Lot 2
  • 2

Follower of Jacopo Carucci, called Pontormo, late 16th/early 17th Century

30,000 - 40,000 USD
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  • Sacra Conversazione, with the Holy Family, Saints John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, Francis of Assisi and James the Greater
  • oil on canvas
  • 86 5/8  by 73 1/2  in; 220 by 186.2 cm.


Doetsch collection, London and Brussels;
By whom sold London, Christie's, 22 June 1895, lot 107 (as Pontormo, described as the original Pucci altarpiece);
Henry Quilter;
Thence by descent to his son-in-law, Francis S. Macnalty;
By whose Estate sold, London, Christie's, 17 July 1970, lot 183 (as after Pontormo);
Where acquired.


H. Mireur, Dictionnaire des ventes d'art faites en France et à l'etranger pendant les XVIIIo et XIXo siècles, Paris Marseilles 1902, vol. II, p. 101;
B. Berenson, The Drawings of the Florentine Painters, New York 1903, vol. 2, p. 139 (as the altarpiece formerly in S. Michele Visdomini and last heard of in the Doetsch collection);
S. Reinach, Répertoire de peintures du Moyen-âge et de la Renaissance, Paris 1910, vol. III, p. 348 (as Pontormo);
F. Goldschmidt, Pontormo, Rosso und Bronzino, Leipzig 1911, p. 45 (as the original Pucci altarpiece);
F.M. Clapp, Jacopo da Carucci da Pontormo, his life and work, New Haven 1916, pp. 126-128, 244, cat. no. 107 (as a copy after the Pucci altarpiece);
H. Voss, Die Malerei der Spätrenaissance in Rom und Florenz, Berlin 1920, vol. 1, pp. 165-166 (where described as the original Pucci altarpiece);
H. Voss, Painting of the Late Renaissance in Rome and Florence, Berlin 1920 (revised and translated by S. Pelzel, San Francisco 1997), vol. 1, pp. 137-138, reproduced fig. 47 (where described as the original Pucci altarpiece);
L. Berti, Pontormo, Florence 1964, p. XL (as a replica);
J. Cox-Rearick, The Drawings of Pontormo, Cambridge 1964, p. 123 (as a copy);
L. Berti, L'opera completa del Pontormo, Milan 1973, p. 94, under cat. no. 53 (as an old copy);
C. Wright, A Catalogue of the Old Master Paintings in the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. J.V. Feather at Bridley Manor, Surrey, 1974, pp. 7, 33-34, 37-38, cat. no. 8, reproduced fig. 8 overall, and three details (as Pontormo);
J. Cox-Rearick, The Drawings of Pontormo: A Catalogue Raisonné with Notes on the Paintings, Cambridge 1981, p. 123 (as a copy);
P. Costamagna, Pontormo, Milan 1994, p. 137, cat. no. 24.1 (as a copy after the Pucci altarpiece dating to the late 16th century).


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 large work is in very good condition. The painting may be very slightly dirty, but it certainly looks well in its current state. It has been lined, and the lining is still very successful in supporting the canvas the heavy paint layer. There are a few retouches running from the chin of the kneeling saint on the right side across to the abdomen of Christ. There are a few random very small spots of retouching, and the color of the blue robe of the Madonna has probably changed and lost a good deal of its form. The wooden cross held by Christ has become abraded. The painting is otherwise in extremely good condition.
"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 remarkable early copy of Pontormo’s 1518 Pucci altarpiece, painted for the chapel of Francesco di Giovanni Pucci in San Michele Visdomini, Florence, appears to have been done by an artist working at the end of the 16th or beginning of the 17th century.  The high quality of this painting, in fact, led some scholars in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to regard this version as the original Pucci altarpiece by Pontormo.  J.P. Richter, who wrote the entry for the 1895 Doetsch sale catalogue, Fritz Goldschmidt, and Hermann Voss (see Provenance and Literature), all considered the present work to be the original and the painting in situ in the chapel to be a replica (even Bernard Berenson, in his 1903 catalogue of Florentine drawings, referenced the original as in the Doetsch collection, however in all his subsequent publications this was corrected).  Among later scholars, only Christopher Wright in his 1974 catalogue of the Feather collection, still considered this version to be Pontormo’s original.  No doubt part of the problem was created by the fact that Pontormo’s altarpiece had become exceedingly darkened under heavy layers of discolored varnish.  It hardly matched Giorgio Vasari’s description of the painting:  “Jacopo executed the work in so beautiful a manner, and with colouring so vivid, that it seems almost impossible to credit it…Wherefore it is no marvel that this is the most beautiful altarpiece that was ever executed by this truly rare painter.”1  A recent restoration of the Pucci altarpiece prior to the 2014 exhibition in Florence, Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino, Diverging Paths of Mannerism, once again revealed Pontormo’s extraordinary and “vivid” coloration.2 The circumstances of how or why this full-scale replica was produced are not known. Possibly the artist had access to a cartoon, though there is no evidence that one ever existed for the original, the underdrawing of which shows a very free design and numerous revisions that Pontormo himself made (such as the contrapposto pose of the Virgin). Infra-red reflectography of the present painting reveals working changes by the artist, such as the positioning of the heads of Saints John the Baptist, Francis and James, and the foot of the Christ Child.  Most interestingly, the underdrawing reveals that the putto’s head at upper right was, at one stage, drawn looking down towards the Holy Family and then later corrected to face upwards as in the original (fig. 1).

1.  See Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite de’ più eccellenti architetti, pittori, scultori, et architettori…, 1568, trans. by G. du C. de Vere, New York 1996, vol. 2, p. 349.
2.  See catalogue of the exhibition, Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, 8 March-20 July 2014, p. 78, Cat. no. II.2., reproduced p. 79.
3.  Ibid., p. 78.