The Circumcision

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

Oil on wood
26 3/4 x 40 1/2 in. (67.9 x 102.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    The picture was produced in Bellini's workshop and follows a cartoon by the master. In the most distinguished example of the composition, in the National Gallery, London, the figures are shown with slight variations against a dark, neutral background instead of a landscape. The present picture has been attributed to Vincenzo Catena, but the resemblances to his work are superficial. The picture has been badly overcleaned. In consequence, the forms look schematic.

  • Catalogue Entry


  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Dated and inscribed (lower center): IOANNES BeLLINVS / P. MDXI

  • Provenance

    conte Carlo Castelbarco, Milan (until 1870; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 2–6, 1870, no. 1, as by Giovanni Bellini, for Fr 8,100); Salomon Goldschmidt, Paris (1894–98; his sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, May 14–17, 1898, no. 50, as by Giovanni Bellini, for Fr 7,100 to Sedelmeyer?); ?[Sedelmeyer, Paris, from 1898]; J. Pierpont Morgan, New York (by 1909–d. 1913; his estate, 1913–17)

  • Exhibition History

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1909, no catalogue (as by Catena, lent by J. Pierpont Morgan).

  • References

    Bernhard Berenson. The Venetian Painters of the Renaissance. 3rd ed. New York, 1894, p. 103, lists it as by Vincenzo Catena, in the collection of Salomon Goldschmidt, Paris.

    Bernhard Berenson. The Study and Criticism of Italian Art. 1, London, 1901, p. 131, attributes this painting and Castle Howard "Circumcision" (National Gallery, London), both with Bellini signatures, to Vicenzo Catena; remarks on the number of copies after the Castle Howard version and suggests Catena may have "invented the composition" himself.

    Salomon Reinach. Répertoire de peintures du moyen age et de la renaissance (1280–1580). 1, Paris, 1905, p. 373, ill. (engraving), as school of Giovanni Bellini; erroneously as dated 1508.

    Joseph Breck. "Sammlungen: Die Neuerwerbungen des Metropolitan Museum in New York." Der Cicerone 1 (1909), p. 292, attributes it to Catena.

    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. 2nd ed. [1st ed. 1871]. London, 1912, vol. 1, p. 148 n. 7, call this painting a copy after Giovanni Bellini.

    Bryson Burroughs. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Catalogue of Paintings. 6th ed. New York, 1922, p. 42, catalogues it as a copy by Catena, perhaps after Giovanni Bellini; notes three other versions of the composition: one in London, one formerly in the Orléans collection and one formerly in the Leuchtenberg collection.

    Georg Gronau. Giovanni Bellini: Des Meisters Gemälde. Stuttgart, 1930, p. 214 n. 150, considers it a version of the London picture.

    Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 139.

    Raimond van Marle. "The Renaissance Painters of Venice." The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. 17, The Hague, 1935, pp. 365, 368, considers it a painting executed by Catena in Giovanni Bellini's workshop and sees the 1511 date as a sign that they were still collaborating at this time; knows of thirteen versions of this composition produced by the Bellini studio and remarks that our picture's landscape background and beardless figure on the left distinguish it from the others.

    Raimond van Marle. "The Renaissance Painters of Venice." The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. 18, The Hague, 1936, pp. 377, 384, remarks that Catena's hand is "less evident" in this picture compared to the versions in London, Berlin, Rome and Naples.

    Carlo Gamba. Giovanni Bellini. Milan, 1937, p. 95, mentions it as a replica of the London painting and calls it the latest of the series of variants after this composition.

    Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 184, ill., catalogues it as by Catena.

    Giles Robertson. Vincenzo Catena. Edinburgh, 1954, p. 80, lists it among the works wrongly attributed to Catena in the belief that he worked in Giovanni Bellini's workshop as an assistant; calls it a product of Bellini's workshop.

    Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Venetian School. London, 1957, vol. 1, p. 62, lists it as a work of Vincenzo Catena.

    Martin Davies. The Earlier Italian Schools. 2nd ed., rev. London, 1961, pp. 68–69, calls it a version of the London painting, probably not by Bellini given its substitution of a landscape, which is "unsuitable for the subject," for a black background.

    Fritz Heinemann. Giovanni Bellini e i Belliniani. Venice, [1962], p. 43, no. 145t, tentatively attributes it to Vincenzo di Girolamo.

    Stefano Bottari. Tutta la pittura di Giovanni Bellini. Milan, 1963, vol. 2, p. 31, calls it a version after the London painting.

    Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Unpublished manuscript for catalogue of Venetian paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1967, observes that the picture is inscribed with the name of Giovanni Bellini but is clearly not of his quality; considers it a copy by one of his pupils or followers of an original composition, possibly the panel in the National Gallery, London (no. 1455); notes that the landscape background substituted for the black background of the London picture must be considered an addition by the copyist, and calls the attribution to Vicenzo Catena unacceptable on the basis of style.

    Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 22, 273, 606.

  • Notes

    Although this painting is inscribed with the name of Giovanni Bellini, it is one of at least ten versions painted by his followers, perhaps in his workshop. A version ascribed to Giovanni Bellini himself in the National Gallery in London (no. 1455) may very possibly be the original from which the others are derived.

  • See also