Giovanni di Paolo’s talents as a miniaturist are seen to advantage in this enchanting painting from the base (predella) of an altarpiece. The artist gives the story a distinctly human touch: the young king congratulates the aged Joseph while the middle-aged king doffs his crown. For other panels from the altarpiece, see metmuseum.org/collections.
This panel originally formed part of the predella of an altarpiece, along with a Nativity (Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass.), an Infant Christ Disputing in the Temple (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston), and possibly a Crucifixion (Christ Church, Oxford). These panels, among the artist’s most exquisite, are generally dated to around 1460. Christiansen (1984) and Strehlke (1988) suggested that the central panel of the altarpiece may have been the Presentation of Christ in the Temple formerly in the Conservatorio di S. Pietro at Colle di Val d'Elsa and now in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena (no. I.B.S. n. 9). One of the reasons it is difficult to be more certain of this association is the fact that Giovanni di Paolo’s large-scale works tend to be coarser than his small-scale ones: he was clearly more comfortable when working on a small scale and was, indeed, a gifted miniaturist.
This is the latest of four known depictions of the subject by the artist. The other three are in the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington.
The picture is in exceptionally fine state. Traces of the original raised, lipped edge remain on all four sides, and there are remnants of a gilt molded border at the upper left.
[Keith Christiansen 2011]
Stefan von Auspitz, Vienna (by 1930–32); [Kurt Walter Bachstitz, The Hague, from 1932]; Oscar Bondy, Schubertring, Vienna, later Switzerland and New York (by 1937–d. 1944; seized by the Nazis; inv., 1938, no. 15); Mrs. Oscar Bondy, New York (1944–49; at Alt Aussee salt mines, Austria, in 1945; Bondy inv. no. 15; restituted; her sale ["The Renowned Painting Collection of the late Oscar Bondy"], Kende Galleries, New York, March 3, 1949, no. 84, for $11,000 to Linsky); Mr. and Mrs. Jack Linsky, New York (1949–his d. 1980); Mrs. Jack Linsky, New York (1980–82)
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Italian Art, 1200–1900," January 1–March 8, 1930, no. 78 (lent by Stefan von Auspitz, Vienna) [commemorative ed., 1931, no. 95].
New York. Wildenstein. "The Italian Heritage," May 17–August 29, 1967, no. 4 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Jack Linsky).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Giovanni di Paolo: Paintings," August 14–October 8, 1973, no. 13 (lent anonymously).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Painting in Renaissance Siena: 1420–1500," December 20, 1988–March 19, 1989, no. 35.
THIS WORK MAY NOT BE LENT, BY TERMS OF ITS ACQUISITION BY THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART.
Philip Hendy. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: Catalogue of the Exhibited Paintings and Drawings. Boston, 1931, p. 174, identifies it as probably from the same predella as the Gardner's "The Child Jesus Disputing in the Temple," which he dates to the artist's last years.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 249, as in the Auspitz collection, Vienna.
L[ili]. Fröhlich-Bum. "Die Sammlung Auspitz-Wien." Pantheon 10 (1932), p. 400.
John Pope-Hennessy. Giovanni di Paolo, 1403–1483. London, 1937, pp. 90–91, 111 nn. 79, 80, 82, p. 177, as in the Oscar Bondy collection, Vienna; accepts Hendy's [see Ref. 1931] identification of the MMA and Gardner panels as part of the same predella, and adds a third scene: a "Nativity" then in the Winthrop collection, New York (now Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass.); dates the three works about 1460; suggests a fourth panel which would have occupied the center of the predella: a "Baptism of Christ" in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Cesare Brandi. "Giovanni di Paolo, II." Le arti 3 (June–July 1941), p. 321 n. 58, p. 337 n. 82, as in the Bondy collection, Vienna; concurs that the MMA, Gardner, and Fogg panels come from the same predella, but rejects the inclusion of the Oxford "Baptism of Christ"; dates the three panels after 1463 in n. 58 and about 1460 in n. 82.
Henry Sayles Francis. "A New Giovanni di Paolo." Art Quarterly 5 (1942), p. 322, fig. 8, as in the Oscar Bondy collection, Vienna.
