Lot 2
  • 2

Master of the Chigi-Saracini Desco active in Siena c. 1510 - 1540

60,000 - 80,000 USD
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  • A desco da parto, depicting a confinement scene
  • oil and tempera on panel, circular
  • diameter: 23 3/8  in.; 59.3 cm.


E. and A. Silberman Galleries, New York, before 1965 (as Domenico Beccafumi);
Acquired c. 1965 by the family of the present owner.


Colorado Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs, Exhibition of Early Masters, 1937;
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Conn., Pictures within Pictures, November 9 - 31 December 1949, no. 3 (as Domenico Beccafumi), lent by E. & A. Silberman;
The Gallery of The Surf Club, The Lowe Gallery, University of Miami, Florida, Social Reflections, 1953;
The Milwaukee Art Institute, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, The Story of Medicine in Art, 1953, under no. 178;
Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C., European Masterpieces, 1956, no. 4, reproduced;
New York, E. and A. Silberman Galleries, An Exhibition of Old Masters from the Collection of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Hagerstown, Maryland, 6 - 27 May 1964, no. 10 (as Domenico Beccafumi), lent by E. & A. Silberman.


Wadsworth Atheneum, Pictures within Pictures, exh. cat., Hartford 1949, p. 9, cat. no. 3 (as Domenico Beccafumi);
B. Etchison, An Exhibition of Old Masters from the Collection of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Hagerstown, Marylandexh. cat., New York 1964, p. 14, cat. no. 10, reproduced (as Domenico Beccafumi), lent by E. & A. Silberman;
M. Maccherini, in F. Sricchia Santoro (Ed.), Da Sodoma a Marco Pino. Addenda, Siena 1991, pp. 23–24, reproduced in black and white p. 22, fig. 10 (as Maestro del Desco Chigi-Saracini);
C. De Carli, I deschi da parto e la pittura del primo Rinascimento toscano, Turin 1997, p. 208, cat. no. 64, recto and verso reproduced in black and white p. 208 and 209, reproduced in colour tav. XVI (as Sienese c. 1500-1525);
J. Musacchio, The art and ritual of childbirth in Renaissance Italy, New Haven and London 1999, p. 60, reproduced in colour fig. 41 (as Sienese c. 1520);
P. Hohti, 'Conspicuous' consumption and popular consumers: material culture and social status in sixteenth-century Siena', in Renaissance Studies, vol. 24, no. 5, November 2010, p. 660, reproduced p. 661, fig. 1 (as Anonymous, possibly Sienese, c. 1520).


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 excellent condition aside from a discolored, aged varnish. The paint layers are beautifully preserved, with no retouching visible under ultraviolet illumination. Although it is possible retouching exists beneath the strongly fluorescing natural resin varnish, examination suggests the picture is free of wear and losses. A raised area with a few tiny losses (correlating to hardware on the reverse), three small dents in the bottom right, and scattered small round holes in the surface (old exit holes from insects) are the only obvious — and extremely minor — defects. Cleaning can be expected to improve the appearance, allowing the proper tonality to be revealed and increasing the contrast of the image.
"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

From the late 1420s in Florence, deschi da parto, or ‘child birth trays’ was used in medieval and renaissance Italy to present small gifts, sweetmeats, and wine and water to a mother after childbirth. They were usually circular or twelve-sided and painted on both sides, typically with an appropriate narrative scene and often emblazoned with the coat-of-arms of the family. Some were commissioned from a favorite distinguished artist, but most often were likely the produce to workshops specializing in cassoni. The attribution of this painting to the Master of the Chigi-Saracini Desco was first proposed in Maccherini's article of 1991 (see Literature), and we are grateful to Andrea De Marchi for further endorsing the attribution on inspection of images. The eponymous work is a desco depicting the Nativity.1 The artist is defined by his quick, uncertain brushwork and resulting distinctive style, as well as his unique use of colours; particularly of reds and oranges. Around this Nativity Maccherini was able to gather a group of nine more small-scale works which are now attributed to the same hand.

The painting hanging on the far wall of this interior scene, just visible behind the post of the bed of Saint Anne, is thought by Maccherini (see Literature) to depict the central motif of Domenico Beccafumi’s Nativity in the Chruch of San Martino, Siena.2

1. See Maccherini 1991, p. 20, cat. no. 7, reproduced p. 21.
2. See G. Agosti et. al., Domenico Beccafumi e il suo tempo, Milan 1990, p. 146, cat. no. 19, reproduced p. 147.