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Christ in the Wilderness

Moretto da Brescia (Alessandro Bonvicino) (Italian, Brescia ca. 1498–1554 Brescia)

Oil on canvas
18 x 21 3/4 in. (45.7 x 55.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1911
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    Following his baptism by John the Baptist, Christ retired to the wilderness for forty days: "And he was there . . . forty days, tested by Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him" (Mark 1:13). This picture, an early work by Moretto from about 1515, is a fragment of a larger canvas that must have continued past the sketchy cherubim at the left and showed other events from Christ’s life.

  • Catalogue Entry


  • Provenance

    ?Domenico Vantini, Brescia; ?his son, Rodolfo Vantini, Brescia (in 1826); Luigi Bonomi, Milan; Bonomi-Cereda family, Milan (by 1860–96; their sale, Genolini, Milan, December 14–16, 1896, no. 35, as attributed to Moretto, withdrawn; sold to Lotmar); [Lotmar, Bern, from 1896]; private collection [Cavenaghi?], Milan (by 1910–11); [Jean Paul Richter, Florence, 1911; sold to MMA]

  • Exhibition History

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Landscape Paintings," May 14–September 30, 1934, no. 3.

    Hartford. Wadsworth Atheneum. "The Life of Christ," March 12–April 25, 1948, no. 38.

    Westport, Conn. Westport Community Art Association. February 12–24, 1955, no catalogue?

    Brescia. Monastero di S. Giulia. "Alessandro Bonvicino: il Moretto," June 18–November 20, 1988, no. 1.

  • References

    Paolo Brognoli. Nuova guida per la città di Brescia. Brescia, 1826, p. 218, mentions a Saint John in the desert by Moretto, probably this picture, in the collection of Rodolfo Vantini; states that the collection was put together by Rodolfo's father, Domenico Vantini.

    Charles Lock Eastlake. Notebook entry. 1860, vol. 1, fol. 21r [National Gallery Archive, London, NG 22/25: 1860 (I); published in Walpole Society 73 (2011), vol. 1, p. 536], notes a Saint John, possibly by Romanino, in the Bonomi-Cereda collection, Milan.

    Ivan Lermolieff [Giovanni Morelli]. Die Werke italienischer Meister in den Galerien von München, Dresden, und Berlin. Leipzig, 1880, p. 444, mentions a small work from Moretto's early period in the Bonomi-Cereda collection, Milan.

    Ivan Lermolieff [Giovanni Morelli]. "Die Galerie zu Berlin." Kunstkritische Studien über italienische Malerei. 3, Leipzig, 1893, p. 113.

    Emil Jacobsen. "Die Gemälde der einheimischen Malerschule in Brescia." Jahrbuch der königlich preussischen Kunstsammlungen 17 (1896), p. 32 n. 2.

    P[ietro]. d[a] P[onte]. L'opera del Moretto. Brescia, 1898, p. 76, refers to it as a dark work from Moretto's late period; states that it was withdrawn from the Bonomi-Cereda sale in 1896, and sold privately to Lotmar, Bern.

    Pietro Da Ponte and A. Canossi. Ricordo del sommo pittore bresciano Alessandro Bonvicino soprannominato il Moretto. Brescia, 1898, p. 108 [see Ref. Begni Redona 1988].

    Ricordo per le onoranze tributate dall'Ateneo di Brescia nel IV centenario natalizio del pittore Bonvicino-Moretto. 1899, p. 84 [see Ref. Begni Redona 1988].

    Gustavo Frizzoni. Letter to Jean Paul Richter. December 12, 1910 [see Ref. Richter 1910], writes that Morelli thought it was an early work by Moretto, while Cavenaghi ascribed it to his circle, and that it came from the Bonomi-Cereda collection.

    Jean Paul Richter. Letter to Edward Robinson [director of the MMA]. December 30, 1910, calls it an early work by Moretto.

    B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "Recent Accessions and Notes." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 6 (May 1911), p. 123, ill. p. 122.

    Giorgio Nicodemi. Gerolamo Romanino. Brescia, 1925, p. 32, ill., sees the influence of Civerchio in this work and in Moretto's Christ Blessing Saint John the Baptist (National Gallery, London).

    Giorgio Nicodemi. "Per gli inizi del Moretto a Brescia: lettura fatta all'Ateneo di Brescia il 5 aprile 1925." Commentari dell'Ateneo di Brescia per l'anno 1925 (1926), p. 108 [see Ref. Begni Redona 1988].

    Roberto Longhi. "Quesiti caravaggeschi—II: i precedenti." Pinacotheca 1 (March–June 1929), p. 270, compares it with Moretto's Christ carrying the cross with a donor (Pinacoteca dell'Accademia Carrara, Bergamo) and with the London Christ Blessing Saint John the Baptist, dating all three works 1518 and noting the influence of Titian and Vincenzo Foppa.

