As the Latin inscription tells us, Abbess Lucrezia Agliardi Vertova founded the Carmelite convent of Saint Anne at Albino, outside Bergamo. This remarkably unidealized portrait of the widowed abbess hung there for centuries. Moroni was so famous for the naturalism of his portraits that the Venetian artist Titian singled him out for that quality, and his paintings were an important ingredient in the training that Caravaggio received while he lived in Lombardy.
Inscription: Dated and inscribed (on cartouche): LVCRETIA NOBILISS[IMI]. ALEXIS ALARDI / BERGOMENSIS FILIA HONORATISS[IMI]. / FRANCISCI CATANEI VERTVATIS / VXOR DIVAE ANNAE ALBINENSE / TEMPLVM IPSA STATVENDV CVRAVIT. / M.D.LVII. (Lucretia, daughter of the most noble Alessio Agliardi of Bergamo, wife of the most honorable Francesco Cataneo Vertova, herself founded the church of Saint Anne at Albino. 1557)
convent of Sant'Anna, Albino (until 1799; sold for 300 lire to Noli); prete Giovanni Battista Noli, Bergamo (from 1799); by descent to Signora Elena Noli Baglioni, Bergamo (1860s); Ercole Baglioni, Bergamo (by 1870–at least 1875; sold to Zanchi); Dionigi Zanchi, Bergamo (?until 1893; sold for Fr 5,000 to Davis); Theodore M. Davis, Newport, R.I. (1893–d. 1915; his estate, on loan to the MMA, 1915–30)
Bergamo. location unknown. "Esposizione provinciale bergamasca," 1870, unnumbered cat.? (p. 43, lent by Ercole Baglioni) [see Locatelli-Milesi 1928 and Gregori 1979 (cat. rais.)].
Bergamo. location unknown. "Esposizione d'arte antica," 1875, no. 18 (lent by Ercole Baglioni) [see Locatelli-Milesi 1928 and Gregori 1979 (cat. rais.)].
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1894, no. 264 (as "The Abbess," lent by Theo. M. Davis).
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Winter 1903–4, no catalogue? (lent by Theodore M. Davis) [see Chalfin 1903].
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.
Detroit Institute of Arts. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 2–28, 1951, no catalogue.
Art Gallery of Toronto. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," November 14–December 12, 1951, no catalogue.
City Art Museum of St. Louis. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 6–February 4, 1952, no catalogue.
Seattle Art Museum. "Thirty-Eight Great Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," March 1–June 30, 1952, no catalogue.
Milan. Palazzo Reale. "I pittori della realtà in Lombardia," April 19–July 19, 1953, no. 8.
Poughkeepsie. Vassar College Art Gallery. "Sixteenth Century Paintings From American Collections," October 16–November 15, 1964, no catalogue?
Bergamo. Palazzo della Ragione. "Giovan Battista Moroni," September 15–November 15, 1979, no. 20.
Cremona. Museo Civico Ala Ponzone. "Pittori della realtà: le ragioni di una rivoluzione da Foppa e Leonardo a Caravaggio e Ceruti," February 14–May 2, 2004, unnumbered cat. (p. 176).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Painters of Reality: The Legacy of Leonardo and Caravaggio in Lombardy," May 27–August 15, 2004, no. 36.
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Giovanni Battista Moroni," October 25, 2014–January 25, 2015, no. 13.
Donato Calvi. Delle chiese della città e della diocesi di Bergamo. [ca. 1668–70], c. 106r. [Biblioteco Civica, Bergamo, I. D. 7 14-15-16; see Ref. Gregori 1979 (cat. rais.)], mentions it as in the convent of Sant'Anna, Albino.
Francesco Maria Tassi. Vite de' pittori scultori e architetti bergamaschi. Bergamo, 1793, vol. 1, p. 165, mentions it as in the convent of Sant'Anna; records the altered inscription [see Ref. Piccinelli 1863–65].
Giovanni Maironi da Ponte. Dizionario odeporico o sia storico-politico-naturale della provincia bergamasca. Vol. 1, Bergamo, 1819, p. 10.
C. Fachinetti. "Elenco delle pitture e scolture . . . estratto dal Dizionario odeporico del sig. Maironi da Ponte." Bergamo o sia notizie patrie. Bergamo, 1823, p. 66 [see Ref. Gregori 1979 (cat. rais.)].
Antonio Piccinelli. marginal notes in Francesco Maria Tassi, "Vite de' pittori, scultori e architetti bergamaschi," 1793. [ca. 1863–65] [published in Refs. Bassi Rathgeb 1959 and Mazzini 1970], in vol. 1, p. 165, notes that, according to Marenzi, it was sold by the nuns in 1799 to Noli for 300 lire and that it is now in the collection of Elena Noli Baglioni; states that it was cleaned and relined in 1854, at which time a later inscription [see Ref. Tassi 1793] was removed to reveal the original below.
