From 1460 Mantegna painted in Mantua for the Gonzaga family, whose cultivated court promoted humanist culture, with its emphasis on the example of Antiquity. Characteristically then, in this late picture Mantegna was inspired by classical funerary reliefs to achieve a rare combination of austerity and sweetness. It is painted in distemper, a pigment employing animal glue as a medium. This allowed him to give strong definition to the forms. The picture has, however, suffered from past cleanings.
The holy family is accompanied by a female saint who, dressed in red, is likely to be Mary Magdalen. If this identification is correct, the picture may well be one described by Boschini (1664 and 1674) in the sacristy of the church of the Spedale degli Incurabili in Venice: "In the sacristy, the Blessed Virgin and Child with Saint Joseph and Mary Magdalen is a unique work by Andrea Mantegna in Venice." Another picture, in the Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona (no. 87), has also been put forward as that picture; its history is reviewed in detail by Marinelli (2010), who notes that since the hospital was only founded in 1522, the picture Boschini describes was bequeathed by an earlier owner. Although the picture has sometimes been ascribed to Mantegna’s son, Francesco, it is, instead, a fine but badly damaged autograph work by Mantegna himself and probably dates to about 1495–1500 (Christiansen 1992). There are analogies for the placement of the figures with Roman funerary reliefs.
[Keith Christiansen 2011]
?sacristy of the church of the Spedale degli Incurabili, Venice (by 1664–at least 1797); Pietro d'Aiuti, Munich (in mid-1880s) and Naples; conte Agosto d'Aiuti, Naples (until 1902; sold to Dowdeswell); [Dowdeswell & Dowdeswell, London, 1902–3; sold for £4,000 to Weber]; Eduard F. Weber, Hamburg (1903–d. 1912; his estate, 1907–12; cat., 1907, no. 20; his estate sale, Lepke's, Berlin, February 20–22, no. 20, for 590,000 marks to Kleinberger); [Kleinberger, Paris and New York, 1912; sold for $162,706 to Altman]; Benjamin Altman, New York (1912–d. 1913)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Andrea Mantegna," May 5–July 12, 1992, no. 55.
Marco Boschini. Le minere della pittura. Venice, 1664, pp. 343[misnumbered as p. 342]–44, mentions in the sacristy of the church of the Spedale degli Incurabili a painting of the Madonna and Child with Saints Joseph and Mary Magdalen, "opera unica in Venezia di Andrea Mantegna," possibly this picture.
Marco Boschini. Le ricche minere della pittura veneziana. Venice, 1674, p. 21 of Sestier di Dorso Duro.
Antonio Maria Zanetti. Descrizione di tutte le pubbliche pitture della citta' di Venezia e isole circonvicine: O sia rinnovazione delle Ricche minere di Marco Boschini, colla aggiunta di tutte le opere, che uscirono dal 1674 fino al presente 1733. Venice, 1733, p. 330, lists a small painting of half-length figures of the Madonna and Saints Joseph and Mary Magdalen in the sacristy of the church of the Spedale degli Incurabili, possibly this picture.
Anton Maria Zanetti the Elder. Della pittura veneziana. Venice, 1797, vol. 2, p. 21, lists the painting in the sacristy of the church of the Spedale degli Incurabili, possibly this picture.
J[oseph]. A[rcher]. Crowe and G[iovanni]. B[attista]. Cavalcaselle. A History of Painting in North Italy: Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Ferrara, Milan, Friuli, Brescia, from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century. London, 1871, vol. 1, p. 417 n. 5 (from p. 415), lists the painting mentioned by Boschini [see Refs. 1664 and 1674] as lost, possibly this picture.
Paul Kristeller. Andrea Mantegna. London, 1901, p. 449, lists the painting mentioned by Boschini [see Refs. 1664 and 1674] as lost, possibly this picture.
W[ilhelm]. [von] Bode. "Mantegna und sein neuester Biograph." Kunstchronik, n.s., 15 (December 18, 1904), col. 134, ill. cols. 131–32, attributes it to Mantegna, calling it a late work and dating it to the second half of the 1490s; identifies the female saint as Mary Magdalen; states that Weber acquired it from Dowdeswell.
Bernhard Berenson. North Italian Painters of the Renaissance. New York, 1907, p. 254, attributes it to Mantegna and calls it a late work.
Karl Woermann. Wissenschaftl. Verzeichnis der älteren Gemälde der Galerie Weber in Hamburg. 2nd ed. Dresden, 1907, p. 21, no. 20, attributes it to Mantegna; calls it a Madonna and Child with two unidentified saints (although noting Bode's identification of the female saint as Mary Magdalen); relates it to a work in the Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, and dates both works 1495–1500; states that Weber acquired it in 1903 from Dowdeswell.
