The perfection of Francia’s technique, the serenity of his landscapes, and the sweet delicacy of his Madonnas earned him universal admiration: we are told that the citizens of Bologna "thought of him as a god." This exceptionally well-preserved work dates from the 1490s, when he was at the peak of his career.
The Venetian frame is not original to the picture but is of the period and, like the painting, in beautiful condition.
J. Pierpont Morgan, New York and London (gave to Ledyard); Lewis Cass Ledyard, New York (until d. 1932); his grandchildren, Lewis Cass Ledyard III, Mrs. Victor Onet, and Mrs. T. F. Turner, New York (1932–82)
Keith Christiansen inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1982–1983. New York, 1983, p. 37, ill., dates it about 1495–1500; erroneously identifies it as the painting formerly in the Mansi collection, Lucca (now private collection, Bologna); mentions a version by a pupil of Francia in the Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest.
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. 22–23, pl. 23, date it probably about 1500 and note that it is in excellent condition; state that the same cartoon was used for this work and for the picture by a pupil or follower of Francia in Budapest.
Federica Toniolo. "I dipinti di Francesco Francia e della sua bottega conservati al Museo di Belle Arti." Bulletin du Musée Hongrois des Beaux-Arts no. 78 (1993), p. 78, fig. 34, erroneously identifies it as the version formerly in the Mansi collection; compares it with a Holy Family by Francia in the Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest, and also with a Madonna and Child with Two Angels in the same museum.
Alessandro Ballarin. Dosso Dossi: la pittura a Ferrara negli anni del ducato di Alfonso I. Cittadella (Padua), 1994–95, vol. 1, fig. 141, dates it about 1500.
Emilio Negro and Nicosetta Roio. Francesco Francia e la sua scuola. Modena, 1998, pp. 77, 84, 178, no. 51b, ill. p. 177, identify a picture now in a private collection, Bologna, as the work formerly in the Mansi Collection, Lucca; list additional versions of the composition [see Notes].
Andrea Bayer. "North of the Apennines: Sixteenth-Century Italian Painting in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 60 (Spring 2003), pp. 44, 47, fig. 30 (color).
Jennifer Tonkovich. "Discovering the Renaissance: Pierpont Morgan's Shift to Collecting Italian Old Masters." A Market for Merchant Princes: Collecting Italian Renaissance Paintings in America. Ed. Inge Reist. University Park, Pa., 2015, pp. 47, 121 n. 30.
The frame is from Venice and dates to about 1530 (see Additional Images, figs. 1–3). This elegant tabernacle frame is made of pine. The applied moldings are constructed with mitred corners on a tenoned lap joined frieze. The surface is water gilded on an orangish-red bole on a thin gesso layer. The inner frame is decorated with punchwork scales, the plate with sgraffito arabesques scratched into blue paint. Its sloping inner molding evokes a window opening. The frame is slightly enlarged in height but retains its original gilding. The narrow cornice molding suggests it may have originally had the addition of a lunette, now missing, as its crest.
[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2017; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
This painting was formerly thought to come from the Mansi collection in Lucca, but Negro and Roio (1998) have identified the Mansi picture with one now in a private collection in Bologna.
The composition was a popular one and was repeated often by Francia and his workshop. Besides this work and the one in Bologna (Negro and Roio no. 51a), and a Holy Family (no. 49) in the Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest, all of which Negro and Roio attribute to Francia himself, they also list and illustrate five versions that they attribute to Francia's school: 1) Madonna and Child with Two Angels, Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest (no. 50) 2) sold, Finarte, Milan, March 1967 (no. 51c) 3) Strakosch sale, Lepke, Berlin, October 23, 1900, no. 30 (no. 51d) 4) a work known only through a photograph (no. 51e) 5) formerly Rey de Villette collection, sold, Charpentier, Paris, April 2, 1957, no. 13 (no. 51f)