Lot 62
  • 62

Ansano di Pietro di Mencio, called Sano di Pietro

250,000 - 350,000 USD
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  • Ansano di Pietro di Mencio, called Sano di Pietro
  • Madonna and Child; Saint John the Baptist; Saint Jerome:  A portable triptych
  • inscribed on the Madonna's halo: AVE.GRATIA PLENA.DOMIN[VS]; on Christ Child's halo: [EGO] SVM; on Saint John's scroll: ECCE AGNVSD [EI]
  • tempera on panel, gold ground
  • 17 3/8 x 12 5/8 inches


Conte, later Marchese, Giovanni Battista Costabili Containi, Ferrara (1756-1841), by 1835;
Thence by descent to his nephew, Marchese Giovanni Battista Costabili Containi (died 1882);
Art market, Ferrara, Catalogo de' quadri di varie scuole pittoriche nella Galleria Costabili in Ferrara : collezione esposta in vendita, September 1871-May 1873, no. 45 (as unknown, Giottesque manner);
His deceased sale ("Catalogue de Tableaux formant La Galerie de Mr. le Marquis Costabili de Ferrare"), Milan, Sambon, 27-29 April 1885, lot 1 (as Unknown Florentine; School of Cimabue [central panel] and School of Giotto [wings]);
Jesse Isidor Straus (1872-1936), New York, by 1928;
By inheritance to his wife, Irma Nathan Straus, New York;
By whom given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1964 (Inv. no. 64.189.4).


Pitture della raccolta del Co.te. Gio Batta Costabili di Ferrara, 1835, c. 21v, no. 205 in the Biblioteca dell'Archiginnasio, Bologna, ms A1324 (ascribed to Giotto);
C. Laderchi, Descrizione della Quadreria Costabili, Ferrara 1838, vol. 1, p. 24, cat. no. 4 (as Galasso Galassi);
G. Rosini, Storia della pittura italiana esposta coi monumenti, vol. 2, Pisa 1848. pp. 158, 173, note 8, reproduced pl. 241 (quotes Laderchi's attribution to Galasso Galassi);
J. A. Crowe and G.B. Cavalcaselle, A History of Painting in North Italy: Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Ferrara, Milan, Friuli, Brescia, from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century, London 1871, vol. 1, p. 515, note 3 (as Sano di Pietro);
G. Giordani, Catalogo de' quadri di varie scuole pittoriche nella Galleria Costabili in Ferrara : collezione esposta in vendita, Bologna 1871 and 1872, p. 7, cat. no. 45 (as unknown, Giottesque manner);
J. A. Crowe and G.B. Cavalcaselle, A History of Painting in North Italy: Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Ferrara, Milan, Friuli, Brescia, from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century, T. Borenius ed., 2nd ed., London 1912, vol. 2, p. 223, note 4 (here and henceforth as Sano di Pietro);
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance, Oxford 1932, p. 500;
B. Berenson, Pitture italiane del rinascimento, Milan 1936, p. 430;
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance, Central and North Italian Schools, London 1968, vol. 1, p. 376;
F. Zeri with E. E. Gardner, Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sienese and Central Italian Schools, New York 1980, pp. 82-83, reproduced plates 54 and 55;
K. Baetjer, European Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, by artists born before 1865, New York 1980, vol. 1, pp. 165-166, reproduced vol. 2, p. 65;
J. Anderson, "The Rediscovery of Ferrarese Renaissance Painting in the Risorgimento," in The Burlington Magazine, 135, August 1993, p. 546-547, reproduced figs. 33, 34 (detail of left wing during treatment);
K. Baetjer, European Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, by artists born before 1865, New York 1995, p. 57, reproduced;
M.S. Frinta, "Part I: Catalogue Raisonné of All Punch Shapes," in Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting, Prague 1998, pp. 191, 261, 425;
E. Mattaliano, La collezione Costabili, Venice 1998, pp. 34-35, cat. no. 4, reproduced pp. 178-179;
M. Natale and G. Sassu, in Cosmè Tura e Francesco del Cossa: l'arte a Ferrara nell'età di Borso d'Este, exhibition catalogue, Ferrara 2007, pp. 40, 59, note 13;
D. Sallay, Early Sienese Paintings in Hungarian Collections, 1420-1520, PhD. dissertation, Central European University, Budapest 2008, p. 184, note 484;;
D. Sallay, Corpus of Sienese Paintings in Hungary, 1420-1510, Florence 2015, p. 139, note 4.


