Giovanni Battista Cima, known as Cima da Conegliano after his hometown north of Venice, likely began his artistic training in Conegliano and completed it with an as-yet unidentified master in Venice, where in any case he was strongly influenced by the work of Giovanni Bellini (1430 – 1516). By the 1490s, Cima seems to have become, after Bellini, Venice’s greatest madonniero, or painter of Madonnas. Peter Humfrey has described Cima’s Madonnas as possessing a “gentle solemnity” and “meticulous finish,” both of which qualities are on display in this picture.3 The Virgin’s richly colored habit and mantle and the crisp folds on her veil demonstrate Cima’s attention to naturalistic details, while the hand gesture of the child Jesus and the way that Mary tenderly holds her baby’s foot bring the divine subjects down to earth.
Although Cima painted the majority of his mature works in Venice, he included Conegliano’s lowland hills with distant views of mountains in the background of virtually all of his religious works. The present painting features rolling green hills, a dirt path leading up a rugged cliff toward a fortress in the upper left, and hazy mountains in the distance, demonstrating Cima’s mastery of high Renaissance atmospheric perspective. Humfrey has noted the high quality of the present landscape, which recalls others of Cima’s backgrounds but is a unique combination of elements.
This painting was originally painted on panel, and during a 19th century restoration, was transferred to canvas. It has since been re-laid onto panel.
We are grateful to Dr. Peter Humfrey for proposing an attribution to Cima da Conegliano and his studio after firsthand inspection of the painting.
1. At which time P. Humfrey published the painting as belonging to Mrs. William Van Horne, Montreal. See Humfrey (in Literature), p. 128-129.
2. See P. Humfrey (in Literature), pp. 92, cat. no. 32; and G.C.F. Villa (in Literature), pp. 150-152, cat. no. 26.
3. P. Humfrey (in Literature), p. 7.
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