Painted when the artist was probably in his early twenties, the picture is notable for its exquisite detail. It may have been commissioned by Borso d'Este, the duke of Ferrara, and its style seems to be a response to the vogue there for Netherlandish painting. Ahough transferred from wood to canvas, the painting is in excellent condition.
The picture has an illustrious provenance: in 1586 it is mentioned in the chapel of Margherita Gonzaga, duchess of Ferrara; in 1598 it was taken to Rome by Pietro Aldobrandini, in whose collection it appears in an inventory of 1603. It was acquired from the Aldobrandini collection in 1800–1801 by the British painter-art dealer Alexander Day. Christiansen (1983, 1991) has argued that it may have been painted ca. 1450 for Borso d’Este, the duke of Ferrara. That the picture dates from the 1450s—though most scholars date it to the mid or late 1450s—is widely accepted, but the idea that it was painted for Borso cannot be established with certainty. It is, however, known that Borso’s half brother Lionello commissioned a portrait from Mantegna in 1449 as well as a number of pictures from Rogier van der Weyden, including an altarpiece with the Deposition of Christ. The coarse featured shepherds in Mantegna’s painting no less than the meticulous details of the landscape have long been thought to reflect his admiration for the microcosmic world of Netherlandish painting. Moreover, the Este court was a center of humanist thought where the relative merits of poetry and painting were debated. In a dialogue on literary polish (De politia litteraria) written by Angelo Decembrio around 1450, Lionello d’Este expresses his admiration for exquisitely wrought, small pictures with details counterfeiting the effects of nature, though he doubts the potential of painting to match the descriptive powers of poetry. Mantegna’s picture can be read as a response to this literary bias.
Although the subject of the picture is traditional, Mantegna has incorporated details that give prominence to artistic achievement and also enhance the expressive treatment of the figures. He also incorporates a strategy of devotional literature of the period that urges the reader to imagine the Biblical events of the distant past in terms of contemporary, everyday life. The classically garbed figure of the sleeping Joseph thus serves as a counterpoint to the two shepherds, who are shown in tattered, contemporary dress, one with hands joined prayerfully, the other having doffed his hat; both about to kneel. The rocky foreground contrasts with the gentle green plane in the distance where, on the banks of the curving river, can be seen a shepherd greeted by an angel and a man with two barrels waiting for the arrival of a barge on the opposite bank; also shown is a seated woman spinning and chickens feeding. The Virgin is shown in rapt devotion, with her child lying on the hem of her robe in an audaciously foreshortened pose, his head surrounded by cherubim, their features highlighted with shell gold. The description of the plants—the flower growing out of the rocks, the orange tree, and the wattle fence over which hangs a squash (possibly a reference to an Este heraldic device, the paraduro: see Christiansen 1991)—are the kinds of naturalistic details that would have appealed to both Lionello and Borso.
In 1927 the picture was transferred from panel to canvas but the surface is in exceptionally fine condition. Microscopic examination of the picture in 2009 disproved the often-stated observation that the picture has been trimmed. Traces were found of the original raised edge of the paint surface and the vermillion that traditionally defined the transition of the gilt frame to the picture. This means that a drawing of the two shepherds (Royal collection, Windsor) and fragmentary painting showing the figures at the extreme right (formerly Martin Le Roy collection; sold, Christie's, London, July 6, 2011, no. 196) must derive from another, contemporary copy or variant of the picture. A drawing of the Madonna and Child (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence) is now generally thought to be a copy after the painting, rather than a study for it. The river and rocky outcrop in the landscape were repeated by Giovanni Bellini in his Dead Christ in the Museo Poldi-Pezzoli, Milan.
[Keith Christiansen 2011]
Although the edges were badly damaged when the painting was transferred from panel to canvas, some evidence remains along the entire perimeter of the original lipped edge and red painted outline.
[Dorothy Mahon 2009]
?Este family, Ferrara; ?Margherita Gonzaga, duchessa di Ferrara (in 1586, as "Prosepio de Andrea Mantegna"); Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, Villa Aldobrandini a Montemagnapoli, Rome (by 1603–d. 1621; inv., 1603, no. 24); his nephew, Cardinal Ippolito Aldobrandini, Rome (1621–d. 1638; inv., 1626, no. 23; inv., 1638, f. 102); his niece, Olimpia Aldobrandini Borghese Pamphili, Villa Aldobrandini a Montemagnapoli, Rome (1638–d. 1681; inv., n.d. [before 1665], no. 24; inv., 1682, no. 303); Giovanni Battista Pamphili, Rome (1682–1710); Cardinal Girolamo Pamphili (1710–d. 1760; his estate, 1760–68); Paolo Borghese Aldobrandini, Palazzo Borghese, Rome (1768–d. 1792); his nephew, Giovanni Battista Borghese Aldobrandini, Villa Aldobrandini (from 1792; sold to Day); [Alexander Day, Rome and London, by 1800]; [William Buchanan, London, until 1808; sale, private contract, May 24, 1808, no. 5]; Richard Payne Knight, Downton Castle, Ludlow, Shropshire (until d. 1824; cat., ms., n.d.); his brother, Thomas Andrew Knight, Downton Castle (1824–d. 1838); his grandson, Andrew Johnes Rouse-Boughton-Knight, Downton Castle (1838–d. 1909); his son, Charles Andrew Rouse-Boughton-Knight, Downton Castle (1909–24; sold to Ruck); [A. Ruck, London, 1924; sold to Duveen]; [Duveen, London, Paris, and New York, 1924–25; sold to Mackay]; Clarence H. Mackay, Roslyn, N.Y. (1925–32; cat., 1926, no. 6)
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January–March 1882, no. 186 (lent by A. R. Boughton Knight).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January 1–March 9, 1912, no. 42 (lent by A. R. Boughton-Knight).