Fritz Knapp. Andrea Mantegna. Stuttgart, 1910, pp. 180, 183–84, 188, ill. p. 162, attributes it to an imitator of Mantegna and calls it a Madonna and Child with saints.
J[oseph]. A[rcher]. Crowe and G[iovanni]. B[attista]. Cavalcaselle. A History of Painting in North Italy: Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Ferrara, Milan, Friuli, Brescia, from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century. Ed. Tancred Borenius. 2nd ed. [1st ed. 1871]. London, 1912, vol. 2, p. 118 n. 4 (from p. 116), lists the painting mentioned by Boschini [see Refs. 1664 and 1674] as lost, possibly this picture.
"In the Sale Room." Connoisseur 32 (April 1912), p. 267, ill. p. 271, reports that it sold for £29,500 at the Weber auction, and that Weber had bought it for £4,000 from Dowdeswell in 1903.
Seymour de Ricci. "Le Mantegna de la vente Weber." Les arts 11 (April 1912), p. 14, ill. p. 15, states that Kleinberger bought it at the Weber auction for 590,000 marks; identifies it as the work described by Boschini [see Refs. 1664 and 1674]; relates it to a painting of the Holy Family in the Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona.
Seymour de Ricci. A Description of the Holy Family by Andrea Mantegna from the Weber Collection. June 1, 1912, unpaginated, dates it about 1495; states that it was in the collection of conte Agosto d'Aiuti, Naples, for a long time and was discovered by Dowdeswell in 1902.
Hermann Uhde-Bernays. "Der Mantegna der Sammlung Weber." Monatshefte für Kunstwissenschaft 5, no. 7 (1912), pp. 273–78, pl. 63/1, dates it about 1495–97.
Paul Schubring. "La collezione Weber di Amburgo venduta a Berlino (Febbraio 1912)." L'arte 15 (1912), p. 141, fig. 1.
Emil Schaeffer. "La vendita della collezione Weber a Berlino." Rassegna d'arte 12 (April–May 1912), p. 72, ill., attributes it to Mantegna, although calling it weak; reports that it has been acquired by Altman.
"The Benjamin Altman Bequest." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 8 (November 1913), p. 233.
A[dolfo]. Venturi. "La pittura del Quattrocento." Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 7, part 3, Milan, 1914, p. 262 n. 1, pp. 483–84, fig. 378, attributes it to Francesco Mantegna, Andrea's son.
Handbook of the Benjamin Altman Collection. New York, 1914, pp. 59–69, no. 38, pl. 38, as by Verrocchio.
Bernhard Berenson. "Venetian Paintings in the United States: Part Four." Art in America 4 (December 1915), pp. 3, 8, ill. opp. p. 4, states that the female figure at right may possibly be intended as Mary Magdalen; notes elements reminiscent of ancient Rome.
Bernard Berenson. Venetian Painting in America: The Fifteenth Century. New York, 1916, pp. 58–60, fig. 28 [same text as Ref. Berenson 1915].
Gino Fogolari. "La pittura veneziana in America." Rassegna d'arte antica e moderna 7 (May 1920), p. 122.
François Monod. "La galerie Altman au Metropolitan Museum de New-York (1er article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 5th ser., 8 (September–October 1923), pp. 185–86, considers it a workshop production of Mantegna's late period; agrees that it is probably the painting mentioned by Boschini [see Refs. 1664 and 1674].
Ella S. Siple. "Recent Acquisitions by American Collectors." Burlington Magazine 51 (December 1927), p. 298, calls it "attributed to Mantegna".
Handbook of the Benjamin Altman Collection. 2nd ed. New York, 1928, pp. 49–50, no. 22, ill. opp. p. 50.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 328, as "Holy Family with Magdalen".
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 291.
Tancred Borenius. Catalogue of the Pictures and Drawings at Harewood House. Oxford, 1936, p. 27, under no. 59, attributes it to Mantegna.
Giuseppe Fiocco. Mantegna. Milan, , pp. 69–70, fig. 127b, attributes it to Mantegna and dates it to his late period.
Frank Jewett Mather Jr. "A Holy Family by Lorenzo Lotto." Art in America 27 (January 1939), pp. 4–5, calls it a late work by Mantegna.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 127–28, ill., calls it characteristic of Mantegna's work of 1495–1500, and possibly the picture mentioned by Boschini [see Refs. 1664 and 1674].
