Lot 1
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ANTONIUS MAGISTER | Madonna of Humility

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
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  • Madonna of Humility
  • tempera and gold on panel, shaped top
  • 131 x 98.5 cm.; 51 1/2  x 38 3/4  in.


In the collection of the father of the present owner by 1965; Thence by inheritance.


M. Boskovits, ‘Il problema di Antonius Magister e qualche osservazione sulla pittura marchigiana del Trecento’, Arte illustrata, nos 17–18, 1969, pp. 4–19, reproduced, fig. 2; M.S. Frinta, Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting, Part I Catalogue Raisonné of All Punch Shapes, Prague 1998, pp. 96, 215, 353 and 426.


The following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Antonius Magister. Madonna of Humility. This painting has three main joints. It has been seriously worm eaten behind and the back is encrusted with material to support the decayed wood. However essentially the panel remains strong. One fairly brief crack from the base on the left appears slightly raised. The gold leaf in the background is finely intact as is its delicate decorated border. Elsewhere the beautifully punched and decorated cushions below the Madonna as well as her finely brocaded bodice have been perfectly preserved. Her blue robe is presumably in azurite and unlike many closely parallel paintings it has not turned black. This is evidence of the exceptional untouched quality of this painting. Much of the tempera flesh painting is also quite well preserved, with fine detail for instance in the feet of the Child and elsewhere, despite some discoloured old retouching. His drapery is strikingly intact. There has been regilding down the left edge of the Madonna's shoulder and some retouching down the left joint from the top down into the left side of the Madonna's face and neck. Retouching down the right joint runs through the azurite drapery lower down. Overall however this painting is remarkably pure, with little intervention over time. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"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

Miklòs Boskovits published this rare and well-preserved painting in an article on the activity of Antonius magister, whose name derives from a misreading of a ‘signature’ (in fact an altered inscription) on a very similar but damaged painting of the Madonna of Humility at the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, in Urbino.1 In connecting the latter work with the present painting – a depiction of the same subject treated in an almost identical way – Boskovits recognised this Madonna of Humility as a work by the same hand as the Urbino Madonna. The poses of the Madonna nursing the Christ Child correspond in both panels, although the backgrounds differ. The principal point of disparity between the two is that the work under discussion is in near perfect state whereas the work in Urbino has suffered considerably.

In terms of its iconography and design the Madonna of Humility looks back to late Gothic prototypes by Simone Martini and others. The shape of the panel, with cut upper corners is of a rare type that does not occur in the second half of the fourteenth century. Boskovits dates this and the panel in Urbino to the late 1320s or early 1330s. He identifies its creator as the Bellpuig Master, whose later career in Spain was studied by Ferdinando Bologna, and thus refers to him as the Master of the Bellpuig Coronation rather than using the misnomer Antonius magister.2

According to Mojmír Frinta, the attribution is supported by the evidence of the punch work, to which he adds one further painting to the group.3 The latter, a fragment, is a Madonna and Child with two angels at the Brooklyn Museum, New York.4

1 Inv. 677. Reproduced in F. Bologna, ‘Di alcuni rapporti tra Italia e Spagna nel Trecento e ‘Antonius magister’’, Arte antica e moderna, 13–16, 1961, plate 14a.

2 Bologna 1961, pp. 27–48.

3 Written communication with the father of the present owner, 6 May 1975.

4 Acc. no. 34.841; 86.5 x 80.2 cm.