New York. Jacques Seligmann. "Loan Exhibition of Religious Art," March–April 1927, no. III (lent by Clarence H. Mackay).
New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "Loan Exhibition of Primitives," February 1929, no. 13 (lent by Clarence H. Mackay).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Italian Art, 1200–1900," January 1–March 8, 1930, no. 187 (lent by Clarence H. Mackay, New York) [commemorative ed., 1931, no. 176].
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Diamond Jubilee Exhibition: Masterpieces of Painting," November 4, 1950–February 11, 1951, no. 12.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 85.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, unnumbered cat. (p. 16).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no. 196.
Milan. Museo Poldi Pezzoli. "Le muse e il principe: Arte di corte nel Rinascimento padano," September 20–December 1, 1991, no. 78.
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Andrea Mantegna," January 17–April 5, 1992, no. 8.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Andrea Mantegna," May 5–July 12, 1992, no. 8.
Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Mantegna, 1431–1506," September 26, 2008–January 5, 2009, no. 50.
Libro di debitori, segnato B, Della munizione delle fabbriche. 1586–91, A c 13 [Archivio di Stato, Modena; published in A. Venturi, Archivio storico dell'arte 1 (1888), pp. 425–26], mentions "uno Prosepio" by Mantegna in the chapel of the duchess of Ferrara in 1586, possibly this picture.
Aldobrandini inventory. 1603, no. 24 [Archivio di Casa Aldobrandini, Frascati; published in Cesare d'Onofrio, "Inventario dei dipinti del cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini compilato da G. B. Agucchi nel 1603 (I)," Palatino 8 (January–March 1964), p. 18; Getty no. I-268], as "La natività del Signore, di mano d''Andrea Mantegna'".
Aldobrandini inventory. 1626, no. 23 [Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Fondo Borghese, vol. 6219; published in Paola Della Pergola, "Gli inventari Aldobrandini," Arte antica e moderna 12 (October–December 1960), p. 428; Getty no. I-334], as "23. Un quadro con la Natività di N. S. di mano di 'Andrea Mantegna' del n. 24".
Inventario dei quadri di Olimpia Aldobrandini-Pamphili. n.d. [before 1665], no. 24 [Archivio di Casa Aldobrandini, Frascati; published in Cesare d'Onofrio, "Inventario dei dipinti del cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini compilato da G. B. Agucchi nel 1603 (I)," Palatino 8 (January–March 1964), p. 18; Getty no. I-296], as "Un quadro in tavola della Natività di Nostro Signore alto palmi uno e mezzo di Andrea Mantegna, cornice dorata".
Aldobrandini inventory. July 20, 1682, no. 303 [Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Vatican City, Fondo Borghese, vol. 34; published in Ref. Della Pergola 1963; Getty no. I-4450].
Mariano Vasi. Itinerario istruttivo di Roma. Rome, 1794, vol. 1, p. 338, lists it in the Villa Aldobrandini.
W[illiam]. Buchanan. Memoirs of Painting, with a Chronological History of the Importation of Pictures by the Great Masters into England since the French Revolution. London, 1824, vol. 2, p. 6, no. 12, lists it as acquired by Day from the Aldobrandini Villa and as exhibited by him for sale in 1800–1801.
Richard Payne Knight. Catalogue of the Payne Knight collection. n.d. [see letter of April 8, 1963 in archive file], attributes it to Mantegna and states that it came from the Aldobrandini palace in Rome.
Jean Paul Richter. Letter. January 6, 1882 [published in "Italienische Malerei der Renaissance im Briefwechsel von Giovanni Morelli und Jean Paul Richter," Baden-Baden, 1960, p. 199], attributes it to Cossa.
Jean Paul Richter. Letter. January 11, 1882 [published in "Italienische Malerei der Renaissance im Briefwechsel von Giovanni Morelli und Jean Paul Richter," Baden-Baden, 1960, p. 201].
Jean Paul Richter. Letter. January 16, 1882 [published in "Italienische Malerei der Renaissance im Briefwechsel von Giovanni Morelli und Jean Paul Richter," Baden-Baden, 1960, p. 202], decides the attribution to Mantegna is correct.
