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Post Lot Text
THE MADONNA AND CHILD WITH THE INFANT SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST AND JOSEPH, OIL ON PANEL, BY RIDOLFO GHIRLANDAIO
Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio is the son of the Florentine painter Domenico del Ghirlandaio (1447- 1497) who trained, amongst others, Michelangelo.
Ridolfo was only ten when his father died and was then sent for his apprenticeship to his uncle, David del Ghirlandaio as well as to Fra Bartolomeo. This Florentine family of artists has remained famous since a great number of artists developed their art in the workshops of Domenico, David and Ridolfo.
Ridolfo is often cited in relation to his friendship with his contemporary, Raphael, who put him in charge of finishing one of his Madonna's before leaving for Rome. Ridolfo also intervened to save the famous Madone au chardonneret of Raphael, by assembling pieces that were found and restoring it. The painting had been damaged in 1546 (Uffizi, Florence) by a flood of the Arno. Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio was the painter of the Signoria of Florence and responsible of decorations during official ceremonies of the Medici court. His activity as a fresco painter was major in the Santa Maria Novella convent in the Vecchio Palace but it did not prevent him from acquiring fame as a painter of alters-pieces and portraits. The Louvre keeps a Coronation of the Virgin, the National Gallery of London, Christ on the road to Calvary, the Metropolitan Museum, a Holy Family. Most of his works are in Florence, at the Academy, in churches or in the Palazzo Pitti. He lived in Florence his entire life, refusing to join his friend Raphael in Rome.
The present painting can be compared to a Virgin and Child on sale at Christie's New York, the 28th January 2009 (lot 25). Christ giving a blessing and the young Saint John the Baptist praying at his feet are in both pictures in the same positions and the expressions on the characters' faces look very close.
Ridolfo's oeuvre is without a doubt inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, Fra Bartolomeo, Pietro di Cosimo, Michelangelo and Raphael, and his style is a dexterous summation of the innovations of number of his contemporaries. In this painting, the softness and grace of the face of the Virgin evokes Raphael, whereas the sfumato in which the scene bathes in is inspired by Leonardo da Vinci. The serenity of Christ Child laughing and the little saint John contrasts with the tension present in the faces of the adults, as if they were already dreading the tragic fate that awaits the child. The tormented face of saint Joseph is full of truth and humanity, while the calmness of the Virgin connotes a certain melancholy.
We thank Mr Everett Fahy for having suggested this attribution from photographs. Mr Fahy considers that this painting is an early work in the career of Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio.