Antonio del Ceraiolo (active Florence 1500-1550)
Antonio del Ceraiolo (active Florence 1500-1550)

The Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist

Antonio del Ceraiolo (active Florence 1500-1550)
The Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist
oil and tempera on panel
43 7/8 x 35 in. (111.4 x 88.9 cm.)
with E. & A. Silberman Galleries, New York, by 1944.
Private collection, New York.
F. Zeri, 'Antonio del Ceraiolo', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 70, 1967, pp. 150 and 152, fig. 10.
B. B. Fredericksen and F. Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North America, Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 11 and 554.
E.M. Zafran, European Art in the High Museum, Atlanta, 1984, pp. 13 and 42, illustrated, as 'Antonio del Ceraiolo'.
Special notice
This lot is exempt from Sales Tax.
Sale room notice
We are grateful to Mr. Everett Fahy for pointing out that the present work has been attributed to Michele Tosini (Florence 1503-1577) by Laura Pagnotta in 'Per Michele di Ridolfo giovane', Bollettino d'arte, 85, no. 113, July-September 2000, p. 101, fig. 7. Pagnotta compares the present work to the Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist which she also attributes to Tosini in Madrid, Lazaro collection (ibid., no. 8).

Lot Essay

Antonio del Ceraiolo was active in Florence circa 1520-1538. Little is known of his life but he did study under Lorenzo di Credi and Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio, both extremely successful and well-respected painters in the first half of the cinquecento.

The Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist is the type of subject matter typically in demand in Florence at the time. Indeed the memory of Fra Girolamo's Savonarola's apocalyptic utterances, his bonfires of vanities and his stringent guidelines for artists were still fresh in the public's memory and a relatively demure style of painting religious figures, especially female ones, was au goût du jour.

Accordingly, the present composition, most probably commissioned for private devotional use or maybe for a chapel in a church, follows certain tenets in terms of a very traditional rendering of the subject as Mater Amabilis, with an emphasis of mother-child relationship. The Virgin wears a thin veil as a sign of modesty, a blue cloak, the color symbolic of heaven and a reminder of her role as the Queen of Heaven, and a red habit. Sitting on her lap the Christ child embraces the infant Saint John, who was patron saint of Florence - although there is no biblical basis for this scene it occurs frequently during the Italian Renaissance. The Virgin tenderly rests her left hand on her Son's ankle as She looks engagingly at the viewer, emphasizing Her role as Mother of Jesus and hence Mother of the brethen. Through the window behind the figures one can see a utopian landscape - set off against blue mountains, a medieval castle surrounded by greenery, and a traveler on horseback riding along the lake in front of it. One tree stands unnaturally tall and is very reminiscent in style of Pietro Perugino, as are the jewel-like colors and the pale carnations of the figures, Ceraiolo would indeed have been familiar with Perugino's work. Very similar compositions of the same subject with similar dimensions are in the collections of the Cincinnati Art Museum and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

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