Catena (Vincenzo di Biagio) (Italian, Venetian, active by 1506–died 1531)
probably after 1520
Oil on canvas
49 1/2 x 81 3/4 in. (125.7 x 207.6 cm)
Purchase, Mrs. Charles S. Payson Gift, Gwynne Andrews Fund, special funds, and other gifts and bequests, 1969
Not on view
Catena’s painting relies for inspiration on the artists with whom he was in contact, above all his friend the great Venetian painter Giorgione, but with allusions as well to prints by Albrecht Dürer and landscape details by Giovanni Bellini. Painted around 1520 the Adoration has great charm, but must have already seemed old-fashioned in its approach to composition at that date.
Giustiniani de' Vescovi, Venice (until about 1790; as by Giovanni Bellini; sold for 50 zecchini to Sasso); [Giovanni Maria Sasso, Venice, about 1790–91; as by Giovanni Bellini; sold to Hume]; Sir Abraham Hume, Baronet, London (1791–d. 1838; cat., 1824, no. 1, as by Giovanni Bellini); his grandson, John Hume Cust, later Home-Cust, still later Egerton, Viscount Alford (1838–d. 1851); his son, John William Spencer Brownlow Egerton, later Egerton-Cust, 3rd Baron Brownlow and 2nd Earl Brownlow, Ashridge, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire (1851–d. 1867); his brother, Adelbert Wellington Brownlow Cust, 4th Baron Brownlow and 3rd Earl Brownlow, Ashridge (1867–d. 1921; his estate, 1921–23; his estate sale, Christie's, London, May 4, 1923, no. 11, as by Giovanni Bellini, for £4,410 to Mason, bought in); his cousin, Adelbert Salusbury Cockayne Cust, 5th Baron Brownlow, London (from 1923); [conte Alessandro Contini Bonacossi, Florence, by 1941–d. 1955]; conte Alessandro Augusto Contini Bonacossi, Florence (1955–69; sold to Marchig); [Jean Marchig, Geneva, 1969; as attributed to Vincenzo Catena; sold to MMA]
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January 6–March 15, 1879, no. 142 (as by Giovanni Bellini, lent by Earl Brownlow).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January–March 1893, no. 161 (as by Giovanni Bellini, lent by Earl Brownlow).
London. New Gallery. "Venetian Art," 1894–95, no. 251 (as by Giovanni Bellini, lent by Earl Brownlow).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January 6–March 15, 1902, no. 36 (as by Giovanni Bellini, lent by Earl Brownlow).
London. Burlington Fine Arts Club. "A Collection of Pictures of the Early Venetian School and Other Works of Art," 1912, no. 39 (as by Giovanni Bellini, lent by Earl Brownlow).
Venice. Palazzo Ducale. "Giorgione e i giorgioneschi," June 11–October 23, 1955, no. 65 (as by Catena, lent by Sen. Conte A. Contini-Bonacossi).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Venetian Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," May 1–September 2, 1974, no catalogue.
Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 3.
Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 3.
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "Bellini, Giorgione, Titian and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting," June 18–September 17, 2006, no. 19.
Vienna. Kunsthistorisches Museum. "Bellini, Giorgione, Titian and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting," October 17, 2006–January 7, 2007, no. 19.
Denver Art Museum. "Glory of Venice: Masterworks of the Renaissance," October 2, 2016–February 12, 2017, no. 26.
Raleigh. North Carolina Museum of Art. "Glory of Venice: Masterworks of the Renaissance," March 4–June 18, 2017, no. 26.
Giovanni Maria Sasso. Letter to Abraham Hume. July 27, 1790 [National Gallery Archives, London, NG 43/67; published in Ref. Borean 2004, letter no. 38, pp. 172–73, 175–76], attributes it to Giovanni Bellini and lists the price as 50 zecchini.
Abraham Hume. Letter to Giovanni Maria Sasso. August 20, 1790 [Seminario Patriarcale di Venezia, Biblioteca, Fondo manoscritti, ms. 768.I=861.1; published in Ref. Borean 2004, letter no. 39, p. 177].
Giovanni Maria Sasso. Letter to Abraham Hume. September 21, 1790 [National Gallery Archives, London, NG 43/70; published in Ref. Borean 2004, letter no. 40, p. 178].
Abraham Hume. Letter to Giovanni Maria Sasso. October 13, 1790 [National Gallery Archives, London, NG 43/72; published in Ref. Borean 2004, letter no. 41, p. 181].
Giovanni Maria Sasso. Letter to Abraham Hume. November 18, 1790 [National Gallery Archives, London, NG 43/73; published in Ref. Borean 2004, letter no. 42, p. 182], writes that the work is being shipped from Venice to Hume in England.
Giovanni Maria Sasso. Letter to Abraham Hume. June 8, 1791 [National Gallery Archives, London, NG 43/83; published in Ref. Borean 2004, letter no. 49, pp. 205–6].