Pasino Locatelli. Illustri bergamaschi: Studi critico-biografici. Vol. 1, Pittori. Bergamo, 1867, p. 388, as in the Noli collection; gives the version of the inscription recorded by Tassi in 1793 rather than the original version revealed in 1854.
Charles Blanc. Histoire des peintres de toutes les écoles: École vénitienne. Vol. 14, Paris, 1868, p. 4.
B[ernard]. Berenson. "Les peintures italiennes de New-York et de Boston." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 15 (March 1896), pp. 201–2, ill. (cropped).
G. Moratti. Raccolta di pittori che dipinsero in Bergamo e sua provincia compresa la Val Camonica. 1900, vol. 3, part 2, cc. 151, 154 [Biblioteca Civica, Bergamo, 7 10-1-2; see Ref. Gregori 1979 (cat. rais.)].
P. C[halfin]. "Pictures in the Fourth Gallery." Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin 1 (November 1903), p. 30.
P. Chalfin. Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Twenty-eighth Annual Report for the Year 1903. Cambridge, Mass., 1904, p. 105 [see Ref. Gregori 1979 (cat. rais.)].
Bernhard Berenson. North Italian Painters of the Renaissance. New York, 1907, p. 272.
Joseph Breck. "Dipinti italiani nella raccolta del Signor Teodoro Davis." Rassegna d'arte 11 (July 1911), p. 113, ill. p. 112.
E. Fornoni. Note biografiche su pittori bergamaschi. [ca. 1915–22], cc. 24–25 [Curia Vescovile, Bergamo; see Ref. Gregori 1979 (cat. rais.)].
Salomon Reinach. Répertoire de peintures du moyen age et de la renaissance (1280–1580). Vol. 4, Paris, 1918, p. 121, no. 2, ill. (engraving).
Ciro Caversazzi. "Ritratti di G. B. Moroni in America." Rivista di Bergamo 1 (February 1922), p. 67, dates it probably 1556, suggesting that the date of 1557 was added later and refers to the year of the sitter's death; in attempting to reconcile the version of the inscription recorded by Tassi in 1793 with that currently on the MMA picture, and unaware that the original inscription was uncovered during cleaning in 1854, suggests that Tassi may not have seen the actual portrait in the convent; notes a copy in the collection of conte Paolo Agliardi, Bergamo; gives provenance information.
Frank Jewett Mather Jr. A History of Italian Painting. New York, 1923, p. 423.
Heinrich Merten. "Giovanni Battista Moroni: Des Meisters Gemälde und Zeichnungen." PhD diss., Philipps Universität, Marburg, 1928, pp. 38–39, no. 71.
Achille Locatelli-Milesi. "Le collezioni artistiche private in Bergamo nei secoli XVI–XIX." Bergomum 22, no. 1 (1928), p. 28, notes that it was lent by Ercole Baglioni to exhibitions in 1870 and 1875.
Adolfo Venturi. Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 9, part 4, La pittura del Cinquecento. Milan, 1929, pp. 205, 277 n. 1.
Bryson Burroughs. "The Theodore M. Davis Bequest: The Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 26, section 2 (March 1931), pp. 14, 16, ill. p. 20.
Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, pl. CCCXCVII.
Paolo Arrigoni inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 25, Leipzig, 1931, p. 165.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 382, as "Portrait of Lucretia Verduada".
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 3, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century. New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 537.
Gertrud Lendorff. Giovanni Battista Moroni, der Porträtmaler von Bergamo. Winterthur, Switzerland, 1933, pp. 1, 22–23, 27, 55, 98, no. 9.
C[iro]. C[aversazzi]. "Il ritratto dell'abbadessa Lucrezia Agliardi Cataneo, di G. B. Moroni." Bergomum 28, no. 1 (1934), p. 94, pl. XXIII, mentions the copy in the Agliardi collection [see Ref. Caversazzi 1922], and a second one, a modern copy of a copy, which he tentatively attributes to Luigi Trécourt, in the collection of conte B. Camozzi, Costa di Mezzate.
Hans Tietze. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935, p. 330, pl. 95 [English ed., "Masterpieces of European Painting in America," New York, 1939, p. 314, pl. 95].
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 328.
Gertrude Lendorff inGiovanni Battista Moroni, il ritrattista bergamasco. Bergamo, 1939, pp. 18, 60–61, 65, 125, 169, no. 9 [text similar to Ref. Lendorff 1933].
