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The Path of Nature: Collecting Off the Beaten Path


The Adoration of the Shepherds

L'Ortolano (Giovanni Battista Benvenuti) (Italian, Ferrarese, active by 1512–died after 1527)

Oil on canvas, transferred from wood
19 3/8 x 28 3/4 in. (49.2 x 73 cm)
Credit Line:
Theodore M. Davis Collection, Bequest of Theodore M. Davis, 1915
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    A larger variant of the present composition, in which the shepherds are substituted by figures of Saints Francis and Mary Magdalen, is in the Doria Pamphili Gallery in Rome. Like the altarpiece, which is dated 1527, the present painting is a late work. The landscape is influenced by L'Ortolano's contemporary, Dosso Dossi.

  • Catalogue Entry


  • Provenance

    ?Tommasini heirs, Rome (in 1846); Galleria Borghese, Rome (by 1874–at least 1891); [Stefano Bardini, Florence, until 1894, as by Garofalo; sold for Fr 4,000 to Davis]; Theodore M. Davis, Newport, R.I. (1894–d. 1915; his estate, on loan to the MMA, 1915–30)

  • Exhibition History

    New York. Barnard College. December 1–31, 1947, no catalogue?

    January 1951–September 1952, no catalogue?

    Fort Wayne, Ind. Fort Wayne Art School and Museum. November 25, 1954–January 1, 1955, no catalogue?

    Albion, Mich. Albion College. November 29–December 16, 1956, no catalogue?

    New York. Cosmopolitan Club. December 19, 1957–January 15, 1958, no catalogue?

    Utica, N.Y. Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute. "Christmas Exhibition," December 14, 1958–January 25, 1959, no catalogue?

  • References

    Girolamo Baruffaldi. Vite de' pittori e scultori ferraresi. 2, Ferrara, 1846, p. 525, Boschini notes that there is an Adoration of the Shepherds by L'Ortolano in the collection of the Tommasini heirs, Rome, possibly this picture.

    Jacob Burckhardt. "Malerei." Der Cicerone: Eine Anleitung zum Genuss der Kunstwerke Italiens. 3, 3rd ed. Leipzig, 1874, p. 1037, within editorial brackets, mentions it as in the palazzo Borghese and attributes it to L'Ortolano.

    Ivan Lermolieff [Giovanni Morelli]. "Die Galerien Borghese und Doria Panfili in Rom." Kunstkritische Studien über italienische Malerei. 1, Leipzig, 1890, pp. 265–66, attributes it to Garofalo; calls it his earliest work, dating it several years before the related painting in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome [see Notes].

    Adolfo Venturi. "Le gallerie di Roma." Nuova antologia di scienze, lettere ed arti, 3rd ser., 34 (1891), p. 428, as in the Borghese gallery; attributes it to L'Ortolano and calls it an early work.

    Giovanni Morelli. "The Borghese and Doria-Pamfili Galleries in Rome." Italian Painters: Critical Studies of Their Works. 1, London, 1892, pp. 205–6.

    A[dolfo]. Venturi. Il museo e la galleria Borghese. Rome, 1893, pp. 188–89, under no. 389, as formerly in the Borghese gallery; relates it to the work of Mazzolino.

    Introduction by R[obert]. H. Benson in Exhibition of Pictures, Drawings & Photographs of Works of the School of Ferrara-Bologna, 1440–1540. Exh. cat., Burlington Fine Arts Club. London, 1894, pp. xxvii–xxix, 54, no. 8, cites Ref. Venturi 1894.

    Adolfo Venturi. "L'arte emiliana (al Burlington Fine-Arts Club di Londra)." Archivio storico dell'arte 7 (1894), pp. 96–97, 102, pl. 10.

    B[ernard]. Berenson. "Les peintures italiennes de New-York et de Boston." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 15 (March 1896), p. 202, calls it an early work by Garofalo.

    Gustave Gruyer. L'art ferrarais à l'époque des princes d'Este. Paris, 1897, vol. 2, p. 325, 333, 337, erroneously as still with Bardini in Florence; attributes it to L'Ortolano.

    Emil Jacobsen. "Die Gemäldegalerie im Ateneo zu Ferrara." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 23 (1900), pp. 367–68.

    Georges Lafenestre and Eugène Richtenberger. Rome: les musées, les collections particulières, les palais. Paris, 1905, pp. 208–9, under no. 165, call it an early work by L'Ortolano.

    Bernhard Berenson. North Italian Painters of the Renaissance. New York, 1907, p. 276, attributes it to L'Ortolano.

    Joseph Breck. "Dipinti italiani nella raccolta del Signor Teodoro Davis." Rassegna d'arte 11 (July 1911), p. 114, ill.

    Edmund G. Gardner. The Painters of the School of Ferrara. London, 1911, pp. 185, 240 n. 1, ill. opp. p. 182, calls it an early work.

    Salomon Reinach. Répertoire de peintures du moyen age et de la renaissance (1280–1580). 5, Paris, 1922, p. 102, ill. (engraving), as Adoration of the Magi [sic], attributed to L'Ortolano, formerly in the Davis collection, Newport.

    Adolfo Venturi. "La pittura del Cinquecento." Storia dell'arte italiana. 9, part 4, Milan, 1929, pp. 321, 343 n. 1, fig. 265.

    Bryson Burroughs. "The Theodore M. Davis Bequest: The Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 26, section 2 (March 1931), pp. 14, 16, ill. p. 18, attributes it to Garofalo and calls it his earliest known work.

    Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 404.

    W. R. Valentiner in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. 26, Leipzig, 1932, p. 67, erroneously as still in the Davis collection.

    Ad[olfo]. V[enturi]. in Enciclopedia italiana di scienze, lettere ed arti. 25, Rome, 1935, p. 634.

    Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 347.

    Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 146, ill., attributes it to L'Ortolano.

    T. H. Fokker. "The Doria Nativity by L'Ortolano." Phoebus 2, no. 4 (1949), pp. 156–58, pl. 1, calls it an early work; discusses it in connection with the related painting in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome, noting that a recent restoration has revealed the date of 1527 on the Doria picture, making it the last known work by the painter.

    Giuliano Frabetti. L'Ortolano. Milan, 1966, pp. 30–31, 57–58, 62, no. 43, fig. 55, dates it close in time to the Doria painting of 1527; suggests that it may be the picture mentioned by Boschini in a note to Baruffaldi [see Ref. 1846] as with the Tommasini heirs in Rome.

    Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 306, calls it a small variant of the Doria picture.

    Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 152, 271, 607.

    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. 50–51, pl. 56, call it typical of the painter's late period, noting the influence of Dosso.

    Alberto Cottino in Dipinti italiani, 1460–1760. Exh. cat., Voena. [Turin], 1990, unpaginated, ill., dates it to the same period as the Doria picture of 1527.

    Alessandro Ballarin. Dosso Dossi: la pittura a Ferrara negli anni del ducato di Alfonso I. Cittadella (Padua), 1994–95, vol. 1, pp. 276–77, no. 247; vol. 2, fig. 683, dates it about 1527.

    Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 60 (Spring 2003), p. 55, fig. 37 (color).

  • Notes

    There is a larger version of this composition dated 1527 (Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome) in which figures of Saints Francis and Mary Magdalen are substituted for those of the shepherds.

  • See also