Lot 66
  • 66

Joos van Cleve

400,000 - 600,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Joos van Cleve
  • The infant Christ and Saint John the Baptist as children embracing in a landscape, surrounded by a classical archway
  • oil on panel


With Matteo Lampertico, Milan;
From whom purchased by the present collector. 


Aachen, Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Joos van Cleve: Leonardo Des Nordens, 17 March - 26 June 2011, no. 39.


P. van den Brink (ed.), Joos van Cleve: Leonardo Des Nordens, exhibition catalogue, Aachen 2011, p. 177, cat. no. 39, reproduced in color, p. 150.


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 is on two pieces of oak that are joined vertically through the center. This work is unreinforced on the reverse, except for two thin pieces of linen adhered horizontally on the top and bottom. The painting has been cleaned and varnished quite recently. The top right corner has been broken and replaced at some point. The left side seems to have been extended by about half an inch, perhaps in order to fit a frame. The retouches that attend to the vertical join through the center of the work are a little clumsy. There is a group of cracks in the tree in the upper center. Under ultraviolet light, one can see that the condition of the paint layer throughout is extremely healthy. While there are small spots of retouching on the marble step across the bottom edge, and a few isolated spots in the sky, the figures themselves show only a few tiny spots of retouching. It is almost all due to the vertical original join running down the center that restoration of any note has been applied. There is also slight thinness in the darkest passages in the rock to the immediate right of the child on the right. However, the condition is beautiful overall.
"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

Joos van Cleve was one of the principal artists working in Antwerp in the early 16th century. This panel masterfully demonstrates van Cleve's high level of craftsmanship and wonderful sensitivity to color, as well as his keen understanding of perspective and modeling. It also reveals the multiple influences to which van Cleve was introduced during his career, including the works of such earlier Renaissance masters as Jan van Eyck, the Master of Flemalle, Hugo van der Goes as well as his contemporaries Quentin Metsys, Jan Gossaert and Gerard David.

The design for the composition is derived from a lost work by Leonardo da Vinci, and is known through numerous copies and variants.1 The pose of the infants Saint John the Baptist and Christ repeats the drawing after Leonardo in the British Royal Collection, Windsor Castle. The motif was picked up by the North Italian followers of Leonardo, including Marco d’Oggiono, whose painting of the two infants kissing is in the Royal Collection at Hampton Court (see fig.1). D’Oggiono himself adapted the subject in his Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist (The Thuelin Madonna), sold New York, Sotheby’s, 28 January 2000, lot 16. John Hand, in his dissertation on the work of Joos van Cleve (see J. Hand, Joos van Cleve: the early and mature paintings, Princeton 1978), argues that most likely it is one of these many paintings after Leonardo that van Cleve had access to in Antwerp. Since the present work stylistically bears resemblance to van Cleve’s Christ Child and John the Baptist, dated by Hand to circa 1528-29 it seems likely that these Leonardesque models were made available in the city of Antwerp to Joos van Cleve and his studio sometime prior to 1530. In the recent exhibition Joos van Cleve: Leonardo Des NordensPeter van den Brink offered a dating of the present work to circa 1525-30. He further notes that the figures in the present painting are identical in proportion to those in the Hampton Court d'Oggiono, indicating that van Cleve may have had access to that painting directly. Van Cleve may have studied the d'Oggiono in Antwerp or possibly while in the collection of Margaret of Austria in Mechelen, who was most likely one of the prior owners.  

The present version expertly displays van Cleve's ability to fuse Northern and Italian influences. Saint John the Baptist and Christ are placed underneath a highly refined and detailed archway. The shadows which highlight the forms of the infants are a clear reference to Leonardo's sfumato technique, which van Cleve incorporates into his own style quite successfully. The aerial perspective of the landscape and receding green and blue hills are classically Northern. The marble columns and archway, with their rich and elaborate carvings and ornamentation which frame the scene are found in other versions of the work, for instance in the Art Institute of Chicago version, and in another sold Zürich, Koller, 21 September 2012, lot 3016, for $1,143,331.  The Chicago version features an elaborate cloth baldacchino, a variation on the present composition which is also found in other versions by van Cleve and his workshop. 

We are grateful to Peter van den Brink and Micha Leeflang for independently supporting the attribution to Joos van Cleve, based on first hand inspection. 

1.  Dr. John Hand lists twelve variants or repetitions of the composition in his monograph on Joos van Cleve. See J. Hand, Joos van Cleve, New Haven 2004, pp. 96-9 and 165-6.