Videos ()
Under the Roman Sun: Landscape, Brigands, and the Late Grand Tour


Madonna and Child with Saints

Giovanni Bellini (Italian, Venice, active by 1459–died 1516 Venice) and Workshop

Tempera and oil on wood
38 1/4 x 60 1/2 in. (97.2 x 153.7 cm)
Credit Line:
The Jules Bache Collection, 1949
Accession Number:
  • Catalogue Entry

    This imposing work, the scale of which suggests a commission of some importance, is a product of Bellini’s workshop. As early as 1895, Gronau noted the weak drawing of the hands and remarked on the collaboration of several assistants. That more than one hand was involved seems likely. There is also evidence that the work was pieced together from other paintings. The scale of the figures is notably inconsistent—the frontal female martyr between the Madonna and Saint Peter is too large and her hands are incompetently drawn—and the composition in general is incohesive. Examination with infrared reflectography (for which, see Christiansen 2004) bears out this idea, revealing a variety of drawing styles and the probable use of cartoons or tracings from other pictures. Perhaps the most conspicuous borrowing is the figure of Saint Lucy, who holds a beautifully painted oil lamp (her symbol). Her features are so close to those of the figure of Persephone in the Feast of the Gods (National Gallery of Art, Washington) that it seems likely that a cartoon was re-employed, flopping it so as to have the saint turn towards the Virgin (the same did not happen in the case of the Saint Peter, who curiously turns away from the Madonna). Lucy’s features and gesture would then have been re-adapted to suit her new identity and function within the composition. The figure of Saint John the Baptist may be derived from the same saint in Bellini’s Baptism of Christ in the church of Santa Corona, Vicenza, the background mountains of which bear a striking similarity to the background of the Metropolitan’s painting. The Santa Corona altarpiece was commissioned after 1500 and the Feast of the Gods is dated 1514. The Metropolitan’s painting has been dated around or after 1510 and is clearly a late work. As has been suggested by a number of scholars, Bellini may well have intervened in some of the finer passages. Although attempts have been made to identify the assistant(s) employed in painting this work, no consensus has emerged.

    It should be noted that this sort of workshop production does not mean that the patron was unimportant. However, after ca. 1500 the aged Bellini seems to have relied increasingly on his workshop. A picture of similar size and composition, signed and dated 1507, was commissioned by Giacomo Dolfin to decorate the altar of his family chapel in San Francesco della Vigna, Venice. It includes a portrait of the donor, who clearly attached great importance to it, and it represented a significant commission for a conspicuous location. Yet it was manifestly produced with the assistance of pupils. As in the Metropolitan’s painting, the Madonna and child are based on another work: the Barbarigo Altarpiece of 1488 (church of San Pietro Martire, Murano). The Metropolitan’s picture could also have served as an altarpiece rather than a work for private devotion.


  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed and inscribed: (lower center, on cartellino) Ioannes Bellinus; (on scroll held by Saint John the Baptist) ECCE / AGNVS / DEI

  • Provenance

    ?Sir Philip Stephens, 1st Baronet, London (until d. 1809; his estate sale, Christie's, London, May 17, 1810, no. 76, as "Virgin and Child under a canopy, attended by St. Peter, St. John, and other Saints," by Giovanni Bellini, for £94.10, bought in); ?his son-in-law, Thomas Jones, 6th Viscount Ranelagh, Ranelagh House, Fulham (1809–d. 1820; his estate sale, Christie's, Fulham, June 23, 1821, no. 90, for £93.9 to Noseda); Wynn Ellis, London (after 1854–d. 1875; his estate sale, Christie's, London, June 17, 1876, no. 55, as by Bellini, for £483 to Waters); [Waters, London, from 1876]; William Graham, London (by 1879–d. 1885; inv., 1882, no. 239, as by Giovanni Bellini and workshop; his estate sale, Christie's, London, April 2–10, 1886, no. 486, as by Bellini, for £745.10.0 to Colnaghi); [Colnaghi, London, from 1886]; Robert H. and Evelyn Benson, London (by 1893–1927; cat., 1914, no. 74; sold to Duveen); [Duveen, London and New York, 1927; sold for $350,000 to Bache]; Jules S. Bache, New York (1927–d. 1944; his estate, 1944–49; cats., 1929, unnumbered; 1937, no. 1; 1943, no. 1)

  • Exhibition History

    London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January 6–March 15, 1879, no. 203 (as by Giovanni Bellini, lent by William Graham).

