Acquired from the above by James Irvine on behalf of Sir William Forbes, 7th Baronet of Pitsligo (1773–1828), of Fettercairn, Kincardineshire, 27 June 1827, in Milan, for 20 Louis (the seal of the Accademia di Milano affixed to the reverse);
By descent to his son Sir John Stuart Hepburn-Forbes, 8th Baronet of Pitsligo (1804–1866);
By inheritance to his son-in-law Charles Trefusis, 20th Baron Clinton (1834–1904);
Thence by descent to the present owner.
The present composition, showing the Madonna in the midst of quiet prayer, was one of Sassoferrato's most celebrated compositions and was utilised by the artist throughout his career. It is of no surprise that a work of this type by this celebrated artist was top of Irvine's list of paintings to source for his patron. This, and the Saint John the Baptist by a follower of Raphael (lot 10 in this sale), were the very first of the paintings that James Irvine purchased for Sir William Forbes in the summer of 1827. Irvine had travelled from Rome to Milan, and purchased the painting for what he considered the very reasonable price of 20 Louis from Giuseppe Bianchi.
Giovanni Battista Salvi, more commonly known as 'Sassoferrato', after the town in which he was born, learned the rudiments of painting from his father Tarquino before embarking on a trip to Rome. There he studied the works of his contemporaries, including Reni, Domenichino, and the Carracci. His greatest influence, however, was Raphael and he is known to have directly copied the latter's compositions (see, for example, Sassoferrato's Madonna and Child at the Galleria Sabauda, Turin, which is directly based on Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks, National Gallery, London).2 Despite being an accomplished portraitist, Sassoferrato specialised in easel paintings of a devotional nature, usually representing the Madonna, alone or with the Christ Child, of which this Madonna is an excellent and beautifully well preserved example. The large number of autograph and studio replicas of Sassoferrato's compositions attest to the popularity they enjoyed within the artist's own lifetime.
1. Letter from James Irvine to Sir William Forbes, 1827 (otherwise undated).
2. Inv. no. 482 and NG6596 respectively.
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