Bartolomeo Suardi was known as Bramantino after his contemporary in Milan, the great architect Bramante (1443/44–1514); his abiding interest in perspective and architecture, reflected in the background of this rare, private devotional painting, comes from that source. He was one of the most significant artists of his time in Milan and in 1525 was named both architect and painter to Duke Francesco II Sforza. The Madonna is shown behind a marble table top, placed at an angle to the picture plane, on which the Child stands with his arm outstretched towards the apple (alluding to Salvation) held in his mother’s curving fingers. A vase of carnations, often found beside the Madonna and considered the "flower of God," is arranged on the table to the right. Behind them extends a courtyard with a walled garden, probably the hortus conclusus, also a symbol of the Madonna, at the left, and crenellated castle walls in the rear. The carefully articulated, but abstract quality of the space and buildings, as well as the gesturing figures, have their closest ties with paintings by Bramantino usually dated to the first years of the sixteenth century. These qualities were admired by Roger Fry, who wrote in 1911 that the painting has "a delicate sense of interval and silhouette . . . [Bramantino] recognizes . . . the idea of the beautiful seclusion and repose of the Virgin’s life."
Another version of this painting (formerly Georg Gronau, Cassel, and Edouard Simon, Berlin) is probably based on the same cartoon, but shows a more conventional scene in which the Child sits in the Madonna’s lap, and presents a somewhat different background. The painting is trimmed at top and bottom and the surface abraded. Before its cleaning by the Museum the delicate features of the figures and the drapery were somewhat disfigured by old repaint (see Additional Images, fig. 1).
[Andrea Bayer 2011]
Wilhelm Suida. "Die Spätwerke des Bartolommeo Suardi, genannt Bramantino." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses 26, no. 5 (1906), p. 341, notes that Frizzoni ascribes to Bramantino a Madonna in the Goloubew collection, where it is attributed to Francia.
Claude Phillips. Daily Telegraph (October 1911) [see Ref. Zeri and Gardner 1986], dates it later than the Adoration of the Shepherds in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan.
Roger Fry. "Exhibition of Old Masters at the Grafton Galleries—I." Burlington Magazine 20 (November 1911), p. 77, pl. IV, calls it a late work.
"Old Masters at the Grafton Galleries: First Notice." Times (October 3, 1911), p. 9.
Tancred Borenius, ed. A History of Painting in North Italy: Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Ferrara, Milan, Friuli, Brescia, from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century.. By J[oseph]. A[rcher]. Crowe and G[iovanni]. B[attista]. Cavalcaselle. 2nd ed. [1st ed. 1871]. London, 1912, vol. 2, p. 341 n. 1, relates it to a Pietà by Bramantino in the Berolzheimer collection in Munich.
W[oldemar]. v[on]. Seidlitz. "Ausstellungen und Auktionen: Die Grafton-Ausstellung in London." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 35 (1912), p. 82, calls it a late work.
Giuseppe Fiocco. "Il periodo romano di Bartolomeo Suardi detto il Bramantino." L'arte 17 (1914), p. 38, erroneously as still in the Goloubew collection; lists it among school works.
Gustavo Frizzoni. "Intorno al Bramantino e alle sue presunte relazioni col Luini." Rassegna d'arte 15 (1915), p. 150, fig. 3, compares it with the Madonna and Child then in the Gronau collection, Kassel [see Notes], and dates the two works after Bramantino's trip to Rome in 1508.
Giorgio Nicodemi. Gerolamo Romanino. Brescia, 1925, ill. p. 37.
Philip Hendy. "Antonio Cicognara." Art in America 19 (December 1930), p. 55, fig. 6, contrasts it to Bramantino's Madonna and Child, which he attributes to Cicognara, in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, pl. CCCLVII, calls it a late work; notes its similarity to the ex-Simon picture [see Notes].
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 110.
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 3, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century. New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 485.
Mariarosa Gabbrielli. "Aggiunte a Bramantino." Bollettino d'arte 27 (June 1934), pp. 561, 572, calls it an early work.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 95.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 150, ill.
William Suida. Bramante pittore e il Bramantino. Milan, 1953, pp. 105, 124, 232, pl. CXXVII, fig. 166, considers it later than the ex-Simon version and dates both after the trip to Rome.
Maria Luisa Gengaro. "Problemi di metodo per la storia dell'arte: il Bramantino." Arte lombarda 1 (1955), p. 130.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 61.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 35, 324, 606.
Mirella Levi d'Ancona. The Garden of the Renaissance: Botanical Symbolism in Italian Painting. Florence, 1977, p. 541, fig. 21.
Germano Mulazzani in L'opera completa di Bramantino e Bramante pittore. Milan, 1978, p. 92, no. 22, fig. 22, calls it a version of the ex-Simon painting, and dates both works 1505–7.
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. 6–7, pl. 49, suggest that the presence of medieval buildings in the background may indicate it was painted before Bramantino's trip to Rome in 1508; state that the same cartoon was used for this work and for the ex-Simon painting.
David Alan Brown. Andrea Solario. Milan, 1987, p. 64 n. 69.
Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 60 (Spring 2003), p. 11, fig. 4 (color), dates it probably before 1508.
Edoardo Villata. Tristezza della resurrezione: Bramantino negli anni di Ludovico il Moro. Milan, 2012, p. 84, fig. 93 (color).
Mauro Natale in Bramantino: l'arte nuova del Rinascimento lombardo. Ed. Mauro Natale. Exh. cat., Museo Cantonale d'Arte, Lugano. Milan, 2014, p. 222, under no. 34, pp. 288–89, fig. 48b (color), under no. 48.
Gianluca Poldi. "Il disegno di Bramantino alla luce delle analisi scientifiche: dalla carta al dipinto." Bramantino e le arti nella Lombardia francese (1499–1525). Ed. Mauro Natale. Milan, 2017, pp. 265–66, 274 n. 24, figs. 98a (color), 98b, 99 (infrared reflectogram, overall and detail).