    Adolfo Venturi. "La pittura del Cinquecento." Storia dell'arte italiana. 9, part 4, Milan, 1929, pp. 124–25, 203 n. 1, fig. 104.

    [Georg] Gronau in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. 25, Leipzig, 1931, p. 141, lists it with the London picture and with another scene from the life of Christ in the Pinacoteca dell'Accademia Carrara, Bergamo.

    Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, pl. CCCXCIII.

    Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 375, lists it as an early work.

    Lionello Venturi. "Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century." Italian Paintings in America. 3, New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 533.

    Robert Eisler. "Jesus Among the Animals by Moretto da Brescia." Art in America 23 (October 1935), pp. 137–40, fig. 1, notes the rarity of the subject and the source in the Bible (Mark 1:13).

    Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 322.

    Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 160–61, ill., calls it an early work, with the freedom of a sketch, and a treatment similar to the London Christ and the Baptist.

    Camillo Boselli. "Alexander Brixiensis - La formazione artistica del Moretto." L'arte 46 (August–December 1943), pp. 98–99, 109, tentatively dates it just before 1518.

    György Gombosi. Moretto da Brescia. Basel, 1943, pp. 106, 110, no. 159, fig. 113, calls it a fragment of a larger work, to which the London Christ and the Baptist may also have belonged.

    Giuseppe Fiocco. "Un'opera giovanile del Moretto." Bollettino d'arte 33 (October–December 1948), p. 331.

    Camillo Boselli. Il Moretto, 1498–1554. Brescia, 1954, pp. 31, 47–48, 125, no. 1, does not believe it is a fragment.

    Cecil Gould. The Sixteenth-Century Italian Schools (Excluding the Venetian). London, 1962, p. 111, under no. 3096 [1975 ed., p. 164].

    Rossana Bossaglia in "La dominazione veneta (1426–1575)." Storia di Brescia. 2, [Brescia], 1963, p. 1064, dates it before 1518.

    Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, pp. 277–78, calls it a companion to the London Christ Blessing Saint John the Baptist.

    Roberto Longhi. ""Me pinxit" e quesiti caravaggeschi, 1928–1934." Opere complete di Roberto Longhi. 4, Florence, 1968, p. 110 [repr. of Ref. Longhi 1929].

    Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 145, 546, 606.

    Carlo Volpe. "Dosso: segnalazioni e proposte per il suo primo itinerario." Paragone 25 (July 1974), p. 25, calls it a companion of the London picture, and considers the two works difficult to place in a reconstruction of Moretto's early career.

    Mirella Levi d'Ancona. The Garden of the Renaissance: Botanical Symbolism in Italian Painting. Florence, 1977, pp. 63, 541, fig. 15, discusses the symbolism of the beech tree.

    Valerio Guazzoni. Moretto: il tema sacro. Brescia, 1981, p. 17, colorpl. 5, dates it 1515–20, together with the London picture and two works in the Pinacoteca dell'Accademia Carrara, Bergamo (Christ with the Samaritan woman; Christ carrying the cross with donor); states that all four works were meant for private, domestic devotions; notes the influence of Romanino and Venetian art.

    [Francesco Frangi] in Pittura del Cinquecento a Brescia. Milan, 1986, pp. 172, 177, ill. p. 67.

    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. 43–44, pl. 70, call it a fragment, possibly from the same work as the London picture, to which it is closely related; date both paintings about 1520.

    Pier Virgilio Begni Redona in Alessandro Bonvicino: il Moretto. Exh. cat., Monastero di S. Giulia, Brescia. Bologna, 1988, pp. 46, 48, 55, 57, 61, no. 1, ill. p. 54 (color).

    Pier Virgilio Begni Redona. Alessandro Bonvicino: il Moretto da Brescia. Brescia, 1988, pp. 22–24, 78–80, 92, 98, 102, 110, no. 1, ill., dates it 1515–17.

    Andrea Bayer in The Dictionary of Art. 22, New York, 1996, p. 107, dates it about 1518 and calls it possibly a fragment.

    Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 60 (Spring 2003), pp. 26–27, figs. 19 (color), 20 (before restoration), dates it about 1515; states that the recently revealed angels at right and cherubim at left had probably been painted out to disguise the fact that the work is a fragment [see Notes]; believes that the suggestions that it constituted the background of a larger work or formed a pair with the London painting remain conjectural.

    Nicholas Penny. "Paintings from Bergamo, Brescia and Cremona." The Sixteenth Century Italian Paintings. 1, London, 2004, pp. 152–53, fig. 2.

  • Notes

    The unusual subject comes from the Bible (Mark 1:13): "And he [Christ] was there in the wilderness forty days, tested by Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him."

    The picture is a fragment of a larger work. A painting in the National Gallery, London, depicting Christ Blessing Saint John the Baptist (NG3096; 65.4 x 94 cm) may be another fragment from the same work.

    The angels at upper right, as well as the cherubim at upper left, were painted out some time after the Bonomi-Cereda sale of 1896, and then uncovered during cleaning and restoration in 1988.

  • See also