Lot 103
  • 103

Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli and Studio

Estimate
150,000 - 200,000 USD
Sold
bidding is closed

Description

  • Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli and Studio
  • Christ Carrying the Cross

  • tempera on panel, transferred to canvas

  • 51¾in by 42in

Provenance

With Luigi Albrighi, Florence, 1959;
With David Carritt Ltd., London, circa 1960;
Acquired by Max Aitken, 1st Lord Beaverbrook (1879-1964) in 1963, and thence by descent to the present ownership.

Exhibited

Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery, on loan from 1963 until 2010;
Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Exhibition of Art Treasures, 1 July 2005-5 March 2006.

Literature

"Visit the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, New Brunswick" in The Atlantic Advocate, March 1963, vol. 53, p. 53, no. 7, reproduced, p. 73;
F. Zeri, "Questioni di Bottega del Botticelli" in Paragone, Nos. 419, 421, 423, January, March & May, 1985, pp. 135-9, reproduced, fig. 93 (as Studio of Botticelli);
P. Hachey, "Sandro Botticelli 1445-1510", in Arts Atlantic 25, Spring 1986, pp. 47-9, reproduced p. 47;
N. Pons, Botticelli: Catalogo Completo, Milan 1989, pp. 96-7, cat. nos. 145a and 145b, reproduced (quoting Zeri's opinion);
The Beaverbrook Art Gallery: The Hosmer-Pillow-Vaughan Gallery, Fredericton 1990;
I. Lumsden, CJ. Collins, L. Glenn, The Beaverbrook Art Gallery Collection: Selected Works, Fredericton 2000, p. 148, reproduced in color, p. 156;
I mai visti: capolavori dai depositi degli Uffizi, exhibition catalogue, Florence 2001, p. 61 (as Studio of Botticelli);
A. Cecchi, Botticelli, Milan 2005, pp. 86 and 93, note 89 (as Studio of Botticelli);
S. Donovan, The Nashwaak Review, vol. 16/17, 2006, no. 1, reproduced in color.

Catalogue Note

This emotive Christ Carrying the Cross and the following lot, depicting the Resurrection, are from a set of four canvases depicting the Passion of Christ.  The two other pictures from the series are in the collection of the Uffizi, Florence, and represent the Flagellation (inv. 5876) and Figures on the Road to Calvary (inv. 5877; see figs. 1-2 respectively).  The present canvas, in fact, appears to have been divided from the second of the Uffizi pictures at some point in the past; the continuation of the lower part of the Virgin's dark robe is clearly visible in the Uffizi picture, and the rope tied to Christ's waist in the present canvas is continued in the other in Florence, where it is held by one of the two male figures who would have been behind him.  Given their size and subject matter, these pictures were likely painted to decorate a meeting room of a religious confraternity, or for some similar use. 

Having seen the present canvases when they were with the dealer David Carritt in London, circa 1960 (see Provenance), Federico Zeri was the first scholar to publish them and recognize their relationship with the Uffizi canvases, in those years on deposit with the Pinacoteca, Arezzo. His assessment at the time, based on his memory and photographs, was that the group of pictures was by a follower of Botticelli, probably someone continuing in the bottega, even after the master's death in 1510.  This assessment, however, seems rather summary given the quality of the present pair and the numerous changes revealed by a recent examination with infrared reflectography (see below) which betray the participation of Botticelli himself to some degree.

The composition of the pictures, with the figures of Christ and the other protagonists all crisply delineated and filling most of the picture plane, are clearly meant to make a visual impact, perhaps from above the viewer's eye level and from a slight distance. The arrangement of the scenes would have been symmetrical and chronological as the events portrayed: the Flagellation and the Resurrection, both with the calm figure of Christ posed in elegant contrapposto, flanking the central image of the Christ Carrying the Cross, originally double the width of the other two.  They are all painted in tempera grassa, and have been at some point transferred to canvas.  Nonetheless, much of the original preparation is still visible in the present pair, including scoring marks scratched into the still wet gesso with a stylus and straight edge as a guide for some elements, such as in the cross Christ holds in the present picture and the outlines of the stone sepulchre in the Resurrection.   This technique was typical of Botticelli and his studio, as is the fact that these guidelines were sometimes ignored as work on the paintings progressed. 

Even more compelling, however, is the underdrawing that infrared reflectography has revealed (see figs. 3-8).  The image captured of the Christ Carrying the Cross reveals numerous changes of details and shifts of outline, as well as more than one type of drawing.  The figure of Christ appears to have been transferred from a cartoon; the linear and blocky contours are rendered in brush, most clearly visible in the tunic of Christ, but also discernable in his head.  These were clearly meant as a guide, and were sometimes changed in the later stages of the painting—for example in the profile of the head of Christ, whose face has been broadened, and given a softer, more gentle contour.  More interesting are the changes done in free-hand by the artist, particularly in areas that needed more accurate adjustment, such as Christ's hands where he grasps the cross.  Here, the initial brush underdrawing has been adjusted with a more sketchy technique—more than once— and then changed again in the final painting, suggesting that particular attention was employed in this area, which would have been too difficult for a studio assistant to render convincingly from a cartoon.  The most significant change revealed, however, was that the original idea of depicting the actual moment of the Crucifixion on the hill above at upper right was not carried through(see fig. 6); the figures of the three crosses are drawn in, but were never realized in the final picture, perhaps being too subtle a detail to be seen in the context of the overall composition.   The preliminary stages of the Resurrection do not appear to have been undertaken in exactly the same way; the figure of the triumphant Christ has a more fluid underdrawing than in the other canvas, as does the armor and torso of the soldier at right.  It is particularly interesting in this picture that the positions of the arms of the central figure were sketched in over other elements—so that a reserve for them was not left in the underdrawing.  The arm holding the banner, for example, is drawn over indications for the sleeve which would be underneath the arm.  The other arm is painted over a rocky outcrop in the background, and the contours of the hand, forearm and elbow are all shifted in the final picture.  Other changes, such as details of the soldier at left's armor, are also visible, all of which in toto suggest a dynamic and free form creative process for the pair of paintings, which presumably is also the case for the paintings in the Uffizi.  

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