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 B.C.). 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 more information about these two paintings, including the dispute about their function and patron, visit metmuseum.org.
The Artist: Piero di Cosimo is one of the great eccentrics of Italian painting. He was a decade younger than Leonardo da Vinci and thirteen years older than Michelangelo. He was keenly aware of Leonardo’s ideas about nature, but his training provided an altogether more conservative background. As a youth he worked on the frescoes decorating the walls of the Sistine Chapel under the direction of his teacher Cosimo Rosselli. He thus worked alongside Botticelli, Perugino, and Signorelli. He was, in short, a painter with a foot in two worlds, and although Vasari places Piero’s biography firmly among the "moderns"—between Correggio and Bramante—he went out of his way to emphasize the artist’s eccentricities. As a youth, Vasari claimed the artist "was likewise so great a lover of solitude, that he knew no pleasure save that of going off by himself with his thoughts, letting his fancy roam and building his castles in the air." He went on to describe how, "He could not bear the crying of children, the coughing of men, the sound of bells, and the chanting of friars; and when the rain was pouring in torrents from the sky, it pleased him to see it streaming straight down from the roofs and splashing on the ground. He had the greatest terror of lightning; and, when he heard very loud thunder, he wrapped himself in his mantle, and, having closed the windows and the door of the room, he crouched in a corner until the storm should pass. He was very varied and original in his discourse, and sometimes said such beautiful things, that he made his hearers burst with laughter. But when he was old, and near the age of eighty, he had become so strange and eccentric that nothing could be done with him." It is as eccentric geniuses that Piero and his pupil Jacopo Pontormo appear in Rudolf Wittkower’s classic study, Born under Saturn (1963). The Metropolitan’s two paintings have often been viewed as reflecting this peculiar side of Piero’s persona.
Description: Long recognized as among the most singular paintings of the Renaissance, these two panels share a common history and are of a type and size that, in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, characterize paintings that were either set into the paneling of a room or adorned the backrest of a pair of cassapanca (spalliere). In one panel, goat-hoofed satyrs and men wearing animal pelts take advantage of the panic created by a forest fire to hunt game. Fleeing animals become the prey both of other animals and of hunters: in the center foreground a lion attacks a bear and, in turn, is attacked by another bear who is wrestled by a man wearing a lion’s pelt. The latter is assisted by two accomplices, one of whom pulls the lion’s tail while the other—a satyr—prepares to club the animals (or, less likely in my view, to club one of the humans). Violence is pervasive and its deadly consequences are equally distributed among humans and beasts: a dead animal, lying on its back at the left, is counterbalanced by the bloody corpse of a man who met a violent death. Both are viewed in acute foreshortening, the animal feet-first and the man head-first, recalling the celebrated foreshortened figures by Paolo Uccello in his fresco of the Flood and his scenes of the Battle of San Romano. In the second panel—unfortunately not well preserved—what would appear to be the same forest fire with hunters is seen in the distance, on the far side of a lake, while in the foreground men and women arrive in boats made of reeds and laden with the fruits of the hunt. In contrast to what is found in its companion panel, the mood is one of conviviality and mutual affection between male and female and also between humans and satyrs. Ownership and questions surrounding the commission: The earliest certain reference to the two panels is in an inventory of 1639, when they were in the collection of Marcello Sacchetti (1586–1629) in Rome: “Two companion pictures about three palmi high and seven long, with diverse satyrs and hunting with black frames with gold detailing” ("Due quadri compagni alti tre palmi incirca lunghi palmi sette in circa con diversi satiri, e caccie, con le cornice nere rabescate d’oro"). The two panels can be traced through inventories of the Sacchetti collection until 1744, when they were ascribed to Mantegna (the inventory information was generously furnished by Sergio Guarino; see Museum files). Marcello was the son of Giovanni Battista Sacchetti (1540–1620), who established a branch of the family in Rome, founding a bank there in 1573 and marrying Francesca Altoviti. However, whether the pictures formed part of the Sacchetti or Altoviti inheritance or were purchased in Rome on the market has yet to be established. Nonetheless, the fact that they were viewed as a pair is highly significant and must be added to other reasons advanced in the recent literature (Lloyd 1984, Fermor 1993, Geronimus 2006) for a reconsideration of the influential hypothesis put forward by Erwin Panofsky in 1937 that the two pictures formed part of an extensive cycle described by Vasari in the 1550 edition of his biography of Piero in the Lives: “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” ("Fece parimente in casa