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Tuscan 13th Century
Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist, Saint Peter, and Two Angels

c. 1290
tempera on panel
painted surface (original panel including painted frame): 34.3 × 24.7 cm (13 1/2 × 9 3/4 in)
Cimabue, c. 1240-before 1302
Church of San Francesco, Pisa; Carlo Lasinio [1759-1838], Pisa; [1] possibly Francis Douce [1757-1834], London, by 1829; [2] Mrs. Fanshaw; (sale, Christie & Manson, London, 21 March 1835, no. 80). [3] (country sale, Patterdale Hall, Ullswater, near Penrith, Cumbria, 8 August 1934); (P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., London); sold 8 April 1935 to (Gualtiero Volterra, Florence); [4] (Count Alessandro Contini-Bonaccossi, Florence), by 1935; sold 1948 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; [5] gift 1952 to NGA.

[1] Wilhelm Suida (letter dated August 1935; copy in NGA curatorial files) and Roberti Longhi (“Giudizio sul Duecento,” Proporzioni 2 [1948]: 16) could still read “Lasinio’s inscription” on the back of the panel, according to which the painting came from the “Sacristy of S. Francesco at Pisa [and] is Cimabue’s work”. This inscription must clearly have been in Italian and written on a paper label glued onto the wood, as usually was the case with paintings subjected to Lasinio’s expertise. It would also have been accompanied by the customary wax seal of the Pisan collector and dealer; see the back of panels 40559 and 40560 in the Pinacoteca Vaticana (Francesco Rossi, Catalogo della Pinacoteca Vaticana. Vol. 3: Il Trecento. Umbria, Marche, Italia del Nord, Vatican City, 1994: figs. 105, 108) and that of no. 174 in the Museo Amedeo Lia at La Spezia (Federico Zeri and Andrea De Marchi, La Spezia. Museo Civico Amedeo Lia. Dipinti, Milan, 1997: fig. 376). The label of the NGA painting was lost during its restoration in 1948 (typewritten note in the NGA curatorial files); however the examination report of the NGA Painting Conservation Department, 21 July 1988, states that “…x–radiographs both before and after the cradling show a dense circular area to the right of the Virgin’s head, which may be a seal or stamp on the reverse of the panel.”
[2] Donata Levi ("Carlo Lasinio, curator, collector and dealer," The Burlington Magazine 135 (1993): 133-148) points out that in 1829 Lasinio offered Francis Douce a series of paintings, illustrated with a sketch representing fourteen panels of Italian masters. The last of these, reproduced at the bottom right of the sheet (Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ms Douce d 57, fol. 84; fig. 86 in Levi’s article), is identified with the caption “Madonna di Cimabue / 1200”, but unfortunately in this case Lasinio failed to provide any sketch of the composition. Dillian Gordon (National Gallery Catalogues. The Fifteenth Century Italian Paintings, London, 2003: 32-36) has identified the panel that Lasinio attributed to Cimabue, which together with the others was presumably sold to Douce in 1830, with a small painting, a genuine work of Cimabue acquired by the National Gallery in London (inv. 6583). Gordon’s proposal is, of course, a hypothesis based on the small dimensions of the work and Lasinio’s attribution to the Florentine artist. There is, however, no evidence that the London painting was ever in Lasinio’s collection and, in any case, as the same scholar remarks, “the small label on the back (£ 6.15.4’) strongly suggests that it was acquired in England.” Thus, the alternative identification of Lasinio's "Cimabue" with the NGA panel also may be hypothesized.
[3] A Catalogue of a Valuable Collection of Italian, French, Flemish Dutch and English Pictures…The Property of Charles John West etc.. Lots 75-90 in this catalogue, indicated as the “property of a Lady”, were, as the archives of Christie’s in London advised NGA systematic catalogue author Miklòs Boskovits, the paintings from the collection of Mrs. Fanshaw. Dorothy Lygon and Francis Russell (“Tuscan Primitives in London Sales: 1801 - 1837,” The Burlington Magazine 122 [1980]: 113) identify the woman as a Miss Fanshawe, “…one of three sisters who lived in Berkeley Square and knew Thomas Hope…”
[4] In his letter of 16 May 1963 to John Walker (in NGA curatorial files), James Byam Shaw states that Mayer, his former partner in the Colnaghi firm, had purchased the painting “at a country sale” on 8 August 1934, and then he himself resold it on 8 April of the following year “to Volterra the Italian dealer”, clearly a reference to Gualtiero Volterra, Contini-Bonaccossi's agent in London.
[5] As was his habit, Contini-Bonaccossi sought advice about the painting he had acquired by consulting the most highly respected experts of Italian painting of the day. Of these, Wilhelm Suida's and Giuseppe Fiocco's opinions (copies in NGA curatorial files) are dated August 1935 and were written in Florence, where the painting evidently was located at that time. The painting was eventually taken to New York and is one of twenty-eight works listed in the purchase offer addressed to the count by the Kress Foundation on 7 June 1948, and accepted by him on 11 July 1948 (copies in NGA curatorial files).
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