HOLY FAMILY WITH SAINT ELIZABETH, THE INFANT ST. JOHN, AND TWO SHEPHERDS
35 by 52 1/4 in.; 88.9 by 132.7 cm.
Artist or Maker
BONIFAZIO DE' PITATI CALLED BONIFAZIO VERONESE Verona 1487-1553 Venice
London, Royal Academy, 1887, no. 162 (as Bonifazio Veneziano, lent by Charles Butler);
Pasadena, CA, Pasadena Art Institute, on loan, December 6, 1949-January 8, 1950;
Los Angeles, Municipal Art Gallery, on loan, December 8, 1950-January 10, 1951;
Pomona College Art Gallery, on loan, November 21, 1963 - 26 October 1964.
J.C. Robinson, Catalogue of the Works of Art forming the collection of Robert Napier..., London 1865, no. 312 (as Palma Vecchio);
B. Berenson, The Venetian Painters of the Renaissance, New York/ London 1897, p. 85;
Los Angeles County Museum, Bulletin of the Art Division, Summer 1952, p. 9;
W.R. Valentiner, Los Angeles County Museum. Catalogue of the Italian, French and Spanish Paintings, XIV-XVIII Century, Los Angeles 1954, p. 25, cat. no. 20, reproduced;
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance, Venetian School, vol. I, New York 1957, p. 43 (as a late work);
B. Fredericksen and F. Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections, Campbridge, MA 1972, pp. 31, 592;
S. Simonetti, "Profilo di Bonifacio de' Pitati", in Saggi e Memorie, vol. XV, 1986, pp. 98-99, reproduced fig. 8;
S. Schaefer et al, European Painting and Sculpture in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles 1987, p. 21, reproduced;
J.L. Williams, Dutch Art and Scotland. A Reflection of Taste, Edinburgh 1992, p. 169.
Robert Napier (1791-1876), London, Glasgow and West Shandon Strathclyde, Scotland, by 1865;
His deceased sale, London, Christie's, April 13, 1877, lot 401 (as Palma Vecchio), where purchased by Martin Henry Colnaghi;
William Graham, Grosvenor Place, London;
His deceased sale, London, Christie's April 9, 1886, lot 276 (as J. Palma il Giovane);
Purchased at the above sale by Charles Butler, London, for £765;
His deceased sale, London, Christie's, May 25, 1911, lot 103 (as Bonifazio Veronese), where purchased by R. Wertheimer, London;
H. W. Henderson;
From whose estate sold , London, Christie's, June 25, 1948, lot 65, to Mallett and Son (buying for Hearst);
William Randolph Hearst, New York and Los Angeles;
Gift of William Randolph Hearst to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1949 (acc. no. 49.17.10).
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This is a beautiful example of Bonifazio's "sacre conversazioni" that were so popular in Venice in the 16th century and that were inspired by those of his teacher, Palma Vecchio (to whom, indeed, this panel has previously been attributed). Ultimately, however, it is to the examples of Titian, Giorgione and Giovanni Bellini that Bonifazio's works owe the greatest debt and, from these predecessors of his, Bonifazio appropriated the compositional symmetry and quiet, contemplative tone that characterise his mature works. His conversazioni are almost all built along the same compositional lines, with the holy family set before a tree or stone temple, flanked by saints and with an extensive Giorgionesque landscape diminishing into the distance on either side. In this way the present lot may be compared with the example in the collection of the Marquess of Lansdowne at Bowood (1) or that in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence. (2) Simonetti, who published the painting in her 1986 article on Bonifazio, in which she compiled a list of all his extant works, dated the picture to circa 1525-30.
During the 19th century this work was in the great 'Shandon' collection, put together by the Scottish marine engineer Robert Napier (1791-1876) at West Shandon, Garloch, Dumbartonshire. Napier began his career in Robert Stevenson's workshop, where Stevenson's 'Rocket' was built but it was in the development of marine engineering that he truly made his fame and fortune. He began collecting in the 1830s, acquiring a large amount of porcelain and delftware, silver, glass, bronzes, sculpture, watches, clocks, furniture and of course old and modern paintings. He lent generously to the great Art Treasures exhibition in Manchester in 1857 (including Rembrandt's Portrait of a young man in a turban) and amongst his other old masters were Philips Koninck's View over flat country (Ashmolean, Oxford) and Ercole de Roberti's Wife of Hasdrubal (Washington, National Gallery). His collection was sold the year after his death at Christie's for the astonishing sum of £49,778.
1. Berenson, op. cit., 1957, reproduced vol. II, fig, 1139.
2. Ibid., fig. 1137.