A successful and popular painter of altarpieces, Bergognone worked for major churches throughout Lombardy, including the Incoronata in Lodi and the Certosa of Pavia. This picture, which dates from the early sixteenth century, formed the center panel of a large polyptych. Its delicacy is typical of his work.
The metal stars on the Virgin's dress are probably later additions.
Inscription: Inscribed: (reverse, in a later hand) Ambrogio Borgognone fe.; (on Christ's halo) IESVS CRISTV[S]; (on Virgin's halo) [BE?]NIGNA; (on hem of Virgin's cloak) NOMEN DOM[I]NI . . . MARIA . . . DOM . . . ; (on halo of each apostle) with the apostle's name
Samuel von Festetits, Vienna (until 1859; his sale, Artaria, Vienna, April 11, 1859, no. 109, with the twelve Apostles, as by Bergognone, to Pálffy); Count Jan Frantisek Pálffy, Bajmócz [Bojnice] Castle, Slovakia (1859–d. 1908; cat., 1909, no. 2, as by Orcagna); the Pálffy family, Bajmócz [Bojnice] Castle (1908–at least 1912; as by Orcagna); [Rudolf Rysavy, Prague, until 1926; as by Bergognone; sold to MMA]
János Peregriny. Nehai Nagyméltoságu Erdõdi Gróf Pálffy János. Vol. 5, Bajmóczi Várában. Budapest, 1909, pp. 7, 13, no. 2, lists it among objects in Pálffy's collection at Bojnice castle; attributes it to Andrea di Cione (Orcagna) and values it at 48,000 Kronen.
Arduino Colasanti and Tiberio Gerevich. "I quadri italiani nelle collezioni del conte Pálffy in Ungheria." Rassegna d'arte 12 (November 1912), pp. 166–67, as at Bajmócz (Bojnice); note that it is attributed to Andrea Orcagna, but themselves ascribe it to Bergognone; describe it as in a modern frame within which the twelve apostles are set; place it close to the Assumption of 1522 made for the church of Santa Maria dell'Incoronata, Nerviano (now Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan).
Theodor v. Frimmel. Lexikon der Wiener Gemäldesammlungen. Vol. 1, Buchstabe A bis F. Munich, 1913, p. 377, no. 109, records Pálffy as the buyer at the Festetits sale in 1859.
G[abriel]. de T[érey]. Letter to Robert de Forest. September 20, 1926, attributes it to Bergognone; includes a diagram showing how the panels of the apostles are framed in vertical rows of six each on either side of the Assumption; states that the altarpiece probably comes from the church of Cremina in Valsassina, northern Italy.
Bryson Burroughs. "The Assumption of the Virgin by Borgognone." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 22 (May 1927), pp. 144–46, ill., assigns it to Bergognone's later period and believes that the apostles are probably earlier and that they originally formed the predella of another work; notes the influence of Leonardo's facial types.
Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, pl. CCCXXVIII, relates the style to that of Bergognone's work for the Certosa of Pavia, about 1514.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 99, lists it as by Bergognone.
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 2, Fifteenth Century Renaissance. New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 440.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 85.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 138–39, ill., dates it to the same period as the Brera Assumption of 1522; calls the metal stars on the Virgin's mantle a crude later addition.
Nietta Aprà. Ambrogio da Fossano detto il Bergognone. Milan, 1945, p. 11, fig. 82.
Fernanda Wittgens inStoria di Milano. Vol. 7, L'età sforzesca dal 1450 al 1500. [Milan], 1956, p. 801, considers it Bergognone's first treatment of this subject.
A[ngela]. Ottino Della Chiesa inDizionario biografico degli italiani. Vol. 2, Rome, 1960, p. 717.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 45.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 26, 308, 607.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, North Italian School. New York, 1986, p. 3, pl. 33, tentatively date it about 1500–1510, and suggest that it was the center of a polyptych with two rows of lateral panels.
Janice Shell inPinacoteca di Brera: Scuole lombarda e piemontese 1300–1535. Milan, 1988, p. 109, dates it about 1500–1505, and calls the Brera Assumption a tired and mechanical later version.
Pietro C. Marani inAmbrogio Bergognone: acquisizioni, scoperte e restauri. Exh. cat., Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan. Florence, 1989, p. 92, fig. 69, suggests that it may be even earlier than 1500–1505, and that it may be from Pavia.
Janice Shell inAmbrogio da Fossano detto il Bergognone: un pittore per la Certosa. Ed. Gianni Carlo Sciolla. Exh. cat., Castello Visconteo, Pavia. Milan, 1998, p. 376, fig. 3.
Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 60 (Spring 2003), pp. 21–23, fig. 16 (color).
Ingrid Ciulisová. Men of Taste: Essays on Art Collecting in East-Central Europe. Bratislava, 2014, pp. 69–72, 77 n. 22, fig. 11 and ill. on back cover (color), fig. 12 and ill. on front cover (hanging in Bojnice Castle).
There are three panels (uncradled), joined vertically. The upper part of the painting is in very good state, although the lower part is abraded. Although cut on all four sides the only important area that may have been affected is the bottom. The metal stars on the Virgin's mantle and the gold spandrels are later additions. The gilding on the lettering on the haloes is almost entirely gone.