Circle of Giovanni Bellini (? 1431/6-1516 Venice)
Property of a Noble European Family
Circle of Giovanni Bellini (? 1431/6-1516 Venice)

Head of a girl

Circle of Giovanni Bellini (? 1431/6-1516 Venice)
Head of a girl
oil on panel, octagonal, with the original cream-coloured gessoed reverse
9 7/8 x 8 in. (25.1 x 20.4 cm.)
Contessa Sola-Busca, Milan, by 1909, and by inheritance to
Conti Sola-Cabiati, Milan, by 1949.
W. Suida, ‘Studien zur lombardischen Malerei des XV. Jahrhunderts’, Monatshefte für Kunstwissenschaft, 9, 1909, p. 489, fig. 14 as ‘Butinone’.
L. Coletti, Cima da Conegliano, Venice, 1959,p. 100, as ‘più cimesca che belliniana’.
F. Heinemann, Giovanni Bellini e i Belliniani, Venice, 1962-1991, I p. 78, no. 289b; II, fig. 291, as after Bellini.
L. Menegazzi, Cima da Conegliano, Treviso, 1981, p. 143, as erroneously attributed to Cima.
M. Lucco, La pittura nel Veneto, Il Cinquecento,I, Milan, 1996, ed. M. Lucco, I, pp. 20, 25 and 101, fig. 16, as ‘Gerolamo da Santacroce’.
Venice, Palazzo Ducale, Giovanni Bellini, 12 June-5 October 1949, no. 58, as 'Bellini'.

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Abbie Barker
Abbie Barker

Lot Essay

This panel was attributed to Bellini himself by Roberto Longhi, but has been published as an early work of circa 1504-5 by Girolamo da Santacroce by Mauro Lucco. Professor Peter Humphrey endorses this attribution. Frontal images are found throughout Bellini’s career, from the Saint Lawrence in one of the four Caritá altarpieces (Venice, Gallerie dell’Accademia) onwards, and others have felt that a date of before 1500 is likely. Heinemann records two other panels of the subject, but had seen neither these nor the panel under discussion.

The panel, which is painted on the reverse, is unevenly cut and unusually thin, which suggests that this slid into some sort of case or frame, although any framing must have been very narrow to judge from the evidence of candle burns on both sides.

Although Heinemann describes the hypothetically lost prototype as a portrait, this is, as Dr Jennifer Fletcher has kindly confirmed, altogether unlikely to have been the case. As she notes, the pearls symbolise chastity, which implies that although the panel was clearly intended for intimate inspection this was not erotic in conception. The crispness of execution exemplified for example in the eyes and eyelashes recalls the work of such associates of Bellini and Cima, among others.

We are grateful to Jaynie Anderson, Jennifer Fletcher, Peter Humphrey and others for their view on this picture, in some cases on the basis of images.

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