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Altarpiece - The Assumption of the Virgin with saints and angels
  • The Assumption of the Virgin with saints and angels
    Brustolon, Andrea, born 1662 - died 1732
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The Assumption of the Virgin with saints and angels

  • Object:

    Altarpiece

  • Place of origin:

    Belluno (made)

  • Date:

    ca.1720-1725 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Brustolon, Andrea, born 1662 - died 1732 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved and painted wood. Made from Siberian Pine (pinus cembra), known locally as 'cirmolo', which was particularly common in Alpine countries.

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with Art Fund support and the Horn Bequest

  • Museum number:

    A.7:0-1968

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 3, case CA2 []

This altarpiece consists of a central relief representing the Assumption of the Virgin borne to heaven by seraphim and surrounded by clouds containing cherubs. Above is the dove of the Holy Spirit, and beneath are two angel musicians, and the Saints Philip Neri and Anthony of Padua. Alongside the central relief are two flying angels holding flowers and below is a framed predella panel representing souls in purgatory.

The altarpiece was formerly in a private chapel at the Villa Doglioni del Mas at Belluno in northern Italy, and was said to have belonged to the family of Avvocato del Castel of Belluno in the 1960s shortly before it was acquired by the Museum. Executed in about 1720, probably for the Piloni family, the altarpiece is attributed to the renowned wood-carver, Andrea Brustolon (1662-1732), seen here at his most accomplished. Born in Belluno and brought up by a family of woodcarvers, Brustolon trained in Venice under the Genoese sculptor, Filippo Parodi, before returning later in his life to his native city to take over the family workshop. He carved a number of altarpieces for churches in the area, and this altarpiece is one of those late works.

Although never completely out of fashion, the relief altarpiece was characteristic genre of the late Italian Baroque sculpture. This particular altarpiece typifies the shallow carving and more painterly character of eighteenth-century relief sculpture. In contrast with the bold expressions and actions that were characteristic of Bernini's work in the previous century, the figures are depicted with a more sentimental and restrained air.

The altarpiece is made of Siberian Pine (pinus cembra), known locally as 'cirmolo', which was particularly common in Alpine countries. Other reliefs by Brustolon are painted in a similar greyish-white; for example, the two large altarpieces in San Pietro, Belluno. Unlike marble altarpieces which made use of contrasts of texture and polish, this work in painted wood relies on line rather than texture, seen for instance in the swirling clouds and flames of the predella.

Physical description

This altarpiece, which has lost its original framework, consists of a central relief representing the Assumption of the Virgin, two flanking angels holding flowers, and a predella panel in a frame representing souls in purgatory. The virgin Mary in the central relief is depicted seated on a cloud with her arms outstretches and her face lifted upwards towards heaven. She is encircled by a ring of clouds with angel musicians and lively cherubs. Beneath her are the kneeling figures of St Anthony of Padua on the right and St Philip Neri on the left. Both saints are depicted holding lilies, and St Anthony of Padua wears the robes of the Franciscan order.

All four sections are painted pale grey except the flanking angels where the grey is laid over polychromy on a thin layer of gesso. The surviving background of the two angels is painted dark red and the same colour is visible on the spandrels of the predella panel.

Place of Origin

Belluno (made)

Date

ca.1720-1725 (made)

Artist/maker

Brustolon, Andrea, born 1662 - died 1732 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Carved and painted wood. Made from Siberian Pine (pinus cembra), known locally as 'cirmolo', which was particularly common in Alpine countries.

Dimensions

Height: 107.3 cm centre panel, Width: 71.1 cm centre panel, Height: 31.1 cm predella, Length: 78.7 cm predella, Height: 54.6 cm left angel, Width: 30.5 cm left angel, Height: 57.2 cm right angel, Width: 31.8 cm right angel

Object history note

On acquisition, the altarpiece was said to have been acquired by the Heim Gallery from the family of Avvocato dal Castel of Belluno, whose ownership is mentioned in the entry for A.41-1934, a terracotta sketch model for the principal relief (see Pope-Hennessy 1964, loc. cit.). In 1882, the altarpiece was recorded as belonging to the Alpago family and situated in the 'Oratorio dell a sua villa di Villa', Villa Doglioni dal Mas (Persicini 1882, op. cit.). The evidence of ownership suggests that it was probably made for the Piloni family in Belluno, and remained in situ until fairly recently, as the villa where it was sited had been passed down by marriage from family to family. According to Novello (1969, loc. cit.), the Villa Piloni at Limana, Villa di Dussoi, which was erected in the early years of the 18th century for the Piloni family, passed to the Alpago family in 1761; then to the Doglioni dal Mas family in 1784, and eventually to the dal Castel family. It is thought to have been damaged by damp when stored in an underground depository during the Austrian invasion of 1917 (Biasuz and Lecchin 1928, p.69).

The altarpieces is attributed to the talented woodcarver, Andrea Brustolon, who trained under Filippo Parodi in Venice. Parodi's work in both marble and wood exposed the young Brustolon to a range of compositional ideas. After a short spell in Rome, he returned to Venice in 1680 where he undertook wood carvings for the church of Il Redentore, amongst others. Brustolon became widely known for his elaborately carved suites of furniture, which he produced for members of the Venetian nobility. His walnut and ebony pieces with gnarled branches and Moorish figures as supports were prized for their novelty and craftsmanship, and examples of his work, principally from the Palazzo Venier di San Vio, are in the Ca' Rezzonico in Venice. By 1695, Brustolon returned to Belluno to take over his elderly father's workshop, where he executed altarpieces in wood and terracotta for Cortina d'Ampezzo, Forno di Zoldo and other towns in the area. The altarpiece belongs to this later phase of his work.

Purchased from the Heim Gallery, 59 Jermyn Street, SW1, with the assistance of the National Art Collection fund and with a contribution from the Horn Bequest.

Historical context note

The Altarpiece was acquired from the family of Avvocato dal Castel of Belluno, whose ownership is recorded in the entry on A.41-1934, the sketch model for the principal relief.

Descriptive line

Altarpiece, carved and painted wood, Andrea Brustolon, Belluno, about 1720-25.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Biasuz, G and Lacchin, E, Andrea Brustolon, Venice, 1928, p. 68 and pl. XXXI
Pope-Hennessy, John, assisted by Lightbown, Ronald. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1964, vol. II, p. 665 (no. 712).
National Art Collections Fund 65th Annual Report, 1968.
Persicini, P, Di Andrea Brustolon, Padua, 1882, p. 37, No. 23.
cf. A. A. Novello, Ville della Provincia di Belluno, Milan, 1969, p.367

Labels and date

ALTARPIECE
Italian (Venetian); about 1720-25
Painted wood
By Andrea Brustolon (1662-1732)
Purchased with the assistance of the national Art Collection Fund and with a contribution of the Horn Bequest

With carvings of the Assumption of the Virgin (with St Philip Neri and St Anthony of Padua), two angels and souls in Purgatory.
[1993 - 2011]

Materials

Wood

Techniques

Carved; Painted

Subjects depicted

Angels

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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