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Details & Cataloguing

Master Paintings Evening Sale

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New York

Bernardo Strozzi
GENOA 1581 - 1644 VENICE
MADONNA AND CHILD WITH THE INFANT SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

Provenance

W. Haffety, Scarborough and Sheffield, UK;
Private Collection, USA, by whom consigned to Galerie Sanct Lucas, Vienna, 1937;
With Gallery Meissner, Zurich;
Mrs. Sidney G. de Kay, South Norwalk, CT, by 1940;
Thence by descent to Helen M. de Kay, New York;
Her deceased sale, London, Sotheby's, 8 Dec 1966, lot 48, where purchased by Julius H. Weitzner;
Private Collection, Austria.

Exhibited

Vienna, Galerie Sanct Lucas, Ausstellung Italienische Barockmalerei, 1937, no. 120;
New York, World's Fair, Masterpieces of Art Exhibition, 1940, no. 43;
Poughkeepsie, NY, Vassar College Art Gallery, Italian Baroque Painting of the XVII and XVIII Centuries, 1940, no. 29;
San Francisco, Legion of Honor, Exhibition of Italian Baroque Painting, May-June 1941, no. 106;
Baltimore Museum of Art, Three Baroque Masters, April-June 1944, no. 11.

Literature

G. de Logu, "Pittori italiani del '600 e del '700 a Vienna" in L'Arte vol. XL, 1937, p. 227;
L. Mortari, Bernardo Strozzi, Rome 1966, p. 190, reproduced figure 91;
G. Algeri, Un dipinto ritrovato de Bernardo Strozzi:  l'apparizione della Madonna Odigitria della Chiesa di S. Maurizio di Monti a Rapallo, Genoa 1992, unpaginated;
G. Algeri, Bernardo Strozzi. Genova 1581/82-Venezia 1644, exhibition catalogue, Genoa 1995, p. 23, reproduced fig. 5;
L. Mortari, Bernardo Strozzi, Rome 1995, p. 93, cat. no. 51, reproduced;
C. Manzitti, Bernardo Strozzi, Turin 2013, p. 106, cat. no. 72, reproduced.

Catalogue Note

Born in Genoa, Bernardo Strozzi studied painting briefly before entering the Capuchin Monastery at San Barnaba in 1598 and earning the nickname Il Cappuccino. Despite his vocation, Strozzi continued to paint devotional pictures like this Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist, a subject to which he would return repeatedly. This work, dating to circa 1620, is a dazzling example of Strozzi's strong chiaroscuro and bold color palette.  

While the Bible does not actually describe a meeting between the young Jesus and his cousin St. John the Baptist, the legend that the two met as infants, typically said to have happened during the Holy Family's flight into Egypt, became popular in the early modern period. For painters like Strozzi, visualizing the two babies interacting as the loving Virgin Mary watches over them provided a chance to humanize the divine subjects with naturalistic details like childish gestures and expressions. At the same time, the viewer is reminded of the eventual tragedy of Jesus's sacrifice, which his mother had already accepted. Mary's downcast eyes and slight smile convey her simultaneous joy and sorrow. John the Baptist appears here with his attribute, the sacrificial lamb symbolizing Christ who is the Lamb of God. The coexistence of the realistic, innocent young children and the symbolic reminder of Jesus's fate, here imagined as a pet, make for a poignant devotional picture. Strozzi's dramatic use of light and shadow heightens the emotional efficacy of the image.

Strozzi received permission to leave the monastery in 1610 to care for his ailing mother and unmarried sister, during which time he continued to paint. He never returned to the Capuchin order, instead relocating to Venice in 1630 where he became known as il prete Genovese (the Genoese priest). There, he must have headed a large workshop, as the many versions of some of his works suggest. The present work likely came from the intermediary period as he cared for his mother, as did several other compositions of the same subject. Occasionally Strozzi removed motifs like the lamb and added new ones like a basket of fruit referring to the fruit of Mary's womb (Jesus) and the fruits, or gifts, of the Holy Spirit. A small painting by Strozzi on copper, intended for private devotion, sold in These Rooms 28 January 2010; it features the two infants studying the inscription on the Baptist's cartiglio, which reads ECCE AGNUS DEI (BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD).1 As in the present painting, the children's innocence enhances the emotional effect of the solemn religious message.

1. New York, Sotheby's, 28 January 2010, lot 186.

Master Paintings Evening Sale

|
New York