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Bartolomeo Caporali (died after 1505)

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Bartolomeo Caporali in:  Assisi    Bettona    Montefalco     Perugia

Bartolomeo was born in Perugia in ca. 1420 and enrolled in the the Arte dei Pittori (Artists’ Guild) in 1442.  His name “Caporali” seems to derive from his military rank, probably during service as a young man.  He is extensively documented in Perugia, where he held office on occasion as Prior and as Capitano del Popolo.  He was the father of Giovanni Battista Caporali and brother of the miniaturist Giacomo (Giapeco) Caporali

Bartolomeo Caporali was probably the “Bartolomeo di Perugia” who was documented alongside Neri di Monte (see below) in a team led by Francesco di Baronio that worked on the stained glass of St Peter’s,  Rome in 1450-3.  He was documented again in Rome in 1467, where he was paid for gold leaf that was to be used in the roof of San Marco.  This suggests that he was part of the group of artists who were working for Pope Paul II at this time on this church and the adjacent Palazzo Venezia.

Bartolomeo Caporali seems to have been at the head of the most important workshops in Perugia in the second half of the 15th century.  For this reason, scholars now believe that he is the most likely co-ordinator of the work of the so-called in the Workshop of 1473, which produced the important panels depicting miracles of St Bernardino of Siena that are now in the Galleria Nazionale.  (Follow the links in the page on the Workshop of 1473  for more details).

He seems to have had a particularly close professional relationship with Sante di Apollonio del Celandro:

  1. Sante di Apollonio seems to have worked under Bartolomeo in the Workshop of 1473;

  2. both artists contributed to the Triptych of Justice (1475-6, see below); and

  3. Bartolomeo seems to have been an executor after the death of Sante di Apollonio in 1486, in which capacity he received payment for the upper panel (1485) of the Decemviri Altarpiece.

All of the surviving documented works of Bartolomeo Caporali are in Perugia or nearby Montone.  Michael Bury (referenced below) published the document relating to one of these, the Triptych of Justice (see below), in 1990, prompting a re-evaluation of the works that can be attributed to him.   Laura Teza (also referenced below) has recently attributed works in Bettona and Montefalco to Bartolomeo Caporali.

Perugia, Galleria Nazionale 

The following works by or attributed to Bartolomeo Caporali are now in the Galleria Nazionale.

Madonna and Child with angels (1465)

This altarpiece was moved from Santa Maria di Monteluce to the gallery in 1863.  It is almost certainly the painting of the Madonna and Child described in the “Memoriale di Santa Maria di Monteluce”, which was given to the nuns by “Fioravanti dai Matti di Peroscia” and placed on the Altare del Sacramento in the time that Eufrasia Alfani was abbess.  It is the earliest work to be attributed to Bartolomeo Caporali, and one of the first by a Perugian artist to be painted, at least partially, in oil.

The panel depicts the half length Madonna and Child against a golden brocade backdrop with six angels, two of which hold vases of roses.  The Madonna wears a crown and the baby Jesus is clothed (perhaps at the request of the nuns) in a sumptuous gown of what seems to be green velvet lined with red silk.

Figures of the Annunciation (1467-8)

Giorgio Vasari referred in 1568 to two altarpieces in San Domenico by Benedetto Bonfigli:

  1. one of which depicted the Adoration of the Magi (see above); and

  2. the other of which depicted "many saints". 

This second altarpiece was probably associated with a payment made to Benedetto Bonfigli and Bartolomeo Caporali in 1467-8 according to the will of a merchant, Francesco di Pietro for an altarpiece for the Cappella di San Vicenzo Ferrer (the 2nd on the left in the nave). 

Four panels that probably belonged to this second altarpiece were moved from the sacristy of San Domenico to the Galleria Nazionale in 1863:

  1. Two panels of the figures of the Annunciation (illustrated above), which are attributed to Bartolomeo Caporali, are exhibited in Room 16.  The proposed dating is supported for the first two panels by the fact that some of the details of the Virgin’s study seem to have been inspired by the Gonfalone dell’ Annunziata (1466), which is attributed to Nicolò di Liberatore, l’ Alunno  and which is now now in Room 12 of the gallery. 