Rodolfo Pallucchini inI capolavori dei musei veneti. Exh. cat., location unknown, Venice. Venice, 1946, p. 55, under no. 106, tentatively identifies the Holy Family in Verona as the picture described by Boschini [see Refs. 1664 and 1674].
Edoardo Arslan. Letter. April 21, 1952, attributes it to Mantegna and calls it a late work.
E. Tietze-Conrat. Mantegna: Paintings, Drawings, Engravings. London, 1955, p. 191, fig. 6, as "Holy Family with a Female Saint"; believes it to be by a later artist working under Mantegna's influence; calls the Child a Raphaelesque type.
Renata Cipriani. Tutta la pittura del Mantegna. Milan, 1956, p. 80, pl. 167, includes it among works attributed to Mantegna.
Giovanni Paccagnini et al. Andrea Mantegna. Exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale, Mantua. Venice, 1961, p. 49, under no. 32.
Giovanni Paccagnini. Andrea Mantegna. Milan, 1961, pl. 205.
Carlo L. Ragghianti. "Codicillo mantegnesco." Critica d'arte 9 (July–August 1962), p. 39 n. 2, calls it a workshop picture.
Renata Cipriani. All the Paintings of Mantegna. New York, 1963, vol. 2, p. 100, pl. 167.
Ettore Camesasca. Mantegna. Milan, 1964, p. 128, as Holy Family and Female Saint; calls it very close to late autograph works.
Niny Garavaglia inL'opera completa del Mantegna. Milan, 1967, p. 121, no. 105, ill. [English ed., "The Complete Paintings of Mantegna," New York, (1970/71), p. 121, no. 105, ill.], considers the attribution to Francesco Mantegna the most likely [see Refs. Venturi 1914 and Cipriani 1956].
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 240, as "Holy Family and Saint".
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 118, 349, 464, 606, call the female saint at right unidentified.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, p. 245, fig. 435.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, North Italian School. New York, 1986, pp. 32–33, pl. 14, call it typical of Mantegna's work after about 1495; note that the identification of the female saint as Mary Magdalen is uncertain; state that both the MMA work and the painting in Verona fit Boschini's description [see Refs. 1664 and 1674].
Ronald Lightbown. Mantegna. Oxford, 1986, p. 471, no. 144, pl. 174, catalogues it with "Partly Autograph, Studio and Other School Works" and calls it "possibly one of the pictures by a pupil which . . . Mantegna allowed to pass for his in his old age".
Keith Christiansen inAndrea Mantegna. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London. New York, 1992, pp. 233–34, 237, no. 55, ill. (color) [British ed., London, 1992], attributes it to Mantegna and dates it about 1495–1505; notes that the doubts about the attribution are mostly due to the poor condition of the picture; calls it possibly the work described by Boschini [see Refs. 1664 and 1674].
Andrea Rothe inAndrea Mantegna. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London. New York, 1992, pp. 86, 88 n. 40, no. 32 [British ed., London, 1992], describes the medium, support, condition, and restoration.
Giovanni Agosti. "Su Mantegna, 5. (Intorno a Vasari)." Prospettiva no. 80 (October 1995), pp. 63, 83 n. 28.
Gabriele Finaldi inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 20, New York, 1996, p. 313, dates it about 1495–1505.
Alberta De Nicolò Salmazo. Andrea Mantegna. Milan, 2004, p. 255, no. 85, ill. pp. 225 (color) and 255.
Sergio Marinelli inMantegna e le arti a Verona: 1450–1500. Ed. Sergio Marinelli and Paola Marini. Exh. cat., Palazzo della Gran Guardia, Verona. Venice, 2006, p. 217, under no. 14, calls it a Madonna and Child with Two Saints; believes that the picture in Verona is probably the one mentioned by Boschini [see Refs. 1664 and 1674].
Vittoria Romani inMantegna, 1431–1506. Ed. Giovanni Agosti and Dominique Thiébaut. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2008, p. 446, relates the gesture of the Madonna to that in Correggio's "Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist" (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Orléans) of about 1518–19.
Vittoria Romani and Sergio Momesso inMantegna, 1431–1506. Ed. Giovanni Agosti and Dominique Thiébaut. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2008, p. 416.
Keith Christiansen. "The Genius of Andrea Mantegna." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 67 (Fall 2009), pp. 37–38, 41, fig. 41 (color).
Sergio Marinelli inMuseo di Castelvecchio: Catalogo generale dei dipinti e delle miniature delle collezioni civiche veronesi. Ed. Paola Marini et al. Vol. 1, Dalla fine del X all'inizio del XVI secolo. Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2010, p. 171, identifies the Holy Family in Verona as the picture mentioned by Boschini [see Refs. 1664 and 1674].