Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Nativity with Saints

Ridolfo Ghirlandaio (Italian, Florence 1483–1561 Florence)
Oil on wood
Central panel 14 x 9 in. (35.6 x 22.9 cm); each wing 14 x 4 in. (35.6 x 10.2 cm)
Credit Line:
The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931
Accession Number:
Not on view
Ridolfo was the son of Domenico Ghirlandaio, and like his father headed a workshop that was prepared to undertake a variety of tasks, from the decoration of a chapel to small portable altarpieces. The destination of this work is not known, but the presence of Saint Benedict in one of the wings and of a kneeling Benedictine in the foreground of the center panel suggests that it was made for a Benedictine monastery. It is contemporary with the frescoes in the Cappella dei Priori of 1514 and, in its landscape setting and the figure types, depends on Fra Bartolomeo and Mariotto Albertinelli.
[Genolini, Milan; sold to Crespi]; Cristoforo Benigno Crespi, Milan (by 1909–14, as by Mariotto Albertinelli; Galerie Crespi de Milan sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, June 4, 1914, no. 24, as by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, for Fr 5,000 to Agnew); [Agnew, London, 1914; sold to Sirén]; Oswald Sirén, Stockholm (1914–?1916); [Agnew, London, 1916; sold to Kleinberger]; [Kleinberger, Paris and New York, 1916; sold for $6,000 to Friedsam]; Michael Friedsam, New York (1916–d. 1931)
New York. F. Kleinberger Galleries. "Italian Primitives," November 12–30, 1917, no. 38 (as "The Madonna and Child, with Saints," by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, lent by Michael Friedsam, Esq.).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Michael Friedsam Collection," November 15, 1932–April 9, 1933, no catalogue.

Fort Wayne, Ind. Fort Wayne Art School and Museum. "Christmas Subjects," December 1–29, 1958, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Florentine Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," June 15–August 15, 1971, no catalogue.

Ottawa. National Gallery of Canada. "Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and the Renaissance in Florence," May 29–September 5, 2005, no. 23.

Bernhard Berenson. The Florentine Painters of the Renaissance. 3rd ed. New York, 1909, p. 139, lists it as by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, in the collection of Comm. Benigno Crespi, Milan.

Marcel Nicolle. Catalogue des tableaux anciens des écoles italienne, espagnole, allemande, flamande et hollandaise composant la Galerie Crespi de Milan. Galerie Georges Petit, Paris. June 4, 1914, pp. 30–31, no. 24, ill., as by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, formerly attributed to Albertinelli, and from the Genolini collection, Milan.

Adolfo Venturi. Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 9, part 1, La pittura del cinquecento. Milan, 1925, p. 512 n. 1, lists it as by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio.

Bernard Berenson in The Michael Friedsam Collection. [completed 1928], pp. 75–76, dates it soon after 1514, and notes the influence of Fra Bartolomeo.

Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 227.

Bryson Burroughs and Harry B. Wehle. "The Michael Friedsam Collection: Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27, section 2 (November 1932), p. 38, no. 65.

Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 195.

Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 64–65, ill., finds it similar to Ridolfo's decorations in the Cappella dei Priori, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, of 1514.

S[ydney]. J. Freedberg. Painting of the High Renaissance in Rome and Florence. Cambridge, Mass., 1961, vol. 1, p. 210; vol. 2, pl. 280 [rev. ed., New York, 1985, vol. 1, p. 210; vol. 2, pl. 280], dates it between 1512 and 1515 and notes the influence of Fra Bartolomeo and Albertinelli.

Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School. London, 1963, vol. 1, p. 78; vol. 2, pl. 1286.

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. 192–93, ill., note that the central panel is very similar to an Adoration of the Shepherds attributed to Ridolfo formerly in the collection of Henry Harris, London (Snite Museum of Art, Notre Dame University, Indiana); add that while the central panel reveals the influence of Fra Bartolomeo and Albertinelli, the wings are closer to the work of Francesco Granacci; suggest that the tops of the wings (now replaced with added strips) may originally have shown the arms of the donors.

Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 83, 269, 366, 378, 392, 419, 439, 443, 453, 537, 607.

Annarosa Garzelli. "Le immagini, gli autori, i destinatari." Miniatura fiorentina del rinascimento, 1440–1525: un primo censimento. 1985, vol. 1, pp. 262–63, relates it to a miniature (Biblioteca Vaticana, Vatican City; ross. 1192, f. 25) attributed to Fra Bartolomeo, with a composition very similar to the central panel of this triptych, and also including a view of Saint Joseph and a shepherd in the background.

Charles S. Ellis. "Fra Bartolommeo, a Problematic Landscape Drawing, and the Repetition of the Painted Landscape Image." Paragone 46 (January 1995), pp. 5, 12 n. 18, pl. 4, includes it in a group with the Notre Dame Adoration and a tondo of the Madonna and Child attributed to Bugiardini (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin), relating all three to a drawing from the workshop of Ridolfo Ghirlandaio (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm), which is a study for the Vatican miniature, proposing that the Stockholm sheet is a copy after a lost or unidentified drawing by Fra Bartolomeo.

Charlotte Hale. Memo to the files. July 11, 2000, details the circumstances leading to the tentative identification of two grisaille panels depicting the Annunciation (Agnes Etherington Art Center, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario) as the separated outer wings of the MMA triptych.

David G. Wilkins. "Opening the Doors to Devotion: Trecento Triptychs and Suggestions Concerning Images and Domestic Practice in Florence." Italian Panel Painting of the Duecento and Trecento. Ed. Victor M. Schmidt. Washington, 2002, p. 383, includes it among triptychs made for unidentified patrons during the period 1495–1510.

David McTavish in Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and the Renaissance in Florence. Ed. David Franklin. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Canada. Ottawa, 2005, pp. 112–14, 338, no. 23, ill. (color), dates it about 1509–15; presents the grisaille panels of the Annunciation (no. 24) as the outer wings of the triptych; notes that the presence of Saint Benedict in the left wing and of another Benedictine figure in the central panel indicate that the work may have been commissioned by a member of that order.

Rick Scorza. "The Iconography of Ridolfo Ghirlandaio's 'Altarino'." Metropolitan Museum Journal 46 (2011), pp. 153, 155–57, 159 n. 3, fig. 1 (color), accepts the two panels in Kingston as the exterior wings of the altarpiece; identifies the black-habited figure in the center panel as Beato Filippo Benizi, a Servite, and believes that the work was probably commissioned by a high-ranking member of that order; suggests that the two female saints, usually identified as Christine and Dorothy, could equally well represent Ursula and Elizabeth of Hungary.

Matteo Gianeselli. "Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio (1483–1561) et son atelier: entre ancrage traditionnel et tentation anticlassique." Revue des Musées de France no. 5 (December 2013), pp. 29–30, 36 n. 29, relates the wings to two panels by Ridolfo depicting Saints Jerome and Francis in niches (church of Saint-Louis-en-l'Île, Paris); attributes the Dublin Madonna and Child (Ellis 1995) to Ridolfo and dates it about ten years before the MMA work.

This triptych dates from about 1514 and depicts the Nativity with Saint Maurus or Saint Placidus at center, Saints Peter, Benedict, and Christine on the left wing, and Saints Paul, John the Evangelist, and Dorothy on the right wing.

Two grisaille panels depicting the Annunciation (Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario) have tentatively been identified as the separated outer wings of the triptych (see Hale 2000 and McTavish 2005).

Two similar Nativities by Ridolfo are in the Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, and the Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest.
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