A closely related treatment of the subject (fig. 1), signed and dated 1511 by Leonardo's student and intimate companion Gian Giacomo Caprotti, known as Salaì, was sold Sotheby's, New York, 17 January 2007, lot 34.2 As Shell and Sironi have observed, ‘Salaì represents another kind of Leonardesco; the faithful replicator of Leonardo’s models and, by his own lights, executor of Leonardo’s intentions’.3 Since two very similar works are known, both painted in a spirit so close to that of the Master, it can be reasonably proposed that the design is directly based on a lost original by Leonardo himself. It is known that the Master's prototypes were often reworked by his followers on a smaller scale with some variants, such as in the choice of colours used, for example. Indeed, the Salvator Mundi, recently on the art market, inspired many derivations such as the panel of the same subject (fig. 2), formerly in the De Ganay collection, sold Sotheby's, New York, 28 May 1999, lot 20 (as circle of Leonardo) which Professoressa Cristina Geddo has recently attributed to the young Giampietrino.4
Professoressa Cristina Geddo has examined the painting in person and her study of the work provides the starting point for this catalogue note. She will publish the picture in a forthcoming article as by a Milanese pupil of Leonardo, circa 1511–13, around the same time as Salaì's aforementioned panel was painted.
1 See, for example, Leonardo’s sheet in the Royal Library at Windsor, inv. 12579.
2 Panel, 55 x 37 cm.; the hammer price was $550,000. The work was acquired by a private collector who subsequently donated it in 2013 to the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan, where it now hangs.
3 J. Shell and G. Sironi, 'Salaì and Leonardo’s legacy', The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXXXIII, no. 1055, February 1991, p. 106.
4 Panel, 68.6 x 48.9 cm.; the hammer price was $300,000.
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