Lot 11
  • 11

Carlo Saraceni and Studio

100,000 - 150,000 USD
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  • Carlo Saraceni and Studio
  • The Madonna and Child with Saint Anne and an angel
  • oil on copper, unframed
  • 11 1/2 x 14 1/4 inches


Anonymous sale, Paris, Ader Picard Tajan, 5 March 1986, lot 177 (as Attributed to Carlo Saraceni);
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's, 5 July 1989, Lot 11 (as by Carlo Saraceni).


A. Ottani Cavina, "Saraceni: tre dipinti, qualche dato", in Scritti in Onore di Giuliano Briganti, Milan 1990, p. 161, reproduced p. 164, fig. 3 (as a copy after Carlo Saraceni).


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 painting was probably last restored in the 1980s. The varnish could be adjusted and freshened. The copper panel is flat and is supported by wooden strips around the edges. There is a thin line of retouching above the head of the angel, and a few spots of restoration in his brown cloak. In the remainder of the picture, there is a spot or two of retouching in the legs of Christ, and in front of the pointed finger of the woman on the right. The painting is in beautiful condition.
"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

The design of this painting is known through numerous copies, of varying quality but mainly 17th-century in date, whose existence attests to the enormous popularity this composition evidently enjoyed in Saraceni's own lifetime. It was not until 1990 that Ottani Cavina published what she considered to be the prime original: another version on copper, formerly in an American private collection and now in the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hawaii (U.S.A.).1  Although Ottani Cavina published the present copper as a copy on the same occasion (see Literature), she has since revised her opinion after studying the painting again firsthand: not only is its quality significantly higher than that in all the other known copies and variants, but it shows a degree of refinement entirely absent from the other versions. Most significantly of all, the present painting differs from the Honolulu copper in a number of details and is therefore not just a slavish copy, but a variant of extremely high quality executed within Saraceni's workshop, quite probably with the intervention of the master himself.

Of the numerous other copies known, the painting from the Musée Fesch, Ajaccio, is the only one on copper and of similar dimensions to this and the Honolulu version.Five other copies or variants on canvas are known: one in the Museum Naradowe, Warsaw;3 another in the Galleria Pallavicini, Rome;4 a third in Badia della Trinità, Cava dei Tirreni;5 another in a private collection, Rome, in 1995;6 and a fifth on canvas laid on panel recently on the American art market.7  The compositions are all broadly similar but differ in small details: notably the top of the reed cane held by Saint Anne; the blue border on her headscarf; and the folds of her yellow drapery. The copies broadly fall into three categories: those that follow the Honolulu painting, i.e. a shorter, less detailed cane and no blue border on Anne's headscarf (e.g. the copy in the Galleria Pallavicini); those exactly the same as the present copper, i.e. a longer, more detailed rendering of the cane and a blue border on Anne's headscarf (e.g. the copies in Warsaw and Roman private collection in 1995); and finally those that combine elements of both (e.g. the copy in Badia della Trinità, that on the U.S. art market in 2011, and the painting from the Musée Fesch, Ajaccio). The latter category indicates that the two 'prime' coppers - that in Honolulu and the one presented here - are likely to have been in Saraceni's studio at the same time. In fact, the Ajaccio painting, which combines elements of both, is the only copy that includes the right sleeve of Saint Anne, thus replicating a detail only present in the copper offered here.

Despite the often crude execution of the copies and variants listed above, the sophistication of Saraceni's original composition remains evident. The scene is imbued with a delicate almost supernatural light, the source of which is not entirely clear. The Madonna turns to Saint Anne as if to quiet her as she enters the scene, Anne's mouth partially open as if in mid-speech. A winged angel carefully covers the sleeping Christ Child with a fringed white cloth; a clear allusion to the shroud which will envelop Christ after His crucifixion. Ottani Cavina dates the Honolulu picture to just after 1610, though certain elements recall earlier works by Saraceni. The physiognomical types come closest to those in the painting of The Madonna and Child with Saint Anne in the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome (painted after 1610). The figure of Saint Anne reappears in a picture of The Madonna and Child with Saint Anne in the Pinacoteca Civica, Teramo, thought to be a copy after a lost original.8

1. Copper, 29.2 by 36.8 cm.; In a private collection, New York, 1990; With Hall & Knight Ltd., New York, 1997 (advertisement in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXL, no. 1140, March 1998, reproduced in colour); By whom sold in 1998 to Phoebe Cowles; By whom offered for sale, New York, Christie's, 23 January 2004, lot 42 (unsold) and later donated by her to the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hawaii, where the painting is today.
2. 28 by 35 cm., inv. 852.1.921; published by J.-P. Cuzin & P. Rosenberg, "Saraceni et la France", in La Revue du Louvre, 1978, no. 3, p. 192, reproduced fig. 14 (as a copy), and more recently exhibited, Rome, Palazzo Venezia, *** 2012, cat. no. ***, reproduced ***. A third version on copper was cited by Zeri and Ottani Cavina as in the Aldo Briganti collection, Rome, in 1948 (and apparently exhibited in the Mostra di Pittura Barocca, exh. cat., ed. G. Briganti, Rome 1945), but the painting has never been successfully identified or traced.
3. 92.5 by 127 cm., inv. 158659; see A. Ottani Cavina, Carlo Saraceni, Milan 1968, p. 136, under cat. no. 129, reproduced fig. 151.
4. 97.3 by 134.5 cm.; see F. Zeri, La Galleria Pallavicini in Roma. Catalogo dei dipinti, Florence 1959, p. 241, cat. no. 450, reproduced (as a workshop picture and erroneously identifying the Warsaw picture as autograph, as well as the copper in Aldo Briganti's collection, 1948); Ottani Cavina, op. cit., reproduced fig. 152 (as a copy).
5. Dimensions unknown; P. Rosenberg, "Carlo Saraceni", in Revue de l'Art, 1971, no. 3, p. 107 (as a copy).
6. Dimensions unknown; photo in the Fondazione Zeri archives (as a copy).
7. 78 .1 by 108.9 cm.; sold, Philadelphia, Samuel T. Freeman & Co., 10 July 2011, lot 91 (as Follower of Saraceni).
8.  A. Sperandio et al., Pinacoteca Civica di Teramo. Catalogo dei dipinti, delle sculture e delle ceramiche, Milano 1998, cat. no. 58, reproduced in color on p. 182.