Jean Paul Richter. Letter. January 29, 1882 [published in "Italienische Malerei der Renaissance im Briefwechsel von Giovanni Morelli und Jean Paul Richter," Baden-Baden, 1960, p. 206].
"The Royal Academy Winter Exhibition of Works of the 'Old Masters'." Times (January 2, 1882), p. 7, calls it an important work by Mantegna from his early period.
"The Royal Academy Winter Exhibition of Works of the 'Old Masters' (Second Notice.)." Times (January 10, 1882), p. 8, dates it about 1450–55; states that it may be a predella panel, possibly from the San Zeno altarpiece (San Zeno church, Verona).
Julia Cartwright. "The Nativity in Art." Magazine of Art 6 (1883), p. 78, ill. p. 77 (engraving), as an early work, probably dating from soon after the frescoes in the church of the Eremitani, Padua (1448–57); calls the drawing in the Uffizi [see Notes] a preparatory study.
August Schmarsow et al. "Italienische Malerschulen in der Londoner Nationalgalerie." Festschrift zu Ehren des Kunsthistorischen Instituts in Florenz. Leipzig, 1897, p. 135, attribute it, a drawing of the shepherds at Windsor Castle [see Notes], and the Uffizi drawing to Niccolò Pizzolo.
Paul Kristeller. Andrea Mantegna. London, 1901, pp. 453, 459, judging from a reproduction, does not think it is by Mantegna, tentatively attributing it to a student of his early period; calls the Windsor and Uffizi drawings studies for the painting.
Charles Yriarte. Mantegna. Paris, 1901, pp. 216–18, attributes it to Mantegna; reproduces the Windsor drawing and a fragment in the Martin Le Roy collection [see Notes] as seventeenth-century copies, mistakenly locating the Martin Le Roy panel at Windsor.
Bernhard Berenson. North Italian Painters of the Renaissance. New York, 1907, p. 254, lists it as an early work by Mantegna.
André Pératé inCatalogue raisonné de la collection Martin Le Roy. Vol. 5, Peintures. Paris, 1909, pp. 36–37, considers it the original by Mantegna and the Martin Le Roy picture a workshop copy, perhaps by his son, Francesco.
G. L[orenzetti]. "Review of Pératé 1909." L'arte 13 (1910), p. 236, attributes it to Mantegna and calls the Martin Le Roy picture a workshop copy.
Arthur Mayger Hind. Catalogue of Early Italian Engravings Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. London, 1910, p. 588, under no. 44, attributes it to Mantegna's school, mentioning it in connection with an engraving in the British Museum of the Madonna kneeling, adoring the infant Christ, which he dates about 1480 and calls a work after a Mantegnesque design; notes that the Uffizi drawing is attributed to Marco Zoppo.
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. 85 n., ill. between pp. 84 and 85, considers it designed but only partly executed by Mantegna; relates it to the predella of the San Zeno altarpiece.
"Old Masters at Burlington House, Second and Concluding Article." Times (January 22, 1912), p. 6, suggests that some details, such as Saint Joseph's draperies, may indicate the participation of Mantegna's workshop.
A[dolfo]. Venturi. "La pittura del Quattrocento." Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 7, part 3, Milan, 1914, p. 143, 145–46, 504, fig. 96, attributes it to Mantegna; calls the Madonna Donatellesque; connects it with the "Prosepio" in the collection of the duchess of Ferrara in 1586 [see Ref. Libro di debitori 1586–91].
Gustavo Frizzoni. "La pittura italiana dal Mantegna al Correggio." Bollettino d'arte 9, no. 1 (1915), p. 2, attributes it to Mantegna.
Guglielmo Pacchioni. "Belbello da Pavia e Gerolamo da Cremona, miniatori." L'arte 18 (1915), pp. 350–52, fig. 14, attributes it to Mantegna and dates it to his last years in Padua or early in his time in Mantua (i.e., about 1460); notes its influence on Girolamo da Cremona, mentioning specifically a manuscript illumination in the Palazzo Ducale, Mantua [see also Ref. Christiansen 1983].
Tancred Borenius. Four Early Italian Engravers. London, 1923, p. 54, under no. 27, states that the engraving of the Madonna and Child [see Ref. Hind 1910] derives from a Mantegna composition of about 1459, of which the MMA painting is the best known version.
Bernard Berenson. Letter to Clarence Mackay. September 10, 1924, identifies it as the work in the collection of the duchess of Ferrara in 1586 [see Ref. Libro di debitori 1586–91].
B[ernard]. Berenson. "Nove pitture in cerca di un'attribuzione." Dedalo 5 (1925), p. 698, ill. p. 693 (detail) [reprinted in "Three Essays in Method," Oxford, 1927, p. 37, fig. 33].
W. R. V[alentiner]. "The Clarence H. Mackay Collection." International Studio 81 (August 1925), pp. 335, 344–45, ill. p. 341, attributes it to Mantegna.
