). A manuscript of Lucretius’s work had been discovered by the Florentine Poggi Bracciolini in 1417; a published edition appeared in 1471–73 and there was also an Italian translation. Lucretius believed that the workings of the world can be accounted for by natural rather than divine causes and in Book V he puts forward a vision of the history of primitive man and the advent of civilization. Although there is not a one to one correspondence with Piero di Cosimo’s paintings, there are strong correlations, and these place the paintings within a broader humanist discussion in Florence about the origins and character of humans. Brown (2010) has discussed the impact of Lucretius on various Florentine writers and the importance, in particular, of the work of Bartolomeo Scala (1430–1497) and his poem On Trees, which contains an account of man’s emergence from a state of primitive nature to civilization.

    In the Hunting Scene a variety of figures—satyrs, centaurs, and men—hunt game in a forest and the rocky hills of a primeval landscape. Some of the figures brandish crude clubs while others, such as the man seen between the trunks of trees, crush their prey with their bare hands. In the distance animals flee a forest fire. This scene seems to relate to a passage in which Lucretius notes how primitive man lived like a wild beast and did not know how to work things with fire or how to make clothes from skins, "but they dwelt in the woods and forests and mountain caves, and hid their rough bodies in the underwoods . . . And by the aid of their wonderful powers of hand and foot they would hunt the woodland tribes of beasts with volleys of stones and ponderous clubs, overpowering many, shunning but a few in their lairs . . . ."

    In the Return from the Hunt (75.7.1) humankind has reached a more advanced state. As noted by Lucretius, "Next, when they had got them huts and skins and fire, and woman mated with man was appropriated to one, and the laws of wedlock became known, and they saw offspring born of them, then first the human race began to grow soft. For the fire saw to it that their shivering bodies were less able to endure cold under the canopy of heaven . . . ."

    Lucretius laid emphasis on the importance of fire for the development of civilization (which is the link Panofsky saw between the two canvases concerning Vulcan as well as the Ashmolean picture). But no less important are the departures from his text (for which, see Fermor 1993). For example, Lucretius specifically denied the existence of satyrs and centaurs, he asserted that men were not clothed and, moreover, noted that "the wicked art of navigation then lay hidden and obscure" and that primitive man "could not look to the common good" but lived "for himself at his own will". Piero shows primitive man in boats and helping one another. In these ways Piero’s paintings offer a highly original recreation of primitive man inspired by but not confined to Lucretius’ poem. This accords very well with Vasari’s characterization of the artist.

    A further panel showing the construction of a large palace (John and Mable Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Florida), measuring 77.5 x 196.9 cm, has also sometimes been associated with the MMA and Ashmolean paintings (see Fahy 1965 and Zeri and Gardner 1971) but seems little related in style and treatment (see Forlani Tempesti and Capretti 1996, pp. 130–31).

    The MMA pictures have been dated as early as ca. 1488 and as late as ca. 1513. A date of ca. 1507–8 has been argued on the basis of a perceived response by Piero to the work of Leonardo da Vinci.

    While The Hunt is fairly well preserved, despite its transfer from its original panel, the Return from the Hunt has suffered greatly.


  • Provenance

    Cardinal Urbano Sacchetti, Rome (until d. 1705; inv., 1705, no. 110); his nephew, marchese Matteo Sacchetti, Rome (1705–d. 1743; inv., 1744, no. 49 or 73); his son marchese Giovanni Battista Sacchetti or his son marchese Giulio Sacchetti (from 1743); Thomas H. Hotchkiss, Rome (until d. 1869; his estate sale, Johnston and Van Tassel, New York, December 9, 1871, with 75.7.1, no. 29 or 30, as "Satyrs Sacrifice &c.," for $90 or $120 to Gordon); Robert Gordon, New York (1871–75)

  • Exhibition History

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Loan Exhibition of Paintings," September 1874, no. 145 or 146 (as "Satyrs," by an unknown artist," lent by Robert Gordon).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Loan Exhibition of Paintings and Statuary," December 1874, no. 127 or 128 (as "Satyrs," by an unknown Italian painter, lent by Robert Gordon).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Temporary Exhibition," April 1906, no. 25A (as "Scenes in the Life of Primitive Man: Lake Scene," by Piero di Cosimo).