Cesare Brandi. Giovanni di Paolo. Florence, 1947, p. 79 n. 58, p. 91 n. 82, p. 122 [same text as Ref. Brandi 1941].
Rollin Hadley. "Giovanni di Paolo." Fenway Court 1 (October 1967), pp. 49, 54–56, ill. p. 51, agrees that the Gardner, Fogg, and MMA panels all come from the same predella, but is less certain about the Ashmolean work.
The Italian Heritage. Exh. cat., Wildenstein & Co., Inc. New York, 1967, unpaginated, no. 4, ill., dates it about 1460; accepts the MMA, Fogg, Gardner, and Ashmolean panels as part of the same predella.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, pp. 175–76, 179, accepts the MMA, Gardner, Fogg, and Ashmolean panels as from the same predella.
Marjan Reinders et al. inSienese Paintings in Holland. Exh. cat., Museum voor Stad en Lande. Groningen, 1969, unpaginated, under no. 11.
Philip Hendy. European and American Paintings in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Boston, 1974, p. 107, finds that the MMA and Fogg panels may date from an earlier period than the Gardner picture, which he dates to the artist's last years; also expresses uncertainty that the Ashmolean panel comes from the same predella.
Christopher Lloyd. A Catalogue of the Earlier Italian Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum. Oxford, 1977, p. 85, under no. A333.
Keith Christiansen inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1983–1984. New York, 1984, pp. 45–46, ill. (color), suggests a "Presentation in the Temple" (formerly Conservatorio di S. Pietro, Colle di Val d'Elsa; now Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena, no. I.B.S. n. 9) as the central panel of the altarpiece.
Keith Christiansen inThe Jack and Belle Linsky Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, pp. 26–29, no. 4, ill. (color), discusses its relationship to other depictions of the subject by the artist; mentions its dependence on Gentile da Fabriano's Strozzi altarpiece of the same subject of 1423 (Uffizi, Florence); mentions that the unusual gesture of the youngest magus, who embraces Joseph, has a precedent in the work of Fra Angelico, and postulates a common literary source; accepts the MMA, Fogg, and Gardner panels as parts of the same predella, and does not rule out the inclusion of the Ashmolean picture as well; suggests dating the series prior to 1463.
John Pope-Hennessy. "Giovanni di Paolo." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 46 (Fall 1988), pp. 7, 22, 29, 31, figs. 3 (color detail), 38 (color overall), lists the Fogg and Gardner panels, as well as a "Crucifixion" at Christ Church, Oxford, as parts of the same altarpiece, but does not mention the "Baptism of Christ" at the Ashmolean.
Carl Brandon Strehlke inPainting in Renaissance Siena: 1420–1500. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1988, pp. 208–10, no. 35, ill. (color), rejects the Ashmolean panel as part of the same predella as the Fogg, Gardner, and MMA pictures; reports a verbal communication from Keith Christiansen suggesting that a "Crucifixion" at Christ Church, Oxford, was the center of the predella; believes the "Presentation in the Temple" from Colle di Val D'Elsa (now Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena) was probably the main panel of the altarpiece.
Andrea De Marchi. Gentile da Fabriano: Un viaggio nella pittura italiana alla fine del gotico. Milan, 1992, p. 211 n. 33.
Andrew Ladis. "Sources and Resources: The Lost Sketchbooks of Giovanni di Paolo." The Craft of Art: Originality and Industry in the Italian Renaissance and Baroque Workshop. Ed. Andrew Ladis and Carolyn Wood. Athens, Ga., 1995, pp. 62–63, 69, 84 n. 27, fig. 15.
Carolyn C. Wilson. St. Joseph in Italian Renaissance Society and Art. Philadelphia, 2001, p. 221 n. 171.
Miklós Boskovits inItalian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. Washington, 2003, pp. 334, 336 n. 16, dates it to the late 1450s.
Sophie Lillie. Was einmal war: Handbuch der enteigneten Kunstsammlungen Wiens. Vienna, 2003, p. 218.
Dóra Sallay. "Early Sienese Paintings in Hungarian Collections, 1420–1520." PhD diss., Central European University, Budapest, 2008, p. 106, fig. 11/11 (color).