Lot 19
  • 19

Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Botticelli and Studio

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
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  • Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Botticelli and Studio
  • Madonna and Child with the Young Baptist, Saint Francis receiving the Stigmata in the Distance
  • tondo, tempera on panel


William Fuller Maitland, Stanstead Hall, Stanstead, Essex, before 1854;
His Sale, London, Christie's, 10 May, 1879;
Sir William James Farrer, London;
His Sale, London, Christie's, 23 March 1912, lot 32;
Victor Fischer, New York, 1913;
Anonymous sale, Stockholm, Björck Auktion, 6 December, 1922, lot 4 (as workshop of Botticelli);
Dr. Emil Hultmark (1872-1943),  Stockholm, Sweden, and by descent;
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's,10 December 1980, lot 121 (as Follower of Botticelli).


Stockholm, Nationalmuseet, Italienska Tavlor Teckningar och Skulpturer ur Svenska och Finska Samlingar, 3 March-16 April 1944, cat. no 16, reproduced (as Studio of Botticelli).


G. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, London 1854, vol. III, p. 3 (Sandro Botticelli. The Virgin and St. John adoring the Infant which is lying on the ground.  The heads are of earnest and noble sentiment, and the Infant Christ, which, in opposition to the usual heavy brown tone of the other portions, is lightly and transparently coloured, is truer to nature in the forms than is usual with him.  A circular picture.);
O. Sirén, Italienska Tavlor och Teckningar i Nationalmuseum och andra Svenska och Finska Samlingar, Stockholm 1933, pp.55-56, reproduced fig.33 (as school of Botticelli);
M. Boskovits, "Una mostra su Botticelli e Filippino," in Arte Cristiana, fasc. 825, November-December 2004, vol. XCII, p/ 420, reproduced pp. 419-420, figs. 16-17 (as by Botticelli, shortly before 1490).


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This panel is made from what appears to be two pieces of wood. The join runs through the hands and cheek of the Madonna. The wood grain and join run diagonally, not vertically, through the composition, as is more often the case. The small amount of restoration that has been applied is beautifully matched and thoughtfully placed, allowing the work to speak for itself and be seen in almost completely un-retouched condition. On the reverse there are two battens running diagonally across the lower right and upper left to reinforce the original join in the panel. As unusual as it seems, this important work is hardly retouched at all and does not suffer because of this conservative approach. The painting should be hung as is.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Developed as a format for painting and relief sculpture from the middle of the quattrocento on, the tondo became increasingly popular in Florence with private collectors at the century wore on.  Artists as varied as Donatello, Michelangelo, the della Robbia and Pontormo all used circular supports for their works, exploring both its possibilities and restrictions as a pictorial plane.  No Florentine artist, however, is more associated with it than Sandro Botticelli, who produced some of his most celebrated paintings in this manner, most famously the Madonna of the Magnificat (Uffizi, Florence).   It was he, more than any other painter, who most successfully created these unique pictures which were so highly prized by his own patrons and which are so closely associated with the Florentine Renaissance today.

The present Madonna and Child with the Infant Baptist is typical of Botticelli's production of tondi from the late 1480s, often created by the artist and his studio "on spec" for sale directly from the bottega.  As is usual, it depicts the Madonna in her role as mother, tenderly caring for her Infant Son.  She is preparing to feed the unruly Child, who wriggles on her lap, tangled up in a sheer veil which hangs down from her neck.  The calming figure of the young Baptist stands to the left, his hands crossed in adoration.  Anachronistically, the landscape out the window shows not a simple Tuscan landscape, but rather the stigmatization of Saint Francis.  The inclusion of this subject, acting as a secondary devotional image within the more standard one presented by the Madonna, is specific enough to suggest that it might have been the particular request of a patron.  The composition itself appears to have enjoyed some popularity, as a number of versions of it exist, of varying degrees of quality and with many differences in detail.  One was with Duveen in New York before 1938, and follows the same composition as the present panel, but with the Madonna and Child with dark hair, and a rolling country landscape outside the window.1  Another version, also of smaller format than the present picture, was formerly in the collection of Princess Sachsen Meiningen, Ziegenberg.2  A further example, of unknown size and with the addition of a balustrade at the front of the image, was recorded in a private collection, Rome,3 as well as a tondo formerly in the Kunstzaal de Geir, Amsterdam.  The present panel appears to be the largest and most impressive of these various Madonne.

