Lot 10
  • 10

Master of the Stockholm Pietà

250,000 - 350,000 USD
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  • Master of the Stockholm Pietà
  • Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine with the Infant Saint John the Baptist and angels
  • oil on canvas


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. The paint layer is clean. The varnish is uneven and could easily be improved. The retouches are quite visible to the naked eye in many areas, and if there is a reason to clean the work, it would be to remove these restorations, reexamine the painting and retouch more accurately. These retouches are visible in the left elbow, left knee and a couple of spots in the chest of Christ, for instance. There is another restoration in the golden drape beneath the chest of the female figure on the left, beneath her chin and in the garland of flowers above her head. The retouches seem to be limited and not particularly pervasive. When viewed under ultraviolet light, some, but not necessarily all, of these restorations are visible. There is visible thinness that has not been retouched in the very dark background above the three central figures and around the figural groups above. The edges have a few damages, as one would expect. In general, the condition of the picture is much better than one would initially think – there is a lovely retention of the original glazes in the lighter colors of the figures and visibly good quality throughout. The painting will certainly respond to improved restoration. .
"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

Federico Zeri was first to draw attention to the corpus of this enigmatic master in 1950, rescuing him from his previous classification as an anonymous follower of Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, called Sodoma.1  Through his study of a Holy Family, discovered among the anonymous works at the National Gallery, London (inv. no. NG 3125), Zeri was able to conduct an initial reconstruction of the artist's corpus, whom he named after a work then considered his most important, a Pietà in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm (inv. no. NM 1612, fig. 1).  This hitherto unpublished Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine, in an important addition to the master's oeuvre and its impressive scale suggests it may have been intended for display within a public setting.  The work is characteristic of the artist’s highly individual approach; the sharp chiaroscuro effect, the brief and precise brushstrokes, and the unusual physiognomy are all indicative of the Master of the Stockholm Pietà's very particular style.

While his corpus does indeed derive from Sodoma’s youthful work, the artist does not appear to conform to typical Italian Renaissance models, and his figures are liberated from the constraints of conventional form.  His acute attention to small details, such as the fine highlighting of the Madonna’s hair, or the jewels in Saint Catherine’s headpiece here, betray the distinctly northern foundation of his painting style.2  The pronounced muscularity of the Infant Saint John is more typical of northern models.  Rather than soft, rounded limbs expected of Italian Renaissance infants, here the muscles of Saint John’s legs are like those of a miniature adult.  A similar treatment can be found in Christ Child in the London Holy Family. Zeri proposed that the Master of the Stockholm Pietà was of northern origin working in Lombardy, but eschewed the popular innovations of Raphael, Michelangelo and Fra Bartolomeo, in favor the “Germanising movements.”It is no coincidence that the painter’s Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John and two Saints (formerly on the art market in Rome) was previously attributed to both Sodoma and Rosso Fiorentino due to the anti-classical approach and the idiosyncratic manner of execution.4  The artist's figure types are evidently inspired by Leonardo's Milanese models, and the existence of paintings by the Master of the Stockholm Pietà hailing from prominent collections in that city, such as those of Cesare Monti, Manfredo Settala, and Giovan Battista Visconti, strongly suggest that the artist may have been present there.5  

We are grateful to Prof. Francesco Frangi for suggesting an attribution of this lot to the Master of the Stockholm Pietà.  Frangi will include the painting in a forthcoming publication. 

1.  F. Zeri, “The Master of the Stockholm Pietà”, in Burlington Magazine, XCII, 565, 1950, pp. 110-111.

2.  Ibid. p. 111.
3.  Ibid.
4.  Ibid.
5.  F. Frangi, in Pinacoteca Ambrosiana. Dipinti dalla metà del Cinquecento alla metà del Seicento, Milan 2006, pp. 238-241, n. 298-299.