Wilhelm R. Valentiner. The Clarence H. Mackay Collection: Italian Schools. New York, 1926, unpaginated, no. 6, ill.
Ella S. Siple. "Recent Acquisitions by American Collectors." Burlington Magazine 51 (December 1927), p. 298, states that Mackay purchased it from Duveen.
Esther Singleton. Old World Masters in New World Collections. New York, 1929, pp. 104–7, ill., calls it an early work by Mantegna; tentatively agrees with its identification with the picture in Ferrara in 1586 [see Ref. Libro di debitori 1586–91].
Charles Holmes. "The Italian Exhibition." Burlington Magazine 56 (February 1930), p. 65, pl. VIA, states that the central group and the angels are by Mantegna himself, while the shepherds recall Bernardo Parentino.
G[iuseppe]. Fiocco inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 24, Leipzig, 1930, p. 40, attributes it to Mantegna and dates it after his arrival in Mantua.
Carlo Gamba. "Dipinti fiorentini di raccolte americane all'esposizione di Londra." Dedalo 11 (1930–31), p. 599, ill. p. 597, attributes it to Mantegna and calls it an early work.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 327, erroneously refers to it as an Adoration of the Magi.
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 2, Fifteenth Century Renaissance. New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 339, attributes it to Mantegna and relates it to the San Zeno altarpiece; calls the Martin Le Roy picture a copy by a student of Mantegna; notes that a fifteenth-century Ferrarese painting in the Musée Jacquemart André, Paris, includes a copy of one of the shepherds.
Bryson Burroughs. "Two Great Pictures." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 28 (March 1933), pp. 57, 59–62, ill., attributes it to Mantegna and dates it to the same time as the San Zeno predella, before 1460.
Richard Offner. Lecture. March 1935, dates it about 1460 and calls it a predella panel.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 291.
Giuseppe Fiocco. Mantegna. Milan, , pp. 31, 43–44, fig. 32, sees the influence of Rogier van der Weyden; suggests that it may be the work painted by Mantegna for Giacomo Antonio Marcello, the podestà of Padua, in 1459.
F. Mason Perkins. Letter. March 24, 1938, attributes it to Mantegna.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 126–27, ill., attributes it to Mantegna and states that the panel has probably been cropped on the left [but see Ref. Christiansen 1992].
Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941, unpaginated, no. 75, ill., attributes it to Mantegna and dates it about 1460.
Charles Sheeler. "Notes on the Cover." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1 (April 1943), inside back cover, ill. in color on front cover (detail) and inside back cover.
Hans Tietze and E. Tietze-Conrat. The Drawings of the Venetian Painters in the 15th and 16th Centuries. New York, 1944, p. 365, mention it without attribution in connection with the drawing in the Uffizi, which they describe as a "simile" from Mantegna's workshop.
Richard C. Jebb. "The Classical Renaissance." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 5 (November 1946), p. 77, ill., dates it before 1460.
Arthur M. Hind. Early Italian Engraving. part II, Known Masters other than Florentine Monogrammists and Anonymous. London, 1948, vol. 5, pp. 21–22, mentions it without attribution as closely related to the engraving of the Madonna adoring the Infant Christ [see also Ref. Hind 1910], which he assigns to the school of Mantegna, possibly by a Ferrarese or Venetian artist, and dates 1480 at the latest and possibly much closer to the period of the original design which he dates about 1455–59.
A. E. Popham and Johannes Wilde. The Italian Drawings of the XV and XVI Centuries in the Collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle. London, 1949, p. 174, under no. 15, attributes it to Mantegna; date the Windsor drawing to the fifteenth century and call it a copy of the MMA picture by an artist of Mantegna's school; call the Uffizi drawing a copy by a different hand.
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. 225, no. 85, colorpl. 85.
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "A Guide to the Picture Galleries." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, part 2 (January 1954), p. 2, ill. p. 16.
E. Tietze-Conrat. Mantegna: Paintings, Drawings, Engravings. London, 1955, pp. 180, 186, 190–91, 196–97, 204, pl. 43, attributes it to a student working from drawings by Mantegna and agrees with Offner [see Ref. 1935] that it may be a predella panel from about 1460; sees the existence of the Windsor and Martin Le Roy works as proof that the MMA painting must be cropped on the right [but see Ref. Christiansen 1992]; calls the Martin Le Roy work a fragment of a second version of the picture and believes that the Windsor and Uffizi drawings are copies after drawings by Mantegna; incorrectly states that the Este picture [see Ref. 1586] was later in the collection of Charles I, King of England, and was included in the Somerset House sale of 1650.
Paolo d'Ancona. Mantegna. 2nd ed. Milan, , pp. 11–12, attributes it to Mantegna, dates it to the period of the Eremitani frescoes, and notes the influence of Rogier van der Weyden.
