Signorelli gave this painting to his daughter as a gift in 1507, possibly to celebrate the birth of a child. The artist was one of the protagonists of Renaissance painting and closely studied ancient art. This picture’s elaborate background draws inspiration from the ancient Roman Golden House of Nero. Discovered in the late 1400s, the home and its decorative motifs had a profound impact on the arts. Alongside this reference to Nero, one of the so-called Twelve Caesars of the Roman empire, the design includes the heads of emperors Domitian (upper left) and Caracalla (upper right).
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Title:Madonna and Child
Artist:Luca Signorelli (Luca d'Egidio di Luca di Ventura) (Italian, Cortona, active by 1470–died 1523 Cortona)
Medium:Oil and gold on wood
Dimensions:20 1/4 x 18 3/4 in. (51.4 x 47.6 cm)
Credit Line:The Jules Bache Collection, 1949
This painting has been identified with one included in a document of April 10, 1507 listing gifts from Signorelli to his daughter Gabriella: "a small picture with a half-length image of the Virgin Mary with her son in her lap with an elaborate gold background" (Henry 2001). Both the gold background, unique in Signorelli's oeuvre, and the accepted dating on stylistic grounds to about 1505–7 support the connection between the Museum's picture and Signorelli's gift to his daughter.
The grotesque decoration, athletic putti, and invented Roman coins or medals which comprise the exceptional background relate to Signorelli's antiquarian interests and have analogies in his fresco cycle of 1499–1503 in the cathedral of Orvieto. Signorelli introduced patterned drapery employing gold and decorative motifs similar to those in The Met's picture in a number of compositions of these years, including a fragment from the Matélica altarpiece of 1504–5 (private collection, England).
A painting in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, repeats the same composition of the Madonna and Child, but with a landscape background. The Liverpool painting is considered to be a workshop replica of The Met's picture, using the same cartoon, possibly by the artist's nephew Francesco Signorelli.
The condition is exceptionally fine. The frame is a modern reproduction made in 1927 for the Duveen firm.
Gretchen Wold 2010
Inscription: Inscribed: (upper left corner, around edge of coin, partly in reverse) S·P·Q·R DOMICIANVS·II IM· / S / C (The Senate and the People of Rome. Domitian, emperor in the second year of his reign, by decree of the Senate); (upper right corner, around edge of coin) S·P·Q·R·CHA·CHALI·IM AN·III·M·IIII· / I C (The Senate and the People of Rome. Caracalla, emperor in the third year and fourth month of his reign . . . )
the artist's daughter, Gabriella Signorelli, Cortona (from 1507; received as a gift from her father); Luigi Tommasi, Cortona (in 1857); Girolamo Tommasi, Cortona (in 1879); Robert H. and Evelyn Benson, London (by 1893–1927; sold to Duveen); [Duveen, London and New York, 1927–28; sold for $200,000 to Bache]; Jules S. Bache, New York (1928–d. 1944; his estate, 1944–49; cats., 1929, unnumbered; 1937, no. 14; 1943, no. 13)
London. New Gallery. "Exhibition of Early Italian Art from 1300 to 1550," 1893–94, no. 92.
London. Burlington Fine Arts Club. "Exhibition of the Work of Luca Signorelli and His School," 1893, no. 8 (lent by R. H. Benson, Esq.).
London. Burlington Fine Arts Club. "Pictures of the Umbrian School," 1910, no. 24A (lent by Robert Benson, Esq.).
City of Manchester Art Gallery. "Loan Exhibition of the Benson Collection of Old Italian Masters," April 27–July 30, 1927, no. 86.
New York. M. Knoedler & Co. "Loan Exhibition of Primitives," February 1929, no. 20 (lent by Mr. Jules Bache).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Italian Art, 1200–1900," January 1–March 8, 1930, no. 247 (lent by Jules S. Bache, New York) [commemorative ed., 1931, no. 218].
New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300–1800," May–October 1939, no. 354 (lent by the Jules S. Bache collection, New York).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Bache Collection," June 16–September 30, 1943, no. 13.
