Graduation Year

2007

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Art History

Major Professor

Helena K. Szépe, Ph.D.

Keywords

Vasari, Connoisseurship, Patronage, Workshops, Methodology

Abstract

In 1959, Federico Zeri isolated an Umbrian painter and named him the Master of the Greenville after the Madonna and Child with Angels tondo in Greenville, South Carolina. Through connoisseurship, scholars have since attributed over thirty-two works to the Master of the Greenville, categorizing the anonymous artist as a close follower of Perugino's style. My research focuses on a Nativity panel now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg, Florida. It is called the Jonas Nativity after its former owner, the late art collector Harriet H. Jonas. Through connoisseurship, scholars have almost exclusively focused on attributing the Jonas Nativity to an artist in the framework of Perugino's stylistic influence. Although the Jonas Nativity is clearly indebted to Perugino's style, the scholarly emphasis on attribution has limited our ability to make critical interpretations outside the context of this viewpoint.

Pietro Scarpellini has argued that scholars place too much emphasis on Perugino's stylistic influence when interpreting Umbrian art -- he labeled this problem the "myth of Perugino." He asserts that the myth is not the question of Perugino's influence, but the extreme degree in which it has been utilized in Umbrian scholarship. Scarpellini argues that this emphasis is indebted to Vasari, who wrote in Perugino's biography that he established a significant stylistic following in Umbria. Later, Vasari's account was interpreted by writers of the Romantic Period as an Umbrian School of Painting dominated by Perugino and has remained prevalent in critical writings through today. This thesis recognizes Perugino's stylistic impact on the Jonas Nativity, but shifts focus by shedding light on how the painting probably fit into fifteenth-century Umbrian patronage and workshop practices. In doing so, I show how the Jonas Nativity can also be read as a product of the unique religious / political factors that shaped the artistic needs of the fifteenth-century Umbrian client and of a workshop system that succeeded based on its consistent response to these demands.

consistent response to these demands. My investigation intends to expand the critical inquiry of the Jonas Nativity and lay the groundwork for a methodological balance between the influence of Perugino and the cultural forces shaping Umbria's early modern images.

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