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 triptych retains its original format and decorative exterior surfaces. The interior wings arewell preserved and the center panel presents nicely despite a degree of wear that may berelated to veneration of the object. The restoration is expertly executed and the entire triptych,with each portion comprised of a single vertically grained board with an integral frame,appears to be structurally sound.The right wing depicting Saint Jerome appears to be the best-preserved composition of thetriptych. Retouching is for the most part limited to a few small, inconspicuous losses found inthe lower half of the kneeling figure and in the landscape to the left of the figure. Small areas ofrestoration are located in the left edges of the tree, with a narrow strip of retouchingdescending into the tree trunk. The paint layers are otherwise nicely intact, with no evidence ofrubbing.While the left wing is for the most part in a very good state of preservation, large portions ofthe grassy foreground have suffered significant loss. These losses are barely perceptiblethanks to the quality of the restoration. Given how the areas of loss follow the contour of thefigure, this defect may be the result of some inherent vulnerability of a specific pigment, suchas poor adhesion or unusual solubility. A few minor losses are found in Saint John the Baptist'sraised arm, his hair, and in the right side of his red garment.The central panel is the most rubbed. Meticulous expert retouching has knit together the wornmodeling in the flesh passages and brought back the form of the child's hand and apple. Theoriginal thickly applied blue paint is extant in the decorative border of Mary's blue mantle,while extensive losses elsewhere in the mantle have been toned to diminish their appearance.Portions of the elaborate pattern in the child's garment are restoration.The painted porphyry decoration on the exterior is for the most part in remarkably goodcondition, with losses commensurate with the age of the object.This triptych has no need of conservation treatment and may be enjoyed in its present state.
"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

Sano di Pietro was one of the most successful artists in 15th century Siena.  Born in 1405, he is thought to have been apprenticed to Sassetta and was registered with the Guild in 1428.  An early and important independent commission is his signed altarpiece of 1444 for the Gesuati church of San Girolamo (now in the Pinacoteca Nazionale Siena; predella in the Musée du Louvre, Paris); and, in 1445, he signed a fresco of the Coronation of the Virgin in the Palazzo Publico.  His earliest works, prior to the mid-1440s, have been thought by some scholars to be identifiable with those grouped under the anonymous Osservanza Master (see Lot 24).Sano was regularly employed by the Comune of Siena as well as by the confraternities and regular orders, especially the Franciscans.  While he produced altarpieces, predellas, biccherna covers, and manuscript illuminations, he is perhaps best known today for his charming and intimate depictions of the Madonna and Christ Child, either alone or often surrounded by angels or saints, that adhere faithfully to the Sienese Trecento tradition.This depiction of the Madonna and Christ Child flanked by Saints John the Evangelist and Jerome is a rare intact portable triptych by Sano di Pietro, datable to circa 1450-1455.  The simple, rectangular-shape format, of which few Sienese examples are known, is a departure from the gabled Gothic triptych form.2  The tender depiction of the Madonna and infant Christ, with their cheeks pressed together, conforms to the iconic Byzantine Glykophilousa, or “affectionate type.”  Christ holds an apple in one hand, signifying the fruit of Salvation, and reaches with the other for cherries, a symbol of the Passion, held by the Virgin.  On the wings, Saint John the Baptist (left) and Saint Jerome (right) are depicted in the wilderness where both lived as ascetics.  Remarkably, the outside of the triptych still retains its original painted decoration (fig. 1). 

Note on the provenance:
For much of the 19th century, this triptych was in the famed Costabili collection in Ferrara.  This collection was formed by Giovanni Battista Costabili Containi (1756-1841) in the latter part of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries.  The collection, some 600 paintings, as well as an extraordinary library of manuscripts and incunabula, was housed in the Costabili Palace on via Volapaletto, originally built by the Counts Bevilacqua Aldobrandini in 1430.3  Costabili’s nephew inherited the collection and kept it intact, though began to sell paintings in the late 1850s.  Charles Eastlake, the first Director of the National Gallery, London acquired two paintings for the museum in 1858.4  Following the younger Costabili’s death, the remainder of the collection, including this triptych, was sold at auction in Milan in 1885.  By 1928, the triptych was in the American collection of Jesse Isidor Straus (1872-1936).  Jesse, a son of Isidor and Ida Straus who both died on the Titanic, was President of R.H. Macy and Co. and Ambassador to France under Franklin D. Roosevelt.  His widow, Irma, gifted the Sano di Pietro triptych to the Metropolitan Museum in 1964.

1.  In 2011, documentary evidence relating to an altarpiece of the Nativity of the Virgin at Asciano was published by Maria Falcone identifying its creator – the Master of the Osservanza – as the young Sano di Pietro; aee M. Falcone, “La giovinezza dorata di Sano di Pietro: un nuovo documento per la Natività della Vergine di Asciano,” in Prospettiva, 138.2010, 2011, pp. 28-48.
2.  See D. Sallay, 2015, under Literature, pp. 136-137, 139, note 4.
3.  See J. Anderson, under Literature, pp. 540, 542.
4.  Sandro Botticelli (formerly Follower of Botticelli), St. Francis, (NG 598) ; and Francesco del Cossa, St. Vincent Ferrar (NG 597).