9
9
Circle of Ercole de' Roberti
ADORATION OF THE SHEPHERDS
Estimate
200,000300,000
LOT SOLD. 194,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
9
Circle of Ercole de' Roberti
ADORATION OF THE SHEPHERDS
Estimate
200,000300,000
LOT SOLD. 194,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Old Master Paintings

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New York

Circle of Ercole de' Roberti
ADORATION OF THE SHEPHERDS

Provenance

Bernard Berenson (1865 -1959), Villa i Tatti, Florence until 1911;
From whom acquired by the present owner.

Exhibited

Detroit, Institute of Arts, Loan Exhibition of Italian Paintings from the XIV to XVI Century, March 1933, no. 81 (as Ercole de' Roberti);
London, Wildenstein, Early French and Italian Paintings and Illuminations, June 29 - July 30 1949, no. 32 (as Ercole de' Roberti).

Literature

R. Longhi, Officina Ferrarese, Rome 1934, p.59 (as likely designed by Ercole de' Roberti though not executed by him);
S. Ortolani, Cosmè Tura, Francesco del Cossa, Ercole de' Roberti, Milan 1941, p. 170 (as follower of Ercole de' Roberti);
Early French and Italian Paintings and Illuminations, exhibition catalogue, London 1949, no. 81 (as Ercole de' Roberti);
B. Nicolson, The Painters of Ferrara, London 1950, p.20 (as possibly Milanese School, by an artist close to Bernadino Butinone);
R. Longhi, Officina Ferrarese, (2nd revised edition), Florence 1956, pp. 43 - 44, reproduced fig. 143 (as by Ercole de' Roberti);
C. Volpe, "Tre vetrate ferrarese e il rinascimento a Bologna" in Arte antica e moderna, I, January to March 1958, pp. 30 - 31 (as possibly a youthful work of Lorenzo Costa);
M. Salmi, Ercole de' Roberti, Milan 1960, pp. 26, 55, reproduced plate 25 (as possibly Ercole de' Roberti and Lorenzo Costa);
E. Ruhmer, "Ercole de' Roberti" in Encyclopedia of World Art, XII, New York 1966, col. 227 (as Ercole de Roberti circa 1480);
R. Varese, Lorenzo Costa, Milan 1967, p. 75, no. 72 (as Lorenzo Costa);
C. Turril, "Ercole de' Roberti's altarpieces for the Lateran Canons" (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Delaware), 1986, Appendix I, pp. 333 - 334, no. R-15 (as follower of Ercole de' Roberti);
A. Bacchi, "Una predella di Francesco Bianchi Ferrari" in Paragone no. 5 (451), September 1987, pp.78, 80, no. 15;
J. Manca, The Art of Ercole de' Roberti, New York 1992, pp. 185, 186, cat. no. R34, reproduced fig. 81 (as Ferrarese School, circa 1450 - 1475);
M. Molteni, Ercole de' Roberti, Ferrara 1995, p. 200, no. 65, reproduced p. 201 (as possibly by a Ferrarese follower of Ercole de' Roberti; erroneously includes provenance from the Stroganoff and Paolini collections).

Catalogue Note

This rare quattrocento panel was painted by a hand in the immediate circle of Ferrara's leading artist of the period, Ercole de' Roberti.  The scene is divided into planes, delineating a clear narrative; the Nativity is placed within a stark, wooden construction in the foreground, while crossing the bridge in the near background, the Magi approach.  The stony-blue mountains in the distance beyond denote the expanses they travelled to venerate the Christ child.  The intense naturalism of the figures and the solemnity of their emotion are reflected in the austerity of the bare, stony landscape with meticulous sprouting weeds, the Spartan twine-bound shelter and reedy, sapling trees.

The painting was tentatively given to Ercole de' Roberti by Longhi in 1956 who believed the work to be at least based on his design, if perhaps not painted by the artist himself; indeed, the linear drawing style with precise detail strongly recalls the Ferrarese artist.1  Autograph works by Ercole de' Roberti are rare, due both to the brevity of his life and to the destruction of a large portion of his oeuvre, yet his impact on his contemporaries was significant and continued to resonate long after his death.  Having assumed the attribution of a number of artists over the last century, scholarship remains divided on the authorship of this work.  The most recent publication of the Adoration by Molteni in 1995 (see Literature) lists the work as a Ferrarese follower of Ercole de'Roberti, though in 1997, Pia Paladino proposed an attribution to the court manuscript illuminator, Guglielmo Giraldi (1445 – 1490), best known for his illustrations of Dante Alighieri's Inferno for Federico de Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, now in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Rome.2   Palladino cited the physiognomic affinity with Giraldi's broad, flat nosed figures though Toniolo is not in agreement with the potential addition to the illuminator's oeuvre.3  On the other hand, Mattia Vinco and Andrea De Marchi, tentatively note stylistic similarities between this painting and the drawing of a Pagan Sacrifice now in the Art Institute of Chicago, formerly attributed to Giovan Francesco Maineri, though now considered closer to Giovan Battista Cavaletto (active 1486 - 1523), a painter, sculptor and illuminator and close follower of Ercole de' Roberti.  Cavaletto's drawing style is indeed remarkably similar to this hand.  Benati, however, does not agree with the either of these hypotheses and sees this hand more as a follower of Francesco del Cossa rather than of his pupil, Ercole.

De' Roberti trained in the studio of Francesco del Cossa and his style was heavily influenced not only by his master but also by Andrea Mantegna.   We see in the present panel the tawny palette, the gritty, barren landscape and linear, monumental figures inherited from Mantegna, and indeed the shepherd in the immediate foreground, to the right, derives almost directly from St. Longinus in Mantegna's engraving, The Risen Christ between Saints Andrew and Longinus, in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.  The shepherd shares not only his pose, but also the same drapery, adapted to the garb of a shepherd.  The saint's armor has been replaced by a simple shift, that is draped into the same folds and the long spear in the crook of his arm has been substituted with a shepherd's staff.  Like the Paduan master, the artist here draws drapery in thin, tight, folds that fall in a convincing, yet stylized pattern of lines across the figures' elbows and knees.  The figures themselves owe much to Ercole, the broad yet angular faces, wide noses and flat cheekbones are reminiscent of those in The Last Supper in the National Gallery, London.    

We are grateful for the assistance of Mattia Vinco, Andrea de Marchi, and Daniele Benati in the cataloguing of this painting on the basis of photographs.

1.  R. Longhi, Officina Ferrarese, Rome 1934, p. 59 (as likely designed by Ercole de' Roberti though not executed by him) and later in 1956 revised edition, pp. 43 - 44, reproduced fig. 143 (as by Ercole de' Roberti);
2.  P. Palladino in a verbal communication with the present owner 1997; for Giraldi see F. Toniolo, Guglielmo Giraldi, miniature estense, Modena 1995.
3.  F. Toniolo in a private written communication with Mattia Vinco, April 2012.

Old Master Paintings

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