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Attributed to Bastiano Mainardi (San Gimignano 1466-1513 ?Florence)
Property of a Gentleman
Attributed to Bastiano Mainardi (San Gimignano 1466-1513 ?Florence)

The Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist

Attributed to Bastiano Mainardi (San Gimignano 1466-1513 ?Florence)
The Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist
oil on panel, tondo
30 ¼ in. (77 cm.) diameter
George Frederick Bodley, R.A. (1827-1907).
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 9 May 1934, lot 132, as 'Bastiano Mainardi' (to Coulette).
Godfrey Locker-Lampson (1875-1946), Barlborough Hall, Derbyshire, by 1937.
with F.A. Drey, London, 1945.
Sir Thomas Ralph Merton, F.R.S., K.B.E. (1888-1969), Stubbings House, Maidenhead, by 1950.
R. Langton Douglas, A few Italian pictures collected by Godfrey Locker-Lampson, London, 1937, p. 31, pl. XIII.
A. Scharf, A Catalogue of Pictures and Drawings from the Collection of Sir Thomas Merton, F.R.S. at Stubbings House, Maidenhead, London, 1950, pp. 24-25, illustrated.
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance, Florentine School, London, 1963, I, p. 127; II, pl. 979.
L. Venturini, in Maestri e botteghe: Pittura a Firenze al fine del Quattrocento, exhibition catalogue, Florence, 1992-3, pp. 150-151, under no. 5.6, fig. 8 as 'Bottega di Domenico Ghirlandaio'.

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Lot Essay

This is one of a number of variants of a composition that was evidently evolved by Domenico Ghirlandaio and executed under his direct supervision in the bottega in which his brothers Davide and Benedetto, and their brother-in-law Bastiano Mainardi worked, and where numerous younger artists, including the young Michelangelo, were trained. This example was attributed to Mainardi by Captain Langton Douglas (op. cit.), an outstanding connoisseur of his day, and by Berenson (op. cit.). Although that attribution was retained for related pictures by Zeri, it has long been recognised that the group of Madonnas to which this panel belongs are of finer calibre than Mainardi’s documented independent works, including frescoes in the church of Sant’Agostino in his native San Gimignano.

The design was Ghirlandaio’s only endeavour to compete with the successful sequence of Madonnas by Botticelli and other painters of the tondo format so favoured in Florence: and its runaway success is attested by the survival of numerous variants, the finest of which, including this example, in the view of Lisa Venturini (op. cit., under no. 5.6), were ‘eseguiti nella bottega sotto un parziale controllo del maestro’ (executed in the studio under the partial control of the master), in the late 1480s and the early 1490s. Of these, this and the versions at San Gimignano and formerly in the possession of Mrs Charles Coster outside Florence agree in showing the Madonna and Child alone with the Infant Baptist: the others, in the Louvre, Paris; Museo di Capodimonte, Naples; Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama (formerly S.H. Kress collection, inv. no. 267); Denver Art Museum; and Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, introduce three angels. Numerous other variants, some with two angels, are clearly by early imitators. The paired windows with central and lateral columns in the Louvre and related pictures perhaps derive from those of Leonardo’s early Madonna at Munich. Through that in this picture is seen a view of Venice from the Giudecca, which is also found in the Louvre, Naples and Birmingham panels, and in some of the derivations. This may suggest that at least some of the panels were intended for Venetian patrons.

The first recorded owner of the picture was George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907), the outstanding English architect of the late nineteenth century, who was responsible for numerous important churches in Britain, including Hoar Cross, which originally housed a distinguished group of Italian pictures, and prepared designs for the cathedrals of Washington and San Francisco.

Godfrey Locker-Lampson, of Barlborough Hall, Derbyshire formed a small but prestigious collection, which was catalogued for him by Langton Douglas. Sir Thomas Ralph Merton, F.R.S. who served as a trustee of the National Gallery, London, was particularly interested in the technique of Renaissance painters. Dr Scharf’s catalogue (op. cit.) records the collection, and further information about the formation of this is given in the catalogue of the sale in these Rooms, 7 December 2006, before lot 36. Pictures by Bartolomeo Montagna, Bernardino Fungai, Hans Sebald Beham, Hans Memling and attributed to Rogier van der Weyden have passed to the museums of Liverpool, York, Cambridge, Edinburgh and to the Courtauld Institute, while a drawing by Signorelli is now at Liverpool.

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