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 Bellini, Giovanni (Italian painter, born 1431-1436, died 1516) , Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints and a Donor

Core Record

Title Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints and a Donor
Alternative Title The Cornbury Park Altarpiece
Collection Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Artist Bellini, Giovanni (Italian painter, born 1431-1436, died 1516)
Date 1505 (dated)
Signed yes

Painted as a small altarpiece, but removed from its original frame in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, this altarpiece was painted when Giovanni Bellini was about seventy years old and is something of a mystery. Nothing is known about the man who commissioned it or its original location. However, the inclusion of full-length saints Peter and Paul indicates an important patron and an expensive commission. The dolphins decorating the Virgin's throne could be heraldic beasts or an allusion to the family name.

By the end of the fifteenth century, Bellini was the most celebrated artist in Venice. His high degree of naturalism had revolutionised the Sacra Conversazione altarpiece, in which the Holy Family appear with attendant saints. Here, he integrates the figures as part of a rational, coherent space. This can be seen in the manner that the donor's head casts a shadow onto the arm of St Paul. The painting originally formed a miniature altarpiece with folding wings, on the outside of which were depicted St Francis and St Vincent Ferrer. This was, in 1505, a conservative design suggesting that the donor who commissioned it lived outside Venice. The shadow which extends diagonally across the floor may have related to a free standing column which formed part of the original architectural context of the altarpiece, thus linking the fictive space with real space.

Although the work is signed on the scrap of paper or cartellino by Bellini, it certainly involved the work of studio assistants. The head of the donor was painted by an assistant but Bellini's hand can be detected in the heads of the saints.

Current Accession Number 1977P227
Former Accession Number P.227´77
Inscription front lc 'Iohannes Bellinus MCCCCCV'
Subject religion (Holy Family, St Peter, St Paul); figure (male donor)
Measurements 91.4 x 81.3 cm (estimate)
Material oil on panel (hardwood {poplar})
Acquisition Details Purchased by public subscription in memory of David, Earl of Crawford and Balcarres, with the aid of special government grants and contributions from Birmingham City Council, West Midlands County Council, the National Art-Collections Fund, the V&A Purchase Grant Fund, Sir Denis Mahon and the Friends of Birmingham Museums and Gallery 1977.
Provenance Muselli brothers, Verona 1648; Sereghi family, Verona 1718; Pembroke Family (;); John Purling sale, White's, London, 17 February 1801, lot 74, bought by Edward Coxe, £29 18s; Edward Coxe sale, Coxe's, London, 23 April 1807, lot 56, bought by Philip Hill, £38 17s; F. C. De Bligny (or others) sale, De Bligny, London, 15 March 1809, lot 65; Farebrother, London, 2 June 1810, lot 118; John Humble sale, 11 April 1812, Christie's, London, lot 39, bought by Samuel Woodburn, £43 1s; William Paulet Carey sale, Hazard, Yarmouth, 25 October 1814, lot 37, bought by Dawson Turner; Dawson Turner sale, Christie's, 14 May 1852, lot 78 as Virgin in Crimson and Blue, 37 x 25.5 ins, bought by Nieuwenhuys, £378 0s 0d; 4th Earl of Ashburnham,1878; by descent to 5th Earl of Ashburnham; Vernon James Watney, Cornbury Park, 1899; on loan to Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, from 1967.
Principal Exhibitions Royal Academy, 1895; A Bellini from Birmingham, National Gallery, London, 1993; Art Treasures of England. The Regional Collections, Royal Academy of Arts, 1998, p. 337; NACF Centenary: The Yarmouth Bellini, Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, 2003 - 2004; Bellini, Giorgione, Titian and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting, National Gallery of Art, 2006.
Publications dal Pozzo, B., Vite de' Pittori [...] Veronesi, 1718, p. 283; Turner, D., Outlines in Lithography from a small Collection of Pictures, Yarmouth, 1840, no page numbers; Campori, G., Raccolta di cataloghi ed inventarii inediti, Modena, 1870, Bologna 1975; Watney, V. J., A Catalogue of Pictures and Miniatures at Cornbury and 11 Berkeley Square, Oxford, 1915, p. 53; Grönau, G., Spätwerke des Giovanni Bellini, Strasbourg, 1928, pp. 23-4; Grönau, G., Giovanni Bellini, Stuttgart, 1930, p. XXVII; Gamba, C., Giovanni Bellini, Milan, 1937, pp. 159-60; Moschini, V., Giambellino, Bergamo, 1943, p. 32; Pallucchini, R., Giovanni Bellini, 1959, pp. 102, 154, p. 31; Bottari, S., Tutta la Pittura di Giovanni Bellini, Milan, 1963, p. 31; Robertson, G., Giovanni Bellini, Oxford, 1968, pp. 115-6; Freedberg, S. J., Painting in Italy 1500 - 1600, Harmondsworth, 1971, p. 110; Dussler, L., Giovanni Bellini, Vienna, 1949, p. 64; Heinemann, F., Giovanni Bellini e I Belliniani, 1962, p. 178, no. 100; Huse, N., Studien zu Giovanni Bellini, Berlin, 1972, p. 86; Gibbons, F., 'The Bellinesque Painter Marco Bello' in Arte Veneta, vo. 16, 1962, pp. 42-48; Goffen, R., Giovanni Bellini, 1989, pp. 178, 314, pl. 131; Cannon-Brookes, P., The Cornbury Park Bellini, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, 1977; Foreign Paintings in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, A Summary Catalogue, 1983, no. 7, ill.
Notes A free copy/pastiche of this painting is in the Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart (inv. No. 132), falsely signed 'JOHANNES BELLINVS MCCCCCV'.

The De Bligny referred to in the provenance of this painting is, in other catalogues, spelled 'Doublany' or 'De Blyny'. He was possibly a French emigré.

Rights Owner Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Author Dr Patricia Smyth



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