Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 40

The impact of Jan van Eyck’s lost Lomellini Triptych and his Genoese patrons
The impact of Jan van Eyck’s lost Lomellini Triptych and his Genoese patrons
While both men are equally plausible patrons, the
subsequent history of the triptych seems to make
Battista di Giorgio the more likely candidate. He
can be linked to both Alfonso the Magnanimous
and Bartolomeo Facio. Both men were high ranking
participants in the Genoese embassy to Naples in 1444
that negotiated a peace-treaty between the republic
and its traditional adversary, King Alfonso.
His uncle was Giorgio di Napoleone Lomellini who
also maintained close commercial interests in Bruges
where he was residing in 1409 (fig. 5). In that year,
Giorgio received “power of attorney” to conduct
business affairs in London and Bruges on behalf of the
heirs of a deceased merchant from Genoa.37 Battista
di Battista was married to Argenta Vivaldi, and
from 1428 onwards, he was involved in underwriting
naval insurances for shipments from Sluis and
Southampton to Malaga, Cadiz and Genoa.38 He died
in summer 1435, as is he mentioned as “deceased”
in two documents drawn up by the notaries Antonio
and Oberto Facio in Genoa in June and October
of the same year, one of which concerned financial
transactions in Bruges.39
Fig. 5 / Antonius Sanderus,
View of the old Place de
la Bourse in Bruges (Byrsa
Brugensis), ca. 1641,
Battista di Battista’s insurance activities coincide
with those of Battista di Giorgio Lomellini who, after
having offered naval insurances as early as 1412, was
increasingly involved in providing insurance for ships
and their cargos on routes between Cadiz and Genoa,
and Sluis and Southampton from 1427 on.40 The
During the war between the House of Anjou and the
Crown of Aragon concerning the succession to the
throne of the Kingdom of Naples (1435-1442), the
republic had supported the Angevin claims of King
René by military and financial means.44 They sent
garrisons, crossbowmen, and ships, and were even
able to take Alfonso prisoner in 1435.45 After Alfonso’s
unexpected release by the Genoese overlord, the
Duke of Milan, the republic continued to support the
House of Anjou against Aragon by backing René’s
wife Isabella as regent of Naples, and by orchestrating
her husband’s triumphant entry into the city in 1438.46
Genoa continued to support René d’Anjou with troops
until Naples was finally conquered by Alfonso in June
1442 (fig. 6). Battista di Giorgio was actively involved
in securing protection for René d’Anjou during the
evacuation of Naples’s Castelnuovo, and organizing
his escape by sea.47
archival documents do not always clearly indicate
which of the two is acting as underwriter, even though
they were recorded by the same notary, making it
difficult to distinguish between both men.41 A visit or
stay in Bruges is not documented for either Battista,
but should not be dismissed. Battista di Battista would
have had the opportunities and means to commission
before his death in 1435 a triptych by Van Eyck, either
in person or via one of his business partners in Bruges
acting on his behalf. In this case, the triptych would
presumably have arrived in Genoa not long after 1435.
Battista di Giorgio, who died between 1462 and 1463,
also may have travelled to Bruges for business as did
his brother Gerolamo, who had the Signoria of Genoa
write a letter of recommendation to Philip the Good
of Burgundy before he went to Bruges in 1437 to
settle a commercial dispute.42 Battista di Giorgio or
his brother43 could have given the commission to Van
Eyck: although the circumstances do not provide a
clear terminus ante quem for the triptych, it must have
been finished before Jan van Eyck’s death in 1441.
Two years later, in April 1444, the same Battista di
Giorgio returned to Naples at the head of an official
embassy to King Alfonso. Together with Bartolomeo
Facio, who was acting as chancellor of the republic,
and the talented lawyer Battista Guano who later
became one of the leading diplomats of Genoa,
“Baptista Lomelinus, vir innocentissimus” tried to defend the
interests of the Ligurian merchant-clans against the
demands of the victorious King of Naples.48
Fig. 6 / Triumphal
entry of Alfonso V,
in Ferraiolo, Cronica
figurata napoletana,
ca. 1497, New York,
Pierpont Morgan
Library, ms. 801, fo 84.
It is tempting to connect this meeting between the
king and Van Eyck’s patron with the arrival of the
triptych in Naples. Roberto Weiss initially suggested
that Battista di Giorgio may have given Van Eyck’s
triptych to Alfonso during the official negotiations.
Alternatively, he could have been pressed into selling
the triptych or could have tried using the king’s interest
in acquiring paintings by Jan van Eyck to his own
advantage.49 In this case the triptych would have been
shipped from Genoa to Naples around 1444.50


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