    Paris. Petit Palais. "Exposition de l'art italien de Cimabue à Tiepolo," 1935, no. 365 (as "Scènes de chasse").

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 82.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no. 187.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Florentine Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," June 15–August 15, 1971, no catalogue.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Nudes in Landscapes: Four Centuries of a Tradition," May 18–August 5, 1973, no catalogue.

    Florence. Palazzo Vecchio, and. Casa Buonarroti. "Giovinezza di Michelangelo," October 6, 1999–January 9, 2000, no. 17.

  • References

    Giorgio Vasari. Le vite de piu eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori italiani. Florence, 1550, part 3, p. 38, relates that Piero painted for a room in the house of Francesco del Pugliese diverse stories with small figures, adding that they are fables, depicting fantastic buildings, animals, clothes, diverse implements, and other fantasies.

    Giorgio Vasari. Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori. 1906 ed. Florence, 1568, vol. 4, p. 139, to the text of Ref. 1550, adds that after the deaths of Francesco del Pugliese and his children these pictures were sold, and that he doesn't know their whereabouts.

    Inventory of Cardinal Urbano Sacchetti. May 24, 1705, f. 397v, no. 110 [Archivio di Stato, Rome, Notai Tribunale A.C., vol. 5651 (anno 1705), ff. 389–418], as "Un Caccia trà Monti, e Selve con huomini, e Satiri," by Mantegna.

    Inventory of marchese Matteo Sacchetti. March 26, 1744, ff. 295–295v, no. 49, or f. 299, no. 73 [Archivio di Stato, Rome, Notai Capitolini, Uff. 25, fol. 583, ff. 273–555], lists the two pictures as overdoors with various figures by Mantegna.

    William Rankin. "Due importanti pitture di Piero di Cosimo al Museo Metropolitano d'arte di New York." Rassegna d'arte 5 (January 1905), pp. 25–26, ill., attributes it to Piero di Cosimo; says it depicts a "mythological age" in which "men, fauns and centaurs live a communal wild life in a semi-fantastical world"; add that it has a "raw nature so different from the usual ideals of the Renaissance, that it is almost unique in the history of Italian art"; equates Piero's forms with Northern European art, such as the art of Brueghel

    William Rankin and F[rank]. J[ewett]. M[ather]. "Cassone-Fronts in American Collections—IV." Burlington Magazine 10 (February 1907), pp. 332–36, ill., attribute them to Piero di Cosimo, Rankin calling them early works, and Mather dating them soon after 1490; suggest that the Ricketts panel (now in the National Gallery, London) might be a companion piece, and that the three formed part of the decoration of a small room.

    Attilio Schiaparelli. La casa fiorentina e i suoi arredi nei secoli XIV e XV. 1983 ed. Florence, 1908, vol. 1, p. 165, fig. 117, attributes our panels to Piero and suggests that they and the Ricketts panel are parts of the decorations painted for Giovanni Vespucci.

    Bernhard Berenson. The Florentine Painters of the Renaissance. 3rd ed. New York, 1909, p. 165, lists them as works by Piero di Cosimo.

    [Joseph Archer] Crowe and [Giovanni Battista] Cavalcaselle. "The Florentine, Umbrian, and Sienese Schools of the XV Century." A New History of Painting in Italy from the II to the XVI Century. 3, London, 1909, p. 395, Hutton mentions them as by Piero.

    Adolfo Venturi. "La pittura del quattrocento." Storia dell'arte italiana. 7, part 1, Milan, 1911, pp. 712–13 n.1, mentions these panels as works attributed to Piero di Cosimo.

    Morton H. Bernath. New York und Boston. Leipzig, 1912, p. 72, attributes it to Piero.

    Joseph Archer Crowe and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle. "Sienese and Florentine Masters of the Sixteenth Century." A History of Painting in Italy: Umbria, Florence and Siena from the Second to the Sixteenth Century. 6, London, 1914, p. 48 n. 6, Borenius lists it as a work by Piero.

    Paul Schubring. Cassoni: Truhen und Truhenbilder der italienischen Frührenaissance. Leipzig, 1915, text vol., p. 310, nos. 383–84; plate vol., pl. XC, attributes it to Bartolomeo di Giovanni and calls it a cassone panel connected with the Ricketts (now in the National Gallery, London) and Meyer (later in the Austen Collection, Horsmonden, Kent; erroneously attributed to Piero di Cosimo; see Ref. Douglas 1946) panels ; believes them to be a collective interpretation of the four elements, the hunt representing earth.

