Reunion for paintings by Renaissance master Daddi

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The Independent Online

They have not been seen together for nearly two centuries. But today at the National Gallery in London, rare fragments of paintings by the 14th-century Florentine master Bernardo Daddi are being reunited.

Christ Church Picture Gallery in Oxford is lending its panel, Four Musical Angels, to go on display with the National's own The Coronation of the Virgin in an exhibition entitled Reunions: Bringing Italian Paintings Back Together.

The Coronation of the Virgin, which was purchased by the National Gallery last year, was painted in about 1340 and is regarded as an extraordinary work of superb quality.

Sitting on a highly ornamented Gothic throne covered in a rich textile, Christ is seen gently placing the Queen of Heaven's crown on his mother's head.

The pose appears to have been borrowed from an altarpiece by another master, Giotti, in a chapel in Santa Croce in Florence.

And although experts have long believed that this panel was part of a larger composition, it was only in 1961 that the Oxford fragment was recognised as being a lower part of the panel - albeit considerably cut down and reduced in size.

It is not known when the The Coronation of the Virgin was cut into two separate panels but it must have occurred before 1828 at the latest when the Four Musical Angels was donated to Christ Church.

One of the other two reunions in the exhibition is a diptych by an unidentified Umbrian artist whose two panels, The Virgin and Child and The Man of Sorrows dated from about 1260, were acquired from two different sources by the National Gallery six years ago after at least three-quarters of a century apart.

The final reunion comes with the Frick Collection in New York lending The Flagellation of Christ by the 13th-century Italian Cimabue to be shown with its pair which was acquired by the National Gallery five years ago.

The gallery's work, which was discovered by chance in a country house in Suffolk, is the same size as the Frick's and shares the same gilded and punched border and haloes.

These details confirmed that both pictures originally formed part of the same work. The two panels have not been seen together in Britain before.

Simona Di Nepi, a curatorial assistant at the National Gallery, said: "There's an excitement in seeing works reunited. It adds a lot in terms of interpreting the meaning.

"There's much more of the detective work to be done with them than works of other periods. These paintings are, for the vast majority, not signed, not dated. They're very often in fragments. So the art historian is not only pondering an issue of aesthetics, but trying to figure out what the work was and who painted it."

It was still possible that they would eventually identify the Umbrian artist, she said, if a similar work was located.

Reunions runs until 29 January. Admission is free.