This “San Francesco” is a work in the so-called “primitive” style by Margherito da Arezzo, a painter already celebrated by Vasari , his countryman, who mentions him in his ” vite” with the superlative of “Margaritone” and attributs to him many works, also wooden sculpture and architectures, according to the Renaissance conception of multifaceted artist .
Being therefore Margaritone, among the other painters of those times who worked in the Greek style, considered excellent painter, he worked many panels in tempera in Arezzo “
(Vasari, The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors and Architects (1568), Life of Margaritone painter, sculptor and architect from Arezzo)
The only document that has come down to us in which the painter is explicitly mentioned dates back to 1262. It is therefore assumed that he worked mainly from 1225 to 1275. In these years, he painted Friar Francesco several times.
This is not surprising considering the great diffusion that the cult of the Saint, canonized two years after his death (1226), and destined to become patron saint of Italy, had in those years.
The work is part of the National Picture Gallery of Siena, and it is considered one of the highlights of he gallery, being a real rarity, especially because it is signed.
The work was analyzed by Art-Test and then published in the database “Under the Gold”.
Radiography, reflectography and non-invasive analyses of the pictorial palette allowed us to discover how the work, on wood, was performed according to traditional canons . The X-ray showed a support consisting of a single wooden plank, and the presence of the “granny rag” placed on the table under the preparation layer, as described by Cennino Cennini, to absorb the variations of the table and guarantee a greater stability. A system that worked, considering the good state of conservation of the work!
The comparison between radiography and reflectography showed thin incisions to define the silhouette of the Saint. The underdrawing, which does not show “pentimenti”, was instead carried out with a brush, with a carbonaceous material. The XRF test was then able to recognize the use of a palette of traditional colors: white lead, ocher and earth colours.
The work is one of the oldest representations of the saint , but perhaps it is later than the one, ascribed to the same painter, which is kept in the National Museum of Medieval and Modern Art in Arezzo.
In that table, in fact, the X-ray showed that initially the saint had a different shape of the hood , which was pointed, not worn but left hanging on the side of the neck. The visible version instead presents the same iconography of the Saint that can be seen in the Siena panel.
The modification of the hood was linked to the history of the Franciscan Order , which involved adjustments in the shape of the dress .
Margheritone was studied and re-evaluated by Longhi who saw in him the premises for overcoming the Byzantine lesson. Longhi considered him the most important Arezzo painter of the time and called him “ an enchanting head of the first half of the century “, praising his pictorial freshness and originality. And arguing that the more “archaic” characteristics of Margaritone’s painting are not to be interpreted as a sign of provincialism but rather as stylistic traits of a true pioneer in the history of art .