The Property of a Lady
Christ carrying the Cross
oil on panel, marouflaged
47.7 x 36.5 cm.; 18¾ x 14⅜ in.
47.7 x 36.5公分；18 ¾ x 14 ⅜英寸
The following condition report is provided by Henry Gentle who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's
Christ carrying the cross
Oil on soft wood panel, in a black and gilt wood frame in good condition.
An oak veneer has been added to the thinned original soft wood support.
The original panel has been thinned in order to conserve several vertical fractures to the support. These fractures have minor associated paint loss ,which has been restored out; the restoration is now visibly discoloured and can be seen to be excessive in some areas.
The paint layer is in a stable and secure condition; under raking light minor distortion of the paint layer, caused by the fractures, can be detected.
Also visible is augmentation to some of the fine details of Christ's face, such as his eyelashes, eyebrows and beard.
His hair and particularly the subtleties to the curls are in good preserved condition.
An old discoloured and degraded varnish has flattened the modelling to his features, its removal would improve tonality and reveal pentiment to the edge of his face and faded under drawing; some of the delicate 'top notes' to the skin tones have been slightly compromised.
The quality of the paint is undeniable and is evident in the crispness of the white fabric, the nuances of the shading and the naturally sketchily painted and preserved condition of the cross.
The crown of thorns is in it's original preserved condition.
The paint texture is well preserved and doesn't exhibit any injudicious previous restoration.
"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."
Chiesa delle Salesiane, Murano, until the occupation of Venice by the French, 1798 (according to Heinemann 1959, see Literature);
In the collection of Schiélin, a banker, Paris (according to Heinemann 1959);
Count Wilhelm de Pourtalès, Paris, until 1889;
By descent to Count Fritz de Pourtalès, Silesia and The Hague, 1927–30;
Seized by the Russian army in 1943;
With Wildenstein, New York, 1949;
With Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York, 1955;
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's, 26 March 1969, lot 71 (as Bellini), withdrawn;
Returned to M. Ernest de Pourtalès;
By descent to M. Charles-Henri de Pourtalès, Tannay, Switzerland (d. 2018);
Thence by descent to the present owner.
Venice, Doge's Palace, Giorgione e i Giorgioneschi, 11 June – 23 October 1955, no. 40 bis.
W. von Bode, Verzeichnis der National wertvollen Kunstwerke, Berlin 1927, cat. no. 15 (as Bellini);
P. Hendy, 'The Christ Carrying the Cross at Fenway Court', in The Burlington Magazine, April 1930, p. 197 (as said to be a period version of the panel in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston);
P. Zampetti, Giorgione e i Giorgioneschi, Venice 1955, exh. cat., pp. 92–93, no. 40 bis, reproduced (as circle of Bellini);
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Venetian School, 1957, vol. I, p. 33, reproduced vol. II, fig. 633 (as Bellini);
S. Bottari, Tutta la Pittura di Giovanni Bellini, Milan 1963, vol. II, under no. 100 (as a Giorgionesque version of the painting in Toledo);
R. Ghiotto and T. Pignatti, L'opera completa di Giovanni Bellini, Milan 1969, p. 103, under no. 156 (as a copy);
F. Heinemann, Giovanni Bellini e i Belliniani, Venice 1959, vol. I, pp. 45–46, under no. 151, vol. II, reproduced p. 248, fig. 261 (as a copy of the painting in Toledo, possibly by Bartolomeo Veneto);
A. Tempestini, Giovanni Bellini, catalogo completo dei dipinti, Florence 1992, p. 226, under no. 80 (as a copy of the painting in Rovigo);
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné on Giovanni Bellini by Peter Humfrey, Mauro Lucco and Giovanni C. F. Villa (as Bellini).
Eliminating narrative elements and any indication of setting, fully concentrating on the suffering Christ, who stares out at the viewer melancholically, the present work is a striking example of a new type of private devotional painting which emerged in Italy in the late fifteenth century. Closing in on Christ to such an extent that the cross itself is almost lost, and depicting in great detail His red eyes and already colourless lips, this intimate and intensely personal devotional image would provide aid to prayer and meditation, and is a type Giovanni Bellini perfected following a matrix developed in Milan at the end of the fifteenth century and which rapidly developed in Lombardy and the Veneto.
First published by Bode in 1927 as a masterpiece by Giovanni Bellini of national importance, the attribution of this panel has been a point of scholarly debate for nearly a century, but is now recognised as one of three autograph versions by Bellini dating from the end of the first decade of the fifteenth century, most likely after an earlier lost prototype by the master. As many as fifty-five versions have been recorded – the three which are largely accepted as autograph being the panel in the Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio (49.5 x 38.7 cm.);1 that in the Pinacoteca dell’Accademia dei Concordi, Rovigo (48.4 x 27 cm.);2 and now the present work. The design of the prototype is generally credited to Bellini, due in part to Marcantonio Michiel (1484–1552) recording such a work in the collection of Taddeo Contarini, Venice, in 1525 ('el quadro del Christo con la croce in spalle, insino alle spalle, fu de mano de Zuan Bellino'). Pallucchini (1959) and Bottari (1963) identify this as the Toledo panel, although this cannot be proven due to the numerous versions of the composition that exist and the lack of recorded provenance before 1939, when it was first published by G.M. Richter.3 The many contemporary versions not only demonstrate the success of this composition in the ambit of Bellini but also point to the scale and success of his workshop.
We are grateful to Professor Peter Humfrey for endorsing the attribution following first-hand inspection. The painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné on Giovanni Bellini by Peter Humfrey, Mauro Lucco and Giovanni C. F. Villa.
1 Inv. no. 1940.44; G.C.F. Villa in Giovanni Bellini, Milan 2008, exh. cat., pp. 306–7, no. 56, reproduced.
2 Inv. no. 142; G.C.F. Villa 2008, pp. 308–9, no. 57, reproduced.
3 G.M. Richter, 'Christ Carrying the Cross by Giovanni Bellini', in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 74, September 1939, pp. 94–97.