Lot 7
  • 7

Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Botticelli, and Studio

500,000 - 700,000 USD
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  • Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Botticelli, and Studio
  • The Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist
  • oil on panel, a tondo


Lady Florence Emily Fermor-Hesketh (née Sharon) (1858-1924);
By whose Estate sold, London, Christie's, 6 March 1925, lot 121, to Smith (as Botticelli);
Dr. Seymour Maynard, M.D., 16 Prince Edward Mansions, Pembridge Square, London; 
By whose Estate sold, London, Christie's, 29 January 1954, lot 72, for 2000 guineas, to Engel (as Jacopo del Sellaio).


C. Thompson and H. Brigstocke, National Gallery of Scotland, Shorter Catalogue, Edinburgh 1978, p. 10, under cat. no. 1563 (as ascribed to Jacopo del Sellaio);
R. Lightbown, Sandro Botticelli, Complete Catalogue, Los Angeles 1978, vol. II, p. 135, under cat. no. C36 (as ascribed to Jacopo del Sellaio).


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 painting is in sound condition overall. The support appears to be comprised of three wood boards, with the grain on a diagonal approximately 30 degrees clockwise. Slightly raised cracks corresponding to the wood grain are found in some areas; the paint appears to be stable. Restoration is found along both panel joins and where small losses had occurred following the wood grain. Areas of reconstruction are visible under ultraviolet illumination as several narrow grain-oriented strips (including two in the thatch roof, a few in Mary's mantle, and an area running through the child's chest and arm) and much of the interior of Mary's mantle. Restoration focusing on light wear and small losses are found in the sky on the right, the wall on the far right, and some of the flesh passages. It appears Mary's mantle may have some degree of overall toning. The support has been thinned and a cradle attached to the reverse.
"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 tondo by Sandro Botticelli, executed with assistance from his workshop, likely dates to the second half of the 1480s, when the artist had returned to Florence from Rome following the completion of his frescoes in the Sistine Chapel.  The design for the kneeling Virgin relates to Botticelli’s celebrated Madonna Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, which also dates to circa 1485 (fig. 1, inv. no. NG 2709).  The heavy, hooded mantle pools in similar folds on the ground and she clasps her hands in the same, quintessentially Botticellian gesture, crooking the little finger of each hand.  Unlike the Edinburgh Virgin, however, in the present painting the figure’s mouth is slightly open and there is a delicate shadow between her lips, a characteristic detail that is typical of the artist in this period.  He paid careful attention to light, depicting the highlights on the ox’s muzzle and horn with great sensitivity.  The veils that cover the Virgin’s head are rendered with similarly meticulous care.  The more the layers overlap, the more opaque they become, appearing whiter, an effect accomplished by building up fine layers of pigment in diagonal lines, mimicking the weave of the linen.

The composition overall exists in a number of replicas and copies, each with slight variations, including one in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh (inv. no. NG 1536), another sold at Sotheby’s London in 2011, and a third formerly with Moretti Gallery, Florence (fig. 2).1   At some point between 1854 and 1921, the Edinburgh painting was cut down on four sides, transforming it from its original tondo into a rectangular format.2  In both the Edinburgh and London paintings the position of the livestock differs from the present painting; the ass stands to the left of the ox and they appear to be deeper into the background.  The pose of the Child is also different, as he reaches with both hands towards the Virgin, his legs kicking wide, a reprisal in reverse of the Child in the Bardi altarpiece, in the Staatliche Museen, Berlin (inv. no. 106).3 Closest to the present panel in terms of composition is the ex-Moretti tondo.  Though depicted without the delicate, translucent veil, the Child is posed in the same manner, with feet together and touching his left hand to his face.  Even in the ex-Moretti tondo, however, there are variations in the background landscape and the livestock appear curiously small in comparison to the foreground figures. 

1. For the second Edinburgh painting see R. Lightbown under Literature, op. cit., reproduced fig. C36; for the London tondo see London, Sotheby’s, 8 December 2011, lot 105; for the Florence tondo see L. Bellosi in Moretti, Da Ambrogio Lorenzetti a Sandro Botticelli, (exhibition catalogue), Florence 2003, pp. 172-176, reproduced p. 173 and 176.
2. R. Lightbown, op. cit..
3. For the Bardi altarpiece see R. Lightbown, op. cit., vol. II, pp. 56-57, cat. no. B42, reproduced vol. I, plate 30.