RP.10 Madonna and Child with the Young St. John the Baptist

RP.10 Madonna and Child and St. John

Frankfurt, Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, no. 952.

Poplar panel, 88.5 x 73, enlarged on all sides.1  As visible in the picture itself and from the two other versions of it, the top of the panel was originally just above the head of the Virgin, the sides just beyond the elbows of the children, and the bottom immediately below the lower tip of the cross.

Fig.RP.10b bw

The painting is much repainted and dirty, and is now under restoration (1991).  The Virgin’s dress is red-orange, her cloak dark green.  There is green drapery in the background.

PROVENANCE: Florence, Cerini Gallery.  1852, acquired from E. Jeannin de Coindos in Spain.


Berenson, 1896, 129, as Rosso.

Weizsäcker, Heinrich, Katalog der Gemäldegallerie des Städelschen Kunstinstituts in Frankfurt am Main, I, Frankfurt am Main, 1900, 289, no. 14, as Rosso.

Berenson, 1901, as Rosso.

Goldschmidt, 1911, 48, as not by Rosso.

Phillips, 1911-1912, 145, as Rosso.

Kusenberg, 1931, 20, 128, 185, n. 46, as Rosso, around 1522.

Berenson, 1932, 495, as Rosso.

Venturi, IX, 5, 1932, 230, as Rosso (?).

Kusenberg, 1935, 62, as Rosso, around 1522.

Becherucci, 1944 (1949), 28, as Rosso, of uncertain date.

Barocchi, 1950, 85, 250, Fig. 57, as not by Rosso but by a follower of Sarto.

Longhi, 1951, 59 (1976, 99-100), criticized Barocchi for taking it from Rosso “con troppo tranquillità.”

Shearman, 1957, I, 224, II, 215, n. 2, 216-217, n. 91, as earliest work by Rosso, his hand unmistakable “in the hatching of the impasti.”

Barocchi, 1958, 237, as not by Rosso, but goes back to an original Rosso dating from before the Dei Altarpiece.

Berenson, 1963, 195, as Rosso.

Freedberg, 1963, II, 227, the composition also known from a painting sold at Christie’s, London, 14 November 1952, as Rosso.

Shearman, 1965, I, 166, as probably Rosso’s earliest surviving painting, about 1515; Shearman thought it might be the Madonna with St. John that Vasari said Rosso painted for “Maestro Jacopo” at the Annunziata.

Shearman, BM, 1966, 171, n. 33, as Rosso, about 1515, and showing an “accomplished reuse of the pose of one of the Sistine Ignudi.”

See Shearman, ZfK, XXV, 1962, 46, n. 76, as Rosso, c. 1515.

Freedberg, 1971, 484, n. 21, as a sure early work by Rosso close in style to his Assumption and not necessarily earlier than it.

Carroll, 1987, 33, n. 16, as not by Rosso.

Ciardi and Mugnaini, 1991, 21, 23, 60-61, no. 8, with Fig., as Rosso, 1518-1521.

Franklin, 1994, 272, n. 61, as not by or after Rosso.

Ciardi, 1994, 25, 27, Fig. (detail), 58, 71, 81, as by Rosso and related to the Madonna and Child at Marignolle.

There are three other versions of this picture (and perhaps others):

London, Christie, Manson, & Wood, November 14, 1952, lot 164, as by Sarto in the sales catalogue (Fig.RP.10, London).  99 x 73.7.  Bought by Tomkin.  In 1980 this picture was on the market in New York at Spencer A. Samuels & Company, Ltd.  The picture had by this time been restored, with the blue drapery falling across the Virgin’s left elbow extended over John’s arm and genitals and through his left hand (as appears in the Vienna version; see below).  From a transparency, the Virgin is dressed in red with blue drapery over her arm and falling down at her side.  Her headdress is lavender; the pillow on which the Baptist sits, red; the banderole around his cross, white.  The flowers on the ledge are violet, white, and red.  The flesh tones are reddish.  The background is gray, greenish at the upper right, with a reddish vertical passage suggesting drapery that is unfinished.  LITERATURE: Freedberg, 1963, II, 227, as not by Sarto; a copy of the picture in Frankfurt attributed to Rosso.

Ciardi and Mugnaini, 1991, 23, list two other versions: Sale, Sotheby’s, Florence, 21 October 1970, and Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, New York, one or both of which might be related to the Christie’s painting.

Vienna, Academy (formerly), no. 220 (Fig.RP.10, Vienna).  Poplar, 100 x 76.  Destroyed during World War II (see below).  There is a photograph at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence.

LITERATURE: Robert Eigenberger, Die Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der bildenden Künste in Wien, 1927, 138, as Rosso.  (Kusenberg, 1931, 131, gave wrong reference to no. 220).

This version shows drapery over the groin and thigh of the Baptist.

Ciardi and Mugnaini, 1991, 23, also list a version in Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, deposit.  This could just possibly be the Academy painting, if it was not actually destroyed.

Florence, Ufficio Esportazione della Soprintendenza, 1956.  Mentioned by Barocchi, 1958, 237.

The picture sold at Christie’s is very similar to the Frankfurt painting but perhaps of lesser quality, although I thought the Frankfurt painting a copy of the other.  From a photograph, the Vienna version seems inferior.  The appearance of the third version is not known.

I see no reason to attribute the Frankfurt painting to Rosso, either of around 1515 or later.  Neither in morphology, composition, or color can it be specifically related to works by Rosso, such as the Assumption of 1513-1514 or the S. Maria Nuova Altarpiece of 1518.  Shearman pointed out a reference to the Sistine Ignudi in the figure of the Baptist, possibly an unlikely occurrence in a picture by Rosso done before 1524.   Shearman and Freedberg dated it before Rosso’s Roman period.  It cannot be related to the lost early painting done for “maestro Giacopo frate de’Servi” mentioned by Vasari, as Shearman thought, because that picture, according to Vasari, showed all the figures half-length and Saint John the Evangelist, not the Baptist.  That picture seems to be known from two copies (see P.2).

While the influence of the Sistine Ignudi is recognizable, I am inclined to see it as having taken place later.  Barocchi’s suggestion that it is by a “ritardatario sartesco” gives, I believe, a more plausible indication of its origins.  It seems to be a picture of the 1530s.  It could be by the same hand as a red chalk drawing in the Louvre that copies a figure in Michelangelo’s Battle of Cascina cartoon.2  The formation of the hands in the drawing very much resembles that of the Baptist in the painting.  I have thought that this drawing might be by the young Salviati.


1 These are the dimensions given by Kusenberg, 1931, and sent to me by the museum, which also appear in the catalogue of 1900.  Barocchi, 1951, gave 112 x 75 (see below, the dimensions of the version formerly in the Academy, Vienna).  Shearman, 1957, gave the original dimensions as 39 1/8 x 29 1/4 inches (99.1 x 74.3 cm.).

2 Inv. 10915, as Anonymous Florentine.  Red chalk over very slight traces of black chalk, and traces of white chalk, 24.5 x 15.5; stained at the figure’s right elbow and in the center of his waist.  Inscriptions on the back of the drawing indicate that it has been attributed to Pontormo, Lappoli, and Jacopo Sansovino.  The drawing was brought to my attention by Janet Cox-Rearick.