di Francesco del Pugliese intorno a una camera storie di figure piccole, nè si può esprimere la diversità de le cose fantastiche che egli in tutte quelle si dilettò dipignere e di casamenti e d’animali e di abiti e strumenti diverse, et altre fantasie che gli sovennono per essere storie di favole, come un quadro di Marte e Venere con i suoi amori e Vulcano fatto con una grande arte e con pazienza incredibile"; ed. Einaudi, 1986, pp. 573–74). Panofsky was not the first scholar to associate the Metropolitan’s pictures with the "storie di figure piccole" owned by the wool merchant Francesco del Pugliese (1458–1519), who, like his uncle Piero del Pugliese, was a significant patron of the artist. But he argued on the basis of a presumed literary program that the cycle included what seems a very anomalous group of pictures, including a painting of a forest fire in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (on panel), that measures 71.2 x 202 cm and two works (on canvas) 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 unified 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. Most scholars today would eliminate from consideration the two canvases—so divergent in size, support, character, and subject matter—while a further panel, showing the construction of a large palace (John and Mable Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Florida, 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 has also been eliminated from consideration (Forlani Tempesti and Capretti 1996, pp. 130–33). Farinella (2015) has made the most recent case for including both the Ashmolean and Sarasota panels and for adding as well yet another picture by Piero showing a battle between lapiths and centaurs (National Gallery, London) that is usually understood as an independent work. Farinella has established that by 1588 the Sarasota panel belonged to the Botti family, who inhabited what had been a portion of the old Pugliese palace. Had they acquired the picture with the palace and was it, therefore, the work Vasari admired for its "cassamenti"? Perhaps. But if so, it is curious that he did not give a more specific description of the work and in the 1568 edition of the Vite did not note the transfer of ownership, since he was on close terms ("amicissimo") with Matteo di Simone Botti. Precisely because so much concerning this cycle remains conjectural, beginning with the ambiguity of Vasari's comments, it is worth pointing out some possible objections. Not least among them is the fact that both the Ashmolean and the Sarasota panels employ rigorously centralized compositions and could easily be imagined as independent paintings, one treating the early history of man, the other the construction of a Renaissance palace—in the tradition of an ideal city view. As for the two Metropolitan panels, it remains a puzzle why, if they formed part of the Pugliese cycle, Vasari did not describe them in the same terms he used for the remarkably similar decorations Francesco Francia painted in 1500–1506 on the caparisons for a horse ("un par di barde da Cavallo") for the Duke of Urbino: "a vast forest of trees that had caught fire, from which there were issuing great numbers of all sorts of animals, both of the air and of the earth, and certain figures, a terrible, awful, and truly beautiful thing” (“fece una selva grandissima d’alberi che vi era appicciato il fuoco, e fuor di quella usciva quantità grande di tutti gli animali aerei e terrestri, et alcune figure; cosa terribile, spaventosa e veramente bella"; 1550; ed. Einaudi, 1986, p. 521). A wool merchant, Francesco del Pugliese was a prominent citizen and an avid patron of the arts. His uncle had commissioned altarpieces from Filippino Lippi (the church of the Badia, Florence) and Piero di Cosimo (Saint Louis Museum of Art) and seems to have been interested in stoic literature. Francesco’s commissions seem to have been primarily private: devotional works from Filippino Lippi and, notably, Botticelli’s Last Communion of Saint Jerome (MMA 14.40.642). By contrast, to judge from Vasari’s description, the pictures painted by Piero for Pugliese were mythological in theme and centered on Mars, Venus, and Vulcan—the kind of theme appropriate to a bedroom. It might be thought that the Metropolitan panels would be better suited to a scholar’s study. The literary sources and interpretation: It should be remembered that Panofsky's reconstruction was argued purely on the basis of a presumed literary program rather than on a similarity of style and composition. Where he was undoubtedly correct was in identifying the theme of the two paintings in the Metropolitan as having to do with the early history of man as described by classical sources: Vitruvius’s De Architectura libri decem (Book 2, chapter 1); Diodorus Siculus’s Bibliotheca historica; and, most significantly, the fifth book of the De rerum natura by the first-century B.C. Epicurean poet and philosopher Lucretius. Vitruvius traces the origins of civilization to the discovery of fire: “The men of old were born like the wild beasts, in woods, caves, and groves, and lived on savage fare. As time went on, the thickly crowded trees in a certain place, tossed by storms and winds, and rubbing their branches against one another, caught fire, and so the inhabitants of the place were put to flight, being terrified by the furious flame. After it subsided, they drew near, and observing that