    London. New Gallery. "Venetian Art," 1894–95, no. 107 (as by Giovanni Bellini, lent by Mrs. R. H. Benson).

    London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January 3–March 12, 1910, no. 27 (as by Giovanni Bellini, lent by R. H. Benson).

    London. Burlington Fine Arts Club. "A Collection of Pictures of the Early Venetian School and Other Works of Art," 1912, no. 28 (as by Giovanni Bellini, lent by R. H. Benson).

    City of Manchester Art Gallery. "Loan Exhibition of the Benson Collection of Old Italian Masters," April 27–July 30, 1927, no. 49 (as by Giovanni Bellini, lent by R. H. Benson).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Bache Collection," June 16–September 30, 1943, no. 1 (as by Giovanni Bellini).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Venetian Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," May 1–September 2, 1974, no catalogue.

    Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice," March 15–August 16, 2009, no. 1.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art in Renaissance Venice, 1400–1515: Paintings and Drawings from the Museum's Collections," November 8, 2011–February 5, 2012, no catalogue.

  • References

    Ivan Lermolieff [Giovanni Morelli]. "Die Galerie zu Berlin." Kunstkritische Studien über italienische Malerei. 3, Leipzig, 1893, p. 89, ill. opp. p. 88, attributes this painting to Francesco Bissolo.

    Bernhard Berenson. The Venetian Painters of the Renaissance. 3rd ed. New York, 1894, p. 82, lists it as by Marco Basaiti.

    G[eorg]. Gronau. "Correspondance d'Angleterre: l'art vénitien à Londres, à propos de l'exposition de la New Gallery." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 13 (February 1895), p. 262, comments on the "sovereign beauty" of the figures and the weak drawing of the hands and attributes the painting to the workshop of Bellini, with the collaboration of several assistants.

    W. v. Seidlitz. "Die Ausstellung venezianischer Kunst in der New Gallery zu London im Winter 1894–95." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 18 (1895), p. 211, rejects Berenson's attribution to Basaiti and Morelli's to Bissolo, ascribing it to an imitator of Giovanni Bellini.

    Bernhard Berenson. The Study and Criticism of Italian Art. 1, London, 1901, pp. 110–12, ill., rejects the attribution to Bissolo, ascribing it to Basaiti and dating it about 1510, doubts the authenticity of the signature and suggests that Basaiti was employed in Giovanni Bellini's workshop.

    Salomon Reinach. Répertoire de peintures du moyen age et de la renaissance (1280–1580). 1, Paris, 1905, p. 337, ill. (engraving).

    Lionel Cust. "La collection de M. R.-H. Benson." Les arts 6 (October 1907), pp. 3–4, ill. p. 8, attributes it to Giovanni Bellini around 1505.

    A. von Beckerath. "Die Winter Ausstellung der Royal Academy 1910." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 33 (1910), p. 283, hesitantly accepts Morelli's attribution to Bissolo.

    C[ostanza]. J[ocelyn]. Ffoulkes. "Corrieri." L'arte 13, no. 39 (1910), p. 305, attributes it to the school of Giovanni Bellini.

    G. Gr[onau]. in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. 4, Leipzig, 1910, p. 68, rejects the attribution to Bissolo, calling it the work of some other pupil of Giovanni Bellini.

    Early Venetian Pictures and Other Works of Art. Exh. cat., Burlington Fine Arts Club. London, 1912, pp. 36–37, no. 28, pl. 24, attributes it to Giovanni Bellini and dates it 1500–1510, grouping it with the San Zaccaria altarpiece of 1505 and the "Baptism" (Santa Corona, Vicenza).

    Catalogue of Italian Pictures at 16, South Street, Park Lane, London and Buckhurst in Sussex collected by Robert and Evelyn Benson. London, 1914, pp. 145–47, no. 74, ill., attributes it to Bellini and dates it 1500–1505.

