This fine painting, with its rich colors and the soft, tonal modeling of the flesh tones, was most likely painted by the young Sebastiano del Piombo. A contemporary of Titian and almost his equal in talent, Sebastiano was an important presence in Venice before his departure for Rome in 1510. If this painting is by him it must be one of his earliest, as the composition is slightly awkward, and although many details are close to those of his later, certain works, it lacks their sophistication.
Inscription: Inscribed (on scroll): [illegible]
Johann Ludwig, Reichsgraf von Wallmoden-Gimborn (until d. 1811); his son, Ludwig Georg Thedel, Feld-Marschall Graf von Wallmoden-Gimborn (1811–18; sold to Hausmann); David Bernhard Hausmann, Hanover (1818–57; cat., 1831, no. 3, as by Palma Vecchio; sold to George V); George V, King of Hanover (1857–d. 1878; cat., 1857, no. 3); his son, Ernst August, Graf von Braunschweig-Lüneburg and Duke of Cumberland, Hanover (1878–d. 1923; on loan to the Provinzial-Museum, Hanover; cats., 1891, no. 375; 1902, no. 375; 1905, no. 281, as by Circle of Palma Vecchio; his estate, 1923–26; sale, Cassirer & Helbing, Berlin, April 27–28, 1926, no. 127, as by Sebastiano del Piombo); Mrs. Siegfried (Josephine) Bieber, New York (until d. 1970)
Paris. Grand Palais. "Le siècle de Titien: L'âge d'or de la peinture à Venise," March 9–June 14, 1993, no. 35 (as "La Vierge à l'Enfant entre saint Jérôme, saint Antoine de Padoue, sainte Barbe[?], saint François et deux donateurs," by Sebastiano del Piombo).
Rome. Palazzo di Venezia. "Sebastiano del Piombo, 1485–1547," February 8–May 18, 2008, no. 4 (as "The Sacred Conversation," by Sebastiano del Piombo).
Berlin. Gemäldegalerie. "Sebastiano del Piombo, 1485–1547," June 28–September 28, 2008, no. 4 (as "The Sacred Conversation," by Sebastiano del Piombo).
Verzeichniss der Gräflich-Wallmodenschen Gemälde-Sammlung, welche am 1 Sept. des laufenden Jahres und im den folgenden wochen zu Hannover meistbietend verkauft werden soll. Hanover, 1818, p. 7, no. 20, as by Palma Vecchio; states in the foreword that the collection was put together by the deceased Duke of Wallmoden-Gimborn [i.e., Johann Ludwig, Reichsgraf von Wallmoden-Gimborn (1736–1811)].
B[ernhard]. Hausmann. Verzeichniss der Hausmann'schen Gemählde-Sammlung in Hannover. Braunschweig, 1831, p. VI n. 5, pp. 2–3, no. 3, as "Heilige Familie mit den Donatarien," by Palma Vecchio; identifies the saints as Jerome, Anthony of Padua, Barbara, and Francis; includes it among works he acquired at the Wallmoden sale in 1818.
Verzeichniss der von Seiner Majestät dem Könige angekauften Hausmann'schen Gemälde-Sammlung in Hannover. Hanover, 1857, p. 5, no. 3, as by Palma Vecchio.
G. Parthey. Deutscher Bildersaal. Vol. 2, L–Z. Berlin, 1864, p. 221, no. 29, as by Palma Vecchio; erroneously as still in the Hausmann collection.
O[skar]. Eisenmann inKatalog der zum Ressort der Königlichen Verwaltungs-Kommission gehörigen Sammlung . . . im Provinzial-Museumsgebäude . . . zu Hannover. Hanover, 1891, p. 167, no. 375, as Richtung des Palma Vecchio; lists the saints as Jerome, an unidentified monk, an unidentified female, and Francis.
Oskar Eisenmann inKatalog der zur Fideicommiss-Galerie des Gesamthauses Braunschweig und Lüneburg gehörigen Sammlung von Gemälden und Skulpturen im Provinzial-Museum . . . zu Hannover. Hanover, 1902, p. 167, no. 375.
Oskar Eisenmann and W. Köhler. Katalog der zur Fideikommiss-Galerie des Gesamthauses Braunschweig und Lüneburg . . . im Provinzial-Museum. Ed. Dr. Reimers. Hanover, 1905, p. 100, no. 281.
Alte und neuere Meister der Fideikommiss-Galerie des Gesamthauses Braunschweig-Lüneburg. Paul Cassirer, Berlin. April 27–28, 1926, unpaginated introductory section, p. 29, no. 127, pl. XVIII, states that although attributed to Palma Vecchio by Hausmann, Bode calls it an important early work by Sebastiano del Piombo.
A[dolfo]. Venturi. Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 9, part 3, La pittura del Cinquecento. Milan, 1928, pp. 84–86, fig. 58, attributes it to Sebastiano del Piombo and calls it a "sacra conversazione"; dates it to the same period as the altarpiece for S. Giovanni Crisostomo, Venice (begun 1510).
G[eorg]. Gombosi inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 27, Leipzig, 1933, p. 74, lists it among works questionably attributed to Sebastiano del Piombo.
Johannes Wilde. "Die Probleme um Domenico Mancini." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, n.s., 7 (1933), p. 115, calls it an early work by Sebastiano, from his Venetian period.
