Possibly his mother Maria-Letizia Ramolino, 'Madame Mère de l'Empereur' (1750–1836), Rome by 1829;
John Talbot, 16th Earl of Shrewsbury (1791–1852), Alton Towers, Staffordshire, and possibly among the paintings purchased in Rome by him from the above in 1829;
Bertram Arthur Talbot, 17th Earl of Shrewsbury (1832–1856), Alton Towers, Staffordshire;
His posthumous sale, London, Christie's, Third Day's sale, 8 July 1857, lot 265 ('Raffaelle: the Virgin, in a red dress and blue cloak, kneeling in a landscape, and holding a book') for £220. 10s to King;
There acquired by William Schomberg Robert Kerr, 8th Marquess of Lothian (1832–1870), Newbattle Abbey, Dalkeith;
By descent to Schomberg Henry Kerr, 9th Marquess of Lothian (1833–1890);
Thence by descent.
G. Waagen, Works of Art and Artists in England, London 1838, vol. III, p. 250 (as not by Raphael and possibly by Mariotto Albertinelli?);
G. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, London 1854, vol. III, p. 382 (as Albertinelli?);
Newbattle Abbey inventory, May 1878, no. 567 (Lady Lothian's Room);
Newbattle Abbey inventory, 21 May 1900, no. 567 (Lady Lothian's Room);
B. Berenson, The Central Italian Painters of the Renaissance, New York 1909, p. 211 as at Newbattle (as Girolamo del Pacchia);
A. Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions, vol. III, London 1914, p. 997;
Monteviot House inventory, 14 July 1989, no. 567 (South Bedroom).
According to Redford, writing after the great Alton Towers sale of 1857, this picture was probably among a group of pictures bought by John, 16th Earl of Shrewsbury from Napoleon's mother, all of which had previously belonged to Napoleon's brother Lucien, Prince of Canino (1775–1840). Although it was sold as a Raphael, when Waagen saw the painting at Alton Towers in 1835 he had already noted that it was 'erroneously ascribed to Raphael' and tentatively suggested an attribution to Albertinelli, remarking that '...from the less solid impasto, [it was] certainly of the Florentine school, in the style of one of its best masters'. At the sale or perhaps afterwards it was acquired with a group of other Italian pictures by the 8th Marquess of Lothian, whose wife, Lady Constance Chetwynd-Talbot, was a distant cousin of the Shrewsburys. At £220 the Raphael was the highest price paid for a painting at the sale, where the pictures fetched a total of £12,940. Certainly the style of the painting accorded well with Lord Lothian's predilection for works of the Florentine and Umbrian schools, though he also acquired some notable works of the Venetian School from his trips to Italy. One such work, for example, was Bonifazio Veronese's enormous Return of the Prodigal Son, also from Alton Towers, and now in a private collection.1
Despite its evident qualities, an attribution for this panel has proved elusive. The marked influence of Raphael and Fra Bartolomeo suggest that it was most probably painted in Florence in the early sixteenth-century. The beautifully modelled draperies and the delicate hands suggest that its author was familiar with the early work of both masters, such as Fra Bartolomeo's Holy Family in the Museo Poldi Pezzoli in Milan.2 Waagen was the first to note these stylistic traits and tentatively suggested that it might be the work of Fra Bartolomeo's closest associate Mariotto Albertinelli (1474–1515). At the beginning of the last century Berenson proposed an attribution to the Sienese painter Girolamo del Pacchia (1477–1535), whose work also reflects the influences of Raphael and Fra Bartolomeo as well as Sodoma. On the basis of photograhs Everett Fahy suggested an alternative attribution to Niccolò Soggi (1474/80–1552), a pupil of Perugino who worked in Florence, Rome and Arezzo (private communication November 2000) but the work is not included in Nicoletta Baldini's recent monograph on the artist.
1. Exhibited, Edinburgh, National Galleries of Scotland, The Age of Titian. Venetian Renaissance Art from Scottish Collections, 2004, no. 49.
2. Inv. 3491. Exhibited Florence, Palazzo Pitti and Museo di San Marco, L'età di Savanarola. Fra Bartolomeo e la scuola di San Marco, 1996, no. 13.
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