they were very comfortable standing before the warm fire, they put on logs and, while thus keeping it alive brought up other people to it, showing them by signs how much comfort they got from it.” (trans. Morris Hickymorgan, NY, 1914, Book 2, chap. 1, pp. 38-39) This passage was repeated verbatim by Boccaccio in the Geneologia deorum (Book XII) and was thus well known. By contrast, Lucretius’s work was only discovered by Poggi Bracciolini in 1417. The manuscript was widely copied and read in Florence; the first printed edition dates from 1471–73, and this was followed by editions in Venice (Aldus Manutius, 1500) and Florence (Giunta, 1521; for the various editions, see Ada Palmer (Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance, Cambridge, Mass., 2014, pp. 243–47). Lucretius’s was a radical, Epicurean view of life with an evolutionary account of the origins of the world from random atoms that earned the ridicule of Savonarola in his Lenten sermons of 1496 (Brown 2010, p. 49). In Book V (lns. 837–1160) the Roman poet put forward a reconstruction of the early history of man, the origins of language, and the advent of civilization, describing how primitive humans "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 . . . ." This first period was succeeded by a more advanced stage, "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’s poem is unquestionably important for understanding Piero's paintings but no less crucial to their very individual character is an awareness of the various humanist responses to Lucretius and the kinds of discussions and controversies his work inspired. Alison Brown has written perceptively about this in an essay of 2001 and a book of 2010, singling out the importance of the humanist circle around Bartolomeo Scala (1430–1497), the Chancellor of Florence from 1465 to 1497. He was a keen student of Lucretius’s literary masterpiece, as was Michele Marullo Tarcaniota (1453–1500) and Scala's successor as chancellor, Marcello Adriani (1464–1521). Although Lucretius was discussed among humanists in the 1480s, the crucial years of interest and debate appear to be those immediately following the death of Lorenzo il Magnifico in 1494, which saw the expulsion of the Medici, the rise of Savonarola, and the establishment of the Florentine Republic under Piero Soderini. As is well known, Francesco Pugliese became a strong supporter of Savonarola, but whether, previously, he had been a student of Lucretius has yet to be demonstrated (though, of course, it is perfectly possible). In his inaugural lecture for the studium of Florence for the academic year of 1495–96 Adriani specifically referred to Lucretius to draw an analogy with the deteriorating political situation in Florence, which he compared to that era “before the founding of cities, in that first newness of the world when men, as Lucretius said, ‘could not recognize the common good. They knew no binding customs, used no laws. Every man, wise in staying strong, surviving, kept for himself the spoils that fortune offered’.” Quite apart from the political situation, Brown has also pointed to the interest in primitive society that was inspired by the Portuguese exploration of the west coast of Africa, noting that a letter regarding these discoveries was read out on the main square in Florence in 1486. The later voyages of Amerigo Vespucci (1499–1502) further fueled this interest. It would thus seem that this moment in the political and cultural life of the city provided the catalyst and possibly even the occasion for Piero’s paintings. So far from following Lucretius’s text scrupulously by describing two successive states of civilization, the Metropolitan’s two panels constitute Piero’s personal visualization of a single early moment in the history of humankind, portraying different aspects of that moment by viewing the reactions of primitive society to a forest fire from two different vantage points. In this sense, too, the pictures seem to have been conceived as pendant panels. Importantly, in neither picture does he paint the “discovery” or “taming” of fire—the crucial feature that both Vitruvius and Lucretius felt was responsible for bringing mankind together. Moreover, whereas Lucretius specifically denied the existence of satyrs and centaurs and 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 goes his own way. Concerning such divergences from the text Brown has written, “It is not my argument that all these artists necessarily read Lucretius but rather that the cultural climate after 1494 encouraged the diffusion of his Epicurean naturalism.” In other words, Lucretius should not be seen as the literary source for a tightly conceived iconographic program, but rather as the catalyst for imaginatively conceived visualizations of primitive life growing out of discussions among Florentine humanists. Seen in this light, the Metropolitan’s paintings represent Piero’s personal and highly idiosyncratic contribution. His panels—regardless of whether they formed part of a larger cycle or were, after all, conceived as an independent pair—must have been intended to elicit both delight and inspire erudite discussion. Although they have been dated as early as ca. 1488 and as late as ca. 1513—the latter on the basis of a perceived response by Piero to the work of Leonardo da Vinci—it seems more reasonable to place them in this crucial moment of Florentine history, ca. 1494–1500.
