Lot 11
  • 11

Joos van Cleve

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • Joos van Cleve
  • Virgin and child
  • oil on panel


Rodolphe Kann, Paris, by 1904;
Acquired from his heirs by Duveen Brothers, New York in 1907;
With Kleinberger Galleries, New York;
From whom acquired by Mortimer L. Schiff (1877-1931), New York, 1921;
Thence by descent to the present owner.


Düsseldorf, Kunstpalast, Katalog der Internationalen Kunstausstellung, 1 May - 23 October 1904, cat. no. 57.


LP. Clemen and E. Firmenich-Richartz, Meisterwerke Westdeutscher Malerei und andere hervorragende Gemälde alter Meister aus Privatbesitz auf der Kunsthistorischen Ausstellung zu Düsseldorf 1904, Munich 1905, p. 10, cat. no. 57, reproduced;
Catalogue of the Rodolphe Kann Collection, Vol. II, "Pictures of the Netherlandish and German Schools of the XVth and XVIth Century," Paris 1907, p. 4, cat. no. 98, reproduced;
L. Baldass, Joos van Cleve. Der Meister des Todes Mariä, Vienna 1925, p. 19, cat. no. 30, reproduced fig. 30;
M.J. Friedländer, Die altniederländische Malerei, Vol. IX, Berlin and Leiden 1931, pp. 40-41, 135, cat. no. 54;
M. J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, Vol. IXa, Leiden 1972, pp. 28, 61, cat. no. 54, reproduced plate 68;
J.O. Hand, Joos van Cleve. The Early and Mature Paintings, Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University 1978, pp. 162, 299, cat. no. 34, reproduced fig. 42;
J. O. Hand, Joos van Cleve. The Complete Paintings, New Haven and London 2004, pp. 134-135, cat. no. 34, reproduced fig. 126.


The following condition report has been provided by Karen Thomas of Thomas Art Conservation LLC., 336 West 37th Street, Suite 830, New York, NY 10018, 212-564-4024, info@thomasartconservation.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. Despite the cloudy discolored varnish coating the picture, this painting is in very good condition with beautifully preserved details throughout. The vertically grained wood support is planar and has been thinned, set into a secondary wood support which extends the width by about 3cm on each side, and cradled. Scattered minor tenting following the grain is primarily located in the sky, right and left. Discolored old restorations are visible in the landscape. The darkened, streaky aged varnish suppresses the contrast and tonal range and makes any delicate modeling in the figures difficult to discern. Careful cleaning and restoration would allow the picture's striking colors and high level of detail to shine.
"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 most important artists working in Antwerp in the early 16thcentury.  He was probably from Kleve, a city in the lower Rhine region, and first worked in the workshop of Jan Joest (1455/60-1519) in Kalkar.  By 1511, Joos was settled in Antwerp where he was a member of the Guild of Saint Luke.  His depictions of the Virgin and Child, full of charm and tenderness, proved enormously popular in his own time as well as with later collectors.  The present beautiful example has been in the same family collection for over 90 years.

This Virgin and Child has been dated to circa 1515-1520, a work of the artist’s early maturity.  Wearing a brilliant red cloak, lined with fur and elaborately embroidered with pearls along the outside edge, the Virgin sits in a loggia-like space with open windows at the right and left sides looking out on a distant mountainous landscape.  Her lips are partly open in a slight smile as she cradles the Christ Child  in one arm while helping him to drink from a raised glass filled with red wine, a symbol of the Eucharist.  Characteristic of Netherlandish painting of this period are the jewel-like colors and exquisitely rendered details of the Virgin’s costume and brocade pillow in the foreground.

Examination under infrared-reflectography has revealed an underdrawing (fig. 1) showing a combination of pouncing and free-hand drawing:  the areas of pouncing in the figural group of the Virgin and Child indicate a pattern transfer which was augmented by free-hand drawing, particularly noticeable in the parallel hatching of the drapery folds, in the architecture at top, and in the landscape.  The basic pattern of the Virgin and Child, once drawn, would have been re-used in different versions of the composition, with variations to the final painted details of the costume and landscape.  This method was typical of Joos van Cleve’s workshop practices.  In the present work, the masterfully rendered figural group was painted by Joos himself, while the distant more loosely painted landscape was done by a different hand, probably a member of his workshop who specialized in landscape painting.  This kind of collaboration between Joos and a landscape specialist is characteristic of the division of labor that became more common in the sixteenth century.  Another version of this composition, in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest (oil on panel, 52.2 by 41.7 cm.) depicts the identical grouping of the Virgin and Child, with differences in the details of the Virgin’s costume, the brocaded pillow and the landscape. 

Note on the provenance
This Virgin and Child was formerly in the celebrated collection of Rodolphe Kann (1854-1905) in Paris.  He amassed one of the great private collections of the late 19th century which was housed in his grand residence on the Avenue d’Iéna.  Following his death, the entire collection was purchased en bloc from his heirs in August 1907 by the renowned firm Duveen Brothers, who left the collection in situ and opened up the house to important clients.  The enormous purchase price of nearly £900,000 (almost $5,000,000 according to the New York Times) sent shock waves through the art world.1  Many of the important works, such as Rembrandt’s Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Acc. No. 61.198), found their way into American collections and ultimately into American museums.  The present work was purchased in 1921 by Mortimer L. Schiff (1877-1931), an American banker, collector and philanthropist.  According to Schiff's records, he purchased the van Cleve from Kleinberger Gallery in New York, a firm that seems to have had a close working relationship with Duveen.2  Schiff was a partner in the investment banking firm of Kuhn, Loeb & Co. (1900-1931) and an early leader of the Boy Scouts of America, serving first as Vice-President, and elected as President of the organization shortly before his death.  The painting has descended in his family to the present day.

Dr. Micha Leeflang will publish this painting as a work by Joos van Cleve in her forthcoming book Joos van Cleve: studio, production and distribution (Brepols Publisher, Turnhout/ New York, edited by Maryan Ainsworth).


1.  C.B. Scallen, Rembrandt, Reputation, and the Practice of Connoisseurship, Amsterdam 2004, p. 205.
2.  The Kleinberger Gallery in New York was located on lower Fifth Avenue, near the Duveen Gallery.  Kleinberger's own correspondence files (unrelated to Duveen) were among the papers from Duveen given to the Metropolitan Museum and now at the Getty Research Institute.