Ciro Caversazzi. "Alcuni ritratti di G. B. Moroni all' estero." G. B. Moroni, pittore. [Albino?], 1939, pp. 34–36, ill. [similar text to Ref. Caversazzi 1922], still unaware of the 1854 cleaning which revealed the original inscription, decides that Tassi [see Ref. 1793] may have seen a copy of the painting, probably the same one seen by Locatelli in 1867 [see Ref.].
Davide Cugini. Moroni pittore. Bergamo, 1939, pp. 151–56, 317, fig. 28, accepts Caversazzi's [see Ref. 1922] dating of 1556.
"Cenni su Albino." G. B. Moroni, pittore. [Albino?], 1939, p. 59.
Davide Cugini. "La Badessa Lucrezia Agliardi fondatrice del Convento di S. Anna in Albino in un ritratto del grande pittore bergamasco." Voce di Bergamo (June 10, 1939), p. 4 [see Ref. Gregori 1979 (cat. rais.)].
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 163–64, ill.
Millia Davenport. The Book of Costume. New York, 1948, vol. 2, p. 500, no. 1340, ill. (cropped).
Renata Cipriani and Giovanni Testori. I pittori della realtà in Lombardia. Exh. cat., Palazzo Reale. Milan, 1953, pp. 25, 79, no. 8, pl. 8.
Giuseppe De Logu. Pittura veneziana dal XIV al XVIII secolo. Bergamo, 1958, p. 267.
Roberto Bassi Rathgeb. "Le postille di Antonio Piccinelli alle 'Vite dei pittori, scultori e architetti bergamaschi' di F. M. Tassi." L'arte 58 (January–June 1959), p. 126, publishes Piccinelli's [see Ref. 1863–65] marginal note in Tassi's book.
Emma Spina. Moroni. Milan, 1966, unpaginated.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 287.
Franco Mazzini, ed. Vite de' pittori, scultori e architetti bergamaschi. By Francesco Maria Tassi. Vol. 2, Milan, 1970, pp. 201, 340–41, publishes Piccinelli's [see Ref. 1863–65] marginal note.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 145, 511, 607.
Luisa Vertova. "Bianca Vertova puella e santa." Antichità viva 15, no. 1 (1976), pp. 8–10 nn. 6, 7, fig. 5, believes that the picture seen by Tassi [see Ref. 1793] and Locatelli [see Ref. 1867] was not the MMA painting but rather a copy which she erroneously states was in the Noli collection in 1867; notes that the word "Cataneo" in the inscription refers to the title "Capitano".
Giovanni Testori. Moroni in Val Seriana. Brescia, 1978, p. 65.
Mina Gregori. Giovan Battista Moroni: Tutte le opere. Bergamo, 1979, pp. 100, 106, 289–90, no. 162, ill. p. 336, dates it 1555–57; discusses the two copies.
Mina Gregori inGiovan Battista Moroni. Exh. cat., Palazzo della Ragione. Bergamo, 1979, pp. 28, 30, 34, 51, 67, 112–14, 301–2, 342, no. 20, ill., dates it 1556–57 and notes that Moroni's cousin was syndic of the convent in 1556.
Stella Mary Newton inGiovan Battista Moroni. Exh. cat., Palazzo della Ragione. Bergamo, 1979, p. 293, notes that the veil worn by the sitter could signify either her position as founder of the convent or her widowhood.
Ernest Samuels. Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Connoisseur. Cambridge, Mass., 1979, pp. 182, 243.
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. 48–50, pl. 74.
Silvana Milesi. Moroni e il primo Cinquecento bergamasco. Bergamo, 1991, pp. 20, 30–31, 35, ill.
Francesco Rossi. G. B. Moroni. Soncino, 1991, pp. 11, 16, 66, 68, 70, 72, colorpl. 17, suggests that a portrait of Battistino Moretti (private collection, Bergamo), Moroni's cousin and syndic at the convent of Sant'Anna, may have been conceived as a pendant to the MMA painting.
Charlotte Hale in "The Changing Image, Studies in Paintings Conservation: Restoring 'Bartolommeo Bonghi'." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 51 (Winter 1993/94), pp. 24–25, fig. 6 (color).
Cheryl A. Schutt Brown. "The Portrait of an Abbess: Lucrezia Agliardi Vertova." Rutgers Art Review 14 (1994), pp. 44–51, fig. 1, finds that it follows the contemporary conventions for male, rather than female, portraiture, and argues that this is meant to express the sitter's independence, authority, and accomplishments.
Francesco Frangi inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 22, New York, 1996, p. 133.
Peter Humfrey. Giovanni Battista Moroni: Renaissance Portraitist. Exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum. Fort Worth, 2000, pp. 13, 22, 24, 32, fig. 7.
Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 60 (Spring 2003), pp. 34–36, fig. 25 (color).
