Probably originally intended for a private, domestic setting, this well-preserved and vividly-colored tondo exemplifies the surviving oeuvre of the artist called 'Tommaso', who was probably active throughout much of his career in the workshop of Lorenzo di Credi (c. 1456-1536). Tommaso's highly individual artistic personality was first identified by Giovanni Morelli in the late 19th century (I. Lermolieff, 'Kunstkritische Studien uber Italianische Malerei. Die Galerien Borghese und Doria Panfili in Rom', Leipzig, 1890, pp. 114-115) and further investigated in the 20th by Bernard Berenson. His artistic development unfolded during one of the most innovative and exciting periods in the history of Florentine painting--the dawn of the High Renaissance--and reflects not only the influence of Lorenzo di Credi, but also that of a number of other great Quattrocento masters, including Filippino Lippi, Piero di Cosimo, Verrocchio, and Leonardo da Vinci.
Here, Lorenzo di Credi's influence is evident in the arrangement of the figures and the physiognomy of the Christ child, both of which derive from compositions by Credi such as that in the tondo of the Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Angels in the Uffizi, Florence (inv. 3244). Equally notable are the stylistic links to Leonardo da Vinci, apparent in the panoramic landscape and the silhouetting of the Madonna and Child, against a deep green tree recalling Leonardo's Portrait of Ginevra de' Benci (Washington, National Gallery, inv. 1967.6.1.a). The singular expressiveness of the strongly modeled, plastically emphatic figures are typical of Tommaso's most developed, fully mature style of the first decade of the Cinquecento, and are closely comparable to two other tondi by Tommaso --one that sold at Sotheby's, London, 21 April 1982, lot 76, and a second in the Musée Fabre, Montpellier--which are both, however, less confident and refined, suggesting that they date to an earlier phase in Tommaso's career.
The present work was formerly in the celebrated collection of John Rushout, Lord Northwick. Consisting of Old Master and contemporary paintings, prints, coins, miniatures, enamels, and other decorative objects, the Northwick collection was among the greatest of the 19th century, and was initially held at Northwick Park, near Moreton-in-March, Gloucestershire. When this became too small, Northwick purchased Thirlestaine House in Cheltenham, to which he allowed access to any art lovers who wished to see the collection. Upon Rushout's death in 1859, his estate was dispersed in a series of sales over 22 days. Among the masterpieces auctioned were great works by Francesco Francia, Annibale Carracci, Salvator Rosa, Beccafumi, and Raphael.
Along with at least nine pictures from at the Northwick sale, the present Tommaso tondo passed into the collection of John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge-Erle-Drax at Oltanigh. Paintings that share this distinguished provenance include masterworks such as Vicenzo Catena's Rest on the Flight into Egypt, now in Pasadena at the Norton Simon Museum, and Le Nain's The Last Supper, now in Paris at the Louvre.