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Filippino Lippi
Pietà (The Dead Christ Mourned by Nicodemus and Two Angels)

c. 1500
oil (and possibly tempera) on panel
painted surface: 17.5 x 33.3 cm (6 7/8 x 13 1/8 in)
Possibly executed 1501 for the church of San Domenico in Bologna, where it probably remained on the altar of the Casali chapel as part of the predella of the altarpiece (still in situ) until the late 1720s. [1] privately owned, probably by the Isolani family, Bologna; sold c. 1900 to (Charles Fairfax Murray [1849-1919], London and Florence) on joint account with (Haskard and Co., London); sold 18 December 1901 to (Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London); [2] sold 13 February 1902 to Robert Henry [1850-1929] and Evelyn Holford [1856-1943] Benson, London and Buckhurst Park, Sussex; sold 1927 with the Benson collection to (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London and New York); [3] sold to Frederick Housman, New York, by 1931; [4] sold to (Frederick Mont, New York); sold 30 January 1952 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; [5] gift 1952 to NGA. [1] This is suggested not only by the painting's close stylistic relation with Filippino's altarpiece in the chapel, but also by the fact that it was acquired in Bologna (see note 2), where the sources record no work by this artist except the large altar panel in San Domenico. Signed "OPUS PHILIPPINI FLOR. PICT. A.S. MCCCCCI," it represents the Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine with Saints Joseph, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, and Sebastian. It was probably executed for the chapel of the Casali family, to the right of the main chapel, where Pietro Lami saw and described it in 1560 (Delle pitture, sculture e architetture esistenti in Bologna..., in Giuseppe Guidicini, Miscellanea storico-patria bolognese, Bologna, 1872: 370). It is still in that chapel, which eventually came into the possession of the Isolani, heirs in 1802 of Marchese Gregorio Casali (see Vittorio Spreti, Enciclopedia storico-nobiliare italiana, 9 vols., Milan, 1928-1931: 3(1930):694). However, during a reconstruction campaign in the church between 1727 and 1733 (see Venturino Alce, "La chiesa di San Domenico di Bologna rinnovato da Carlo Francesco Dotti," Memorie domenicane 86 [1969]: 151-168) the altarpiece was removed, and in 1732 the chapel was described as still lacking its altarpiece (see Carlo Cesare Malvasia, Le pitture di Bologna, Bologna, 1686, 3rd ed. 1732: 249). Presumably it was in this period that the painting lost its original frame and, possibly, its predella. [2] The curious story that the panel was "bought at the Railway Station, Bologna, by Fairfax Murray" is included in Robert Henry Benson's notes on the painting's history (transcript provided in 1976 by his grandson, Peter Wake, and in NGA curatorial files), and is not doubted by Dr. Miklós Boskovits, author of the NGA systematic catalogue entry on the painting. In the years around 1900, Murray was an agent of Agnew's in Italy. On Murray's life and activity see also Denys Sutton, "Aspects of British Collecting. IV," Apollo 122, no. 282 (August 1985): 122-123. The Bolognese provenance is corroborated by the painting's influence on Amico Aspertini's relief for the facade of San Petronio in that city (see Maria Grazia Ciardi Duprè Dal Poggetto, "La scultura diAmico Aspertini," Paragone 16, no. 189 [1965]: 20). [3] The dates of the sales to Agnew's and Benson are given in the microfiche copy of "Records of Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd, The Picture Stock Books," held by the Getty Provenance Index (copy in NGA curatorial files). The entry for Agnew's stock no. 194 reads: "Dec. 18, 1901, Fillippino Lippi, Pieta, from Haskard C.F.M. 1/2 profit, [price code], sold to R.H. Benson on Feb. 13, 1902." On the sale of the Benson collection to Duveen Brothers see Tancred Borenius, "The Benson Collection," Apollo 6 (1927): 65-70, and Frank E. Washburn Freund, "Die Sammlung Benson," Der Cicerone 19 (1927): 495-502. [4] The painting is listed in that location by Lionello Venturi, Pitture italiane in America, Milan, 1931: pl. 203, note. [5] The bill of sale from Frederick Mont to the Kress Foundation for five paintings, including the "Benson Pieta," is dated 30 January 1952 (copy in NGA curatorial files). The painting was either acquired from or co-owned by Newhouse Galleries, per a letter dated 14 February 1952 from Bert Newhouse to Mr. and Mrs. G.H.A. Clowes of Indianapolis (Indianapolis Museum of Art, Clowes Collection Archives, Folder: Newhouse Galleries 1952, copy NGA curatorial files)
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