The apple, associated with the Fall of Man, here alludes to Jesus: "As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons…" (Song of Solomon 2:3). The carnation, too, is associated with love and suggests the Virgin as the emblematic bride of Christ. Bramantino was the most progressive painter in Milan in the early sixteenth century and a follower of the great painter-architect Bramante—the architect of Saint Peter’s in Rome. Typical of his work are the simplified figures and haunting architectural perspective. The surface is unfortunately rather damaged.
Bartolomeo Suardi was known as Bramantino after his contemporary in Milan, the great architect Bramante (1443/44–1514); his abiding interest in perspective and architecture, reflected in the background of this rare, private devotional painting, comes from that source. He was one of the most significant artists of his time in Milan and in 1525 was named both architect and painter to Duke Francesco II Sforza. The Madonna is shown behind a marble table top, placed at an angle to the picture plane, on which the Child stands with his arm outstretched towards the apple (alluding to Salvation) held in his mother’s curving fingers. A vase of carnations, often found beside the Madonna and considered the "flower of God," is arranged on the table to the right. Behind them extends a courtyard with a walled garden, probably the hortus conclusus, also a symbol of the Madonna, at the left, and crenellated castle walls in the rear. The carefully articulated, but abstract quality of the space and buildings, as well as the gesturing figures, have their closest ties with paintings by Bramantino usually dated to the first years of the sixteenth century. These qualities were admired by Roger Fry, who wrote in 1911 that the painting has "a delicate sense of interval and silhouette . . . [Bramantino] recognizes . . . the idea of the beautiful seclusion and repose of the Virgin’s life."
Another version of this painting (formerly Georg Gronau, Cassel, and Edouard Simon, Berlin) is probably based on the same cartoon, but shows a more conventional scene in which the Child sits in the Madonna’s lap, and presents a somewhat different background. The painting is trimmed at top and bottom and the surface abraded. Before its cleaning by the Museum the delicate features of the figures and the drapery were somewhat disfigured by old repaint (see Additional Images, fig. 1).
The infrared reflectogram (see Additional Images, fig. 3) of Bramantino’s Madonna and Child reveals considerable freehand underdrawing carried out with a brush. Strokes set out the principal folds of the Madonna’s voluminous mantle and the contours of both figures, as well as the form of the plant pot, where the lower, unseen ellipse is described in addition to that of the opening. More delicate hatching lines indicate shaded areas in both the figures and the drapery, and in certain places these cross over the contours to indicate the full extent of the shadow. The drawing of the Child is particularly delicate, with circular strokes articulating the rounded belly and the knees, and with the toes of the left foot carefully drawn in (no longer visible on the surface of the painting itself). The artist made an adjustment to the position of the Madonna’s right hand and the apple; additionally, her mouth was drawn above its painted position. Small adjustments were also made to contours elsewhere.
Orthogonal lines for the table and the receding walls have been drawn and incised (although the artist interrupted the incision that would have run through the Madonna’s hand). Interestingly, the architecture of the castle with its barred windows was completely worked out before the trees of the garden assumed their final form, covering the windows entirely at the left and partially covering that at the far right as well as a small chimney that appears in the infrared image.
[Andrea Bayer and Charlotte Hale 2014]
Inscription: Inscribed (neckline of Madonna's dress): AVE REGINA CELLA
comte Victor Goloubew, Paris (by 1906–12; as by Francia; sold to Kleinberger); [Kleinberger, New York, 1912; sold to MMA]
London. Grafton Galleries. "Old Masters," October 4–December 28, 1911, no. 16 (lent by Count Victor Goloubew, Paris).
Wilhelm Suida. "Die Spätwerke des Bartolommeo Suardi, genannt Bramantino." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses 26, no. 5 (1906), p. 341, notes that Frizzoni ascribes to Bramantino a Madonna in the Goloubew collection, where it is attributed to Francia.
Claude Phillips. Daily Telegraph (October 1911) [see Ref. Zeri and Gardner 1986], dates it later than the Adoration of the Shepherds in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan.
Roger Fry. "Exhibition of Old Masters at the Grafton Galleries—I." Burlington Magazine 20 (November 1911), p. 77, pl. IV, calls it a late work.
"Old Masters at the Grafton Galleries: First Notice." Times (October 3, 1911), p. 9.
J[oseph]. A[rcher]. Crowe and G[iovanni]. B[attista]. Cavalcaselle. A History of Painting in North Italy: Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Ferrara, Milan, Friuli, Brescia, from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century. Ed. Tancred Borenius. 2nd ed. [1st ed. 1871]. London, 1912, vol. 2, p. 341 n. 1, Borenius relates it to a Pietà by Bramantino in the Berolzheimer collection in Munich.
W[oldemar]. v[on]. Seidlitz. "Ausstellungen und Auktionen: Die Grafton-Ausstellung in London." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 35 (1912), p. 82, calls it a late work.
Giuseppe Fiocco. "Il periodo romano di Bartolomeo Suardi detto il Bramantino." L'arte 17 (1914), p. 38, erroneously as still in the Goloubew collection; lists it among school works.
Gustavo Frizzoni. "Intorno al Bramantino e alle sue presunte relazioni col Luini." Rassegna d'arte 15 (1915), p. 150, fig. 3, compares it with the Madonna and Child then in the Gronau collection, Kassel [see Notes], and dates the two works after Bramantino's trip to Rome in 1508.
Giorgio Nicodemi. Gerolamo Romanino. Brescia, 1925, ill. p. 37.
Philip Hendy. "Antonio Cicognara." Art in America 19 (December 1930), p. 55, fig. 6, contrasts it to Bramantino's Madonna and Child, which he attributes to Cicognara, in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, pl. CCCLVII, calls it a late work; notes its similarity to the ex-Simon picture [see Notes].
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 110.
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 3, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century. New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 485.
Mariarosa Gabbrielli. "Aggiunte a Bramantino." Bollettino d'arte 27 (June 1934), pp. 561, 572, calls it an early work.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 95.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 150, ill.
William Suida. Bramante pittore e il Bramantino. Milan, 1953, pp. 105, 124, 232, pl. CXXVII, fig. 166, considers it later than the ex-Simon version and dates both after the trip to Rome.
Maria Luisa Gengaro. "Problemi di metodo per la storia dell'arte: il Bramantino." Arte lombarda 1 (1955), p. 130.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 61.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 35, 324, 606.
Mirella Levi d'Ancona. The Garden of the Renaissance: Botanical Symbolism in Italian Painting. Florence, 1977, p. 541, fig. 21.
Germano Mulazzani inL'opera completa di Bramantino e Bramante pittore. Milan, 1978, p. 92, no. 22, fig. 22, calls it a version of the ex-Simon painting, and dates both works 1505–7.
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, pp. 6–7, pl. 49, suggest that the presence of medieval buildings in the background may indicate it was painted before Bramantino's trip to Rome in 1508; state that the same cartoon was used for this work and for the ex-Simon painting.
David Alan Brown. Andrea Solario. Milan, 1987, p. 64 n. 69.
Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 60 (Spring 2003), p. 11, fig. 4 (color), dates it probably before 1508.
Edoardo Villata. Tristezza della resurrezione: Bramantino negli anni di Ludovico il Moro. Milan, 2012, p. 84, fig. 93 (color).
Mauro Natale inBramantino: l'arte nuova del Rinascimento lombardo. Ed. Mauro Natale. Exh. cat., Museo Cantonale d'Arte, Lugano. Milan, 2014, p. 222, under no. 34, pp. 288–89, fig. 48b (color), under no. 48.