Perugia. Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria. "Luca Signorelli: 'de ingegno et spirto pelegrino'," April 21–August 26, 2012, no. 53.
Rome. Musei Capitolini. "Luca Signorelli e Roma: Oblio e riscoperte," July 19–November 3, 2019, unnumbered cat. (fig. 65).
Noferi Laparelli. Document. April 10, 1507, fol. 271v [Archivio di Stato, Florence, Notarile Antecosimiano 11417; published and translated in Henry 2001], lists among gifts from Signorelli to his daughter Gabriella "a small picture with a half-length image of the Virgin Mary with her son in her lap with an elaborate gold background".
Charles Lock Eastlake. Notebook entry. 1857, vol. 2, fol. 5r–5v [National Gallery Archive, London, NG 22/15: 1857 (2); published in Walpole Society 73 (2011), vol. 1, p. 367], attributes it to Signorelli (see Zeri and Gardner 1980).
Otto Mündler. Diary entry. Vol. 2, September 8, 1857, p. 5v [published in Carol Togneri Dowd, ed. "The Travel Diaries of Otto Mündler, 1855–1858," Walpole Society 51 (1985), p. 165], as in the collection of Luigi Tommasi, Cortona; attributes it to Signorelli.
Robert Vischer. Luca Signorelli und die italienische renaissance. Leipzig, 1879, p. 260, as in the collection of Girolamo Tommasi; notes its resemblance to a painting in the Villa Rospigliosi, Rome (now Galleria Pallavicini, Rome).
Costanza Jocelyn Ffoulkes. "Le esposizioni d'arte italiana a Londra." Archivio storico dell'arte 7 (1894), p. 170, considers it a weak copy after the Liverpool picture.
J[ean]. P[aul]. Richter. "Die Ausstellung italienischer Renaissancewerke in der New Gallery in London." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 17 (1894), p. 240, considers it too weak to be by Signorelli.
Bernhard Berenson. The Central Italian Painters of the Renaissance. reprinted 1903. New York, 1897, p. 180, lists it as a late work by Signorelli.
Maud Cruttwell. Luca Signorelli. London, 1899, p. 131, lists it as by Signorelli.
Girolamo Mancini. Vita di Luca Signorelli. Florence, 1903, p. 180.
Lionel Cust. "La collection de M. R.-H. Benson." Les arts 6 (October 1907), p. 30, ill. p. 15, attributes it to Signorelli.
Edward Hutton, ed. A New History of Painting in Italy from the II to the XVI Century.. By [Joseph Archer] Crowe and [Giovanni Battista] Cavalcaselle. Vol. 3, The Florentine, Umbrian, and Sienese Schools of the XV Century. London, 1909, p. 83 n. 2 (continued from p. 82), lists it as by Signorelli.
Claude Phillips. Daily Telegraph (December 7, 1909), p. ? [see Exh. London 1910], states that, having been added to the exhibition at the Burlington Fine Arts Club, this picture "assert[s] its crushing superiority" over the Liverpool version.
C[ostanza]. J[ocelyn]. Ffoulkes. "Corrieri." L'arte 13, no. 39 (1910), p. 302, mentions it as a characteristic example of Signorelli's work.
Tancred Borenius. "La mostra dei maestri umbri a Londra." Rassegna d'arte 10 (March 1910), p. 45, calls the Liverpool painting a replica of this one.
Roger E. Fry. "The Umbrian Exhibition at the Burlington Fine Arts Club." Burlington Magazine 16 (February 1910), pp. 268, 273, refers to it as "a great and profoundly original creation" and calls the Liverpool version a school piece; suggests that the background is meant to be a gilded leather hanging.
A[dolfo]. Venturi. "La pittura del quattrocento." Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 7, part 2, Milan, 1913, p. 409 n. 1, lists it as a late work.
Tancred Borenius, ed. A History of Painting in Italy: Umbria, Florence, and Siena from the Second to the Sixteenth Century.. By J[oseph]. A[rcher]. Crowe and G[iovanni]. B[attista]. Cavalcaselle. Vol. 5, Umbrian and Sienese Masters of the Fifteenth Century. London, 1914, p. 116 n. 5, ill. opp. p. 116, considers it superior to the Liverpool version.
