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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Thomas Patch and the Manetti Chapel frescoes Sutherland, Valerie


Thomas Patch (1725-1782) is a relatively unknown English artist of the eighteenth century whose claim to fame so far has rested in his caricature work. He went to Rome around 1747, was banished from there in 1755 and joined the English circle in Florence where he remained until his death in 1782. Patch's work in Florence included his copying of what Vasari had said to be a fresco cycle by Giotto in the Church of the Carmine. This cycle had been damaged in a fire that broke out in the old church in 1771, and it had to be destroyed to make way for the new church that was completed in 1773. What led Patch to do this work? How successful was he? We see the influences of Hugford and Bottari and the lively interest of connoisseurship in the medieval and the Trecento. Patch's skill as a copyist is analyzed and found to be excellent. There are now only twelve fragments left of the original fresco and they have been given a variety of attributions. On the basis of dating, this paper agrees with those who reject the Giotto attribution and it is not prepared to accept the Spinello Aretino one without additional confirmation. The cycle does not appear to fit the style and character of Spinello in the period to which it is usually assigned. Recent evidence however still makes it worth while to leave the door open to Spinello though on the basis of style and spatial utilization, other artists of this period should also be considered. When compared with other Saint John the Baptist cycles, the iconography shows the master of the Manetti Chapel frescoes to have been an inventive and imaginative artist whom both Masaccio and Agnolo Gaddi thought worthy of emulating and copying. His inventiveness is seen in the fact that though he seems to have got ideas from the Peruzzi Chapel and from the doors of the Baptistery, he put his own stamp on them. His angel in flight, his headless body of Saint John, his shivering Christ and his many re-arrangements of crowd scenes give ample evidence of an innovati.ve-ness which is only surpassed by his skill at integrating his scenes. Patch's engravings therefore should form an important incentive to further assessment of the work of Spinello and his possible influence on the late Trecento and Quattrocento Italian art. They also form a pathway for the study of influences of this period on eighteenth century English art. Patch represents a whole era of connoisseurship and is a possible source of valuable character study of the English emigre community of late eighteenth century Florence. His work merits a great deal more consideration than it has so far received in the history of art.

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