This well-preserved altarpiece may have been commissioned by the great Florentine banker and patron Bindo Altoviti, who founded a chapel in 1523 dedicated to the Magdalen in the town of Cappiano in the Arno valley south of Florence. If so, it was later moved to the nearby church of Santa Maria Maddalena all'Isola at Incisa. Its synthesis of space, light, and gesture makes it one of Bugiardini's finest essays in the High Renaissance style. The influence of Raphael and Fra Bartolomeo is especially evident.
The frame is the original one and was probably designed by the architect/woodworker Baccio d'Agnolo and painted by Andrea di Cosimo Feltrini. On the base of the pilasters are the arms of the Altoviti family.
Inscription: Inscribed (on scroll): ECCE·A[G]N[U]S·DEI
the church of Santa Maria Maddalena all'Isola, Incisa Valdarno, Tuscany; the Altoviti family, Florence; Colonel Sacchetti, Villa Isola, near Incisa Valdarno (until about 1910); the Sacchetti heirs, Incisa Valdarno, Prato, and Milan (1910–30); [comte Umberto Gnoli, Rome, 1930; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Florentine Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum," June 15–August 15, 1971, no catalogue.
Luigi Passerini. Genealogia e storia della famiglia Altoviti. Florence, 1871, p. 15, mentions an altarpiece by Andrea del Sarto in the church of S. Maria Maddalena in Padule, probably this painting.
Walther Biehl. "Die 'Madonna Sacchetti': Ein unbekanntes Bild aus Fra Bartolommeos Werkstatt in S. Marco." Monatshefte für Kunstwissenschaft 9 (1916), pp. 237–41, pl. 58, considers that this painting is from the workshop of Fra Bartolomeo; dates it about 1509–12, tentatively suggesting that Mariotto Albertinelli collaborated on the figures and Fra Paolino on the background, and identifies the arms in the frame with those of the Altoviti family.
Hans Tietze. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935, p. 327, pl. 58 [English ed., "Masterpieces of European Painting in America," New York, 1939, p. 311, pl. 58], attributes it to Fra Bartolomeo, suggesting the collaboration of Albertinelli.
F. Mason Perkins. Letter. March 24, 1938, attributes it to a Florentine painter strongly influenced by Fra Bartolomeo.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 62, ill., attributes it to Bugiardini.
Ruth Wedgwood Kennedy. "Review of Wehle 1940." Art Bulletin 24 (June 1942), p. 195, concurs with the change in attribution from Fra Bartolomeo to Bugiardini.
Rufus G. Mather. Letter. 1947 [see Zeri and Gardner 1971], identifies the coat of arms as that of the Del Nero family of Florence.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Florentine School. London, 1963, vol. 1, p. 45, attributes it to Bugiardini.
Fiorella Sricchia Santoro. "Per il Franciabigio." Paragone 14 (July 1963), p. 22 n. 26, attributes it to Bugiardini and notes Franciabigio's influence, dating it after 1512.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Florentine School. New York, 1971, pp. 190–91, ill., attribute it to Bugiardini, noting the influence of Fra Bartolomeo and Raphael; suggest a date of about 1510–15 due to similarities to Bugiardini's "Marriage of Saint Catherine" (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna); note that the frame is apparently original and bears the arms of the Altoviti family of Florence.
S. J. Freedberg. Painting in Italy: 1500 to 1600. Harmondsworth, England, 1971, p. 158, attributes it to Bugiardini and dates it about 1540, calling it the most impressive effort of his latest years.
S[ilvia]. Meloni Trkulja inDizionario biografico degli italiani. Vol. 15, Rome, 1972, p. 16, attributes it to Bugiardini and dates it to the second decade of the sixteenth century, noting the influence of Franciabigio.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 37, 336, 415, 431, 607.
Laura Pagnotta. Giuliano Bugiardini. Turin, 1987, pp. 51, 60, 207, no. 37, figs. 37, 37a (overall and detail), dates it about 1518.
Antonio Altoviti. Fin de race a Cinecittà. Florence, 1994, p. 101, notes the arms of the Altoviti family on the frame.
Gigetta Dalli Regoli. "Una nota per Giuliano Bugiardini." Commentari d'arte 1 (September–December 1995), p. 48.
Eliot W. Rowlands. The Collections of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: Italian Paintings, 1300–1800. Kansas City, Mo., 1996, p. 147, dates it 1518–20 and calls it one of Bugiardini's most successful works.
The Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 5, New York, 1996, p. 129, calls it "his most impressive surviving late work" and dates it about 1540.
Donatella Pegazzano inRaphael, Cellini & A Renaissance Banker: The Patronage of Bindo Altoviti. Ed. Alan Chong et al. Exh. cat., Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Boston, 2003, pp. 67–68, 85 n. 51, fig. 26 (color), suggests identifying it with a painting attributed by Luigi Passerini (see Ref. 1871) to Andrea del Sarto commissioned by Bindo for a chapel dedicated to the Magdalen founded by him in 1523 at Cappiano, noting that the painting could have been moved from Cappiano to Villa a Isola nearby; records a verbal communication from Alessandro Cecchi suggesting that the frame may have been made by Baccio d'Agnolo and the grotesque by Andrea di Cosimo Feltrini.
Michele Maccherini inRaphael, Cellini & A Renaissance Banker: The Patronage of Bindo Altoviti. Ed. Alan Chong et al. Exh. cat., Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Boston, 2003, pp. 391–92, no. 12, ill. (color, framed), dates it about 1523, based on stylistic considerations and on the tentative identification with the painting recorded by Passerini at Cappiano (see Pegazzano 2003); discusses the frame, noting that the lower part, with the Altoviti arms, must have been executed by a different artist.
Antonio Natali inLeonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and the Renaissance in Florence. Ed. David Franklin. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Canada. Ottawa, 2005, p. 122.
Andrea Bayer. "Giuliano Bugiardini: A Master of Theme and Variation." A Golden Age of European Art: Celebrating Fifty Years of the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation. Ed. James Clifton and Melina Kervandjian. Houston, 2016, pp. 69–73, 79 n. 8, figs. 1 (color), 5–7 (infrared photograph details), discusses the early provenance, stating that the painting was almost certainly commissioned by Bindo Altoviti; discusses the underdrawing visible in infrared photographs.
The altarpiece is probably in its original frame (see Additional Images, fig. 1). The modern liner that surrounds the panel was most likely added when the painting was cut down on the right side to eliminate worm damage. The painted and gilt decoration, which includes the Altoviti family arms of a wolf rampant, are original and well preserved.