• Old Masters auction at Christies

    Sale 12109

    Old Masters

    26 October 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 58

    Marco Zoppo (Cento ?1432-?1478 Venice)

    Scenes from the Life of Susannah: Susannah and the Elders; and Susannah Brought to Justice

    Estimate

    Marco Zoppo (Cento ?1432-?1478 Venice)
    Scenes from the Life of Susannah: Susannah and the Elders; and Susannah Brought to Justice
    tempera on panel, transferred to canvas, transferred to panel
    23 1/8 x 67 5/8 in. (58.8 x 171.8 cm.)


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    Once belonging to Jacques Goudstikker, the preeminent dealer and collector of Old Master paintings in the Netherlands before the Second World War and restituted to his heirs in 2006, the present panel depicts scenes from the Old Testament tale of Susannah. On the left, Susannah quarrels with the elders, who assert that they will claim to have observed a tryst between her and a young man in the garden if she does not agree to submit to their demands. In the central episode, Susannah is arrested and sentenced to death for her alleged promiscuity. The scene is interrupted by Daniel, who appears at far right holding a shield, insisting that the elders be interrogated before Susannah is wrongly put to death.

    The subject and attribution of the painting have long been mysteries. The work was originally believed to be the front panel of a cassone, or marriage chest, depicting the encounter of the Emperor Trajan and the widow, an episode made famous by Dante in Purgatorio X and one of the most popular subjects of cassone panels in northern Italy during this period. However, the figural group that has led some to suggest such a reading -- the woman accompanied by a child kneeling before a knight on horseback -- has recently been recognized as an early 20th-century intervention (Mattia Vinco, written communication, 31 May 2012). The work has also recently been reclassified as a spalliera, a wall panel typically installed above a piece of furniture, due to its height, which is too tall for a 15th century cassone.

    The first person to correctly identify the iconography of the present panel was Bernard Berenson, who published it as ‘Susanna e i vecchioni; Giudizio di Susanna’. Berenson was also the first to reject the panel’s traditional attribution to Francesco Cossa and to note a stylistic connection to Marco Zoppo. Mattia Vinco, who endorses the present attribution, dates our panel to the late 1460s and suggests it was painted either at the end of the artist’s time in Bologna or at the beginning of his Venetian period. The existence of another panel of similar dimensions (Stoning of the Elders Who Wanted to Seduce Susannah; location unknown, formerly Galleria Luigi Bellini, Florence) and two additional fragments (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, inv. M 81.259.1; and private collection, Florence), all of which Vinco considers attributable to Zoppo, form the stylistic basis of the attribution. These four works are now thought to have been part of a single commission for a cycle of spalliere depicting the justice of King David and King Salomon, possibly for use in a civic context, such as a sala di Giustizia.

    Provenance

    with Antonio Salvadori, Venice, 1915-1923.
    Margrave Pallavicini collection, Schloss Stübichhofen, Styria; Knight, Frank and Rutley, London, 27 May 1927, lot 5, as 'Francesco Cossa of Ferrara', c. 1456.
    van Moppes collection, Paris, 1932.
    with Jacques Goudstikker, Amsterdam.
    Looted by the Nazi authorities, July 1940.
    Recovered by the Allies, 1945.
    in the custody of the Dutch Government.
    Restituted in February 2006 to the heir of Jacques Goudstikker; Christie's, New York, 19 April 2007, lot 2, as 'Circle of Francesco del Cossa', where acquired by the present owner.


    Literature

    P. Schubring, Cassoni, Truhen und Truhenbilder der italienischen Fru¨hrenaissance: Ein Beitrag zur Profanmalerei im Quattrocento, Leipzig. 1915 , pp. 353-354, no. 567, pl. CXXV, as school of Francesco del Cossa, The Justice of Trajan.
    Catalogue des Nouvelles Acquisitions de la Collection Goudstikker, exhibition catalogue, Amsterdam, 1927, 33, no. 21, as 'Francesco del Cossa (?)'.
    F. Schmidt-Degener, Italiaansche Kunst in Nederlandsch Bezit, exhibition catalogue, Amsterdam, 1934, p. 60, no. 90, as Studio of Francesco del Cossa, The Justice of Trajan.
    R. Longhi, 'Ampliamenti nell’Officina ferrarese', La Critica d’arte, IV, 1940 [ed. cit. Edizione delle opere complete: V: Officina ferrarese, Florence, 1956], pp. 123-171 and 180, as Francesco del Cossa, The Justice of Trajan.
    A.M. Cetto, 'Der Berner Traian-und Herkinbald-Teppich', Jahrbuch des Bernischen Historischen Museums, XLIII-XLIV, 1963-1964, p. 188, no. T 5/4, as Follower of Francesco del Cossa working in Ferrara in 1480.
    B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools, London, 1968 , I, p. 132; II, fig. 739, as Ferrarese school, before 1510, close to Marco Zoppo, Susannah and the Elders; The Judgement of Susannah.
    C. Wright, Paintings in Dutch Museums: An Index of Oil Paintings in Public Collections in the Netherlands by Artists born before 1870, London, 1980 , p. 84, as Francesco del Cossa, The Justice of Trajan.
    C.E. de Jong-Janssen, Catalogue of the Italian Paintings in the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, 1995 , p. 157, fig. 78, as 'Ferrara', Susannah and the Elders, c. 1500.
    S. Settis, 'Due cassoni estensi', I Tatti studies: Essays in the Renaissance, VI, 1995, pp. 31, 47 and 82 , note. 44, fig. 22, as attributed to Francesco del Cossa, The Justice of Trajan.


    Exhibited

    Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Italiaansche Kunst in Nederlandsch bezit, 1 July-1 October 1934.
    Maastricht, Bonnefantenmuseum, on loan, 1989-2006.