    Maitland Armstrong. Day Before Yesterday: Reminiscences of a Varied Life. New York, 1920, p. 191.

    Roger Fry. "Pictures at the Burlington Fine Arts Club." Burlington Magazine 38 (March 1921), pp. 132, 137, attributes them to Piero, assigns them to his middle period, and doubts whether they and the panels owned by Ricketts (now in National Gallery, London) and Prince Paul of Yugoslavia (now in the Ashmolean) originally belonged to the same decoration; suggests Ovid and Lucretius as possible text sources.

    Kate Denny McKnight. "The Ulysses Panels by Piero di Cosimo at Vassar College." Art Bulletin 6 (June 1924), pp. 100–102, attributes them to Piero di Cosimo and dates them to the early 1490s; says that the color scheme of dark browns and bright blues may have been inspired by Hugo van der Goes; compares them to two panels depicting scenes from the story of Ulysses at Vassar College.

    Georgette Camille. "Piero di Cosimo." Documents 2, no. 6 (1930), pp. 333–35, ill. between pp. 329 and 333, discusses these paintings in relation to Piero's interest in pairing man with beast in his paintings, in which man never looks heroic, rather more beast-like.

    Exhibition of Italian Art, 1200–1900. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 1930, p. 142, under no. 225, tentatively identifies then with the "fantastic subjects painted for Francesco del Pugliese mentioned by Vasari"; associates them with "A Forest Fire" owned by Prince Paul of Yugoslavia (now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford).

    Paul Schubring. "Neue Cassoni." Belvedere 9 (July–December 1930), p. 3, attributes them to Bartolomeo di Giovanni; connects them only with the Ashmolean "Forest Fire" (attributed to Piero di Cosimo in Ref. London 1930) and thinks their subjects s.

    Raimond van Marle. "The Renaissance Painters of Florence in the 15th Century: The Third Generation." The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. 13, The Hague, 1931, p. 248, fig. 169, attributes them to Bartolomeo di Giovanni and connects them with the Ricketts (now in National Gallery, London) and Meyer (later shown to be in the Austen collection, Horsmonden, Kent and de-attributed from Piero di Cosimo; see Ref. Douglas 1946) panels.

    Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 454, lists them as works by Piero.

    B[ernhard]. Degenhart in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. 27, Leipzig, 1933, p. 16, lists them as cassoni panels, and hesitantly attributes them to the school of Piero.

    Carlo Gamba. "Piero di Cosimo e i suoi quadri mitologici." Bollettino d'arte 30 (August 1936), p. 51, fig. 7, assigns them to Piero's youthful period; suggests that they, with the Ricketts (now in the National Gallery, London), Meyer, and Ashmolean panels and the larger ones in Hartford and Ottawa, may have formed the decoration painted by Piero for Guido Antonio (sic) Vespucci.

    Erwin Panofsky. "The 'Discovery of Honey' by Piero di Cosimo." Worcester Art Museum Annual 2 (1936–37), pp. 35, 41 n. 1, p. 43 n. 2 [reprinted in Studies in Iconology, 1939, pp. 33 ff.].

    Erwin Panofsky. "The Early History of Man in a Cycle of Paintings by Piero di Cosimo." Journal of the Warburg Institute 1 (July 1937), pp. 24–30, pl. 5a [reprinted in "Studies in Iconology," 1939, repr. 1962, pp. 51–58, fig. 27], attributes them to Piero; identifies them as the Pugliese decorations and interprets their subjects as the growth of civilization.

    Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 58–60, ill., cites Panofsky's interpretation that our panels were part of a series made for Francesco del Pugliese that symbolized "the growth of civilization through the control of fire," and that our panels, together with "Forest Fire" in the Ashmolean, illustrate the age before Vulcan, the teacher of mankind; suggests that "Return from the Hunt" (75.7.1) could be understood as "an advance in culture" over the other panel (75.7.2).

