Lot 17
  • 17

Francesco Ubertini, called Bachiacca

150,000 - 200,000 GBP
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  • Francesco Ubertini, called Bachiacca
  • The Baptism of Christ
  • oil on poplar panel


Count Enrico Costa, Florence (before 1892);
Dr. Ludwig Mond (1839-1909), London, 1892;
Thence by descent to his grandson,Henry Ludwig Mond, 2nd Baron Melchett (1898–1949);
Thence by inheritance to his wife, (Amy) Gwen, Lady Melchett (d. 1982), whom he married in 1920;
By whom sold, London, Sotheby's, 24 March 1965, lot 96, for £16,000 to Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd.;
With Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd., London;
From whom acquired by the late father of the present owner. 


King's Lynn, The Fermoy Art Gallery, A Collection of the Nineteen-Sixties, 22 July – 5 August, 1972, no. 2.


J.P. Richter, The Mond Collection, London 1910, vol. II, p. 445 ff., reproduced plate 18;
G. Frizzoni, 'La Raccolta Mond ed opere attinenti alla medesima', in Rassegna d'Arte, 1910, vol. XI, p. 46;
C.J. Ffoulkes, 'Richter, Il Catalogo Mond: volume II,' review in L'Arte, vol. XV, 1912, p. 272;
A. McComb, 'Francesco Ubertini (Bacchiacca)', in The Art Bulletin, vol. VIII/3, 1926, p. 165;
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance, Oxford 1932, p. 36;
B. Berenson, Pitture Italiane del Rinascimento, 1936, p. 30;
R. Salvini, in U. Thieme and F. Becker (eds.), Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildendden Kunstler von der Antike biz zur Gegenwart, vol. XXXIII, Leipzig 1939, p. 522; 
H.S. Merritt, Bacchiacca Studies (according to Nikolenko, 1966);
The Use of Imitation, Princeton, 1958;
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School, London 1963, vol. I, p. 20;
F. Abbate, 'L'Attività giovanile del Bachiacca (fino al viaggio romano del 1524-5)', in Paragone, vol. XVI/189, November 1965, p. 40;
L. Nikolenko, Francesco Ubertini called Il Bacchiacca, New York 1966, pp. 17, 47–48, reproduced fig. 37;
G. Agnew and E. Joll, A Collection of the Nineteen-Sixties, exhibition catalogue, King's Lynn 1972, p. 6, cat. no. 2;
C.D. Colbert, Bachiacca in the context of Florentine Art, Ph.D., Harvard University 1978, p. 43;
R.G. La France, Francesco d'Ubertino Verdi, il Bachiacca, 1494–1557: 'Diligente Dipintore', Ph.D., Institute of Fine Arts, New York University 2002, cat. no. 14;
R.G. La France, Bachiacca. Artist of the Medici Court, Florence 2008, pp. 169–70, cat. no. 28, reproduced plate XIX.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Francesco Ubertini, Bachiacca. The Baptism of Christ. This painting is on single piece of poplar, which seems to have settled into a stable, slight, long term curve. There is no sign of stress or cracks, nor of any raised flakes, past or present. The craquelure is minute, even and fine throughout, all suggesting a peaceful early background and past history. Past worm damage has, unusually, penetrated the paint surface in some places, and little worm holes are almost the only trace of damage to be found having affected the painting. Tiny circular retouched worm holes can be seen under ultra violet light with a few scattered in the lower sky, occasionally in the central figures, for instance one or two on Christ's arm and on the arm and pink drapery of St John, with an isolated one or two further from the centre, one in the pink drapery of the figure on the left. The group of figures on the left is in especially beautiful condition, as is the figure on the right taking off his shoe, with the only hint of faint wear to be found in the deeper red drapery of St John, and perhaps slightly in the hair of the kneeling angels. Elsewhere throughout; the sky, the foliage of the trees, even the delicate detail of the distant central tree against the sky, the luminous water in the foreground, and fragile shadows of the figures, all is miraculously pure and intact. A rare Florentine Renaissance painting which has survived in virtually perfect condition, and reflects the technique and profound impact of Flemish painting . This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"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

This beautifully preserved Baptism is a very fine example from Bachiacca's early maturity. Though still influenced at this time by Perugino, his master, this painting demonstrates the increasing individuality of the young Florentine, particularly in its use of colour which lends the overall effect a freshness that to the contemporary spectator must have seemed overtly modern. As in many of his works several of the compositional elements are derived from a variety of sources, both Netherlandish and Italian, and it is this very combination of a progressive use of colour and light with a conservative conception of form on which Bachiacca's fame and reputation rest.

The painting belongs to the period immediately prior to his trip to Rome in circa 1524, and can be very closely compared to other paintings executed during the first half of the 1520s: in particular the predellas in the Gallerie degli Uffizi, Florence, illustrating episodes from the life of Saint Achatius.1 The scene showing Saint Achatius being baptised is a particularly relevant comparison for the man removing his boot lower right appears in both compositions. As La France notes however, it is not just the repeated figure but also the similarly bright palette and the shared, liberal use of motifs from Lucas van Leyden that suggest they were painted within a short time of each other; in the present Baptism, the row of trees with onlookers beneath them are borrowed from Lucas’s own Baptism (Bartsch 40), while the timber-framed house in the central distance features in both his Baptism and his Holy Family (Bartsch 85). Bachiacca's constant references to northern prints suggests more than a mere acquaintance with the most up-to-date advanced practices then current in Florence. 

The man removing his boot is not the only motif repeated in another work by the artist. The figure standing with his legs apart in the left foreground recurs in the Borghese Imprisonment of Simeon, though his stockings are green and slashed in the present example where they are plain white in the other.2 The background landscape is, furthermore, a more elaborate version of that in the Laurentian Library illumination depicting Saints Cosmas and Damian.3 Bachiacca also borrowed motifs from his master Perugino; the figures of Christ and St. John are here transcribed from Perugino’s own treatment of the subject in a predella in Chicago.4 The Chicago predella also provides the two angels behind St. John, though Bachiacca has placed the standing angel behind the one that kneels, where in the Perugino predella they are set apart.

Bacchiacca treated the subject in a later panel (now transferred to canvas), which employs a similar mise-en-scène with the supporting figures similarly arranged in groups to the left and right, behind and in front of the protagonists.5

Note on Provenance
Dr. Ludwig Mond (1839-1909), a German industrialist who settled in Britain in the 1870s, bequeathed forty-two paintings to the National Gallery on his death in 1909. Among them are some of the greatest works in the collection, including Raphael's Crucifixion, Titian's Virgin suckling the infant Christ and Lucas Cranach the Elder's The Close of the Silver Age

1. La France, under Literature, 2008, pp. 164–68, cat. nos. 24–26, all reproduced plate XIV.
2. Ibid., pp. 146–47, cat. no. 9, reproduced plate 9.
3. Ibid., pp. 156–57, cat. no. 18, reproduced plate X.
4. V. Garibaldi, Perugino, 2004, pp. 215–18, fig. 184.
5. La France 2008, pp. 180–81, cat. no. 34, reproduced plate XXV.