Renata Cipriani. Tutta la pittura del Mantegna. Milan, 1956, pp. 55–56, pl. 54, attributes it to Mantegna; repeats Tietze-Conrat's [see Ref. 1955] incorrect early provenance.
Millard Meiss. Andrea Mantegna as Illuminator. New York, 1957, pp. 47–48, 91 n. 46, states that the attribution to Mantegna is sometimes denied, and that it may be a predella panel; rejects Fiocco's [see Ref. 1937] suggestion that it is the work commissioned by Giacomo Antonio Marcello.
Gertrude Coor. Neroccio de' Landi, 1447–1500. Princeton, 1961, p. 33, as by Mantegna.
Gaetano Andrisani. "Il genio pittorico di Andrea." Arte cristiana 49 (September 1961), p. 213, attributes it to Mantegna and dates it about 1461.
Paola Della Pergola. "Gli inventari Aldobrandini: L'inventario del 1682 (II)." Arte antica e moderna no. 21 (January/March 1963), pp. 73, 85, no. 303, lists it as no. 303 in the Aldobrandini inventory of 1682; states that Day bought it from the Villa Aldobrandini in about 1800.
Renata Cipriani. All the Paintings of Mantegna. New York, 1963, vol. 1, pp. 16, 24, 55, pl. 44.
Ettore Camesasca. Mantegna. Milan, 1964, pp. 15–16, 113–14, pl. 18, attributes it to Mantegna and dates it about 1449; suggests the influence of a similar painting by Rogier van der Weyden or Dieric Bouts which Mantegna could have seen in Ferrara.
Eberhard Ruhmer. Marco Zoppo. [Venice], 1966, pp. 31, 100, under no. XVII, attributes it to Mantegna and dates it 1457–59; attributes the Uffizi drawing to Zoppo.
Niny Garavaglia inL'opera completa del Mantegna. Milan, 1967, p. 87, no. 7, ill. [English ed., "The Complete Paintings of Mantegna," New York, (1970/71), p. 87, no. 7, ill.], attributes it to Mantegna and dates it 1449–50.
J. W. Goodison and G. H. Robertson. Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge: Catalogue of Paintings. Vol. 2, Italian Schools. Cambridge, 1967, p. 112, under no. 1652, call it "by, or near to, Mantegna" and believe that an Adoration of the Shepherds by an anonymous north Italian painter of the late fifteenth century in the Fitzwilliam derives from it.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 240.
Calvin Tomkins. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1970, p. 237 [rev., enl. ed., 1989].
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 118, 270, 607.
Edward Fowles. Memories of Duveen Brothers. London, 1976, pp. 140–41, 157, discusses Duveen's acquisition of the picture and Berenson's attribution to Mantegna.
Mirella Levi d'Ancona. The Garden of the Renaissance: Botanical Symbolism in Italian Painting. Florence, 1977, pp. 410, 541, figs. 166, 166A (detail).
Michael Vickers. "The Sources of Invidia in Mantegna's 'Battle of the Sea Gods'." Apollo 106 (October 1977), p. 273 n. 16, states that it is either by Mantegna or designed by him; notes that the figure of Joseph, including the gourd at left, is based on a type of Jonah depicted in early Christian and Byzantine art.
Denys Sutton. "Robert Langton Douglas, Part III, XIV: Agent for the Metropolitan Museum." Apollo 109 (June 1979), p. 413–14, fig. 6, as by Mantegna.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 235, 244, fig. 419 (color).
Michael Clarke inThe Arrogant Connoisseur: Richard Payne Knight, 1751–1824. Exh. cat., Whitworth Art Gallery. Manchester, 1982, pp. 94, 117 n. 5.
Keith Christiansen. "Early Renaissance Narrative Painting in Italy." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 41 (Fall 1983), pp. 32–34, 36, fig. 25 (color), ill. p. 35 and inside back cover (color details), states that it may have been painted in 1449 in Ferrara where Mantegna could have been inspired by the work of Rogier van der Weyden; calls the Windsor drawing a fifteenth-century copy after the Martin Le Roy fragment, not after the MMA painting, and notes that the compositions of the Windsor and Martin Le Roy works indicate that about two and a half inches have been cut from the right side of the MMA painting; adds that it is unknown when this cropping took place, but suggests that it may have been done at the time of its placement in Margherita Gonzaga's chapel; states that it is probably one of a number of pictures acquired by Pietro Aldobrandini from the Este collection in 1598; discusses its influence on the work of Girolamo da Cremona.
Mark J. Zucker. The Illustrated Bartsch. Vol. 25, part 2, Early Italian Masters. New York, 1984, p. 110, under no. .015, does not find the engraving of the Madonna and Child [see Refs. Hind 1910 and 1948, Borenius 1923] close enough to the MMA painting to indicate any sort of dependence, and calls the engraving "only very broadly speaking Mantegnesque".
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. 35–37, pl. 15, attribute it to Mantegna and tentatively date it about 1450, contemporary with the upper tier of frescoes of Saint James in the Eremitani, Padua; call the Windsor and Uffizi drawings copies after the painting; state that it may be the work recorded in Ferrara in 1586 [see Ref. Libro di debitori 1586–91].
