The picture was purchased as a work of Andrea del Castagno. The treatment of the landscape, however, is uncharacteristic of Castagno's work, as is the feebly constructed figure. The closest affinities of style are with works by Francesco Botticini (about 1446–97), who seems to have been active in the workshop of Verrocchio in the late 1460s. Although the picture has been dated as early as 1465, it seems to depend from a famous altarpiece by Botticelli of 1473–74 in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin-Dahlem. The picture has suffered considerable damage. In addition to a large loss running through the torso of the saint, the picture has been massively abraded through overcleaning. The form to the right of the saint is a pentimento.
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Artist:Francesco Botticini (Francesco di Giovanni) (Italian, Florentine, ca. 1446–1497)
Medium:Tempera and oil on wood
Dimensions:Overall, with arched top and engaged frame, 56 3/4 x 26 1/4 in. (144.1 x 66.7 cm); painted surface 53 3/4 x 23 in. (136.5 x 58.4 cm)
Credit Line:Gwynne Andrews, Rogers, and Harris Brisbane Dick Funds, 1948
?conti De Larderel, Florence, by descent (until 1944); ?conte Giovanni Rasini, Milan; [Jean Marchig and (?)Albrighi]; Cotton Trading (until 1947; sold for $75,000 to Pinakos and Knoedler); [Pinakos, Inc. (Rudolf J. Heinemann), and Knoedler, New York, 1947–48, as by Andrea del Castagno; sold to The Met]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 75 (as by Andrea del Castagno).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Florentine Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," June 15–August 15, 1971, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Saints and Their Legends," March 1–September 3, 1974, exh. brochure.
Giuseppe Fiocco. "Le pitture venete del Castello di Konopiste." Arte veneta 2 (1948), p. 29 n. 1, attributes it to Castagno and observes Domenico Veneziano's influence in the landscape.
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "The Saint Sebastian by Andrea del Castagno." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 7 (January 1949), pp. 125–35, ill. (overall before restoration, details, and color on cover), attributes it to Castagno, dates it about 1445, and states that it was "probably placed on the altar of a chapel dedicated to Saint Sebastian, or hung on the pillar of a church"; compares the angel with the one in Masaccio's Expulsion from Paradise (Brancacci Chapel, church of Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence).
Mario Salmi. "Gli affreschi di Andrea del Castagno ritrovati." Bollettino d'arte 35 (1950), p. 307, attributes it to Castagno.
Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1952, p. 223, no. 75, colorpl. 75, as by Castagno, about 1445.
Mario Salmi. "Nuove rivelazioni su Andrea del Castagno." Bollettino d'arte 39 (January–March 1954), pp. 28, 35, 40, 42 n. 18, figs. 16, 36 (details), attributes it to Castagno, dates it about the time of his Assumption of the Virgin in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin (1449–50), and suggests that the figure of the angel is by a pupil; notes that the Larderel family, which once owned it, is related to the Rucellai, raising the possibility that it was among the works by Castagno belonging to Giovanni Rucellai and mentioned in his "Zibaldone".
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 17.
Frederick Hartt. "The Earliest Works of Andrea del Castagno: Part One." Art Bulletin 41 (June 1959), pp. 159–60 n. 1, rejects the attribution to Castagno and calls it a "late, provincial, Pollaiuolesque painting".
William E. Suida. The Samuel H. Kress Collection. Birmingham, Ala., 1959, p. 45, credits Mario Modestini for observing its technical similarity with a Madonna Adoring the Child in the Kress collection, here assigned to the circle of Verrocchio and related to the art of Castagno.
Mario Salmi. Andrea del Castagno. Novara, 1961, pp. 21, 35, 48, 62, figs. 45–46 (overall and detail), suggests that the motif of Saint Sebastian on a tree may be of northern origin, comparing it with the Saint Sebastian in the Last Judgment altarpiece by Rogier van der Weyden in the Musée de l'Hôtel-Dieu, Beaune, and observing that it was repeated by later Florentine artists.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School. London, 1963, vol. 1, p. 47, tentatively attributes it to Castagno.