[Keith Christiansen 2015]
Marcello Sacchetti, Rome (until d. 1629; inv., 1639, nos. 136–37); by descent to his nephew, Giovanni Battista Sacchetti, Rome (until d. 1688; invs., 1647–58, no. 197; 1688, no. 111); his brother, Cardinal Urbano Sacchetti, Rome (1688–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 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)
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.
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "Piero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence," February 1–May 3, 2015, no. 5a.
Florence. Galleria degli Uffizi. "Piero di Cosimo, 1462–1522: pittore eccentrico fra Rinascimento e Maniera," June 23–September 27, 2015, no. 8 (with 75.7.1).
Inventario generale di tutte le robbe delli illustrissimi Signori Sacchetti padroni. July 4, 1639, nos. 136–37 [Archivio Storico Capitolino, Rome, Fondo Sacchetti, Busta 56, Posiz. 3, ff. 1r–56v (information courtesy of Sergio Guarino); Getty no. I-3411], as "Due quadri compagni altri tre palmi incirca lunghi palmi sette in circa con diversi satiri, e caccie, con le cornice nere rabescate d'oro".
Inventory of Giovanni Battista Sacchetti. 1647–58, no. 197 [Archivio Storico Capitolino, Rome, Fondo Sacchetti, Serie minori, vol. XII/17 (information courtesy of Sergio Guarino); Getty no. I-3412], as "Quadro uno di caccie di simie, e leoni compagno al sudetto con cornici come sopra".
Inventory of Giovanni Battista Sacchetti. 1688, no. 111 [Archivio Storico Capitolino, Rome, Fondo Sacchetti, Libri Mastri, II serie, vol. 214, ff. 21r–45v (information courtesy of Sergio Guarino); Getty no. I-3414], as "Un Caccia tra monti, e selve, con molti huomini e satiri in tavola alto palmi 4 largo palmi 8 1/4 cornice nera et oro del Mantegna".
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; Getty no. I-880], 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; Getty no. I-881], 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. Ed. Maria Sframeli and Laura Pagnotta. 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.
Edward Hutton, ed. A New History of Painting in Italy from the II to the XVI Century. By [Joseph Archer] Crowe and [Giovanni Battista] Cavalcaselle. Vol. 3, The Florentine, Umbrian, and Sienese Schools of the XV Century. London, 1909, p. 395, mentions them as by Piero.
Adolfo Venturi. Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 7, part 1, La pittura del quattrocento. 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.
Tancred Borenius, ed. A History of Painting in Italy: Umbria, Florence, and Siena from the Second to the Sixteenth Century. By J[oseph]. A[rcher]. Crowe and G[iovanni]. B[attista]. Cavalcaselle. Vol. 6, Sienese and Florentine Masters of the Sixteenth Century. London, 1914, p. 48 n. 6 (from p. 47), 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. Ed. Margaret Armstrong. 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.
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.
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.
Raimond van Marle. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. Vol. 13, The Renaissance Painters of Florence in the 15th Century: The Third Generation. 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 inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 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 them 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 about 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 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".
Denys Sutton, ed. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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. Ed. Edward Chaney and Neil Ritchie. London, 1984, p. 231.
C[hristopher]. L[loyd]. Piero di Cosimo's The Forest Fire. Oxford, 1984, unpaginated, pl. 9.
Fabrizio Guidi, ed. Le vite de' piú eccellenti architetti, pittori, et scultori italiani, da Cimabue insino a' tempi nostri. By Giorgio Vasari. Turin, 1986, p. 568 n. 6.
Francesca Petrucci inLa pittura in Italia: il Quattrocento. Ed. Federico Zeri. 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.
Michael Pantazzi inEuropean and American Painting, Sculpture, and Decorative Arts. Ed. Myron Laskin Jr. and Michael Pantazzi. Vol. 1, 1300–1800. Ottawa, 1987, pp. 223–24.
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 inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 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 inGiovinezza di Michelangelo. Ed. Kathleen Weil-Garris Brandt. 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.
Catherine Whistler and David Bomford. The Forest Fire by Piero di Cosimo. Oxford, 1999, pp. 16–18, 21–23, fig. 9 (color).
Alison Brown. "Lucretius and the Epicureans in the Social and Political Context of Renaissance Florence." I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance 9 (2001), p. 52, fig. 7.
