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Cosimo Rosselli's Birmingham Altarpiece, the Vallombrosan Abbey of S. Trinita in Florence and its Gianfigliazzi Chapel

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The subject of this study is Cosimo Rosselli's The Adoration of the Child Jesus (c. 1485), today in the collection of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham. The article takes as its starting points three aspects of Rosselli's Birmingham altarpiece which, so far, have eluded satisfactory investigation. The first is its intriguing iconography, with its unusually complex subject matter, including references to Christ's birth and death, the Holy Trinity and the Adoration of the magi. The second and third are its unknown original location and the question of who may have commissioned it. The paper thus falls into three sections. Part I consists of a fresh iconographical analysis of the altarpiece and argues that it is to be understood as a contemplation on the mystery of the Incarnation. Part II addresses the question of the site for which Rosselli's painting may have been made. It makes a case for the altarpiece having been commissioned around 1485 by the Gianfigliazzi family of Florence, for its family chapel in the abbey church of S. Trinita. Finally part III focusses on the particular members of the Gianfigliazzi family who, as we suggest, instigated and negotiated the commission.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Birmingham City University 2: d. June 2011; formerly Birmingham City University

Publication date: December 18, 2015

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  • The JWCI is intended as an interdisciplinary forum for scholars specialising in art history, the history of ideas, and cultural history. It publishes articles based on new research, normally from primary sources. Topics include the arts in their various forms, religion, philosophy, science, literature and magic, as well as intellectual, political and social life, from Antiquity to the dawn of the contemporary era. Usually the subjects discussed either centre on or have some connection with Western, typically European cultures; therefore, too, the JWCI provides a home for research into the many interconnections between those cultures and others which have flourished beyond European borders - particularly, but by no means limited to, the cultures and learning of the Near East.

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