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28

Attributed to Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Botticelli, and Studio

The Last Communion of Saint Jerome

Property from a Distinguished Private Collection

Attributed to Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Botticelli, and Studio

Attributed to Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Botticelli, and Studio

The Last Communion of Saint Jerome

The Last Communion of Saint Jerome

Property from a Distinguished Private Collection

Attributed to Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi, called Botticelli, and Studio

Florence 1445 - 1510

The Last Communion of Saint Jerome


oil on panel

panel: 14 ⅛ by 10 ½ in.; 36 by 26.5 cm.

framed: 20 ½ by 16 ½ in.; 52.1 by 41.9 cm. 

The following condition report has been provided by Matt Hayes of Pietro Edwards Society of Art Conservation, 119 West 23rd Street, Suite 400, New York, NY 10011, 212-457-8956, mh@edwards-society.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. The painting is remarkably well preserved and presents itself beautifully. The paint film is generally in very good condition. There are a number of old vertical cracks following the wood grain, which slightly interrupt the planarity of the surface. A limited number of losses are evident, most retouched with skillful fine hatching: around the cracks, in the saint's hat, surrounding the leftmost candle, in the face of the acolyte more in the background, in the robe of the rightmost monk. Occasionally very slight wear can be observed, as to the edges of the craquelure in the hermit's cell and the shadows of the monk offering the eucharist's feet. A few small losses are not retouched; one, to the more distant acolyte's nose (1x2 mm), is more recent. The varnish is clear and generally even and glossy, with a few scuffs. Fine dark accretions speckle the paint of the foreground. The panel preserves its original thickness and original gesso coating on the reverse. The panel is in plane. There is a slight amount of old woodworm activity, evidenced by exit holes in the upper register; this is no longer active. Some filling and retouching on the reverse has been done. The parcel-gilt walnut frame is in good condition, with some wear to the gilding.


The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.

Sir William Neville Abdy, Bt., by 1874;
His sale, London, Christie's, 5 May 1911 (as school of Botticelli);
There acquired by Robert Benson (1850-1929) and Evelyn Benson, London and Buckhurst Park (inv. no. 25 on reverse of the panel);
From whom probably acquired by Duveen, by circa 1927;
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 25 April 2001, lot 106 (as Workshop of Botticelli);
There acquired by the present collector.
H. Ulmann, Sandro Botticelli, Munich 1893, p. 72 (as a replica);
H.P. Horne, Alessandro Filipepi commonly called Sandro Botticelli, London 1908, vol. I, p. 174 (as a period copy);
R.L. Douglas, in J.A. Crowe and G.B. Cavalcaselle, A History of Painting in Italy: Umbria, Florence and Siena from the Second to the Sixteenth Century, vol. IV, London 1911, p. 270, note 4;
Catalogue of Italian Pictures at 16, South Street, Park Lane, London and Buckhurst in Sussex collected by Robert and Evelyn Benson, London 1914, pp. 47-48, no. 25 (as Sandro Botticelli);
W. van Bode, Sandro Botticelli, Berlin 1921 p. 158 (as a period copy);
Y. Yashiro, Sandro Botticelli, London 1925, vol. 1, p. 210 (as the best of the period copies known);
R. van Marle, The Italian Schools of Paintings, vol. XII, The Hague 1931, p. 160;
R. W. Lightbown, Sandro Botticelli, London 1978, vol. II, p. 87 (as a contemporary replica);
F. Zeri and E. Gardner, Italian Paintings, A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Florentine School, New York 1971, p. 159 (as one of 'a number of more or less contemporary copies and versions');
G. Mandel, L'opera completa del Botticelli, Milan 1978, p. 104, under cat. no. 122;
N. Pons, Botticelli: Catalogo completo, Milan 1989, p. 86, under cat. no. 118 (as a contemporary replica);
C. Caneva, Botticelli: Catalogo Completo dei Dipinti, Florence 1990, p. 122, under cat. no. 64 (as a contemporary replica);
A.F. Tempesti. The Robert Lehman Collection. Vol. 5, Italian Fifteenth- to Seventeenth-Century Drawings. New York 1991, pp. 232, note 1;
J. Burke, Changing Patrons: Social Identity and the Visual Arts in Renaissance Florence, University Park, PA, 2004, p. 254, n. 112;
A. Cecchi in Filippino Lippi e Sandro Botticelli nella Firenze del ’400, exh. cat., Rome 2011, p. 206.

This small devotional panel of The Last Sacrament of Saint Jerome preserves one of the most beautiful and spiritual images made popular by Sandro Botticelli and his workshop in the 1490s. Several contemporary versions are known of this composition, the prime of which is today in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (inv. no. 14.462). The closeness between the present panel and the prime is undeniable, and Robert Benson, a former owner of this painting, rightly noted the remarkable uniformity in composition between the two works in his 1914 collection catalogue, writing "The differences between the two are millimetric, e.g., the knobs on the window frames, the candlestick where it crosses the line of the back of the priest, and the white sleeve of this same priest."


Also preserved in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a contemporary workshop drawing of the central figures of this composition, likely used by Botticelli as a record for replicas (inv. no. 1975.1.290).1 In addition to the two examples already discussed here, another is recorded in a private collection in Genoa and another formerly in the Kay Collection in London. It is believed that the example in the Metropolitan Museum of Art originally formed part of the collection of the wool merchant and patron Francesco del Pugliese, a devoutly religious man and staunch supporter of Savonarola and an enemy of the Medici,2 while a panel of the Communion of Saint Jerome was recorded as one of six small paintings in the camera of Lorenzo the Magnificent, as described in his 1492 inventory. While it is uncertain if that work was by Botticelli, what is made certain by this inventory is that such a subject would have already been popular during Lorenzo the Magnificent's lifetime.  


The episode illustrated here may have arisen from the text of Devoto Transito del Glorioso Sancto Hieronymo, an Italian translation of a letter circulating in the 1490s in Florence that recorded the last moments of Saint Jerome's life. The letter is said to have been sent in 420 AD to Pope Damasus and is recorded in an Epistle by Eusebius of Caesarea. The elderly Saint Jerome is shown kneeling within the stark interior of a small hut made of straw. He is supported and surrounded by his fellow brethren as he struggles to receive communion for the last time. Though the setting behind him is evocative of an altarpiece, he kneels only in front of his simple bed on some white vestments, where he was likely lying before receiving the sacrament. Above the bed is a wall adorned with palm fronds, a crucifix, olive branches and his signature red cardinal's hat.  


1. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/459478 

2. It is recorded in his 1502 inventory as “unaltro Quadro dipintouj eltransito di sa[n] Girolamo dimano didecto Sandro” (another work in which it is shown the death of Saint Jerome by the hand of Sandro [Botticelli]”. Will of Francesco del Pugliese. February 28, 1502, published in H. Horne, “Botticelli’s Last Communion of S. Jerome,” in The Burlington Magazine, November 1915, vol. 28, pp. 44-46.

3. Cecci 2011, p. 206.