NEW YORK - Images of the Madonna and Child have a special resonance at Christmas, but the Old Masters painted them year-round to meet popular demand for this iconic subject. Five fine examples appeared at Sotheby’s this year; another will be on view in January.
Workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio, The Madonna and Child Resting at a Parapet.
The figures in The Madonna and Child Resting at a Parapet are arranged frontally, giving them a sculptural quality appropriate to a painting from the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio (1435–88), who was even more important as a sculptor than as a trainer of gifted young painters. This tender tempera-on-panel painting brought $842,500 at Sotheby’s New York last January.
Circle of Pietro di Cristoforo Vannucci, called Pietro Perugino, The Madonna and Child Seated Before a Sculpted Parapet, an Apple Resting Beside Her.
Pietro Perugino (1450-1523) was one of Verrocchio’s talented students, and we see some of the same sculptural monumentality in The Madonna and Child Seated Before a Sculpted Parapet, an Apple Resting Beside Her, executed by a member of Perugino’s circle. The compositional clarity and economy indicate Perugino’s influence. Also at Sotheby’s New York in January, the majestic image sold for $362,500.
Francesco Botticini, The Madonna and Child With the Infant Saint John the Baptist in a Landscape.
It seems unusual to the modern eye to find The Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist in a Landscape, but Renaissance clients often asked artists such as Francesco Botticini (1446-97) to add particular figures to a painting, and this wonderfully preserved tondo is typical of works produced for private devotion. It went for £494,500 in London in July.
Lucas Cranach the Younger's Virgin and Child With a Bunch of Grapes.
Virgin and Child with a Bunch of Grapes amply justifies the renown of Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515-86) for imaginative renderings of this favorite Renaissance image. The Christ child’s upright stance and direct gaze were unusual at the time, inviting viewers to quiet contemplation. The beautifully drawn and modeled panel sold at Sotheby’s London in December for £962,500
Sassoferrato, Madonna and Child in Glory.
Sassoferrato (1609-85) was greatly inspired by Raphael, an affinity especially evident in the design of Madonna and Child in Glory. The luminous flesh tones and tactile immediacy of the clouds are individual strengths of the artist. Sotheby’s London showcased this radiant oil on copper support in July, when it was hammered down for £386,500.
Massimo Stanzione, Madonna and Child. Estimate $300,000-500,000.
Raphael’s influence is equally palpable in the serene and harmonious Madonna and Child of Massimo Stanzione (c. 1585-1656), which once hung in the princely Liechtenstein collection. The sumptuous oil painting dates to the 1640s, when Stanzione was one of the principal artists in Naples, a pre-eminent 17th-century cultural center. It goes to auction at Sotheby’s New York on January 30, estimated at $300,000-500,000.