Ronald Lightbown. Mantegna. Oxford, 1986, pp. 59–60, 256 n. 1, pp. 403–4, no. 5, fig. 4 (detail), pl. 33, attributes it to Mantegna, dating it to the early or middle 1450s and calling it his earliest surviving history painting; discusses the early provenance; calls the Martin Le Roy work a contemporary version of the MMA painting, adding that the Windsor drawing and the Martin Le Roy picture establish that the MMA painting originally included a third figure and tree trunk at the right.
Alessandro Angelini. Disegni italiani del tempo di Donatello. Exh. cat., Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi. Florence, 1986, pp. 69–70, under no. 55, attributes the Uffizi drawing to Mantegna, and believes that the Madonna and Child in the MMA painting are based on it.
Gino Castiglioni inMiniatura veronese del Rinascimento. Exh. cat., Museo di Castelvecchio. Verona, 1986, pp. 64, 196, fig. III.29, relates it to an illuminated manuscript page of the same subject from the third quarter of the fifteenth century by the Maestro degli Offici di Montecassino (Museo Biblioteca Archivio, Bassano; Esp. 2, c. 17v).
Keith Christiansen inLe muse e il principe: Arte di corte nel Rinascimento padano. Exh. cat., Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan. Modena, 1991, pp. 307–12, no. 78, figs. 334 (color), 335–36 (details), dates it about 1449–50 and suggests that it was painted for Borso d'Este, interpreting the wattle fence with a gourd as a reference to Borso's heraldic device of the "paraduro"; notes that it is probably the work documented in Margherita Gonzaga's chapel in Ferrara in 1586 and traces its likely journey from the Este collection in Ferrara to that of the Aldobrandini in Rome; notes that the landscape background recurs in an early Pietà by Giovanni Bellini (Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan); discusses the detailed realism of the picture in terms of Ferrarese humanist criticism.
Caroline Elam and Carl Brandon Strehlke. "Milan, Museo Poldi Pezzoli: Le Muse e il Principe." Burlington Magazine 133 (December 1991), pp. 863–64, comment on Christiansen's [see Ref. 1991] identification of the wattle fence as a heraldic device of Borso d'Este, incorrectly stating that the "paraduro" is intended to show a purse rather than a gourd; accept the identification with the picture in Ferrara in 1586; believe that the style of the painting indicates a date later than 1450.
Burton B. Fredericksen. "Leonardo and Mantegna in the Buccleuch Collection." Burlington Magazine 133 (February 1991), p. 117 n. 8, connects it with the work listed in the 1603 Aldobrandini inventory [see Ref.] and mentions that it may have come from the Este collections.
Keith Christiansen inAndrea Mantegna. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London. New York, 1992, pp. 106, 113 n. 53, pp. 126–29, 139, 207, 269, 329, no. 8, ill. (color, overall and detail), fig. 46 (color detail) [British ed., London, 1992, pp. 106, 113 n. 53, pp. 126–28, 139, 207, 269, 329, no. 8, ill. (color)], dates it about 1450–51; lists a number of works that were influenced by it; states that a cleaning in 1991 revealed that the top, bottom, and left borders are original, and that only the right side has been cropped.
Suzanne Boorsch inAndrea Mantegna. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London. New York, 1992, p. 239, under no. 57 [British ed., London, 1992], suggests that a drawing of two peasants reproduced in an engraving by an artist known as the Premier Engraver might be a study for the MMA painting or a similar work.
David Ekserdjian inAndrea Mantegna. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London. New York, 1992, p. 129 [British ed., London, 1992, p. 130], calls the Uffizi drawing probably a copy after an original study by Mantegna, perhaps dating from the time of the painting or perhaps later.
Albinia de la Mare and David Ekserdjian inAndrea Mantegna. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London. New York, 1992, p. 125 [British ed., London, 1992].
Michael Hirst. "London and New York: Mantegna." Burlington Magazine 134 (May 1992), pp. 318–19, rejects Christiansen's date of about 1450–51 as too early, and states that his hypothesis that the picture was painted for Borso d'Este "is attractive but requires cautious discussion".
Francis Ames-Lewis. "A Northern Source for Mantegna's 'Adoration of the Shepherds'." Print Quarterly 9, no. 3 (1992), pp. 268–71, fig. 142, argues that the composition is based on an engraving by the Master E.S.; accepts a date in the early 1450s.
Francis Ames-Lewis. "Painters in Padua and Netherlandish Art, 1435–1455." Italienische Frührenaissance und nordeuropäisches Spätmittelalter: Kunst der frühen Neuzeit im europäischen Zusammenhang. Ed. Joachim Poeschke. Munich, 1993, pp. 188–89, 193 n. 21, fig. 14 (detail).