Abraham Hume. Letter to Giovanni Maria Sasso. July 20, 1791 [Seminario Patriarcale di Venezia, Biblioteca, Fondo manoscritti, ms. 768.I=861.1; published in Ref. Borean 2004, letter no. 51, p. 210].
A Descriptive Catalogue of a Collection of Pictures. London, 1824, p. i, no. 1, as by Giovanni Bellini; notes that it was sent from Venice by Sasso in 1791.
Claude Phillips. "Exposition de maîtres anciens à la Royal Academy." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 9 (March 1893), p. 227, rejects the attribution to Giovanni Bellini in the Royal Academy exhibition, ascribing it to Catena in his mature period and comparing it with Catena's "A Warrior Adoring the Infant Christ and the Virgin" (National Gallery, London).
Bernhard Berenson. The Venetian Painters of the Renaissance. 3rd ed. New York, 1894, p. 102 [1897 ed., p. 95], lists it as by Catena.
G[eorg]. Gronau. "Correspondance d'Angleterre: l'art vénitien à Londres, à propos de l'exposition de la New Gallery (deuxième article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 13 (March 1895), pp. 261–62, attributes it to Catena.
Bernhard Berenson. The Study and Criticism of Italian Art. Vol. 1, London, 1901, pp. 132–33, ill. opp. p. 132, states that there can be no doubt concerning the attribution Catena, and compares the work with several paintings by him; notes its Giorgionesque character.
Herbert Cook. "Notizie d'Inghilterra: pitture italiane esposte a Burlington House." L'arte 5, nos. III–IV (1902), p. 115, fig. 1, accepts the attribution to Catena, and notes similarities to the work of Bellini, Lotto, and Giorgione.
Roger E. Fry. "On a Picture Attributed to Giorgione." Burlington Magazine 16 (October 1909), p. 9, ill. p. 7, compares it with a Judgment of Solomon at Kingston Lacy, attributing both pictures to Catena.
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. 1, p. 261 n., Borenius calls it a work "of Catena's Giorgionesque phase".
[Detlev von] Hadeln inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Ulrich Thieme. Vol. 6, Leipzig, 1912, p. 183, lists it as a work of Catena's middle period.
Tancred Borenius. "The Venetian School in the Grand-Ducal Collection, Oldenburg." Burlington Magazine 23 (April 1913), p. 35, notes that it is related to the Allendale Adoration of the Shepherds (National Gallery of Art, Washington), which he attributes to Cariani.
Adolfo Venturi. "La pittura del Quattrocento." Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 7, part 4, Milan, 1915, pp. 578–79, fig. 361, ascribes it to a follower of Catena, an anonymous Belliniesque painter, to whom he attributes a group of works.
Bernard Berenson. Venetian Painting in America: The Fifteenth Century. New York, 1916, p. 251.
"Auctions." Burlington Magazine 42 (April 1923), p. 211, as a characteristic work of Catena, to be sold from the Brownlow collection.
Charles Holmes. "'Giorgione' Problems at Trafalgar Square—II." Burlington Magazine 42 (May 1923), pp. 232, 238, attributes it to Palma Vecchio, mentions the influence of Jacopo Bellini and Giorgione, and dates it about 1503; notes that a drawing (Royal Library, Windsor) for the Allendale Adoration of the Shepherds follows the central group in the MMA painting.
C. H. Collins Baker. "Catena at Trafalgar Square." Burlington Magazine 42 (May 1923), p. 245, rejects the attribution to Catena.
A[dolfo]. Venturi. Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 9, part 3, La pittura del Cinquecento. Milan, 1928, pp. 60–62, fig. 40, attributes it to an anonymous Giorgionesque painter, and connects it with the Windsor drawing.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 138, lists it as by Catena, in the Brownlow collection.
Raimond van Marle. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. Vol. 18, The Renaissance Painters of Venice. The Hague, 1936, p. 398, mistakenly refers to it as the Adoration of the Magi, and tentatively attributes it to Catena.
Frank Jewett Mather Jr. Venetian Painters. New York, 1936, p. 166, ascribes it to Catena, painting in a Giorgionesque manner.
Giuseppe Fiocco. Giorgione. Bergamo, 1941, p. 18, pl. 96 [2nd ed., 1948, p. 21, pl. 96], attributes it to Catena; as in the collection of conte Contini Bonacossi, Florence.
Antonio Morassi. Giorgione. Milan, 1942, pp. 147, 185, pl. 176, attributes it to Catena, and notes the connections with the Allendale Nativity of Giorgione.
Hans Tietze and E. Tietze-Conrat. The Drawings of the Venetian Painters in the 15th and 16th Centuries. New York, 1944, p. 176.
Giles Robertson. Vincenzo Catena. Edinburgh, 1954, pp. 32–33, 54–55, 60–64, 68, no. 36, pl. 32, attributes it to Catena and dates it about 1520, close to Catena's Martyrdom of Saint Christina (Santa Maria Mater Domini, Venice); notes that the dog derives from Dürer's engraving of Saint Eustace of about 1505 and that the angel in the sky is close to those in Catena's "Madonna and Child with Two Music-Making Angels" (Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia; formerly Richard Auspitzer, New York).
