Lot 12
  • 12

Domenico Beccafumi

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
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  • Domenico Beccafumi
  • Madonna and child with the infant Saint John the Baptist and Saint Catherine of Siena
  • Oil on panel, in a painted tondo
  • Diameter: 24 3/4 inches


Henry Morral
Sir John Merton, Stags House, Maidenhead
Hans D. Gronau (1904-1951), London
Carmen Gronau (1910-1999), London (wife of the above)
Anonymous sale ("The Property of a Lady"): Sotheby's, London, March 8, 1944, lot 78
A. Kauffmann (acquired at the above sale)
Private collection, Mexico, by 1944
Walpole Galleries, London, late 1990s
Private collection, Texas (acquired at the above)
Acquired by A. Alfred Taubman from the above privately through Sotheby's on December 19, 2012


London, Sotheby's, The Burlington Magazine Exhibition of Masterpieces of Painting and of Craftsmanship, January 8 - 26, 1940, no. 9
Austin, The Blanton Museum of Art and Genoa, Palazzo Ducale, Luca Cambiaso: 1527-1585, September 15, 2006 - July 8, 2007, no. 4
Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum, From the Private Collections of Texas:  European Art, Ancient to Modern, November 22, 2009 - March 21, 2010, no. 11
Detroit Institute of Arts, 2013-2015 (on loan)


Domenico Sanminiatelli, Domenico Beccafumi, Milan, 1967, no. 39, p. 98, illustrated
Edi Baccheschi, L'Opera completa del Beccafumi, Milan, 1977, no. 72, p. 96, illustrated
Andrea Leonardi, in Jonathan Bober (ed.), Luca Cambiaso 1527-1585, Milan, 2006, no. 4, pp. 216-17, reproduced in color
Richard R. Brettell and C. D. Dickerson III, From the Private Collections of Texas: European Art, Ancient to Modern, New Haven, 2009, no. 11, pp. 118-121, illustrated in color pp. 119 and 121, fig. 1 (where incorrectly listed as on canvas)


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. This pleasing picture presents itself well with its strong, colorful palette and soft chiaroscuro effect. In general, the paints are in good condition; the figure of Saint Catherine in particular is very well preserved while the left third seems to have been vulnerable to humidity or perhaps cleaning agents. Restoration, visible under ultraviolet illumination, has knit the modeling together where it has been undermined by losses and by tiny age-related drying cracks, such as in the shadowed portions of the flesh passages of Mary and the two children. The babies have been affected the most with a fair amount restoration needed to address tiny losses in their faces. The varnish is in good condition, glossy, with good saturation. The panel is essentially planar with a barely noticeable washboard effect across the 5 boards that comprise the panel. Old reinforcements along the joins are visible on the back.
"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 beautiful panel is an excellent example of Beccafumi's work. Undoubtedly the leading exponent of Sienese Mannerism, the artist excelled in producing both large-scale altarpieces and more intimate works destined for private devotion, such as the present panel. His style is characterized by a strong and bold palette, a sfumato or blurred effect, and a deliberate disregard for traditional forms, all features which can be appreciated in the present work.

In his early career Beccafumi almost certainly traveled to Rome, where he saw the works of Michelangelo and Raphael, with the latter having a lasting influence on his work, particularly discernible here in the Christ Child's contrapposto and the Madonna's classicizing pose. Beccafumi was also inspired by the work of the Florentine painter Fra Bartolommeo, to whom a number of his own paintings were formerly attributed. 

On the basis of style this impressive work should be dated to the mid-1520s. Other paintings from this period in Beccafumi's career include his tondo depicting The Holy Family with Saint John and Donors (fig. 1) in the Museo Horne, Florence, and the rectangular panel of The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist (fig. 2) in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena, which was replicated by the artist in circular format a number of times (Folchi, in Torriti [ed.], Beccafumi, Milan, 1998, p. 137, cat. no. P54 and pp. 134-36, cat. no. P57, both illustrated in color). Each of these works betrays a comparable interest in the effects of light and the use of shadows to provide volume and depth.

The figures here are pushed to the edges of the foreground, as the Madonna glances down at a small bird cradled in her hand. With her right arm she holds the Christ Child, who in turn twists to his right to embrace John the Baptist, creating a singular, complementary unit. To the right of the Madonna is Saint Catherine of Siena, who bends her neck, following the line of the curved panel. Both she and Christ fix their eyes on the Madonna, their upward glances, glazed eyes and oval faces rendered in the characteristically Sienese Mannerist style. The dark background serves to intensify the bright coloration and tight composition.

Whether painting in a tondo or within a circular paint surface in a square panel, such as in the present work, this format clearly informed Beccafumi's stylistic decisions. He employed the circular format throughout his career, as at least sixteen examples by him are known, all of roughly the same standard dimension of 70 to 90 cm. It gained popularity in Florence throughout the latter part of the 15th century, spreading throughout central Italy, before its use declined by circa 1520. The tradition flourished in Siena, however, through the 1540s (Plazzotta, in Syson et al. [eds], Renaissance Siena: Art for a City, exhibition catalogue, London, 2007, p. 314).  The use of such a non-traditional format suited Beccafumi as it fostered a creative interplay between composition and the restrictions of physical borders: the curved body of the Christ Child echoes the movement of the border, thus enhancing the overall effect of movement and drama.