Catalogue of Italian Pictures at 16, South Street, Park Lane, London and Buckhurst in Sussex collected by Robert and Evelyn Benson. London, 1914, pp. 85–86, no. 43, ill. opp. p. 85.
Tancred Borenius. "Two Tondos by Piero di Cosimo in Sweden." Burlington Magazine 36 (March 1920), p. 103, relates it to a tondo of the Madonna and Child by Piero di Cosimo then in the collection of Oswald Sirén, Stockholm.
Adolfo Venturi. Luca Signorelli. Florence, [1921–22?], p. 53.
Frank E. Washburn Freund. "Die Sammlung Benson." Der Cicerone 19, no. 16 (1927), p. 496, ill.
Tancred Borenius. "The Benson Collection." Apollo 6 (August 1927), ill. p. 65.
Luitpold Dussler. Signorelli, des meisters Gemälde. Stuttgart, 1927, p. 215, ill. p. 56, dates it between 1490 and 1495.
Walter Heil. "The Jules Bache Collection." Art News 27 (April 27, 1929), p. 3, ill. p. 31.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Collection of Jules S. Bache. New York, 1929, unpaginated, ill.
A[ndré]. [de] H[evesy]. "New-York." Pantheon 3 (January–June 1929), p. 196, ill. p. 190, lists it as in the Knoedler exhibition.
August L. Mayer. "Die Sammlung Jules Bache in New-York." Pantheon 6 (December 1930), p. 541.
Tancred Borenius. "Pictures from American Collections at Burlington House." Apollo 11 (March 1930), p. 160, fig. IX (framed).
Roberto Longhi inUnknown Masterpieces in Public and Private Collections. Ed. Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Vol. 1, London, 1930, unpaginated, no. 14, ill., dates it to the first decade of the sixteenth century.
Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, pl. CCXI.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 532.
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 2, Fifteenth Century Renaissance. New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 278, dates it to the early years of the sixteenth century.
Hans Tietze. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935, p. 327, pl. 59 [English ed., "Masterpieces of European Painting in America," New York, 1939, p. 311, pl. 59], dates it about 1510.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 458.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. under revision. New York, 1937, unpaginated, no. 14, ill.
Raimond van Marle. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. Vol. 16, The Hague, 1937, pp. 28, 32, 104, dates it between 1484 and 1491; considers the Liverpool painting to be probably a pupil's repetition of this work; relates it to a drawing of the Madonna by Signorelli in the Uffizi, Florence.
Bernard Berenson. The Drawings of the Florentine Painters. amplified ed. Chicago, 1938, vol. 2, p. 331, relates it to a drawing by Signorelli in the Uffizi [see also Ref. Marle 1937], which he suggests may have served as a preparatory study for an unknown picture of which the MMA painting may be an "autograph abbreviation".
Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941, unpaginated, no. 117, ill., dates it about 1490–95.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. rev. ed. New York, 1943, unpaginated, no. 13, ill.
[Tancred Borenius]. "Editorial: The Bache Collection." Burlington Magazine 84 (March 1944), p. 55, pl. IIA.
Mario Salmi. Luca Signorelli. Novara, 1953, pp. 32, 61–62, fig. 67, considers the Liverpool version an inferior repetition of the MMA painting, based on the same cartoon, but completed by a pupil.
Ralph Fastnedge. "A Restored Work by Signorelli at Liverpool." Burlington Magazine 95 (August 1953), pp. 273–74, fig. 33, states that the MMA and Liverpool paintings derive from the same cartoon.
Mario Salmi. "Chiosa signorelliana." Commentari 4 (April–June 1953), pp. 114–15, dates it about 1504–5, relating the design of the background to that of works executed during the first decade of the sixteenth century.
Margherita Moriondo. Mostra di Luca Signorelli. Exh. cat., Palazzo Casali, Cortona. n.p., 1953, pp. 75, 77, no. 38, ill. p. 74.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 90.
Pietro Scarpellini. Luca Signorelli. Milan, 1964, pp. 59, 135, no. 85, pl. 85, dates it after the frescoes at Orvieto.