    Bernard Berenson. Venetian Painting in America: The Fifteenth Century. New York, 1916, pp. 126, 135, rejects his previous attribution to Basaiti and calls it a work of the studio of Giovanni Bellini, painted not before 1510 and probably not even before 1512.

    Bernard Berenson. Letter. 1927, lists it as a late work by Giovanni Bellini [see Refs. Zeri and Gardner 1973 and Simpson 1986].

    Georg Gronau. Spätwerke des Giovanni Bellini. Strasbourg, 1928, pp. 19–21, pl. 17, includes it in a list of paintings signed with Bellini's cursive signature.

    Georg Gronau. "Le opere tarde di Giovanni Bellini." Pinacotheca 1 (November–December 1928), p. 120, fig. 16, attributes it to Bellini, noting that the cursive signature type, which Morelli has argued appears only on workshop paintings, is found on late autograph works.

    A Catalogue of Paintings in the Collection of Jules S. Bache. New York, 1929, unpaginated, ill.

    Esther Singleton. Old World Masters in New World Collections. New York, 1929, pp. 130–32.

    Georg Gronau. Giovanni Bellini: Des Meisters Gemälde. Stuttgart, 1930, p. 214, pl. 153, calls it a work by Giovanni Bellini, commenting on its relation to the "Madonna and Child with Saints" in the Morgan Library and to the early work of Vincenzo Catena.

    August L. Mayer. "Die Sammlung Jules Bache in New-York." Pantheon 6 (December 1930), p. 541, attributes it to Giovanni Bellini.

    Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 71, lists it as a late work of Giovanni Bellini.

    Luitpold Dussler. Giovanni Bellini. Frankfurt, 1935, p. 148, attributes it to the workshop of Giovanni Bellini, about 1505–10, stating that the types and the composition have an eclectic character and suggesting that for the figures of the Madonna and Child a cartoon by Giovanni Bellini was probably used.

    Raimond van Marle. "The Renaissance Painters of Venice." The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. 17, The Hague, 1935, pp. 330, 332, attributes it to Bellini and dates it about 1510, close to the Madonna in the Brera Gallery, Milan.

    Frank Jewett Mather Jr. Venetian Painters. New York, 1936, pp. 119–20, calls it a late work by Giovanni Bellini.

    George Martin Richter. "A Portrait of a Lady by Giovanni Bellini." Burlington Magazine 69 (July 1936), p. 3, pl. 2A (detail), attributes it to Giovanni Bellini, comparing the Saint Catherine with a portrait of a woman in a London private collection.

    A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. under revision. New York, 1937, unpaginated, no. 1, ill.

    Carlo Gamba. Giovanni Bellini. Milan, 1937, pp. 174–75, pl. 192, attributes it to Giovanni Bellini and dates it in his late period, comparing it with the "Feast of the Gods" in the Widener collection [now National Gallery of Art, Washington].

    Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941, unpaginated, no. 90, ill. (overall and detail), attribute to Giovanni Bellini, and date it about 1510.

    A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. rev. ed. New York, 1943, unpaginated, no. 1, ill.

    Walter Heil. "The Bache Paintings at the Metropolitan." Art News 42 (June–July 1943), p. 15, ill. p. 13.

    Harry B. Wehle. "The Bache Collection on Loan." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1 (June 1943), p. 285, calls it a late work by Bellini.

    Luitpold Dussler. Giovanni Bellini. Vienna, 1949, p. 100, pl. 135.

    Edoardo Arslan. Letter. April 21, 1952, attributes it to the workshop of Giovanni Bellini and dates it about 1505.

    Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Venetian School. London, 1957, vol. 1, p. 32, pl. 243.

    Felton Gibbons. "The Bellinesque Painter Marco Bello." Arte veneta 16 (1962), pp. 47–48, fig. 54, attributes it to the late period of Marco Bello, working under Giovanni Bellini's guidance; notes that the female saint on the left is a type that occurs in other works from Bellini's studio, such as the painting in the Morgan Library which the writer also attributes to Marco Bello and Bellini.

    Fritz Heinemann. Giovanni Bellini e i Belliniani. Venice, [1962], pp. 35–36, no. 131, fig. 249, notes that the composition is derived from a model by Bellini but that the execution is that of his workshop in large part; dates it between 1502 and 1513 and lists a number of old copies and variants.