  2. Two panels of pairs of saints, which are attributed to Benedetto Bonfigli, are now in the deposit of the gallery.  They might have flanked a central figure of St Vincent Ferrer, thus justifying Vasari's description. 

Assumption of the Virgin (1469)


This fresco, which is attributed to Bartolomeo Caporali, was originally part of a larger cycle in the nuns’ parlour at Santa Giuliana.  The inscription on the fictive marble underneath gives the date and the name of the nun who commissioned it: Sister Benedetta.   It was detached in 1862 and subsequently exhibited in the Galleria Nazionale. However, it was restored in 2009 and returned to its original location.

  1. In the main panel, the Virgin and Christ are enthroned in clouds above an empty tomb, surrounded by angels.

  2. In the vault above, God the Father is depicted in a tondo. 

  3. The predella contains half-length figures of SS Juliana, Benedict and Bernard, identified by inscriptions.

This fresco fragment in another lunette in the room, which includes the Lamb of God in a tondo, probably belonged to the original cycle.

Triptych of Justice (1475-6)

This triptych from the Oratorio dei SS Andrea e Bernardino was generally attributed to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo until Michael Bury (reference below) discovered a document in the archives of the Confraternita di Sant' Andrea della Giustizia that records its commission from Bartolomeo Caporali and Sante di Apollonio del Celandro.  The altarpiece was originally in the confraternity's church of Santa Mustiola, and it moved with the brothers to the Oratorio di SS Andrea e Bernardino in 1537.  It was given to the Commune before 1872 and entered the Galleria Nazionale in 1895. 

The composition is as follows:

  1. In the central panel, two members of the confraternity kneel before the Madonna and Child, who are flanked by a pair of angels. 

  2. The side panels depict:

  3. SS Mustiola and Andrew; and

  4. SS Peter and Francis. 

  5. It is significant that St Mustiola holds the Virgin’s wedding ring, because this relic (the Santo Anello), which had long been associated with Santa Mustiola at Chiusi, had been stolen in 1473 and brought to Perugia.  (It is now in the Cappella del Santo Anello in the Duomo).

  6. The predella depicts:

  7. SS Bernardino and John the Baptist, on the left;

  8. the Pietà with the Virgin and St John the Evangelist at the centre, flanked by another two members of the confraternity; and

  9. St Jerome and a soldier saint on the right.

Adoration of the shepherds (1476-7)

This altarpiece was recorded in 1784 in Santa Maria di Monteluce, above the grill in the nuns' choir through which they took Communion.  It was then attributed to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo but more recently has been linked to the payments that the nuns made to Bartolomeo Caporali in 1476-9. 

  1. The main panel (illustrated above) depicts the three kings (and their bedraggled dog) paying homage to the baby Jesus, who lies naked on the ground between His parents.  Musical angels fill the stable behind, while the evicted animals look on.  The scene is set in a rocky landscape, and the angels bring the news to shepherds on outcrops to the right and left. 

  2. The predella depicts the following saints in small tondi: SS Michael, Bernardino of Siena, Louis of Toulouse, Clare, Antony of Padua (who holds his tongue, which was found to be uncorrupted when his relics were translated in 1263) and Jerome.

The panels reached the Galleria Nazionale by different routes:

  1. Dominique-Vivant Denon, the Director of the Musée Napoleon (later the Musée du Louvre) selected the main panel for confiscation after the Napoleonic suppression if 1810, and it was duly shipped to Paris.  Antonio Canova recovered it in 1815 and it was returned to the church two years later.  The nuns then managed to hold on to it until 1870, when it entered the gallery.

  2. The predella, which escaped removal to France, was moved to the Accademia di Belle Arti in ca. 1839 and entered the gallery in 1863. 

