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Paris Bordone (1500 - 1571)

Lot 82: Paris Bordon (Treviso 1500-1571 Venice)


December 13, 2000
London, United Kingdom

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The Rest on the Flight into Egypt with the Infant Saint John the Baptist, Saint Elizabeth and Saint Catherine oil on canvas 38 x 55 in. (96.7 x 139.7 cm.) PROVENANCE Possibly Ca Venier, Venice, before 1660 (see Boschini, below) Acquired by Alexander Baring, 1st Lord Ashburton (1774-1848) or his son, William Baring, 2nd Lord Ashburton (1799-1864), by whom bequeathed to his widow Louisa, Lady Ashburton (d. 1905) and by descent LITERATURE (Possibly) M. Boschini, La Carta del Navagar, Venice, 1660, p. 334. G.M. Canova, Paris Bordon, Venice, 1964, p. 48, fig. 120. EXHIBITION London, Royal Academy, Italian Art and Britain, 1960, no. 57. Washington, National Gallery of Art, The Treasure Houses of Britain, Five Hundred Years of Patronage and Art Collecting, 3 November 1985-16 March 1986, no. 500. On loan to the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, 1990-2000. NOTES Paris Bordon, often known outside his native Veneto as Bordone, was the contemporary of a glittering constellation of Venetian masters, Titian and Palma, Pordenone, Tintoretto and Veronese among others. The Aretine Giorgio Vasari, despite his essentially Florentine perspective, recognised Bordon's importance and his vita remains a key source for our knowledge of the artist's career. Bordon was born in Treviso, north of Venice on the terra firma in 1500. His mother took him to Venice where the early, Giorgionesque, pictures of Titian made an overwhelming impression. Experience of Pordenone, of Palma, or Moretto and others enriched Bordon's vocabulary. He received major commissions in Venice and, inevitably, Treviso; he worked in Lombardy, first at Cremona and subsequently at Milan. The great altarpiece in the church of S. Maria presso S. Celso at Milan, painted for Carlo da Rho in the late 1540s, is one of the high points of Venetian cinquecento painting and perfectly expresses the qualities that secured invitations to work at Fontainebleau, and for the Fuggers at Augsburg. This charged canvas probably dates from the later 1540s, but if the probable Venier provenance is taken into account, perhaps from before Bordon's departure for Milan in 1548. It is a brilliant - and particularly well preserved - interpretation of a quintessentially Venetian idea, the Sacra Conversazione . The painter set out to fuse three themes: the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, which had a long iconographic tradition; the Madonna with the Christ Child and the Infant Baptist, a subject that had, as it were, been codified by Raphael; and the Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine, which was immensely popular in the cinquecento. The theme of the Sacra Conversazione had been important to Bordon from the outset of his career. An early, strongly Tizianesque example The Holy Family with Saint Catherine is in the Hermitage (Canova, fig. 3). This is followed by the Glasgow Madonna and Child, with Saints Jerome and Anthony Abbot and a Donor ( ibid., fig. 6), which has, in Grabski's worlds 'un ritmo di figure absolutamente musicale' (S. Grabski, 'Rime d'Amore di Paris Bordon', in Paris Bordon e il suo Tempo, Treviso, 1985, p. 206), and by a second and structurally even more sophisticated and evidently later picture, also at Glasgow, the Madonna and Child with Saints George, John the Baptist and Mary Magdalen (Canova, fig. 14). The latter may be of the 1530s, as is the very much larger - and also now rather worn - Holy Family with Saints Jerome and Catherine at the Palazzo Rosso, Genoa ( ibid., fig. 25). This Northampton picture marks the artist's return to the theme, which he also explored in the less ambitious Holy Family with the Baptist ( ibid., fig. 121), formerly at Bridgewater House and sold most recently at Christie's, New York, 26 May 2000, lot 76: that picture was originally on panel and thus may prove to have been painted during one of Bordon's absences from the Veneto. The Northampton picture is resonant of the vision Bordon shared with his older contemporaries, Titian and Palma, but the structure demonstrates that he had also absorbed much from Salviati, Moretto and others. The vibrant colour at once declares the painter's personal taste; and none of his contemporaries knew better how to convey the texture of flattering drapery: indeed, it is not wholly fanciful to speculate whether, over three centuries later, Fortuny studied pictures by him. Bordon's figures are bathed in strong, clear light and set as if in silhouette against the deep landscape, tenebrous under an evening sky touched with pink. Saint Catherine's chiselled profile directs us to the pensive Virgin, who looks down towards the Child: Saint Joseph is far in the middle distance. The suggestion that the picture is that recorded in the Ca Venier at Venice by Boschini was made by the late Sir Ellis Waterhouse in the catalogue of the 1960 Royal Academy exhibition. Its history is otherwise undocumented until the nineteenth century, when it was owned by a member of a banking dynasty with an almost inexhaustible appetite for old masters, William Baring, 2nd Lord Ashburton (1799-1864). Ashburton came from a dynasty of bankers which, in Francis Haskell's words, 'sustained a highly developed interest in the Old Masters through several generations' (F. Haskell, Rediscoveries in Art, Some Aspects of Taste, Fashion and Collecting in England and France, London, 1976, p. 72). His grandfather, Sir Francis Baring, bought superb Dutch pictures. Sir Francis' elder son, Thomas, was an outstanding collector, both of Dutch and Italian pictures, and his second son, Alexander who was created Lord Ashburton in 1835 was lavish in his expenditure on pictures, buying both in London and abroad. His pictures were divided between The Grange, his neo-classical mansion in Hampshire, Bath House in London, the collection in which greatly impressed Dr. Waagen (G.F. Waagen, Works of Art and Artist in England, London, 1838, II, pp. 265-86). The collection was inherited and apparently expanded, by the 2nd Lord Ashburton who, as a gout-ridden 59-year-old, married Louisa Stewart-Mackenzie in 1858. On Ashburton's death in 1864 the Grange passed to his brother, but its contents, together with Bath House and all it contained, including such masterpieces as Mantegna's Adoration of the Magi and Dosso Dossi's Pan and Echo (both now at Malibu, The J.P. Getty Museum) passed to his widow Louisa, Lady Ashburton, a close friend of Browning, Carlyle and other luminaries of the late Victoria era (for a biography, see V. Surtees, The Ludovisi Goddess, Wilton, 1984). She died in 1902 and the picture passed then to the family of their daughter, who married William Compton, 5th Marquess of Northampton in 1883.

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December 13, 2000, 12:00 AM EST

London, United Kingdom