Alberta De Nicolò Salmazo. Il soggiorno padovano di Andrea Mantegna. Padua, 1993, pp. 91–94, 123 nn. 429, 437, 440, figs. 90, 91 (detail), dates it between the fresco of the martyrdom of Saint James formerly in the Eremitani, Padua (1453–57), and the predella of the San Zeno altarpiece (1456–59), and contemporary with the Agony in the Garden (National Gallery, London).
Axel Klumpp. "Vincenzo Foppa (ca. 1430–1515/16)." PhD diss., Julius-Maximilians-Universität zu Würzburg, 1995, vol. 1, pp. 88, 157–58, 195, 352.
Gabriele Finaldi inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 20, New York, 1996, p. 308, attributes it to Mantegna and tentatively supports a dating in the early 1450s.
Gerlinde Gruber inDa Caravaggio a Ceruti: La scena di genere e l'immagine dei 'pitocchi' nella pittura italiana. Ed. Francesco Porzio. Exh. cat., Museo di Santa Giulia, Brescia. Milan, 1998, p. 451.
Maria Cristina Bandera. Benvenuto di Giovanni. Milan, 1999, pp. 79, 136 n. 41, mentions it in connection with Benvenuto di Giovanni's Nativity dated 1470 (Pinacoteca, Volterra).
Carolyn C. Wilson. St. Joseph in Italian Renaissance Society and Art. Philadelphia, 2001, p. 202 n. 50, p. 210 n. 99, p. 213 n. 113, p. 218 n. 147.
Alberta De Nicolò Salmazo. Andrea Mantegna. Milan, 2004, pp. 136, 138–39, 242, no. 27, ill. pp. 110–11 (color) and 242.
Keith Christiansen. "Bellini and Mantegna." The Cambridge Companion to Giovanni Bellini. Ed. Peter Humfrey. Cambridge, 2004, pp. 61, 284 n. 25.
Stefano L'Occaso. "Margherita Gonzaga d'Este: pitture tra Mantova e Ferrara intorno al 1600 (con alcune osservazioni sul collezionismo di opere del Correggio)." Atti e memorie: Accademia Nationale Virgiliana de Scienze Lettere e Arti, n.s., 73 (2005), p. 97, notes that C. H. Clough ["Il 'San Giorgio' di Washington: fonti e fortuna," in Studi su Raffaello, Urbino, 1987] identifies the "Prosepio" in Margherita Gonzaga's inventory of 1586 [see Ref. Libro di debitori 1586–91] with a painting in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.
Linda Wolk-Simon. "Raphael at the Metropolitan: The Colonna Altarpiece." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 63 (Spring 2006), pp. 41, 61 n. 53, fig. 63, illustrates a photograph from about 1930 of the music room at Harbor Hill (Clarence Mackay's residence), showing this painting displayed on an easel.
Gino Castiglioni inMantegna e le arti a Verona: 1450–1500. Ed. Sergio Marinelli and Paola Marini. Exh. cat., Palazzo della Gran Guardia, Verona. Venice, 2006, pp. 127, 130, 293, 366, 378.
Lucia Monaci Moran et al. inMantegna e Padova: 1445–1460. Ed. Davide Banzato et al. Exh. cat., Musei Civici agli Eremitani, Padua. Milan, 2006, pp. 81, 282, ill. pp. 2, 20 (color, overall and detail).
Giovanni Agosti. Su Mantegna. Vol. 1, La storia dell'arte libera la testa. 2nd ed. Milan, 2006, p. 18, pl. 27 (detail), notes the similarity of the landscapes in this work and Bellini's Pietà in Milan [see Ref. Christiansen 1991], both of which he dates about 1455.
Giordana Mariani Canova inAndrea Mantegna e i Gonzaga. Ed. Filippo Trevisani. Exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale, Mantua. Milan, 2006, p. 238, relates the structure at left to one in a miniature by Pietro Guindaleri in a manuscript of Pliny's "Naturalis historia" (Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria, Turin).
Joseph Manca. Andrea Mantegna and the Italian Renaissance. New York, 2006, pp. 39–40, fig. 25 (color), as possibly painted for Borso d'Este.
Mauro Natale and Giovanni Sassu inCosmè Tura e Francesco del Cossa: l'arte a Ferrara nell'età di Borso d'Este. Ed. Mauro Natale. Exh. cat., Palazzo dei Diamanti and Palazzo Schifanoia. Ferrara, 2007, p. 42, fig. 10 (color).
Cecilia Cavalca inCosmè Tura e Francesco del Cossa: l'arte a Ferrara nell'età di Borso d'Este. Ed. Mauro Natale. Exh. cat., Palazzo dei Diamanti and Palazzo Schifanoia. Ferrara, 2007, p. 368, finds that the landscape of Francesco del Cossa's Madonna and Child with Angels (1460–65; National Gallery of Art, Washington) recalls that of this work.
