Lot 12
  • 12

Studio of Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli
  • The Baptism of Christ
  • tempera on panel


Museo Guidi, Faenza;
Their sale, Rome, Galleria Sangiorgi, 21-27 April 1902, lot 499;
Rambaldi collection, Bologna;
Eugenio Burnath (or Bournat) collection, before 1924;
Bruno Canto, Milan;
In the present collection since at least 1963.


C. Gamba, Botticelli, Milan 1936, p. 209, cat. no. 10 (as Workshop of Botticelli);
C.L Ragghianti, "Inizio di Leonardo," in Critica d'Arte, I, 1954, p. 118 (as Botticelli);
R. Salvini, Tutta la pittura del Botticelli, Milan 1958, vol. II, 1958, p. 78, reproduced plate 155B (as School of Botticelli);
R. Lightbown, Botticelli, Complete Catalogue, Los Angeles 1978, vol. II, pp. 151-152, cat. no. C65, reproduced p. 151, fig. C65 (under Workshop and School pictures as untraced, "no attribution can safely be made of it in its absence");
G. Mandel, L'opera completa del Botticelli, Milan 1978, p. 116, cat. no. 115, reproduced (under Workshop and School pictures as untraced and therefore impossible to give an attribution);
N. Pons, Catalogo completo, Botticelli, Milan 1989, pp. 87-88, cat. no. 122, reproduced p. 87, fig. 122 (repeating comments of Lightbown and Mandel and suspending judgement until the painting is traced).


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. The graphic style of this substantial painting allows the strong imagery to show to advantage despite its current condition. Restoration is found throughout, some of which is visible under ultraviolet illumination. Scattered minute pitting in the paint layer is accompanied by tiny losses following the craquelure, suggesting strong cleaning in the past. The vertically grained wood panel is comprised of several boards; an extensive modern cradle attached to the reverse. A compound warp has developed across the surface, with some old cracks following the grain. If the presence of discolored retouching is deemed unacceptable, corrective retouching is advised, as cleaning is likely to be unwarranted.
"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

Until now this impressive, large-scale panel was hidden from public view for decades and though published many times (see Literature), scholars were only able to opine on the basis of old black-and-white photographs.  The painting was first recorded as part of a 19th-century collection in the Museo Guidi, Faenza (see Provenance).  In 1902, when the painting was deaccessioned and sold, Adolfo Venturi published it as a late autograph work by Botticelli. Scholarly opinions in early 20th-century publications were divided until 1978 when Ronald Lightbown gave the painting to Botticelli’s workshop (see Literature). 

The composition is undoubtedly of Botticelli’s design and no other versions of the subject in this configuration survive today.   The painting itself was executed by a member of Botticelli’s workshop and, as Professor Andrea De Marchi notes, the approach to the rock face and landscape suggests an artist also familiar with the work of Ghirlandaio.1  Lightbown compared the device of the rock formation used to frame the composition with that in Botticelli’s Holy Trinity Surrounded by Seraphim with Saints Mary Magdalene and John the Baptist and Tobias and the Angel in the Courtauld Gallery, London (inv. no. inv. P.1947.LF.38).

We are grateful to Professors Laurence Kanter and Andrea De Marchi for endorsing the attribution upon firsthand inspection and to Professor Nicoletta Pons on the basis of photographs.

1. Private oral communication with the department, 29 January 2016.