The gallery notes draw attention to the painting of silk used in the belts of St Joseph and the Virgin, and around the pomegranate on the step below the kneeling angel.

Madonna and Child with angels (1470s)

This panel, which depicts the Madonna and Child in a mandorla, is attributed to Bartolomeo Caporali.  It has been cut out of a larger panel, as is evident from the truncated figures of two angels below.  It was recorded in 1863 in the sacristy of Sant’ Agostino prior to its move to the Galleria Nazionale.  

Other Works in/from Perugia

Pietà (1486)

This panel, which is dated by inscription and attributed to Bartolomeo Caporali, came from the parish church of Sant' Enea (Sant' Agnese) outside Perugia.  It is now in the Museo Capitolare.

Stained Glass in the Duomo (ca. 1484)

The cartoons for the Cappella di Sant‘ Onofrio, which Bishop Jacopo Vannucci had established in 1481 are attributed to Bartolomeo caporali and the execution of the work to  Neri di Monte.  As noted above, these artists had worked together in St Peter’s, Rome in 1450-3.  The surviving glass from this chapel, which is described in the page on Neri di Monte, is now in the Museo del Tesoro di San Francesco, Assisi.


Frescoes (ca. 1487)

Three frescoes on the counter-facade of Santa Maria della Rocchicciola at Rocca Sant’ Angelo, outside Assisi) are attributed to Bartolomeo Caporali:

  1. Madonna and Child with SS Jerome and Antony of Padua, which is dated 1487 by inscription; and

  2. figures of SS Mary Magdalene and Antony Abbot.


St Michael (15th century)

This detached fresco, which depicts the standing SSt Michael weighing the souls of the dead while killing a dragon.  It was detached in 1901 from the wall to the left of the high altar of the Chiesa di San Crispolto and is now in the Pinacoteca Civica

This work has traditionally been attributed to Fiorenzo di Lorenzo, but Laura Teza (2008 - referenced below) has recently suggested that it is by Bartolomeo Caporali.


Madonna and Child (ca. 1470)

This altarpiece from Sant’ Illuminata is a copy of the icon of the Madonna and Child in Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome.   This church belonged to the Lombard Congregation of the Augustinian Order, which also acquired and rebuilt Sant’ Illuminata in 1491: it is likely that the copy of the icon had been made for the church in Rome and that the friars subsequently transferred it to Montefalco.   It is now in the Pinacoteca.

The panel in Montefalco is generally dated in relation to the (now lost) copy of this icon that Alessandro Sforza, lord of Pesaro commissioned from Melozzo da Forli in ca. 1470 (see above).  There is some debate about its attribution:

  1. It is usually thought, on stylistic ground, to be another copy by Melozzo da Forli or his workshop.  

  2. However, yet another copy of the icon that was in the Charles Loeser Collection, Florence until 1959 is generally attributed to Antoniazzo Romano, who was a prolific painter of this kind of image (as set out in the page on this artist).  Federico Zeri attributed the panel in Montefalco to him.

  3. Laura Teza (2004 - referenced below) has recently suggested, on stylistic ground, that it is by Bartolomeo Caporali, who (as noted above) was documented in Rome in 1467 among the artists working for Pope Paul II at the Chiesa di San Marco.  (Paul II and his associate Cardinal Bessarion were immersed in Byzantine culture and the cult of icons).

[The image in this Hungarian website has obvious relevance to the debate, but I have not been able to find out anything else about it.]




Read more:

L. Teza, “Fra ei Poggi e l' Aqque al Laco Trasimeno: Pietro Vannucci, Maturanzio e gli Uomini Famosi nella Perugia dei Baglioni”, (2008) Perugia

L. Teza, “Pittori a Perugia tra il Settimo e l’ Ottavo Decennio del XV Secolo”, page 60-1, in V. Garibaldi and F. F. Mancini, “Perugino: il Divin Pittore”, (2004) Milan

M. Bury, “Bartolomeo Caporali: a New Document and its Implications”, Burlington Magazine, 132 (1990) 469-75

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