Pietro Zampetti. Giorgione e i giorgioneschi. Exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale. Venice, 1955, pp. 146–47, no. 65, ill.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Venetian School. London, 1957, vol. 1, p. 62, pl. 608, as in the Contini Bonacossi collection, Florence; lists it as by Catena, imitating Giorgione.
Fritz Heinemann. Giovanni Bellini e i Belliniani. Venice, , vol. 1, p. 25, no. 98g, attributes it to Catena; lists it among twelve works which may be copies after a painting of the Holy Family painted by Bellini for Isabella d'Este.
Claus Virch in "Reports of the Departments: European Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 28 (October 1969), pp. 72–73, ill.
S. J. Freedberg. Painting in Italy: 1500 to 1600. Harmondsworth, England, 1971, pp. 113, 482 n. 100, as in the Contini collection, Florence; includes it among works he dates "around 1520 and soon afterwards".
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Venetian School. New York, 1973, pp. 18–19, pl. 17, mention the various influences [see Notes]; date the picture to the early 1520s, possibly about 1521–23; observe that "the allegedly Giorgionesque character of the forms, which was noted by various authorities, was due exclusively to restoration of the surface, and has completely disappeared with the removal of old varnishes and repainting".
Ellis Waterhouse. Giorgione. May 3, 1973 [published as "Giorgione," Glasgow, 1974, p. 14], accepts Robertson's [see Ref. 1954] date of about 1520, discussing the influence of Giorgione on the work [but see Ref. Zeri and Gardner 1973].
Anthony M. Clark inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York, 1975, p. 87, ill.
Sylvia Hochfield. "Conservation: The Need is Urgent." Art News 75 (February 1976), p. 28.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 247, 250, fig. 443 (color).
Giles Robertson inThe Genius of Venice, 1500–1600. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 1983, p. 167.
Fritz Heinemann. Giovanni Bellini e i Belliniani. Vol. 3, Supplemento e ampliamenti. Hildesheim, 1991, p. 105, dates it about 1512.
Alessandro Ballarin inLe siècle de Titien: L'âge d'or de la peinture à Venise. Exh. cat., Grand Palais. Paris, 1993, p. 689 [2nd ed., rev. and corr., 1993, p. 295].
Michel Laclotte inLe siècle de Titien: L'âge d'or de la peinture à Venise. Exh. cat., Grand Palais. Paris, 1993, p. 274 [2nd ed., rev. and corr., 1993, p. 274].
Philip Rylands inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 6, New York, 1996, p. 86.
Francis Russell inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 14, New York, 1996, p. 877.
Mauro Lucco inLa pittura nel Veneto: il Cinquecento. Ed. Mauro Lucco. Vol. 1, Milan, 1996, p. 127 n. 294.
Paul Joannides. Titian to 1518: The Assumption of Genius. New Haven, 2001, p. 29, calls it "of uncertain date".
Mauro Lucco. "Pittura veneta a Carpi al tempo di Alberto Pio." Alberto III e Rodolfo Pio da Carpi collezionisti e mecenati. Ed. Manuela Rossi. Carpi, 2004, p. 264.
Linda Borean. Lettere artistiche del Settecento veneziano. Vol. 2, Il carteggio Giovanni Maria Sasso - Abraham Hume. Verona, 2004, p. 11 n. 44, pp. 82, 173 n. 120, fig. 37.
Mauro Lucco inBellini, Giorgione, Titian and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2006, pp. 122–25, no. 19, ill. (color, overall and detail).
Enrico Maria Dal Pozzolo. "Appunti su Catena." Venezia Cinquecento no. 31 (2006), pp. 39, 45, 98 n. 109, figs. 30, 31 (overall and detail).
Nicholas Penny. The Sixteenth Century Italian Paintings. Vol. 2, Venice 1540–1600. London, 2008, pp. 458–60 n. 15.
Angelica Daneo inGlory of Venice: Masterworks of the Renaissance. Ed. Angelica Daneo. Exh. cat., Denver Art Museum. Denver, 2016, pp. 78, 81, no. 26, ill. pp. 76, 80–81 (color, overall and detail).
A number of elements in the picture recur in other works by Catena: the figure of the Child is the same as that in the Holy Family (Bodemuseum, Berlin) and in the Virgin and Child (Hermitage, St. Petersburg), the figure of the Virgin is similar to that of Saint Christina in the altarpiece of the martyrdom of Saint Christina (Santa Maria Mater Domini, Venice), and the angel in the sky is close to those in the Madonna and Child with Two Music-Making Angels (Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia; formerly Richard Auspitzer, New York). Details have also been borrowed from works by other artists: the main group recalls Giorgione's Allendale Nativity (National Gallery of Art, Washington, Kress coll., K509), the kneeling shepherd with the basket of eggs seems to be adapted from Cima's Nativity (Santa Maria del Carmine, Venice), and the dog derives, in reverse, from Dürer's engraving of Saint Eustace of about 1505.