Lot 12
  • 12

GIOVANNI BATTISTA CIMA, CALLED CIMA DA CONEGLIANO | Madonna and Child before a landscape

200,000 - 300,000 USD
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  • Madonna and Child before a landscape
  • oil on panel, transferred to canvas, laid on panel, in a gilt wood frame with architectural motifs
  • 18 1/4  by 14 3/8  in.; 46.4 by 36.5 cm.


With Henry Pfungst, London, by 1902;
Messrs. Dowdeswell, London;
Sir William Van Horne, Montreal, by 1915, and by inheritance in the family until at least 1983.1


Royal Academy, London, 1902, no. 30, lent by Henry Pfungst.


P. Hendy, European and American paintings in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, rev. ed., Boston 1974, pp. 55-6;
P. Humfrey, Cima da Conegliano, Cambridge 1983, pp. 128-9, cat. no. 97, reproduced plate 95a;
G.C.F. Villa, Cima da Conegliano: Poeta del Paesaggio, exhibition catalogue, Conegliano 2010, p. 150, under cat. no. 26.


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 painting is in good condition overall. Careful retouching addresses narrow losses following the vertical wood grain, some of the age-related craquelure, and two larger losses in the sky, near the upper corners. Some of the retouching now appears a touch darker than the surrounding original, but not distractingly so. What appears to be an older campaign of restoration in the blue mantle displays a yellow cast under strong light. The vertically grained panel, comprised of three boards, is planar and structurally sound. If desired, corrective retouching could be undertaken to compensate for the color shifts in the current restoration, but these shifts are not so noticeable as to recommend cleaning the painting.
"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 intimate Madonna and Child is an example of Cima’s most frequently depicted subject. He developed several variations on the theme to satisfy a demand from his patrons; here, he focused especially on the relationship between mother and infant. A larger version of this beautiful composition belongs to the National Gallery of Wales.2 Probably completed around the turn of the 16th century, the present work would have served as a devotional aid for a private owner. 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.