Luciano Berti. Andrea del Castagno. Florence, 1966, pp. 34–35, no. 46, fig. 46 (color), accepts the attribution to Castagno.
Everett Fahy. "Some Early Italian Pictures in the Gambier-Parry Collection." Burlington Magazine 109 (March 1967), p. 137, rejects the attribution to Castagno and ascribes it to Francesco Botticini.
Luciano Bellosi. "Intorno ad Andrea del Castagno." Paragone 18 (September 1967), pp. 10–15, 17 nn. 16, 21–22, pl. 20, rejects the attribution to Castagno, and agrees with Fahy's [see Ref. 1967] attribution to Botticini.
John Pope-Hennessy. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. June 24, 1968, rejects the attribution to Castagno, attributing it, along with a Crucifixion in the National Gallery, London, and other similar works, to Botticini.
Frederick Hartt. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. January 7, 1969, calls it the work of a provincial (south Tuscan) artist, notes the possible influence of Piero della Francesca in the landscape, and dates it about 1475.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Florentine School. New York, 1971, pp. 110–12, ill., attribute it to a follower of Castagno and date it about 1465, observing the influence of Verrocchio and the Pollaiuolos; relate it to a group of stylistically coherent paintings, similar to early works of Botticini, that seem to date from about 1465 to about 1470–75.
A[nna]. Padoa Rizzo inDizionario biografico degli italiani. Vol. 13, Rome, 1971, p. 454, attributes it to Botticini and dates it later than Botticelli's Saint Sebastian of 1473–74 in Berlin.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 7, 447, 608, as Attributed to Castagno.
Miklòs Boskovits. "Una scheda e qualche suggerimento per un catalogo dei dipinti ai Tatti." Antichità viva 14, no. 2 (1975), pp. 18–19, fig. 15 (detail), illustrates it as by the workshop of Botticini, 1460–70, but also suggests the possibility that it was painted by Botticini's father, Giovanni di Domenico Botticini.
Anna Padoa Rizzo. "Per Francesco Botticini." Antichità viva 15 (September–October 1976), p. 4.
Marita Horster. Andrea del Castagno. Ithaca, N.Y., 1980, p. 196, pl. 122, attributes it to the circle of Pollaiuolo and dates it 1470–80.
Eric C. Apfelstadt. "A New Context and a New Chronology for Antonio Rossellino's Statue of St. Sebastian in Empoli." Verrocchio and Late Quattrocento Italian Sculpture. Ed. Steven Bule et al. Florence, 1992, p. 200 n. 41.
Lisa Venturini. Francesco Botticini. Florence, 1994, pp. 14–15, 30, 32–33, 37 nn. 57–58, pp. 47, 101, no. 7, figs. 8–9 (overall and detail), accepts the attribution to Botticini.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 23, ill.
Andrea Staderini inThe Alana Collection. Ed. Sonia Chiodo and Serena Padovani. Vol. 3, Italian Paintings from the 14th to 16th Century. Florence, 2014, pp. 111, 114.
Monica Cavicchi. "Falsi di primo Novecento nell'archivio di Luigi Albrighi." Il falso specchio della realtà. Ed. Anna Ottani Cavina and Mauro Natale. Turin, 2017, p. 216, fig. 15.
After this work was acquired by The Met, the Italian government apparently conducted an investigation to determine if it had been illegally exported (see news articles in archive file). On June 6, 1954, the New York Times reported: "The Italian Government never formally demanded return of the painting."
On the back of the painting is the seal of the Italian Customs authorities, with the date 22 July 1944, 23rd year of the Fascist regime, and "No. 900." This seal is inscribed "ESPORTAZIONE DI OGGETTI DI ANTICHITÀ ED'ARTE," and is the usual evidence that a work of art has been granted an export permit by the Italian authorities (see photograph in archive file and TMS).
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