Andrea Bayer inPainters of Reality: The Legacy of Leonardo and Caravaggio in Lombardy. Ed. Andrea Bayer. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2004, pp. 9–10, 109, 128, no. 36, fig. 6 (color detail), ill. p. 128 (color) [Italian ed., "Pittori della realtà: le ragioni di una rivoluzione da Foppa e Leonardo a Caravaggio e Ceruti," (Milan), 2004, pp. 21–22, 126, 176, fig. 5 (detail), ill. p. 176 (color)].
Peter Humfrey inThe Age of Titian: Venetian Renaissance Art from Scottish Collections. Exh. cat., Royal Scottish Academy Building. Edinburgh, 2004, p. 30, fig. 39 (color).
Danilo Zardin inGiovan Battista Moroni: lo sguardo sulla realtà, 1560–1579. Ed. Simone Facchinetti. Exh. cat., Museo Adriano Bernagerri et al., Bergamo. Cinisello Balsamo (Milan), 2004, p. 75, fig. 5, calls it one of the masterpieces of Moroni's early period.
Giampiero Tiraboschi inGiovan Battista Moroni: lo sguardo sulla realtà, 1560–1579. Ed. Simone Facchinetti. Exh. cat., Museo Adriano Bernareggi et al., Bergamo. Cinisello Balsamo (Milan), 2004, p. 283, dates it 1557 and gives the death date of the sitter as March 24, 1558.
Andrea Di Lorenzo inLa raccolta Mario Scaglia: dipinti e sculture, medaglie e placchette da Pisanello a Ceruti. Ed. Andrea Di Lorenzo and Francesco Frangi. Exh. cat., Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan. Cinisello Balsamo (Milan), 2007, pp. 204, 206–7, ill., under no. 85, compares it with Moroni's "Portrait of a Prelate" (Mario Scaglia collection, Bergamo) of 1557, suggesting that the latter was also made for the convent of Sant'Anna and calling the two works "quasi pendants," but rejecting Rossi's [see Ref. 1991] identification of the Scaglia portrait as Moroni's cousin Battistino Moretti; agrees that the date 1557 inscribed on the cartouche refers to the execution date and not to the death date of the sitter [see Ref. Tiraboschi 2004]; lists Francesco Noli, Bergamo, as the owner of the painting after Elena Noli Baglioni.
Erin J. Campbell. "Prophets, Saints, and Matriarchs: Portraits of Old Women in Early Modern Italy." Renaissance Quarterly 63 (Fall 2010), pp. 818–24, fig. 4, sees Moroni's depiction of the sitter's wrinkles and goiter as a sign of her sanctity rather than an example of the artist's "unsparing naturalism"; based on writings by Juan Luis Vives (1492/93–1540), interprets the portrait as a contemporary version of the prophetess Anna in the New Testament, and an exemplar of chastity, piety, and other virtues.
Simone Facchinetti and Arturo Galansino inGiovanni Battista Moroni. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 2014, p. 37.
Simone Facchinetti inGiovanni Battista Moroni. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 2014, pp. 51, 77, 119–20, no. 13, ill. pp. 59, 120 (color).
Matthias Wivel. "Exhibitions: Giovanni Battista Moroni." Burlington Magazine 157 (January 2015), p. 41.
Andrea Bayer. "Collecting North Italian Paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art." A Market for Merchant Princes: Collecting Italian Renaissance Paintings in America. Ed. Inge Reist. University Park, Pa., 2015, pp. 88, 123 n. 12 (to chapter 7).
Sebastian Schütze. Caravaggio: The Complete Works. Cologne, 2015, p. 26.
The frame is from Lombardy and dates to about 1590 (see Additional Images, figs. 1–3). This handsome but restrained cassetta or box frame is made of pine and retains its original water gilded surface overall on a thin gesso ground. The gilded sight edge molding lies within a black painted frieze with sgraffito decoration at the corners which is scratched to reveal the gilding underneath and resembles Flemish strapwork. A gilded hollow rises to a black painted top edge quarter round molding which mimics the sight edge. The frame has been slightly trimmed to close the mitres. It was put on the painting in 1979.
[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2016; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
As the inscription states, the sitter was the daughter of Alessio Agliardi and the wife of Francesco Vertova (died about 1516). She founded the convent of Sant'Anna in Albino (near Bergamo) in 1525. In her will of 1556 she named the convent as her beneficiary and specified that she wished to be buried there.
The original inscription visible today was at some point covered up with a later version, which was recorded by Tassi in 1793. This later version was removed in 1854 (see Piccinelli 1863–65).
There are two copies of the composition (Agliardi collection, Bergamo, and Camozzi Vertova collection, Costa di Mezzate [near Bergamo]), both of which record the original inscription.
The painting was cleaned and relined in 1979 and is in excellent condition.