Italian · Renaissance Art

The Grumpy Angel

I saw this painting at The Hyde Collection and was fascinated. It is a tempera painting on panel by 14th-century Sienese (Italian) artist Niccolo di ser Sozzo, c. 1350. This angel looks impatient and irritated, which is something you don’t see very often. Why does it look like this?

Niccolo di ser Sozzo grumpy angel
Niccolo di ser Sozzo, Angel, c. 1350. Tempera and gold leaf on panel. The Hyde Collection, Glens Falls, NY. Photo by A Scholarly Skater.

I wish I had some answers, but I don’t. There isn’t much information available about Niccolo di ser Sozzo. We do know that he was a Sienese panel painter and manuscript illuminator – I featured one of his illuminations in 31 Days of Mediecal Manuscripts – and his style is related to that of the more famous Simoni Martini. Most of his other works I found look much more conservative and generic to me than this one. That’s about all I’ve got.

I wonder if this painting might be a fragment of a larger work, or at least one surviving piece in a group – like an altarpiece. If so, the missing context might make things clear. The work is small enough to have been part of an altarpiece, but large enough to be unusually for a standalone work of an angel, as opposed to a saint or noble patron.

Any other ideas what might be going on here?

Update almost immediately after posting this: A Hyde Collection staffer tells me that her official nickname is “Angel with Attitude”. That has a much better ring to it!

Update 8/17/19: Shortly after I published this post, someone at The Hyde Collection commented on my Facebook share and offered me more information about Angel. Later that day, curator Jonathan Canning was kind enough to send me a lovely long email on the subject. Armed with this new knowledge, I was able to write a longer and more satisfying post about Angel for DailyArt Magazine. Click here to find out what I learned.


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