• Old Master & 19th Century Pain auction at Christies

    Sale 2282

    Old Master & 19th Century Paintings, Drawings, & Watercolors

    27 January 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 1

    Pseudo-Pier Francesco Fiorentino (active Florence, second half of the 15th century)

    The Madonna and Child with a goldfinch

    Price Realised  

    Pseudo-Pier Francesco Fiorentino (active Florence, second half of the 15th century)
    The Madonna and Child with a goldfinch
    tempera and oil with gold on panel
    25¼ x 18 3/8 in. (64.2 x 46.7 cm.)


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    This remarkably well-preserved panel has been ascribed to the Pseudo-Pier Francesco Fiorentino, a name coined by Berenson in 1932 (Italian Pictures of the Renaissance, p. 450) to describe an artist whose work was previously confused with that of Pier Francesco Fiorentino, a follower of Benozzo Gozzoli and Neri di Bicci. The numerous works attributed to this anonymous master do not in fact resemble Pier Francesco's oeuvre and are instead well-crafted adaptations of paintings by Pesellino and Filippo Lippi. A few are copies of whole compositions, such as the Virgin Adoring the Christ Child in the chapel of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, Florence, which replaced Lippi's original. The Pseudo-Pier Francesco works derived from Lippi's designs (all from paintings dating from the 1450s) often combine motifs from more than one composition. Pesellino's Madonnas (e.g. Ohio, Toledo Museum of Art) were another frequent resource. Works by Pseudo-Pier Francesco are all characterised by a lavish, archaic use of gold leaf, and many include elaborate rose-hedge backgrounds, probably derived from Domenico Veneziano.

    Zeri was the first to suggest that this body of works was not produced by one painter but rather by a workshop (F. Zeri, 'Un riflesso di Antonello da Messina a Firenze', Paragone, ix, 99, 1958, pp. 16-21). He published a Virgin and Child (on the art market, Italy), in which the figure of the Virgin is taken from Antonello da Messina's Virgin Annunciate (Munich, Alte Pinakothek). Zeri categorized the painters of these mass-produced works more accurately than Berenson identifying them as 'The Lippi-Pesellino Imitators'.

    The present work is derived from Pesselino's Madonna and Child with a Swallow, now in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Musuem, Boston. Apart from substituting the architectural background of that work for one made up of climbing red and white roses, the artist of the present work has chosen to depict the Christ Child holding a goldfinch, rather than a swallow, and has added a parapet in the foreground, on which appears another goldfinch and a pomegranate, both symbols of the Resurrection.

    The second recorded owner of the present work, Adolphe Stoclet (1871-1949), was a Belgian industrialist who commissioned the architect Josef Hoffmann to build Palais Stoclet in Brussels between 1907-11, with the interiors designed by Gustav Klimt and Fernand Knopff. His wife, Suzanne, was a niece of the painter Alfred Stevens. Madame Stoclet apparently coordinated the colors of the flowers in the vases with the ties Stoclet wore. Amongst the early Italian works collected by the Stoclets was Duccio's Madonna and Child, which was sold privately through Christie's in 2004 to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

    Provenance

    with Messrs. Dowdeswell, London.
    Adolphe Stoclet, Brussels, and by descent; Sotheby's, London, 11 July 1979, lot 19.
    British Rail Pension Fund collection; Sotheby's, London, 3 July 1996, lot 73 (£166,500 to William and Bernadette Berger).


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property Formerly in the Collection of William and Bernadette Berger


    Literature

    B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance, Oxford, 1932, p. 450.
    B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Florentine School, London, 1963, I, p. 171; II, p. 7.
    P. Hendy, European and American Paintings in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, 1974, p. 180, under Pesellino's Madonna and Child as 'version no. 4'.
    P. Taylor, Dutch Flower Painting, exhibition catalogue, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, 1996, p. 10, fig. 3.


    Exhibited

    Brussels, Musée royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Spring 1922.
    Kent, Leeds Castle, on loan, 1980-1990.