Giovanni Sassu inCosmè Tura e Francesco del Cossa: l'arte a Ferrara nell'età di Borso d'Este. Ed. Mauro Natale. Exh. cat., Palazzo dei Diamanti and Palazzo Schifanoia. Ferrara, 2007, p. 456.
Dominique Thiébaut inMantegna, 1431–1506. Ed. Giovanni Agosti and Dominique Thiébaut. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2008, pp. 20, 161.
Mauro Lucco inGiovanni Bellini. Ed. Mauro Lucco and Giovanni Carlo Federico Villa. Exh. cat., Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome. Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2008, p. 146.
Luciano Bellosi inMantegna, 1431–1506. Ed. Giovanni Agosti and Dominique Thiébaut. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2008, p. 105.
Giovanni Agosti inMantegna, 1431–1506. Ed. Giovanni Agosti and Dominique Thiébaut. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2008, p. 38, dates it and the London "Agony in the Garden" slightly before the San Zeno predella of 1456–59 (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Tours).
Andrea De Marchi inMantegna, 1431–1506. Ed. Giovanni Agosti and Dominique Thiébaut. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2008, pp. 162–63, no. 50, ill. (color), dates it about 1455–56; believes that the picture was probably cut down on all four sides, not just on the right, noting that the ass is missing from next to the ox on the left side.
Marco Tanzi inMantegna, 1431–1506. Ed. Giovanni Agosti and Dominique Thiébaut. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2008, p. 180.
Stefano L'Occaso inMantegna, 1431–1506. Ed. Giovanni Agosti and Dominique Thiébaut. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2008, pp. 192, 281, notes that a miniature of the same subject in the missal of Barbara of Brandenburg (about 1463–65; Archivio Storico Diocesano, Mantua) reproduces in reverse the figures of the Madonna and Child.
Miriam Servi inMantegna, 1431–1506. Ed. Giovanni Agosti and Dominique Thiébaut. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2008, p. 202.
Suzanne Boorsch inMantegna, 1431–1506. Ed. Giovanni Agosti and Dominique Thiébaut. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2008, p. 282, relates the pose of the Child to that in an engraving of about 1490 by Mantegna of the Madonna and Child (cat. no. 113).
Andrea Canova inMantegna, 1431–1506. Ed. Giovanni Agosti and Dominique Thiébaut. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2008, p. 286, relates the tree against which Joseph rests to that depicted in "Vase with an Orange Tree," a drawing by Mantegna of about 1490 (Musée du Louvre, Paris).
Giovanni Agosti and Jacopo Stoppa inMantegna, 1431–1506. Ed. Giovanni Agosti and Dominique Thiébaut. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2008, p. 316.
Caroline Elam. Roger Fry's Journey From the Primitives to the Post-Impressionists. Edinburgh, 2008, p. 48 n. 73, mentions that Butinone's painting of the same subject (ca. 1480–85; National Gallery, London) is strongly influenced by this picture.
Dominique Thiébaut inMantegna: La prédelle de San Zeno de Vérone, 1457–1459. Exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours. Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2009, p. 12, fig. 1 (color).
Andrea De Marchi inMantegna: La prédelle de San Zeno de Vérone, 1457–1459. Exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours. Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2009, p. 65.
Luke Syson. "Reflections on the Mantegna Exhibition in Paris." Burlington Magazine 151 (August 2009), pp. 526, 528, fig. 23 (color) and ill. on reverse of title page (color detail).
Keith Christiansen. "The Genius of Andrea Mantegna." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 67 (Fall 2009), pp. 15, 18, figs. 14–16 (color, overall and details) and ill. on cover (color detail), dates it about 1450–57.
Hans-Joachim Eberhardt in Bernhard Degenhart and Annegrit Schmitt. Corpus der italienischen Zeichnungen, 1300–1450. Vol. 3, part 3, Verona: Badile-Album. Munich, 2010, p. 135, fig. 85 (detail), under no. 799, relates motifs in a drawing of two shepherds (whereabouts unknown; sold, Sotheby's, London, 1992) to the two figures at right in this painting.
Old Master & British Paintings. Christie's, London. July 6, 2011, p. 95, under no. 196, mentions it in the entry for the ex-Martin Le Roy panel, which is attributed to the workshop of Mantegna.
Old Masters: Part I. Christie's, New York. April 14, 2016, unpaginated, under no. 105.
Old Master & British Paintings. Christie's, London. July 8, 2016, p. 48, under no. 146.
Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, pp. 266, 437, no. 135, ill. pp. 144–45, 266 (color).
Artist: Circle of Andrea Mantegna (Italian, Isola di Carturo 1430/31–1506 Mantua) Date: 1484–1500Medium: Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash (recto); pen and brown ink (verso)Accession: 06.1051.6On view in:Not on view
Artist: Ascribed to Circle of Andrea Mantegna (Italian, Isola di Carturo 1430/31–1506 Mantua) (?) Date: 1470–1510Medium: Pen and brown ink, over traces of construction lines in black chalk or lead pointAccession: 66.248On view in:Not on view