Margherita Lenzini Moriondo. Signorelli. Florence, 1966, p. 25, dates it to the first decade of the sixteenth century.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, pp. 397, 399.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 187, 334, 608.
Sylvia Hochfield. "Conservation: The Need is Urgent." Art News 75 (February 1976), p. 27.
Edward Morris and Martin Hopkinson. Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool: Foreign Catalogue. [Liverpool], 1977, text vol., p. 203, under no. 2810.
Konrad Oberhuber. "The Colonna Altarpiece in the Metropolitan Museum and Problems of the Early Style of Raphael." Metropolitan Museum Journal 12 (1977), p. 72, fig. 17, in mentioning the influence of Signorelli on Raphael, relates the head of the Madonna in this painting to that of Saint Catherine in Raphael's Colonna altarpiece (MMA, 16.30ab).
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sienese and Central Italian Schools. New York, 1980, pp. 91–92, pl. 69, date it slightly later than Signorelli's frescoes at Orvieto, probably after 1505; relate the composition to several other works by Signorelli; call the Liverpool painting either a workshop replica or a contemporary copy.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 234, 237, 240, 246, fig. 417 (color).
Laurence B. Kanter. "The Late Works of Luca Signorelli and His Followers, 1498–1559." PhD diss., New York University, 1989, pp. 139–41, 159, fig. 42, dates it to the close of Signorelli's work at Orvieto and calls it "one of the finest efforts of his entire career"; identifies the Liverpool painting as a later copy, probably by Signorelli's nephew Francesco Signorelli.
Laurence Kanter. "Francesco Signorelli." Arte cristiana, n.s., 82 (May–June 1994), p. 206, fig. 9, attributes the Liverpool picture to Francesco Signorelli, noting that the landscape background is typical of his work.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 124, ill.
Tom Henry. "The Career of Luca Signorelli in the 1490s." PhD diss., University of London, 1996, p. 222 [see Ref. Henry and Kanter 2002].
Tom Henry. "Signorelli's 'Madonna and Child': A Gift to His Daughter." Metropolitan Museum Journal 36 (2001), pp. 161–68, ill., identifes it as the painting included in a document of April 10, 1507 listing gifts from Signorelli to his daughter Gabriella [see Ref. Laparelli 1507]; dates it about 1505–7.
Tom Henry and Laurence Kanter. Luca Signorelli: The Complete Paintings. New York, 2002, pp. 70, 146–47, 212–13, 259, no. 74, ill. p. 213 and colorpl. XVI [Italian ed., 2001, pp. 72, 146–47, 212, 257, no. 74, ill. p. 212 and colorpl. XVI].
Meryle Secrest. Duveen: A Life in Art. New York, 2004, p. 490.
Horton A. Johnson. "The Renaissance Fifth Finger." Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 98 (February 2005), p. 87, fig. 1 (detail).
Tom Henry et al. inLuca Signorelli. Ed. Fabio De Chirico et al. Exh. cat., Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria, Perugia. Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2012, pp. 20, 319–20, no. 53, ill. pp. 22 (detail), 227 (color).
Tom Henry. The Life and Art of Luca Signorelli. New Haven, 2012, pp. 224–26, 244, fig. 210 (color).
Federica Papi inLuca Signorelli e Roma: Oblio e riscoperte. Ed. Federica Papi and Claudio Parisi Presicce. Exh. cat., Musei Capitolini. Rome, 2019, pp. 18, 85, 91, 134, fig. 65 (color), suggests that Signorelli had perhaps originally made the painting for his wife, who died between September and October 1506.
Caroline Elam. Roger Fry and Italian Art. London, 2019, pp. 250, 256–57 n. 3, fig. 2.74, reprints Fry 1910.
The frame is twentieth-century, though based on Renaissance models, made in the workshop of Ferruccio Vannoni (1881–1965), who was extensively employed by the Duveen firm. (For Vannoni, see Karen Serres, “Duveen’s Italian Framemaker, Ferruccio Vannoni,” Burlington Magazine 159 (May 2017), pp. 366–74.)
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