Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), Madonna col Bambino, Collezione privata, Firenze (Coll. Luigi Grassi, Firenze)

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Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), Madonna col Bambino, Collezione privata, Firenze (Coll. Luigi Grassi, Firenze)

Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), Madonna col Bambino, Collezione privata, Firenze (Coll. Luigi Grassi, Firenze)

The earliest record of the painting (tempera on panel, 99cm x 57cm) dates from 1901 when it appeared in the “Fair Children Exhibition” at the Copley Society in Boston, catalogue n.13, as the property of Catholina Lambert, Paterson, New Jersey. The following year it was published by Thomas R.Manley in the “Outlook” magazine (volume 40, n.14, April 5, 1902): “The Lambert Masterpieces – A Private Art Gallery open to the Public”. In 1907 it was again published in the five volume opus “Répertoire de Peintures du Moyen Age et de la Renaissance” by Salomon Reinach, volume II, page 143, as being ‘autrefois à Paris chez Durand-Ruel’, the French dealer in old master and 19th century paintings with galleries both in Paris and London. It is probable therefore that Lambert had bought the painting from Durand-Ruel at the turn of the century as Manley in his article in the “Outlook” (see literature) mentions the fact that Lambert obtained his first picture from him in Paris as a young man in 1860 and continued to buy from him throughout his collecting days. After 1913 Lambert suffered a reversal of fortune and was obliged to liquidate many of his assets, among which his pictures and works of art, in order to meet his debts. The American Art Association held a four day sale of his colletion in New York in Febuary 1916 in which the Botticelli, however, did not appear. It must therefore have been sold privately beforehand to the next owner, Robert Dawson Evans a wealthy patron of the arts, either directly or through a dealer. At Evans’s death it passed to his widow who in turn bequeathed it in 1917 to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts of which she and her husband had been major benefactors. When still in Boston it was published by Zeri (1972) and Lightbown (1978) as a studio work and by Mandel (1978) as an autograph variant of the Madonna by Botticelli at the Galleria Colonna in Rome. The Museum of Fine Arts de-accessioned it at Christie’s New York on April 4th 1990, lot 196, where it was bought by the present owner who had it cleaned and restored. Much earlier on, probably at the end of the 19th century, whilst it was still with Durand Ruel and before being purchased by Lambert, the painting had been entirely painted over in order to conceal a small loss of pigment in the lower left hand side caused by the burn of a devotional candle. Removal of the thick coat of overpaint (see condition report by restorer Piero Puccetti) revealed the previously illegible quality allowing renowned scholars such as Everett Fahy, Mina Gregori and Luciano Bellosi to attribute the painting to Botticelli himself.

PROVENANCE: – Durand-Ruel, Paris and London
– Catholina Lambert, Patterson, N.J.
– Robert Dawson Evans, Boston, Mass.
– Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mass.
– Private collection

EXHIBITIONS: – 1901: “Fair Children Exhibition”, the Copley Society, Boston,
Mass., catalogue n.13

LITERATURE: – 1902: Thomas R.Manley “The Lambert Masterpieces – A Private
Art Gallery open to the public” in the ‘Outlook’ magazine,
April 5, 1902, volume 40, n.14
– 1907: Salomon Reinach “Répertoire de Peintures du Moyen Age
et de la Renaissance”, volume II, page 143
– 1972: B.Fredericksen and F.Zeri “Census of pre-nineteenth cent.
Italian paintings, etc.”, page 33, museum inventory 17-3225
– 1978: R.Lightbown “Sandro Botticelli”, vol.II, page 156, n. C76
– 1978: C.Bo and G.Mandel “L’Opera completa del Botticelli”,
page 100, n.97
– 1990: Christie’s New York, April 4th 1990, lot 196

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