    Thomas Bodkin. Dismembered Masterpieces: A Plea for their Reconstruction by International Action. London, 1945, p. 19, pl. 16, attributes them to Piero di Cosimo, quoting Panofsky's grouping of them with the other panels of the series.

    Robert Langton Douglas. Piero di Cosimo. Chicago, 1946, pp. 4, 6, 13, 16–17., 31, 33–34, 64, 113, pls. XI–XII (overall and details), rejects the attribution to Bartolomeo di Giovanni; calls them works by Piero do Cosimo, painted about 1487–88 for Francesco del Pugliese, along with the London, Oxford, Hartford, and Ottawa pictures; suggesting that their literary source may have been Boccaccio's Genealogie deorum, quoting Vitruvius's De Architectura.

    Erwin Panofsky. "Letter to the editor." Art Bulletin 28 (December 1946), p. 286.

    Dietrich von Bothmer. "The Classical Contribution to Western Civilization." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 7 (April 1949), p. 219, ill., relates the subject matter of these panels to a passage in Vitruvius, quoted by Boccaccio, that describes the earth before man had fire.

    Martin Davies. The Earlier Italian Schools. London, 1951, p. 329.

    R. H. Hubbard. European Paintings in Canadian Collections: Earlier Schools. Toronto, 1956, p. 12, mentioned in connection with entry on "Vulcan, assisted by Aeolus, as Teacher of Man" in the National Gallery of Canada; cites Panofsky's arguments that our panels were part of a series painted for Francesco Pugliese to illustrate 'the growth of civilization through the control of fire.".

    Paola Morselli. "Ragioni di un pittore fiorentino: Piero di Cosimo (continua)." L'arte, n.s., 56 (July–December 1957), pp. 134–36, fig. 1, says that these panels are "truly unique in the history of painting" during this period, and indicate Piero's "effective and unharnessed imagination"; adds that these paintings are a "profound reflection on the mystery of the dawn of human life . . . when man used art and intelligence to conquer the world to which he was destined by God".

    Paola Morselli. "Piero di Cosimo, saggio di un catalogo delle opere." L'arte, n.s., 57 (January–March 1958), pp. 81–82.

    Federico Zeri. "Rivedendo Piero di Cosimo." Paragone 9 (July 1959), p. 44, includes our panels in a series he calls 'The Progress of Humanity', to which belong also the panel in Oxford and one titled 'Constructing a building' in the Ringling Museum in Sarasota; notes influence of Leonardo da Vinci's "Battle of Anghiari" in the series and dates them to ca. 1505–07.

    Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School. London, 1963, vol. 1, p. 176; vol. 2, pl. 1196 (detail).

    Luigi Grassi. Piero di Cosimo e il problema della conversione al Cinquecento nella pittura fiorentina ed emiliana. Rome, 1963, p. 34 n. 1, pp. 41, 43–44, rejects Zeri's suggested dating of around 1505–7, placing the "Hunting Scene" about 1485–90; notes explicit references to Pollaiuolo in the "Hunting Scene," and references to Filippino Lippi and Botticelli in the "Return from the Hunt".

    Everett P. Fahy, Jr. "Some Later Works of Piero di Cosimo." Gazette des beaux-arts 65 (April 1965), pp. 206–7, 212 nn. 21, 22, says that both panels, along with the Oxford and Sarasota pictures, are part of a series about the early history of man made for Francesco Del Pugliese, which he dates to about 1507 based on daring stylistic qualities that are similar to works dated later in Piero's oeuvre and Leonardo da Vinci's work of the same period; accepts Zeri's identification of the painting in Sarasota as the fourth in the series.

    Mina Bacci. Piero di Cosimo. Milan, 1966, pp. 16, 18, 29, 36, 74–76, 88 104, 116, 120, no. 13, pls. 13, 13A (overall and detail), relates them to the painting of the "Forest Fire" at Oxford and observes that they are probably the decorations made for the Pugliese palace and dates them to before the end of the 15th century.

    B[arbara]. N[ovak]. O'Doherty. "Thomas H. Hotchkiss: An American in Italy." Art Quarterly 29 no. 1 (1966), pp. 20–21, 24 n. 55, p. 25, nos. 29 or 30, publishes the sale catalogue of Hotchkiss's collection, discovered among John Durand's papers in the New York Public Library.

