Lot 11
  • 11

Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Botticelli, and Studio

600,000 - 800,000 USD
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  • Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Botticelli, and Studio
  • The Madonna and Child enthroned with Saint John the Baptist and an angel
  • tempera on panel, a tondo


Presumably sold by the Estate of Dominique Vivant Denon, Paris, Commissaire-Priseur Masson, "Description des objets d'arts qui compensent le cabinet de feu M. le Baron V," 2 May 1826 (as Botticelli, for 265 francs);
Del Nero collection, Rome, before 1890;
Leo Nardus (né Leonardus Salomon), Paris, by 1925 (as Botticelli);
By whom offered, Amsterdam, Mak van Waay, 26-27 May 1925, lot 9 (as Botticelli, bought in);
Leo Nardus (né Leonardus Salomon) and Arnold van Buuren, Haarlem (in joint ownership);
Confiscated from the van Buuren residence, Haarlem, August 1942 and transferred to the bank Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co, Amsterdam;
By whom sold, Cologne, Lempertz, 2 June 1943, lot 7 (as School Sandro Botticelli, sold for RM 19,000);
Private collection, Cologne;
By whom sold, Cologne, Van Ham Kunstauktionen, 14 November 2014, lot 502 (as Botticelli and Studio, sold pursuant to a settlement agreement between the consignor and the heir of Leo Nardus);
There acquired by the present owner.


G. Mandel, in C. Bo, L'opera completa del Botticelli, Milan 1967, p. 99 under cat. no. 93 (as a variant of the Galleria Borghese tondo);
R. Lightbown, Botticelli, Paris 1990, p. 401, under cat. no. c50 (as a variant of the Abernon tondo);
N. Pons, Botticelli, Catalogo Completo, Milan 1989, p. 80, under cat. no. 91(as a variant of the Galleria Borghese tondo).


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work on panel has an old cradle on the reverse, which seems to be effective. The panel is flat and the paint layer is stable. Retouches have discolored and are evident to the naked eye in isolated spots in the background to the left of the Madonna's head and shoulders, in a few dots in the figure on the right, in an old thin crack or two in the red alter behind the Madonna and Child, and in a few spots within the Madonna's dress. These are all very isolated, and the condition seems to be good. With works from this period, there is always the possibility that earlier restorations exist, but none are apparent. If the discolored retouches were corrected, the condition would be seen to be extremely good.
"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 impressive Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and an Angel is a late work by Sandro Botticelli, one of the most distinctive and recognizable figures of the Italian Renaissance.  The tondo was most likely painted in the last five years of the artist’s life, between 1505 and 1510 with the assistance of members of his studio.  The composition is known in different iterations executed by both Botticelli himself and various members of his workshop.  According to Ronald Lightbown, each of the variants ultimately derives from a Madonna and Child with an Angel, formerly in the collection of Lord Abernon, of which an almost identical version is in the collection of the Bob Jones University, Greenville (fig. 1).1 In the Abernon and Greenville tondi, the Christ Child stands upright in his mother’s lap, while in the present painting he is cradled in a fold of her mantle, his legs kicking to the right.  The same model for these figures recurs in Botticelli’s Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist in the São Paolo Museum of Art, São Paolo (fig. 2) and again in the tondo of the same subject by a follower, this time with an older Saint John, in the Indianapolis Museum of Art (inv. no. 2014.85).  The model for each of the Madonna figures is the same, down to the green lining of the mantle folded over her knees and the forefinger of her left hand tucked under its trim.  The background and accompanying lateral figures vary, presumably according to the desires of the patron.

In the São Paolo, Indianapolis and present versions, the Virgin’s perfectly painted hands appear rather small in comparison to the rest of her body.  In the Abernon model, meanwhile, they are correctly proportioned, suggesting that may have been the original intended concept for the Virgin.  This discrepancy in proportion provides an insight into Botticelli’s methods in the transferral of his designs, combining elements of different models in a “patchwork” effect.  Such eccentricities typify the artist’s later works; he seems less interested in compositional perfection and more careful of details and the effect of the image overall.  The asymmetry of the present composition is a perfect example of Botticelli’s idiosyncrasy.  The Madonna is not centrally placed, so much so that the pearl-trimming of the baldachin above her reaches the edge of the panel at the right side, but is suspended lower at the left.  Similarly, the angel at left leans forward, accommodating the curve of the tondo, while Saint John leans outward, contrary to what we expect from a traditionally harmonious Renaissance composition.  Yet exceptional care has been taken in the reproduction of specific details, such as pleated linen beneath the drawstrings on the Virgin’s cuff, the beautiful transition of color in the yellow drapery of the angel and the perfect understanding of foreshortening in the nails of the figures’ hands

In an expertise accompanying the painting at its sale in 2014 (see Provenance), Prof. Gaudenz Freuler suggested the figure of John the Baptist was executed by a separate hand, perhaps one trained in Ghirlandaio’s workshop.2  He proposed that of Agnolo di Donnino del Mazziere, comparing the saint in the present painting to Agnolo’s Pax, in a private collection, and the angel in his Madonna and Child with an Angel, in the Courtauld Institute Galleries, London (inv. no. P.1947.LF.21).  While there are indeed stylistic parallels between these examples, to date no documentary evidence has been found linking Agnolo di Donnino del Mazziere to Botticelli’s workshop that can confirm the hypothesis.

While the figure of Saint John appears to be unique to this painting, the angel at left appears again in the Abernon and Bob Jones University compositions.  In both cases, however, the angel is placed in front of the stone ledge rather than behind as in the present variant.  The angel here is painted with particular sensitivity.  Infrared images (fig. 3) show freehand changes to the position of the hands, the eyebrows and the fluttering pages of the book and there are similar shifts in the placement of the stone ledge.  These changes show that the design was not mechanically transferred from a cartoon but that the artist was thinking throughout this process and modifying his drawing as he laid out his design.

This painting has been requested for exhibition at Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven.

1. For the Lord Abernon tondo (current location unknown) see R. Lightbown under Literature, p. 401, cat. no. c50, reproduced.
2. A copy of Prof. Gaudenz Freuler’s expertise, dated July 2013, is available from the department upon request.