In the collection of the Baronne’s direct descendant, the Comtesse de Bryas;
Acquired from the heirs of Mme de Bryas by Cailleux, Paris, in 1960;
With Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd. (inv. 26323), London, from whom acquired by the Countess Spencer in 1965;
By whom sold (`The Property of the Countess Spencer'), London, Sotheby’s, 3 July 1985, lot 7, when acquired by the present owner.
Paris, Musée de Luxembourg, Cima da Conegliano. Maître de la Renaissance Vénitienne, Paris 2012, no. 19.
F. Watson, The Wallace Collection, London 1968, p. 64;
L. Menegazzi, Cima da Conegliano, Treviso 1981, p. 141;
P. Humfrey, Cima da Conegliano, Cambridge 1983, p. 101, cat. no. 47, p. 116, under cat. no. 73, and p. 153, under cat. no. 144, reproduced plate 124;
J. Ingamells, The Wallace Collection. Catalogue of Pictures, London 1985, vol. I, pp. 258 and 262, n. 6;
S. Gohr (ed.), Wahre Wunder. Sammler und Sammlungen im Rheinland, exhibition catalogue, Cologne 2001, p. 288, no. C 17;
G.C.F. Villa, Cima da Conegliono. Maître de la Renaissance Vénitienne, exhibition catalogue, Paris 2012, pp. 221, no. 19, reproduced fig. 23.
Although known to scholars since the 1960s, when it was already in the Spencer collection, opinion has been divided as to this painting’s original function. When the painting was sold in 1985 it was accompanied by a photostat of a letter by Prof. Federico Zeri, dated 1968, who believed the panel to have originally formed part of the left wing of a triptych, as yet untraced. Watson also believed the panel once belonged to a larger polyptych and suggested that this panel once stood on the upper register of the triptych formerly on the high altar of S. Rocco in Mestre, the signed central panel of which is in the Wallace Collection, London, and the two flanking panels of Saints Sebastian and Roch in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg.1 Both these theories were rejected by Humfrey who considers the panel a fragment from a larger sacra conversazione altarpiece; an opinion further shared by Ingamells (see Literature). Humfrey argues that Watson’s theory is implausible on both visual and historical grounds: there are no parallels in Cima’s œuvre for representing figures in an upper register in knee-length format and foreshortened dal sotto in su; compare, for example, the single figures in the upper register of the Miglionico triptych of 1499, which are not foreshortened and are only shown bust-length.2 Furthermore various early references to the Mestre triptych make no mention of missing saints and the engraving of the altarpiece by A. Baratti (1724–87), presumably showing the triptych before it was dismembered, consists of the three full-length saints and a lunette with The Madonna and Child with two Franciscan saints above, but no sign of the present panel.
Both Humfrey and Villa date the Saints Christopher and Peter to the middle of the first decade of the sixteenth century, that is to circa 1504–06, the former on the basis of a stylistic comparison with Cima’s Incredulity of St Thomas with St Magnus in the Accademia, Venice, which can be dated to just before 1505–06.3 Both paintings share the same rich use of colour and crisp modelling so characteristic of Cima’s works. The figures of Saint Christopher and Saint Thomas are comparable: both wear a red cloak over a green robe. The figure of St Peter is re-elaborated by Cima a couple of years later, in circa 1507–09, when he uses the same figure – his head is identical and seen from the same viewpoint although the saint is shown full-length – in his S. Fior polyptych, where St Peter appears with another Saint in the lower register on the left.4 St Christopher on the other hand does not relate compositionally to any other known treatments of the subject in Cima’s œuvre, though Humfrey tentatively suggests that it may reflect the appearance of a work by Antonello da Messina formerly in the church of S. Giuliano, Venice, recorded there by Sansovino in 1581 but since lost.
1 Watson 1968, p. 64; Humfrey 1983, 115, cat. no. 73, reproduced plate 103, and p. 145, cat. no. 133, reproduced plates 104–05.
2 Humfrey 1983, pp. 118–19, cat. no. 79, fig. 71.
3 Humfrey 1983, pp. 151–52, cat. no. 143, reproduced plate 121.
4 Humfrey 1983, cat. no. 130, reproduced plate 146.
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