PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION
Sir Francis Cook, 1st Bt, Visconde de Monserrate (1817–1901), Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey (no. 32);
By descent to his son Sir Frederick Cook, 2nd Bt (1844–1920), Doughty House;
By descent to his son Sir Herbert Cook, 3rd Bt (1868–1939), Doughty House;
By descent to his son Sir Francis Ferdinand Maurice Cook, 4th Bt (1907–78), until probably the mid-1950s;
Munich art market;
Acquired by the father of the present owner by 1958;
Thence by descent.
Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie, Meisterweke aus badenwürttembergischen Privatbesitz, 9 October 1958 – 10 January 1959, no. 174, reproduced.
H. Cook (ed.), A Catalogue of the Paintings at Doughty House, Richmond, and Elsewhere in the Collection of Sir Frederick Cook, Bt., 3 vols; T. Borenius, Italian Schools, vol. I, London 1913, p. 39, no. 32 (as hanging in the Entrance Lobby to the Long Gallery; as school of Andrea del Sarto, one of several versions);
M.W. Brockwell, Abridged Catalogue of the Pictures at Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey, in the Collection of Sir Herbert Cook, Bart, London 1932, p. 84, no. 32 (as hanging in the Billiard Room; as Andrrea del Sarto, an excellent copy of an apparently 'lost' original);
S.J. Freedberg, Andrea del Sarto, Catalogue Raisonné, Cambridge, Mass., 1963, pp. 70–71 (listed twice under copies and derivations, firstly under Kreuzlingen as considerably abraded; by a skilled painter of the midsixteenth century; and secondly under Richmond without comment on authorship);
J. Shearman, Andrea del Sarto, Oxford 1965, vol. II, p. 235, no.45(i) (listed under copies, as an early, perhaps studio, replica, in poor condition).
IRR examination of the underdrawing for this painting indicates that mechanical traced lines were used to position the heads, to determine facial features and to mark out the extent of limbs and drapery folds (fig. 2). This suggests the use of a transfer technique like the calco method.3 The lines are generally followed at the painting stage, except in the positioning of Saint John’s right thumb and a possible change to the Christ Child’s right eye. The attribute of the young Baptist – the reed cross behind him – seems to have been supplemented by a scroll, which was later suppressed. The scroll, not present in the Borghese Madonna, is the only element not found in the prototype. Overall there are few adjustments to the composition as it was painted, in contrast with the Borghese panel, which shows pentimenti in the contours and in the drapery, particularly in the Madonna’s hip area, as well as in Christ's left leg. Unfortunately the Borghese panel has not undergone technical imaging so its underdrawing cannot be compared.
One interesting and understudied aspect of this painting is the presence of drawings on the back of the panel. Not easy to decipher, they include a figure study in contrapposto at the upper left; the mapping out of a triangular motif towards the upper centre; sketches for what may be architectural elements; and more interestingly, at the lower left just above the groove in the panel, a study of the head, arms and hands of a figure bent forward as if leaning over a parapet (fig. 3). We are grateful to Dr Nicholas Penny for suggesting that the drawing of the hands is reminiscent of Rosso Fiorentino's style. John Shearman is the first in the literature to note drawings on the reverse, albeit without giving any detail; his comment, ‘there are said to be drawings on the back of the panel’, indicates he had not studied the back and perhaps only knew the work from a photograph.4
Shearman in his catalogue records twelve painted copies of the Borghese Madonna. Of these, only one other close-to-full-size version is with monogram.5 This Madonna and Child with Saint John is listed first and is described as an early, perhaps studio, replica, in poor condition. Although the condition of the paint surface is somewhat uneven, probably caused by bubbles in the gesso, a significant factor in our assessment of the picture is its different level of finish compared to the Borghese Madonna. The texture of the paint may also be explained in part by a difference in the preparation used in the underpainting and the coloration overall also differs.6 In the Fototeca Zeri, the Madonna and Child with Saint John is listed as ‘workshop (?) of Andrea del Sarto’ and assigned a date of about c. 1517–25. Sydney J. Freedberg, who lists the same painting twice under ‘copies and derivations’, not recognising it is one and the same painting, considers it an abraded mid-sixteenth-century copy. While it is undoubtedly the case that this painting takes its cue from the Borghese panel, there remains the possibility that the compositions were worked on side-by-side, and that a talented member of del Sarto’s studio executed this panel at the elbow of the much admired Florentine master.
We are grateful to John Somerville, the Cook Collection Archivist, for his help with establishing the painting’s history at Doughty House.
1 No. 334; oil on panel, 154 x 101 cm. Reproduced in Shearman 1965, pl. 51.a, where he dates it to about 1516.
2 L. Keith, 'Andrea del Sarto's The Virgin and Child with Saint Elizabeth and Saint John the Baptist: Technique and Critical Reputation', National Gallery Technical Bulletin, vol. 22, 2001, pp. 42–53.
3 J. Brooks with D. Allen and X.F. Salomon, Andrea del Sarto: The Renaissance Workshop in Action, exh. cat., Los Angeles 2015.
4 Shearman 1965, vol. II, p. 235.
5 Shearman 1965, vol. II, p. 235, under ‘Copies’, no. 45 (vi) Pinacoteca, Ancona, no. 21, 150 x 104 cm.
6 A copy of the report by Tager Stonor Richardson, 5 February 2018, is available on request from the department.
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