    Francesco Abbate. "Review of Ref. Bacci 1966." Paragone 19 (January 1968), pp. 76–77, identifies a drawing in the Uffizi that may refer to a lost panel that would have been part of the series to which our panels and the one in Oxford belong; dates the series to the beginning of the sixteenth century.

    Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Florentine School. New York, 1971, pp. 176–80, ill., consider these two panels and the one in Oxford to be part of the cycle made for Francesco del Pugliese; support Panofsky's interpretation of the series as the growth of civilization through the control of fire; consider the Sarasota panel to be possibly the final scene, and note that it may represent civilization at its maturity; date them about 1505–7 and mention the influence of Leonardo's Battle of Anghiari on many passages in the "Hunting Scene".

    Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 164, 499, 605.

    Letters of Roger Fry. New York, 1972, vol. 1, p. 255 n. 1 to letter no. 177 (March 2, 1906), lists this painting among those shown in the exhibition organized by Roger Fry in April 1906.

    Mina Bacci. L'opera completa di Piero di Cosimo. Milan, 1976, colorpls. IXA, XI (overall and detail), pp. 88–89, no. 17,, dates them to the end of the fifteenth century; notes affinities with the work of Pollaiuolo and Signorelli.

    Peter Tomory. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings before 1800. Sarasota, 1976, p. 14, rejects the connection proposed by Zeri and Fahy between the Ashmolean and Metropolitan panels and the one in Sarasota.

    Christopher Lloyd. A Catalogue of the Earlier Italian Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum. Oxford, 1977, pp. 148–50, accepts Panofsky's proposal that these paintings and the one in Oxford formed part of a decorative cycle for Francesco del Pugliese's home, showing the history of primordial man; dates these panels to 1488–1513.

    Olga Pujmanová. "Italian Primitives in Czechoslovak Collections." Burlington Magazine 119 (August 1977), p. 549.

    Francis Russell. "Review of Ref. Lloyd 1977." Burlington Magazine 119 (September 1977), p. 654.

    Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 12, 19, 241, fig. 23 (color).

    Keith Christiansen. "Early Renaissance Narrative Painting in Italy." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 41 (Fall 1983), pp. 12, 38–39, 41–42, 46, fig. 34 (color) and ill. on cover, and pp. 42–43 (color details), states that the appearance of the forest fire allows the two New York panels and the Oxford panel to be identified with the same series; believes that the series illustrates "the evolution of man from a primitive state of bestiality to one of relative civilization," and is, in a general way, "based on descriptions of ancient authors, particularly...Lucretius and...Vitruvius," but adds that it is possible that "the series originally included a number of other panels depicting the discovery of fire and its use"; notes that our panels "have sometimes been identified" with the narrative cycle by Piero owned by Pugliese, but implies that this cannot be confirmed.

    John Pope-Hennessy. "Roger Fry and The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Oxford, China, and Italy: Writings in Honour of Sir Harold Acton on his Eightieth Birthday. London, 1984, p. 231.

    Giorgio Vasari. Le vite de' piú eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori italiani, da Cimabue insino a' tempi nostri. Turin, 1986, p. 568 n. 6.

    Michael Pantazzi in "1300–1800." European and American Painting, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts. 1, Ottawa, 1987, pp. 223–24.

    Francesca Petrucci in La pittura in Italia: il Quattrocento. revised and expanded ed. [Milan], 1987, vol. 1, p. 302, identifies these panels and the one in Oxford as those made for the palazzo dei Del Pugliese and cites them as examples of how Piero often reserved his most eccentric and innovative works for private settings.

    Sharon Fermor. Piero di Cosimo: Fiction, Invention and "Fantasìa". London, 1993, pp. 41, 62–64, 73–75, 78–79, 81, 212 nn. 56, 71, 77, fig. 22 (color), challenges Panofsky's suggestion that a cycle of five works including the MMA panels was done for Francesco del Pugliese, noting that Vasari's description is too generic to reach this conclusion; suggests that the MMA panels are a pair, but the other three were for a separate commission; notes that the Lucretius text on which the MMA paintings are based would have been a novelty, as it was first printed in 1473; states that "attempts to assign a political or ideological meaning to the Early Man paintings have been equally unsatisfactory . . . "

