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    Sale 2135

    Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture

    28 January 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 8

    Studio of Alessandro Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli Florence 1444/45-1510

    The Madonna and Child with two angels

    Price Realised  

    Studio of Alessandro Filipepi, called Sandro Botticelli Florence 1444/45-1510
    The Madonna and Child with two angels
    tempera and oil on panel, circular
    33 in. 83.8 cm. diameter
    WOOD PRINCE COLLECTION


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    This tondo boasts a distinguished provenance leading up to its purchase by Eleanor Wood Prince's parents, Mr. and Mrs. E.W. Edwards. The first recorded owner of the painting was George Salting (1835-1909), an Australian-born businessman who made his fortune in the import-export business. Upon his father's death in 1865, Salting came into a considerable inheritance, and turned with immediate enthusiasm to collecting. His first area of interest was Chinese porcelain, followed by Renaissance bronzes, majolica, furniture, and other classes of decorative arts. Later in life he became an ardent collector of old master paintings, drawings, and prints. Salting died in 1909 aged 74 without issue, leaving his collection to the Nation; his immense bequest included such masterpieces as Vermeer's A young woman seated at a virginal (National Gallery, London) and Rembrandt's red-chalk sketch of Two women teaching a child to walk (British Museum, London).

    In 1885 Salting sold the Wood Prince tondo to another avid collector of old masters, Robert Henry (Robin) Benson (1850-1929). Robin and his wife Evelyn (1856-1943) - daughter of another devoted patron of the arts, Robert Stayner Holford MP - together amassed an outstanding collection of Italian fourteenth and fifteenth century paintings. Counted among their holdings were four panels by Duccio and masterpieces by Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, Veronese, and Botticelli. In 1927, the sudden need for funds to invest in his business following the death of his partner forced Benson to sell his collection in its entirety to the art dealer Joseph Duveen, for the sum of $4 million. This tondo, included in that remarkable transaction, subsequently passed through the hands of several dealers before its acquisition by Mr. and Mrs. Edwards.

    This tondo shares a number of compositional and stylistic traits with other works by Botticelli and by his large and prolific studio. The device of the Madonna's fingers disappearing into the folds of her blue robe reappears frequently; compare, for instance, La Primavera (Uffizi, Florence) and The Last Communion of Saint Jerome (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). The pink and blue striped veil wrapped loosely around her hair, perhaps a studio prop, features in the Madonna della Melagrana (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence) as well as in the Madonna del Magnificat (Uffizi, Florence). This painting is in many ways close to a tondo from Botticelli's workshop, the Virgin and Child with Six Angels and the Baptist in the Galleria Borghese, Rome: the gesture of blessing made by Christ; the costume of the young Baptist; the frame-like device of the architecture behind the Madonna; and the vases of pink roses on the windowsill are all remarkably similar.

    Provenance

    George Salting, London, circa 1875, from whom purchased in 1885 by Robert and Evelyn Benson, London or Sussex.
    with Duveen, London, 1927.
    Baron Michele Lazzaroni, Rome, circa 1929.
    with John Levy Galleries, New York, 1930, from where purchased by
    Mr. E.W. Edwards, Cincinnati, thence by descent to his daughter
    Eleanor Wood Prince, Chicago.


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Collection of William and Eleanor Wood Prince, Chicago, Illinois


    Literature

    H. Ulmann, Sandro Botticelli, Munich, 1893, pp. 123, 152.
    G.N. Plunkett, Sandro Botticelli, London, 1900, p. 101.
    A. Venturi, Storia dell'arte italiana, Milan, 1911, VII/I, p. 642; 1925, p. 118.
    R. Benson, Catalogue of Italian pictures at 16, South Street, Park Lane, London and Buckhurst in Sussex; collected by Robert and Evelyn Benson, London, 1914, p. 49, no. 26, as 'School of Botticelli'.
    G. Fiocco, 'A newly discovered tondo by Botticelli', Burlington Magazine, LVIII, October 1930, pp. 153-54.
    'Masterpiece is Discovered', The Cincinnati Enquirer, 23 October 1930.
    G. van Marle en Bignell, Oude Schilderijen, Gravenhage, 1931, p. 233.
    R. Salvini, Tutta la pittura del Botticelli, Milan, 1958, II, p. 73.
    R. Lightbown, Sandro Botticelli, Complete Catalogue, Berkeley, 1978, II, p. 133, no. C31, as 'Studio of Sandro Botticelli'.