The Collection of Hester Diamond Part I

The Collection of Hester Diamond Part I

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 109. The Circumcision             .

Giovanni Battista Benvenuti, called Ortolano

The Circumcision

Auction Closed

January 29, 04:53 PM GMT


150,000 - 200,000 USD

Lot Details


Giovanni Battista Benvenuti, called Ortolano

Ferrara active circa 1500 - 1525

The Circumcision

stamped on reverse: CGBC; inscribed with initials on the reverse: S.F.

oil on panel

14 ⅝ by 18 ½ in.; 37 by 47 cm.

Please note that the expanded provenance, cataloguing, and literature for this lot is available in the online catalogue.

Conte, later Marchese, Giovanni Battista Costabili Containi, Ferrara (1756-1841);

Thence by descent to his nephew, Marchese Giovanni Battista Costabili Containi (died 1882);

His deceased sale ("Catalogue de Tableaux formant La Galerie de Mr. le Marquis Costabili de Ferrare"), Milan, Sambon, 27-29 April 1885, lot 79 (as Unknown Ferrarese or Bolognese School, 16th century, and with initials S.F. on the reverse);

With Colnaghi, London, 1972;

Private collection, Europe, by 1979;

With Matthiesen Fine Art Ltd;

From whom acquired, 1989.

E. Mattalliano, in From Borso to Cesare d'Este: The School of Ferrara, exhibition catalogue, 1984, p. 84, cat. no. 32 (as dated circa 1507-1508, and with incorrect provenance);

A. Ballarin, Dosso Dossi, Cittadella 1994-1995, vol. I, pp. 263-264, cat. no. 208, reproduced in color plate LII, vol. II, reproduced in black and white plate 152 (as dated circa 1506);

D. Trevisani, "Un ritratto ideale di Ovidio: note sull'avvio dell'Ortolano," in Federico Zeri: lavori in corso, A. Bacchi, D. Benati, A. De Marchi, A. Galli, and M. Natale (eds.), pp. 441-455, in particular pp. 447-448, reproduced fig. 9.

This vibrant and detailed Circumcision is an early work by the Ferrarese artist Giovanni Battista Benvenuti, known as Ortolano, whose nickname derives from his father’s profession as a gardener. This panel is dated by Ballarin to circa 1506, possibly after a trip to Venice with Garofalo (lot 110), a fellow artist from Ferrara who, along with Dosso Dossi, influenced Ortolano’s works of this period. Ortolano’s distinct early style is visible here in the folds of the costumes, the neat tiles of the foreground, and the seated music maker and animal in the background. Another version of this composition which is recorded in the Uffizi Gallery is considered by Ballarin to be an old copy after the present work.1

More recently, Davide Trevisani, to whom we are grateful, has proposed that the present panel should be dated after 1509, for Ortolano has borrowed his distant landscape from an engraving of the Astrologo made by Giulio Campagnola in that year. As such, Trevisani rightly identifies this panel as an important chronological anchor in Ortolano’s youthful career, particularly as the young artist shifts to a more Venetian phase.  

Note on the provenance:

This panel was once in the famed Costabili collection in Ferrara, as confirmed by the Costabili Collection brand "CGBC" on the reverse of the panel.  This collection was formed by Giovanni Battista Costabili Containi (1756-1841) in the latter part of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries.  The collection, some 600 paintings, as well as an extraordinary library of manuscripts and incunabula, was housed in the Costabili Palace on via Volapaletto, originally built by the Counts Bevilacqua Aldobrandini in 1430.2 Costabili’s nephew inherited the collection and kept it intact, though he began to sell paintings in the late 1850s.  Following the younger Costabili’s death, the remainder of the collection, including this panel, was sold at auction in Milan in 1885. 

1.  Inv. Depositi, no. 250. Oil on panel, 36 by 35 cm. See Fondazione Zeri Archive, no. 40371. See Ballarin 1994-1995.

2. J. Anderson, "The Rediscovery of Ferrarese Renaissance Painting in the Risorgimento," in The Burlington Magazine, 135, August 1993, pp. 540, 542.