"Maestà": Gaddi's Triptych Reunited

December 11, 2015
March 20, 2016

After conservation at the J. Paul Getty Museum and a two-year absence, New-York Historical's Madonna and Child Enthroned with Ten Saints: Maestà (1867.375) will be back on Central Park West. Painted ca. 1334 by Taddeo Gaddi, the major disciple of Giotto, it was recently shown at both the Getty and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, in the major exhibition Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination, 1300-1350. To celebrate its triumphal return, the jewel-like panel will take pride of place in a small focus exhibition highlighting its conservation treatment. 

With its lavish gold leaf background, Gaddi’s panel was an expensive commission for a private Florentine palazzo and for its time was cutting-edge art. Originally the central section of a folding triptych consisting of three panels, it will be exhibited with two wings (sportelli) from a private collection that recently have been linked to it. Their similar dates, measurements, traces of hinges, and related iconographies suggest that the trio may once have been part of the same triptych. At the very least, seen together they help us to envision and reconstruct how the Maestà appeared in its original glory. Thomas Jefferson Bryan bequeathed the Gaddi panel to N-YHS in 1867, along with his entire collection. Bryan was an early connoisseur of Italian “primitives,” i.e., painters before Raphael, a taste then avant-garde. As the New York City's first museum, New-York Historical wrote an early chapter in preserving the culture of the City, and Bryan played a pioneering role in its collecting history, amassing works by both European and American artists. Fittingly, Gaddi's painting will be displayed with a several other fourteenth- and early-fifteenth-century Italian panels from the Bryan (both sacred and profane, such as a cassone front with the Triumph of Caesar) and Thomas Sully's dashing portrait of the young Bryan. Other materials will illuminate this donor's contribution to the history of American collecting.

A Proposed Reconstruction of Gaddi’s Triptych

This digitally animated reconstruction to the right allows viewers to appreciate the majestic original appearance of Gaddi’s triptych. Its now-lost frame was custom-made and unique. Since painters usually patronized the same carpentry shop, this reconstructed frame is based on a survey of the surviving frames on triptychs by Gaddi and Florentine painters of the period. 


Mounted in a frame with a higher gable surmounting the trilobe arch, the shutters meet at the center over the Maestà, and the traces of their hinges align. Animated reconstruction by Daniel Krengiel.

Creative: Tronvig Group