The composition of this picture seems to have been inspired from a sculpture in low relief, most likely by either Donatello or Michelangelo (Granacci had been a fellow pupil with Michelangelo in the workshop of Ghirlandaio.). However, Granacci has made the composition more pictorial by placing the figures in a light-filled room. Another version of the picture by Granacci exists and the same composition was treated by Bacchiacca (Linsky Collection, the Metropolitan Museum). The present picture dates about 1520.
William Ward, 1st Earl of Dudley (until d. 1885; his estate, 1885–92; his estate sale, Christie's, London, June 25, 1892, no. 41, as by Fra Bartolomeo, 33 1/2 x 25 in., [miscatalogued as] oval, for £535.10.0); Major Bertram Hardy, Dunstall Hall, Burton-on-Trent (until 1929; sale, Christie's, London, August 1, 1929, no. 40, as by Fra Bartolomeo, 33 1/2 x 25 in., [miscatalogued as] oval, on panel, for £304.10 to Glen); [Gianni Salocchi, Florence, until about 1946/47; sold to Modestini]; Mario Modestini, New York (from about 1946/47; sold to Borgesani)); Commendatore Borgesani, Rome (until 1970s; sold to Modestini); Mario Modestini, New York (from 1970s); Mario and Dianne Modestini, New York (until 2000)
Christian von Holst. Francesco Granacci. Munich, 1974, pp. 27, 141, 157, no. 47, fig. 78, attributes it to Granacci; notes an attribution to Bacchiacca by Georg Gronau, and, from photographs in the Courtauld Institute and the Frick Art Reference Library, attributions to Granacci by Michael Kitson and Federico Zeri; states that the San Francisco painting is the earliest version, that Granacci reused the same cartoon for the MMA work, and that this cartoon was also used for the two paintings by Bacchiacca [see Notes]; believes that the composition is probably based on a design by Michelangelo.
J. Russell Sale inItalian Paintings: XIV–XVIIIth Centuries from the Collection of The Baltimore Museum of Art. Ed. Gertrude Rosenthal. Baltimore, 1981, pp. 91, 98 n. 11, dates it to the 1520s and believes it may be more faithful to the original composition than the version in San Francisco, which he dates about 1515; states that the paintings by Granacci and Bacchiacca are all based on a common source, probably either a painting or a cartoon with color indications, possibly by Raphael or Leonardo, rather than Michelangelo.
Keith Christiansen inThe Jack and Belle Linsky Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, p. 42, under no. 10, dates this picture about 1520 and the San Francisco version about 1515; states that these two works and those by Bacchiacca all derive from a common lost prototype, possibly by Michelangelo and probably meant for a relief sculpture rather than a painting.
Christopher Fulton. "Present at the Inception: Donatello and the Origins of Sixteenth-Century Mannerism." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 60, no. 2 (1997), p. 193 n. 36, dates both this work and the version in San Francisco to about 1515.
Everett Fahy in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2006–2007." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Fall 2007), p. 19.
Olga Pujmanová in Olga Pujmanová and Petr Pribyl. Italian Painting c. 1330–1550: I. National Gallery in Prague, II. Collections in the Czech Republic; Illustrated Summary Catalogue. Prague, 2008, p. 100, under no. 46, discusses the New York and San Francisco paintings in the entry for a third version of the composition in the National Gallery, Prague.
Robert G. La France. Bachiacca: Artist of the Medici Court. Florence, 2008, pp. 197, 199, states that, like Bacchiacca (e.g., MMA 1982.60.10), Granacci based his design on Donatello's Dudley Madonna (Victoria and Albert Museum, London).
Charlotte Hale, Julie Arslanoglu, and Silvia A. Centeno. "Granacci in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Aspects of Evolving Workshop Practice." Studying Old Master Paintings: Technology and Practice. London, 2011, pp. 62–63, figs. 7 (color), 8 (infrared reflectogram detail), describe two changes made from the underdrawing to the painting, the Madonna's head having been tipped slightly downwards and the Child's hand having been curled and holding a loose strand of hair; find it plausible that the composition could be based on a drawing by Michelangelo.
This picture dates from about 1520. An earlier version, from about 1515, is in the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco (inv. no. 1936.7; 33 1/2 x 25 1/4 in.). A third version is in the National Gallery, Prague (inv. no. O 16387; 32 1/4 x 25 1/4 in.). A work in the Musée d'Art, Toulon, reproduces the general composition, with full-length figures and the addition of the infant Saint John the Baptist.
Two paintings by Bachiacca (MMA 1982.60.10; and Baltimore Museum of Art, 59.87) repeat the composition.
This work is described in the 1892 Christie's sale catalogue as an oval, an apparent cataloguing slip that is repeated in the 1929 sale catalogue; there is no evidence to suggest that the painting was ever an oval.