Rodolfo Pallucchini. "La formazione di Sebastiano del Piombo." Critica d'arte 1 (1935–36), pp. 42–44, fig. 1, attributes it to Sebastiano del Piombo and dates it about 1510.
Giuseppe Fiocco. Giorgione. Bergamo, 1941, p. 18 [2nd ed., 1948, p. 20], attributes it to Sebastiano del Piombo.
Luitpold Dussler. Sebastiano del Piombo. Basel, 1942, pp. 21, 131–32, no. 19, pl. 12, attributes it to Sebastiano and dates it about 1507–10.
Rodolfo Pallucchini. Sebastian Viniziano (Fra Sebastiano del Piombo). [Milan], 1944, pp. 15–16, 22, 26, 29, 114 n. 43, p. 156, pl. 18a, attributes it to Sebastiano and dates it about 1510; reports that Gronau informed him that he also attributes it to Sebastiano.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Venetian School. London, 1957, vol. 1, p. 107, as by Domenico Mancini.
Rodolfo Pallucchini inGiorgione a Venezia. Exh. cat., Gallerie dell' Accademia, Venice. Milan, 1978, p. 20, as whereabouts unknown; attributes it to Sebastiano although he has not seen it in person.
Ettore Merkel inGiorgione a Venezia. Exh. cat., Gallerie dell' Accademia, Venice. Milan, 1978, p. 114, as by Sebastiano del Piombo.
Mauro Lucco inL'opera completa di Sebastiano del Piombo. Milan, 1980, p. 97, no. 20, ill. p. 96, as whereabouts unknown, adding that it may have been in the Feilchenfeldt collection in Zürich in 1955; notes that although the four saints are usually identified as Jerome, Anthony, Barbara, and Francis, only Jerome and Francis are clearly recognizable; states that an attribution based only on reproductions of the work is difficult; dates it about 1510, relating it to the San Giovanni Crisostomo altarpiece, and connecting the Madonna with the Salome of 1510 (National Gallery, London).
Alessandro Ballarin. "Tiziano prima del fondaco dei tedeschi." Tiziano e Venezia. Vicenza, 1980, p. 497 n. 6, attributes it to Sebastiano and dates it 1507–8.
Michael Hirst. Sebastiano del Piombo. Oxford, 1981, p. 4 n. 17, calls it lost and adds that it "might be an autograph work but judgement from the available evidence is impossible".
Alessandra Pattanaro inLe siècle de Titien: L'âge d'or de la peinture à Venise. Exh. cat., Grand Palais. Paris, 1993, p. 298, no. 35, ill. p. 49 (color) and p. 298 [2nd ed., rev. and corr., 1993, p. 350, no. 35, ill. p. 49 (color) and p. 350], attributes it to Sebastiano del Piombo and suggests a date of about 1507; notes that Alessandro Ballarin confirmed the attribution to Sebastiano after seeing the painting at the Museum in 1992.
Paul Joannides. "Titian's Century is Louvre Director's Farewell." Art Newspaper no. 28 (May 1993), p. 9, rejects the attribution to Sebastiano.
Michael Hirst. Letter to Keith Christiansen. December 11, 1994, rejects the attribution to Sebastiano and wonders if it might be a copy after a lost painting; suggests calling it "Venetian School, c. 1510–15".
Mauro Lucco. "Le Siècle de Titien." Paragone 45 (September–November 1994), p. 38, attributes it to Sebastiano, dates it about 1505, and calls it "Sacra conversazione".
Mauro Lucco inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 28, New York, 1996, p. 332.
Anchise Tempestini inLa pittura nel Veneto: il Cinquecento. Ed. Mauro Lucco. Vol. 3, Milan, 1999, pp. 968, 1013 n. 63, favors an early date, but notes that the poor state of the picture makes it difficult to judge.
Giulio Manieri Elia inNatura e Maniera tra Tiziano e Caravaggio: le ceneri violette di Giorgione. Ed. Vittorio Sgarbi and Mauro Lucco. Exh. cat., Fruttiere di Palazzo Te, Mantua. Milan, 2004, p. 98, under no. 9.
Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Venice and the Veneto." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 63 (Summer 2005), p. 39, ill. (color), mentions the unusual details of Saint Jerome placing his hand on the donor's shoulder and the Christ Child leaning over to bless the donor.
Mauro Lucco inSebastiano del Piombo, 1485–1547. Exh. cat., Palazzo di Venezia, Rome. Milan, 2008, pp. 28, 98–99, no. 4, ill. (color), states that the attribution to Sebastiano is "today unanimously accepted" and dates the work 1506–7.
Alejandra González Leyva inManierismo: El Arte después de la Perfección. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional de San Carlos. Mexico City, 2014, p. 56, fig. 1 (color).
This is one of Sebastiano's earliest works, from about 1507. [KC 1992]
The four saints are traditionally identified as (from left to right) Jerome, Anthony of Padua, Barbara, and Francis; however, Jerome and Francis are the only two that are clearly recognizable. The third male saint is probably Anthony, but the female cannot be identified with certainty. The two donors are likewise unidentified, but their forenames are probably Girolamo and Francesca.
This painting, together with the remaining 205 pictures belonging to the Fideikommiss Brunswick-Lüneberg-Cumberland, was deposited in the Provinzial-Museum, Hanover, by 1891 (see Eisenmann 1891). It presumably remained there until its sale in 1926.