    Anne B. Barriault. "Spalliera" Paintings of Renaissance Tuscany: Fables of Poets for Patrician Homes. University Park, Pa., 1994, pp. 53–54, 83–84, 98, 146, no. 6, fig. 6.1, discusses these panels as probably the decorations painted for Pugliese, described by Vasari as being "storie di favole" with "figure piccole," phrases he seems to reserve for the spalliera genre; notes that the Ashmolean and the Ringling Museum panels have been related to the cycle despite "stylistic differences in both panels and the larger measurements of the second painting"; observes that the subjects of our paintings are related by theme, "probably from Vitruvius's Ten Books on Architecture, 2, and Boccaccio's Genealogia Deorum, 12" and that they could also be examples of Piero's single spalliera paintings, such as his "Procris" (National Gallery, London).

    Anna Forlani Tempesti and Elena Capretti. Piero di Cosimo: catalogo completo. Florence, 1996, pp. 109–10, no. 17a, ill. pp. 42–45 (color), find compositional precedents for this scene in Paolo Uccello's "Deluge" (S. Maria Novella, Florence) and "Battle of San Romano" (Uffizi, Florence); note that the two paintings are unified by light streaming in from the left.

    William Griswold in The Dictionary of Art. 24, New York, 1996, pp. 769–770.

    Graham Hughes. Renaissance Cassoni, Masterpieces of Early Italian Art: Painted Marriage Chests 1400–1550. Alfriston, England, 1997, pp. 225, 232.

    Elena Capretti in Giovinezza di Michelangelo. Exh. cat., Palazzo Vecchio and Casa Buonarroti. Florence, 1999, pp. 212, 230–32, no. 17, ill. (color), notes the influence of Paolo Uccello in the placement of figures arranged to suggest recession in space and in the representation of animals; suggests that the theme of a primitive state of nature derives from Lucretius's "De Rerum Natura" but that Piero, differently from the poet, included fantastic composite creatures, such as centaurs and satyrs, in his composition; remarks on the popularity of the volcanic theme in Quattrocento domestic decoration, following the rediscovery of Vitruvius' and Lucretius's texts and suggests this panel may have been part of a series decorating a Florentine patrician room with the theme of the primitive history of Man.

    Giovanni Agosti. "Su Mantegna, 7* (Nell'Europa del Seicento)." Prospettiva nos. 115–16 (July–October 2004), p. 146 n. 2, identifies the two MMA paintings with works included in two inventories of the Sacchetti family [see Refs. 1705 and 1744].

    Paula Nuttall. From Flanders to Florence: The Impact of Netherlandish Painting, 1400–1500. New Haven, 2004, pp. 207, 287 n. 53, sees the influence of Bosch on the depiction of fire in these works, especially in the panel in Oxford.

    Dennis Geronimus. Piero di Cosimo: Visions Beautiful and Strange. New Haven, 2006, pp. 124–27, 129–31, 133–34, 137, 141–42, 148–49, 161, 316 nn. 7, 21, p. 317 nn. 23–25, p. 318 n. 59, fig. 89 (color), ill. p. 122 (color detail), suggests that the panels may have been painted to commemorate Francesco del Pugliese’s marriage to Alessandra di Domenico Bonsi in 1485, dates them to the late 1480s or early 1490s, notes that they are most satisfactory when seen as a pair, and discusses their relationship to various texts as well as to other works of art.

    Timothy Verdon in "Rinascimento." L'arte cristiana in italia. 2, Cinisello Balsamo (Milan), 2006, p. 118, fig. 125 (color), dates it about 1495–98; uses it to illustrate a discussion of the interest in the antique during the Quattrocento.

    Michael Rohlmann in Firenze e gli antichi Paesi Bassi 1430–1530, dialoghi tra artisti: da Jan van Eyck a Ghirlandaio, da Memling a Raffaello . . . Exh. cat., Palazzo Pitti, Galleria Palatina, Florence. Livorno, 2008, p. 71, believes that the faces of the hunters and satyrs derive from those of the shepherds in Hugo van der Goes's Portinari triptych (Uffizi, Florence).

    Alison Brown. The Return of Lucretius to Renaissance Florence. Cambridge, Mass., 2010, p. 105, notes the importance of the theme of Lucretian primitivism in Florence.

  • See also
    In the Museum