"Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John", by Sandro Botticelli (c1493-5). Tempera on panel, 47.6 x 38.1 cms.
HELVOIRT.- An exquisitely beautiful study of the young Saint John kneeling in prayer before the Madonna and the infant Christ by Sandro Botticelli is to be offered for sale by the leading international art dealers Dickinson for a price in the region of US$15 million (€11.1 million) at TEFAF Maastricht. "Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John", sometimes known as the Rockefeller Madonna because it was once in the collection of the Rockefeller family, will be one of the highlights of the 23rd edition of the world’s most influential art and antiques fair at the MECC (Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre) in the southern Netherlands from 12-21 March 2010.
Background information on the painting
"Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John" was painted by Alessandro Felipepi di Mariano di Vanni, called Sandro Botticelli, about 1493-95. It depicts an adoring Saint John kneeling with his hands joined in prayer before Christ, and wearing, as is usual, a tunic of animal skins and holding his distinctive reed cross. The subject of the painting was popular in Renaissance Florence despite there being no scriptural basis for John having met the infant Christ before the latter’s baptism.
The stylised rocky landscape is typical of Botticelli as are some of the distinctive details including the transparent veil which falls over the Virgin’s red headdress, the meticulous gold patterning of her mantle and the echoing of these colours in the clothing of Saint John. Ronald Lightbown, author of Sandro Botticelli, points out that the relief behind the figures “is one of the few direct quotations from the antique in Botticelli’s work, and its vigorous rendering of the densely moving forms of ancient relief shows that Botticelli was as sensitive as any of his contemporaries to the character and style of classical sculpture”.
The painting is known to have been exhibited by Lord Duveen, one of the greatest art dealers of the 20th century, in New York in 1925 and by 1931 was in the collection of John D. Rockefeller Jnr. It remained with the wealthy Rockefeller dynasty for half a century, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the Rockefeller Madonna. In more recent years it has been part of a private collection in New York.
Dickinson, based in London and New York, is a leading international dealer in Old Master and Impressionist paintings and Modern and Contemporary Art.