Dating from about 1500–1510, this fine picture exemplifies the "sweetness and harmony of coloring" that made Francia a precursor of High Renaissance art. As with his contemporaries Perugino and Bellini, Francia was especially admired for what has been called a "devotional style" of painting, in which the refinement and delicacy of the technique and the serenity of the expressions made the picture an ideal focus for meditation and prayer.
principe Maffeo Barberini Colonna di Sciarra, Rome (by 1834–d. 1849); his son, principe Maffeo Barberini Colonna di Sciarra, Rome (b. 1850–at least 1889; cat., 1889); John Edward Taylor, London (by 1901–d. 1905; his estate, 1905–12; his estate sale, Christie's, London, July 5, 1912, no. 23, for £4,725 to Agnew); [Agnew, London, 1912–16; sold to Duveen]; [Duveen, London, 1916–?18; apparently sold to Blumenthal]; George Blumenthal, New York (?1918–41; cat., vol. 1, 1926, pl. XXXVIII)
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. "30 Masterpieces: An Exhibition of Paintings from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 4–November 23, 1947, unnumbered cat.
Iowa City. State University of Iowa, School of Fine Arts. "30 Masterpieces: An Exhibition of Paintings from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 9–March 31, 1948, unnumbered cat.
Bloomington. Indiana University. "30 Masterpieces: An Exhibition of Paintings from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 18–May 16, 1948, no catalogue.
Antonio Nibby, ed. Itinéraire de Rome et de ses environs. By M[ariano]. Vasi. Rome, 1834, vol. 1, p. 28, lists it in the Sciarra palace.
Giuseppe Melchiorri Romano. Guida metodica di Roma e suoi contorni. Rome, 1836, p. 570, lists it in the Sciarra palace.
Francesco Paolo Michetti and Leone Vicchi. Dieci quadri della galleria Sciarra. Rome, 1889, pp. 15–17, no. III, ill., identify the saints as Francis and Anthony.
George C. Williamson. Francesco Raibolini called Francia. London, 1901, pp. 101, 105, 145, compares it with other late versions of the subject by Francia; notes that it appears to have been cut down, and may at one time have included an inscription on the ledge; identifies the saints as Francis and Jerome.
Bernhard Berenson. North Italian Painters of the Renaissance. New York, 1907, p. 222, lists it in the collection of Mrs. J. E. Taylor, London; calls it "Madonna with St. Francis and Bianchini" [Francia's patron, Bartolomeo Bianchini].
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. 285 n., Borenius lists it in the collection of Mrs. J. E. Taylor, London, and identifies the saints as Francis and Jerome.
Giuseppe Lipparini. Francesco Francia. Bergamo, 1913, p. 135.
A[dolfo]. Venturi. "La pittura del Quattrocento." Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 7, part 3, Milan, 1914, p. 890, fig. 655, dates it about 1499.
Giuseppe Piazzi. Le opere di Francesco Raibolini, detto Il Francia: Orefice e pittore. Bologna, 1925, p. 62.
Stella Rubinstein-Bloch. Catalogue of the Collection of George and Florence Blumenthal. Vol. 1, Paintings—Early Schools. Paris, 1926, unpaginated, pl. XXXVIII.
Malcolm Vaughan. "Masterpieces in the Hamilton Collection." Art News 27 (April 27, 1929), p. 77, relates it to a work then in the Hamilton collection (later in the Hann collection; sold Christie's, New York, June 5, 1980), where the figure of Saint Francis has been replaced by Saint Mary Magdalen, and to other similar paintings by Francesco Francia and his sons, Giulio and Giacomo.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 208, calls it "Madonna with Francis and another Saint".
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 179.
Herbert Friedmann. The Symbolic Goldfinch: Its History and Significance in European Devotional Art. Washington, 1946, pp. 93, 162, pl. 123.
Gaetano Panazza. I civici musei e la pinacoteca di Brescia. Bergamo, 1958, p. 133.
Luigi Salerno. "The Picture Gallery of Vincenzo Giustiniani III: The Inventory, Part II." Burlington Magazine 102 (April 1960), p. 138, suggests identifying it with no. 60 of the 1638 Giustiniani inventory.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 148.
Gaetano Panazza. La pinacoteca e i musei di Brescia. new ed., revised and enlarged. Bergamo, 1968, p. 137.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 75, 327, 397, 407, 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, pp. 20–21, pl. 22, date it perhaps 1500–1510; reject Berenson's [see Ref. 1907] identification of Saint Jerome as a portrait of Bianchini; doubt that the MMA painting is the one recorded in the Giustiniani collection [see Ref. Salerno 1960].
Simonetta Stagni inPittura bolognese del '500. Ed. Vera Fortunati Pietrantonio. Bologna, 1986, vol. 1, p. 8.
Charles Dempsey. "The Carracci and the Devout Style in Emilia." Emilian Painting of the 16th and 17th Centuries. Bologna, 1987, p. 78, fig. 134.
Denis Mahon. "Fresh Light on Caravaggio's Earliest Period: His 'Cardsharps' Recovered." Burlington Magazine 130 (January 1988), p. 19 n. 52.
Simonetta Stagni. "Alcuni ampliamenti per Ercole Banci." Paragone 41 (January–March 1990), pp. 97–99 n. 12, fig. 71b, relates it to a work with the same four figures and a similar composition attributed to the school of Francia (formerly Lehman collection, New York), which is almost identical to a painting by Banci (Museo Davia Bargellini, Bologna); notes two copies after the MMA picture, one in the Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York, and one sold at Christie's, London, April 9, 1965 [see Notes].
Emilio Negro and Nicosetta Roio. Francesco Francia e la sua scuola. Modena, 1998, pp. 77, 170–73, no. 43, ill. (color), date it to the first years of the sixteenth century, noting that this is one of the earliest versions of a composition frequently repeated by Francia and his circle; suggest workshop intervention in the figure of Saint Francis; catalogue six related paintings [see Notes]; point out that the dimensions do not match those of the picture listed in the Giustiniani inventory [see Ref. Salerno 1960].
Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 60 (Spring 2003), p. 44, 47, fig. 31 (color), dates it after 1500.
Old Master Paintings. Sotheby's, New York. June 6, 2013, p. 17, under no. 7.
This was a popular composition for Francia and his workshop; numerous versions are known. Negro and Roio (1998) catalogue four works that are almost identical to the MMA painting: 1. location unknown; photograph in the Fondazione Longhi, Florence 2. Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York (formerly conte Cernazai, Udine) 3. formerly Boleyn Investments; sold Christie's, London, April 9, 1965, no. 61, and May 20, 1966, no. 99, as by Giacomo Francia 4. sold Finarte, Milan, November 28, 1995, no. 133, as by Giacomo Francia There is also a version where Saint Francis is replaced by Saint Mary Magdalen that was formerly in the Hamilton and Hann collections (sold Christie's, New York, June 5, 1980, no. 73). Another painting repeats only the pose of the Christ Child and was formerly in the collection of Lord Northwick, Thirlestane House, Cheltenham (sold Sotheby's, London, November 28, 1956, no. 53).
"The panel has been thinned and cradled, and it may have been cropped at the sides. The only significant change to the picture is in the greens, which have partly gone brown and have been restored; there are also fat cracks in the red of the Madonna's dress. The ledge at the base of the picture is presently completely repainted" (from Ref. Zeri and Gardner 1986).