    Rodolfo Pallucchini. Giovanni Bellini. London, [1962], pp. 110, 161, fig. 216, attributes it to Bellini, assisted by his workshop, dates it before 1510, and observes that the female saint on the left reappears as a nymph in the "Feast of the Gods" in Washington.

    Stefano Bottari. Tutta la pittura di Giovanni Bellini. Milan, 1963, vol. 2, p. 36, pl. 147, lists it with the authentic works of Giovanni Bellini, dating it 1510–12.

    Terisio Pignatti in L'opera completa di Giovanni Bellini. Milan, 1969, pp. 108–9, no. 201, ill., calls it Bellini with workshop collaboration and dates it to 1510 or after.

    Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 22, 330, 383, 414, 426, 442, 608, as by Giovanni Bellini.

    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. 6–7, pl. 6, note that this painting is characteristic of Bellini's last period and that the pentimenti around the heads of the two female saints indicate that the design is his; consider the execution only partly by Bellini himself, and call the rest, especially the draperies of the saints, the work of assistants or pupils; suggest a date toward 1510 or slightly later.

    Oliver Garnett. Letter to Sir John Pope-Hennessy. September 27, 1982, notes that it is listed in an unpublished inventory of William Graham's collection compiled in 1882, as no. 239, by Giovanni Bellini and workshop.

    Thomas Hoving. "The Berenson Scandals: An Interview with Colin Simpson." Connoisseur 216 (October 1986), p. 135.

    Colin Simpson. Artful Partners: Bernard Berenson and Joseph Duveen. New York, 1986, pp. 211–12, 292 [excerpt published in Connoisseur 216 (October 1986), p. 128, ill. p. 130; British ed., "The Partnership: The Secret Association of Bernard Berenson and Joseph Duveen," London, 1987], discusses Berenson's reattribution of the painting in 1927 from workshop to autograph in order to promote it as a purchase to the collector Jules Bache.

    Rona Goffen. Giovanni Bellini. New Haven, 1989, p. 314 n. 76, as one of the works of collaboration in which sometimes only the design, and sometimes part of the execution, can be credited to Bellini himself.

    Alessandro Ballarin. Dosso Dossi: la pittura a Ferrara negli anni del ducato di Alfonso I. Cittadella (Padua), 1994–95, vol. 2, fig. 271, dates it about 1514.

    Anchise Tempestini. Giovanni Bellini. Milan, 2000, p. 190, no. 71 (of dipinti attribuiti), ill., as Workshop of Giovanni Bellini.

    Keith Christiansen. "Giovanni Bellini e la maniera devota." Da Bellini a Veronese: temi di arte veneta. Venice, 2004, pp. 131–32, pls. 6–8 (overall and infrared reflectogram details) [same text published in English in "Giovanni Bellini and the Art of Devotion," Indianapolis, 2004], calls it a pastiche from Bellini's workshop with compositional elements from various works by the master.

    Keith Christiansen. "Giovanni Bellini and the Practice of Devotional Painting." Giovanni Bellini and the Art of Devotion. Indianapolis, 2004, pp. 18, 20–21, figs. 14–16 (overall and details of infrared reflectogram assembly) [same text published in Italian in "Da Bellini a Veronese: temi di arte veneta," Venice, 2004], calls it a pastiche from Bellini's workshop with compositional elements from various works by the master.

    Frederick Ilchman in Frederick Ilchman. Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 2009, pp. 32, 92–95, 97, 273 nn. 29, 32–33, p. 290, no. 1, ill. (color, overall and detail), dates it 1505–8; lists the origins of the individual figures in earlier paintings by Bellini; discusses the signature, which at the time did not necessarily indicate that the painting was executed entirely by the master, but rather that he had approved it.

    John Marciari in Frederick Ilchman. Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 2009, p. 126, mentions it as an early example of one of the "quintessential developments of Venetian Cinquecento painting": the depiction of the Madonna and Child with saints in a landscape.

    Anchise Tempestini. "I collaboratori di Giovanni Bellini." Saggi e memorie di storia dell'arte 33 (2009), p. 33, fig. 24.

  • Notes

    The saints (from left to right) are: Peter, Catherine of Alexandria, Lucy, and John the Baptist.

  • See also