Sergio Guarino inPalazzo Sacchetti. Ed. Sebastian Schütze. Rome, 2003, p. 177, mentions the two pictures listed in the 1688 Sacchetti inventory, without identifying them with the MMA works.
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 the Sacchetti inventories of 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.
Timothy Verdon inL'arte cristiana in italia. Vol. 2, Rinascimento. 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.
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.
Sergio Guarino inPinacoteca Capitolina: catalogo generale. Ed. Sergio Guarino and Patrizia Masini. Milan, 2006, pp. 21, 25 n. 30, identifies the two MMA pictures with the works in the 1688 Sacchetti inventory.
Michael Rohlmann inFirenze e gli antichi Paesi Bassi 1430–1530, dialoghi tra artisti: da Jan van Eyck a Ghirlandaio, da Memling a Raffaello . . . Ed. Bert W. Meijer. 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.
Serena Padovani inThe Alana Collection. Ed. Sonia Chiodo and Serena Padovani. Vol. 3, Italian Paintings from the 14th to 16th Century. Florence, 2014, p. 227.
Virginia Brilliant inPiero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2015, pp. 84–86, 88, 231 nn. 5, 13.
Gretchen A. Hirschauer inPiero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2015, pp. 9–10.
Alison Luchs inPiero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2015, pp. 64–65.
Serena Padovani inPiero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2015, pp. 38–39, ill. pp. 46–47 (color detail), accepts Francesco del Pugliese as the commissioner of a cycle of pictures that includes these two.
David Franklin inPiero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2015, pp. 15, 18, accepts Francesco del Pugliese as the commissioner of these two panels and the ones at Oxford, Hartford, and Ottawa.
Dennis Geronimus inPiero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2015, pp. 53, 56–57, 108–13, 145, no. 5a, ill. (color).
Antonio Natali inPiero di Cosimo, 1462–1522: pittore eccentrico fra Rinascimento e Maniera. Exh. cat., Galleria degli Uffizi. Florence, 2015, p. 19, fig. 3 (color detail).
Serena Padovani inPiero di Cosimo, 1462–1522: pittore eccentrico fra Rinascimento e Maniera. Exh. cat., Galleria degli Uffizi. Florence, 2015, pp. 32–33, fig. 10 (color detail).
Cristina Acidini inPiero di Cosimo, 1462–1522: pittore eccentrico fra Rinascimento e Maniera. Exh. cat., Galleria degli Uffizi. Florence, 2015, p. 89 n. 32.
Elena Capretti inPiero di Cosimo, 1462–1522: pittore eccentrico fra Rinascimento e Maniera. Exh. cat., Galleria degli Uffizi. Florence, 2015, pp. 96, 222, 224.
Vincenzo Farinella inPiero di Cosimo, 1462–1522: pittore eccentrico fra Rinascimento e Maniera. Exh. cat., Galleria degli Uffizi. Florence, 2015, pp. 108–10, 114–15, 117, 120 nn. 17, 26, fig. 6 (color, series of five paintings), discusses the two MMA pictures as part of the cycle made for Del Pugliese, with the Oxford, London, and Sarasota paintings.
Alessandro Cecchi inPiero di Cosimo, 1462–1522: pittore eccentrico fra Rinascimento e Maniera. Exh. cat., Galleria degli Uffizi. Florence, 2015, p. 123.
Caroline Elam inPiero di Cosimo, 1462–1522: pittore eccentrico fra Rinascimento e Maniera. Exh. cat., Galleria degli Uffizi. Florence, 2015, pp. 180–82.
Keith Christiansen inPiero di Cosimo, 1462–1522: pittore eccentrico fra Rinascimento e Maniera. Exh. cat., Galleria degli Uffizi. Florence, 2015, pp. 216–19, no. 8, ill. (color, overall and detail).
Dennis Geronimus inPiero di Cosimo, 1462–1522: pittore eccentrico fra Rinascimento e Maniera. Exh. cat., Galleria degli Uffizi. Florence, 2015, p. 276.
Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, p. 273, no. 170, ill. pp. 174–75, 273 (color).
Stephen N. Fliegel inMasterworks on Loan: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland, 2016, pp. 23–24, 26–27, ill. pp. 2, 22, and on cover (color, overall and details), published on the occasion of the loan of this painting to the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Artist: Attributed to Piero di Cosimo (Piero di Lorenzo di Piero d'Antonio) (Italian, Florence 1462–1522 Florence)Date: ca. 1495Medium: Metalpoint, highlighted with white gouache, on blue-gray prepared paperAccession: 1972.118.268On view in:Not on view