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Piero di Cosimo (?Florence 1461/2-1521)

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt

Piero di Cosimo (?Florence 1461/2-1521)
The Rest on the Flight into Egypt
inscribed 'A Messer Giorgio Vasari Iou Fiorenza' (on the reverse)
oil on panel, tondo
27 7/8 in. (70.8 cm.) diam.
J. Ley Jackson; Christie's, London, 9-10 February 1877, lot 159, as 'Luini' (4gns. to Flack).
Edouard Aynard, Lyon; sale, Paris, 1 December 1913, lot 61.
Dr Osvald Sirèn, Stockholm.
Walter S. M. Burns, North Mymms Park, Hertfordshire, and by descent to General Sir George Burns; Christie's, London, 29 June 1979, lot 50, as 'Attributed to Piero di Cosimo' (£9,500).
B. Berenson, Florentine Painters of the Renaissance, London and New York, 1909, (3rd ed.), p. 165.
A. Venturi, Storia dell'Arte Italiana, VII/I, Milan, 1911, p. 173. J.A. Crowe and G. B. Cavalcaselle, A History of Painting in Italy, ed. T. Borenius, VI, London, 1914, p. 48.
T. Borenius, 'Two Tondos by Piero di Cosimo in Sweden', The Burlington Magazine, XXXVI, March, 1920, p. 103, pl. 1.
R. van Marle, The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting, XIII, The Hague, 1931, pp. 356 and 380, as 'Piero di Cosimo'.
P. Morselli, 'Piero di Cosimo; Saggio di un Catalogo delle Opera', L'Arte, XXIII, p. 84 (under Stockholm), p. 89 (under Aynard).
M. Bacci, Piero di Cosimo, Milan, 1966, p. 60, as 'opera incerta'. M. Bacci, L'Opera Completa di Piero di Cosimo, Milan, 1976, no. 72. E. Capretti, Piero di Cosimo, Catalogo Completo, Florence, 1996, p. 143, no. A2 (under 'opere derivate, di attribuzione incerta').
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Lot Essay

Piero di Cosimo was in some ways the most individual, not to say eccentric, of the major Florentine masters of the late quattrocento. This tondo has long been known, but its place in the artist's oeuvre has been the subject of some discussion, partly because it was badly restored, evidently prior to its initial publication in 1909.

This picture was first attributed to Piero di Cosimo by Berenson (1909), and accepted by Venturi (1911); subsequently, Borenius (1920) put forward the suggestion that the artist must have been familiar with a similar work by Signorelli. Bacci (1976) erroneously stated that Everett Fahy considered a picture in Edinburgh to be the original; in fact Fahy was relating another tondo in Stockholm (National Museum, no. 1738) to that in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, no. 645, both works being close in style to Raffaello Botticini. The late Federico Zeri, in a letter of 3 May 1990 to the present owner, endorsed the attribution to Piero, which was confirmed on inspection of the picture in 2000 by Everett Fahy, and subsequently by E. Capretti (letter of 2004). She referred to the picture's 'originalità compositiva' and compares the picture with other autograph works: the tondo at Strasbourg - the Child in which is close to the Infant Baptist in the present work; the Horne Foundation Saint Jerome, in which there are comparable rocks; and the Wandsworth Athenaeum Finding of Vulcan, in which there is a parallel for the profile of the Virgin. The most original element of the design is the landscape, characterised as 'magnificent' by Zeri. The tondo was a quintessentially Florentine format and the unusual centrifugal dynamism of the design reflects the artist's aspiration to develop a new and original compositional solution.

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