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Carlo (1430) Crivelli (1430 - 1494)

Lot 68: Carlo Crivelli , Venice (?) circa 1430 - 1495 Ascoli Piceno The Madonna and Child at a marble parapet, an apple and a gourd hanging from a niche behind tempera on panel


July 9, 2008
London, United Kingdom

More About this Item


tempera on panel


measurements note 61.3 by 44 cm.; 24 1/8 by 17 1/4 in.


Berlin, Kunstwerke des Mittelalters und der Renaissance aus Berliner Privatbesitz, 1898.


G. Gronau, Ausstellung von Kunstwerke des Mittelalters und der Renaissance: die Venezianer, exhibition catalogue, Berlin, 1898;
G. McNeil Rushforth, Carlo Crivelli, London 1900, pp. 100-101;
L. Testi, La Storia della Pittura Veneziana, vol. II, Bergamo 1915, p. 684;
A. Venturi, Storia dell'Arte Italiana, vol. VII, part 3, Milan 1914, p. 394;
B.S. Long, Victoria and Albert Museum Catalogue of the Jones Collection. Part III. Paintings and Miniatures, London 1923, p. 6;
F. Drey, Carlo Crivelli und Seine Schule, Munich 1927, pp. 67 and 105, reproduced plate XCI (as attributed to the 'Master of the Brera Predella');
L. Burchard & A. Scharf, in W.R. Valentiner ed., Unknown Masterpieces in Public and Private Collections, London 1930, p. 10;
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance, Oxford 1932, p. 162;
L. Venturi, Italian Painting in America, vol. II, 1933;
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Venetian School, vol. I, London 1957, p. 71;
A. Bovero, Tutta la pittura del Crivelli, Milan 1961, pp. 76-77;
P. Zampetti, Carlo Crivelli, Milan 1961, p. 85;
C.M. Kaufmann, Victoria and Albert Museum, Catalogue of Foreign Paintings. Part I. Before 1800, London 1973, pp. 78-79;
A. Bovero, L'opera completa del Crivelli, Milan 1975, p. 97, cat. no. 143, reproduced;
P. Zampetti, Carlo Crivelli, Florence 1986, p. 276, under no. 56, and p. 302, reproduced;
R. Lightbown, Carlo Crivelli, New Haven & London 2004, pp. 460-61, reproduced in colour plate 222 and on the back cover.


Eugene Bracht, Berlin, 1898-1907;
Dr. Hermann Eissler, Vienna, 1924-27;
With Marshall Field, New York, 1932;
With Duveen Brothers, New York, 1933;
The Fermor-Hesketh Collection, from which sold, London, Christie's, 8 July 1988, lot 133, reproduced on the cover of the catalogue, where acquired by the present owner for £550,000.


This painting of The Madonna and Child is one of Crivelli's last surviving Madonna paintings and, to quote Ronald Lightbown, 'one of his most beautiful'.υ1 It has been unanimously accepted by scholars as an autograph work by Carlo Crivelli with the sole exception of Drey who attributed the painting to the 'Master of the Brera Predella' (see below), incorrectly describing it as a partial copy after Crivelli's signed picture in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, commonly referred to as 'The Jones Madonna'.υ2 Despite the 'Jones Madonna' preceding the present work by some years - it is dated by Lightbown to circa 1480 - there are certainly similarities in the figures' poses and it can be plausibly argued that the latter is reliant upon the former for its design. The two paintings differ considerably in execution however and numerous details are entirely different: the figures are inside and not set before a landscape background; the Christ Child is clothed and not just wearing a swaddling cloth round his waist; the Madonna's costume is entirely different and is painted rather than decorated with pastiglia work; the Christ Child has a smaller halo and wears a pearl headband; and the fruit hangs either side of the figures rather than along a garland above and behind them. Other smaller details introduced in the design of this Madonna and Child demonstrate Crivelli's renewed interpretation and reinvention of an earlier theme; for example, the apple the Christ Child holds has been turned slightly so that its stem points downwards rather than upwards and a leaf is still attached; He sits more comfortably on a cushion and a rich cloth of gold rather than on the Madonna's robe; and the Madonna's translucent veil adds a point of movement in what is otherwise a very still composition. Considered by Gronau to be an early work, datable to circa 1470, subsequent scholars (Bovero, Zampetti and Lightbown in particular) have favoured instead a more plausible dating towards the end of the artist's career, that is circa 1490-93. The use of the parapet was adopted by Crivelli in other works of this type and it is a motif to which Giovanni Bellini also turned for his paintings of the Madonna and Child. The parapet sets a boundary between the beholder and the divine figures beyond it - a sort of boundary between heaven and earth - and this is crucial to the painting's function. Other examples in Crivelli's aeuvre include a signed Madonna and Child from the sacristy of San Francesco ad Alto, Ancona, now in the Pinacoteca Civica, where the figures are set outside before a landscape, and his Madonna and Child in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where the figures are set inside against a gold-leaf background.υ3 The use of a trompe l'aeil marble niche finds its most immediate parallel in the predella of the Brera's Coronation of the Virgin, which is signed and dated 1493 and is thus the artist's last known work.υ4 The predella was dismembered and panels are now dispersed in three different museum collections: Blessing Christ and Saint Onophrius (Rome, Museo di Castel Sant' Angelo);υ5 Saints Louis of Anjou, Jerome and Peter and Saints Paul, Augustine and Romuald (Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André);υ6 and Saints Bernardino of Siena, Anthony of Padua and Dominic (Esztergon, Keresztény Múzeum).υ7 Drey noted the similarities between these works and the present Madonna and Child and this led him to attribute the latter to the 'Master of the Brera Predella' while failing to recognise that all these paintings are in fact late autograph works by Crivelli himself. The Madonna supports the Christ Child with her elongated fingers placed elegantly and protectively before Him in the foreground. The Child is drawn close to His mother but turns outwards. He clutches the apple that represents the Passion; also a symbol of man's redemption against the Fall. The peach hanging upper left is symbolic of man's redemption on the cross and the gourd opposite of Christ's Resurrection, whilst the vine-leaves to which it is attached are probably a reference to Christ as founder of the Church.υ8 The symbolism within the painting and the presence of vine-leaves led Lightbown to suppose that the panel was an ecclesiastical rather than secular commission, and he went so far as to speculate that it may be identifiable with a Madonna cited in the Franciscan convent of Castel Fidardo, recorded by Colucci in 1795 and since untraced.υ9 The Madonna's downward glance and the fact that both figures look out certainly seem to invite us to kneel before this intimate image of private devotion.
1. See Lightbown, under Literature, p. 460.
2. Reproduced in colour in Lightbown, op. cit., p. 267, plate 108.
3. The first, datable to circa 1487-88, is reproduced in colour in Lightbown, ibid., p. 372, plate 169. The second, datable to circa 1489-91, is reproduced in colour in idem, p. 389, plate 177.
4. Reproduced in colour in idem, p. 451, plate 213.
5. Idem, p. 457, plate 220, and p. 459, plate 221.
6. Idem, pp. 454-55, plates 215 and 216.
7. Idem, p. 456, plates 217-19.
8. Idem, p. 461, citing John 15:1,5.
9. Idem, pp. 461 and 530, footnote 29.

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