The present panel also enjoys a distinguished history.  Although its earliest ownership remains unknown, as is the case with most of Botticelli's devotional tondi, by the mid-19th Century the painting was part of the famous collection of William Fuller Maitland, housed at Stansted Hall, his Tudor style mansion in Essex.  Maitland assembled a large and varied collection of Italian pictures, including such masterpieces as the Epiphany by Giotto (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv. 11.126.1).  Perhaps more interesting was Botticelli's late masterwork, the Mystic Nativity (National Gallery, London inv. NG 1034), a painting of deep symbolism and spirituality.  The painting was subsequently acquired in the early 20th Century by Dr. Emil Hultmark, one of the greatest connoisseurs and collectors in Swedish history.  In addition to collecting works by Swedish artists, Dr. Hultmark amassed considerable holdings of Chinese ceramics, as well as Italian paintings. 

Despite sharing provenance with one of Botticelli's unquestioned masterpieces, this tondo has largely escaped the scrutiny of modern art historians.  Boskovits (see literature) only recently published the picture in 2004, and even he was unaware of Sirén's discussion of it in 1933 or the 1944 Stockholm exhibition.  This relative obscurity may in part be due to the fact that the painting has remained largely in private collections for the past century (much of that time in Sweden); another factor, however, must certainly have been its restoration history.  Until it was sold in 1980, the painting was covered in somewhat broad restorations that obscured significant passages of its original surface, perhaps reflecting the "heavy brown tone" mentioned by Waagen (see fig. 1).  Some of these were simply unsubtle and overly broad overpaints to cover areas of localized damage.  Other were strangely cosmetic, the most odd being the conversion of both the Madonna and Infant Christ into brunettes.  The hair of the Bambino was converted into a thick lush shock of dark curls, and applied without sensitivity to the original composition, even covering up his right ear.  The Virgin's hair had been similarly treated, and the features of both the Infant and the Young Baptist were strengthened (and as a result dulled).  In an attempt to smooth out the surface, other areas appear to have been covered, and a large shadow was placed at the right of the composition behind the Madonna.  After the 1980 sale, the painting underwent a careful cleaning and restoration, and by 1983 it appeared much in its current state.4  Recent examination of the painting under Infrared Reflectography has also revealed some new information as well.  The tondo exhibits strong and varied underdrawing throughout, with numerous significant shifts and corrections in anatomy and contours of the figures.  The head of the Baptist, for example, has been shifted and the position of his eyes changed (see fig. 2).  This type of variation exist throughout, and there are more significant changes, such as the right proper hand of the Infant Christ which is the final painting shows is hand opened, almost in a gesture of benediction.  In the original underdrawing, however, the hand is turned around and closed, grasping what appears to be a fold of drapery (see fig. 3).  Another detail in the preliminary drawing which was abandoned in the final painting is suggested by rapidly sketched in lines across the hip of the Infant which would appear to be a continuation of the drapery that he grasps in his hand (see fig. 3).  Underdrawing is not discernable in the upper left landscape with depicts Saint Francis and his companion Brother Leo.  This area is painted with denser and darker pigments which may make this more difficult to read, but also may have been laid in later than the rest of the composition, probably by a studio assistant specializing in this type of work.  In fact, the figures of the two monks are of very good quality, and quite reminiscent of the style of Bartolomeo di Giovanni who assisted Botticelli with certain aspects of his production during these years.  Boskovits (see literature), however, finds parallel in the two Franciscan monks with the figures in Botticelli's predella panels for the San Marco Altarpiece (now Uffizi, Florence), painted 1488/90 for the chapel of Sant'Eligio in the Domenican church of San Marco, Florence, and thus would suggest a similar date for this tondo


1.G. Mandel, L'opera completa del Botticelli, Milan 1978, p. 103, cat. no. 117.
2.N. Pons, Botticelli: Catalogo Completo, Milan 1989, p. 83, under cat. no. 108.
3.  According to Mesnil, who dated it to between 1490-95; see Mandel, op.cit., p. 103, under cat. no. 117.
4.  As seen in a photograph dated 1983 in the Zeri Archive.