Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Nativity

Lorenzo Monaco (Piero di Giovanni) (Italian, Florence (?) ca. 1370–1425 Florence (?))
ca. 1406–10
Tempera on wood, gold ground
8 3/4 x 12 1/4 in. (22.2 x 31.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
Accession Number:
Not on view
Lorenzo Monaco, the leading painter in Florence in the early fifteenth century, was active as a painter of illuminated manuscripts, frescoes and panel paintings. A major proponent of the International Gothic style, his style is characterized by luminous color and graceful, rhythmic, flowing lines. In this exquisite depiction of the Nativity, the compositional elements are brilliantly adapted to the quatrefoil field, and the rich and subtle color harmonies reflect the artist's skill as a manuscript painter. Particularly striking is the nocturnal setting, which is suffused by the supernatural light emanating from the Christ Child and the angel. This panel formed part of a predella, which also included a Visitation, an Adoration of the Magi, and a Flight into Egypt believed to have come from an altarpiece of the Annunciation by Lorenzo Monaco (Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence).
Perhaps identical with a painting in the James Dennistoun sale, Christie's, June 14, 1855, lot 14 ("Don Lorenzo Monaco, the Nativity: the Virgin kneeling, Saint Joseph seated on the ground, the Infant in a manger, the shepherds and angels above. From the collection of M. Lauriani, Librarian at the Vatican"). The Dennistoun panel reappears in the sale of the Rev. Walter Davenport Bromley, Christie's, June 12-13, 1863, lot 46 ("Andrea Orcagna, The Virgin kneeling before the Infant in a cradle; on the right is Saint Joseph seated asleep, two figures in the background. This agrees with a picture by the same master in the National Gallery [573]. From the collection of Mr. Dennistoun"). The Dennistoun sale included as no. 9 two panels of the Visitation and Adoration of the Magi as ascribed to Taddeo Gaddi, which also appear as nos. 14 and 15 in the Davenport Bromley sale with an attribution to Giottino. These are identical with the related panels by Lorenzo Monaco in the Courtauld Institute Gallery. Richard von Kaufmann, Berlin (Die Sammlung Richard von Kaufmann, Berlin, Cassirer and Helbing, Berlin, December 4, 1917, no. 5); Frank Channing Smith, Jr., Worcester (Mass.), from 1921. Acquired by Robert Lehman in 1934.
Gustavo Frizzoni. "Ricordo di un viaggio artistico oltralpe: La galleria Kaufmann in Berlino." L'arte, 5 (1902), pp. 290, 292.

Osvald Sirén. Don Lorenzo Monaco. Strasbourg, 1905, pp. 56-57, pl. 15.

Bernhard Berenson. The Florentine Painters of the Renaissance. 3rd ed. New York, 1909, p. 152.

Max J. Friedländer. Die Sammlung Richard von Kaufmann, Berlin. Vol. 1, Berlin, 1917, no. 5.

Raimond van Marle. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. Vol. 9, Late Gothic Painting in Tuscany. The Hague, 1927, p. 150 n. 166-168.

W. Suida in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 23, Leipzig, 1929, p. 392.

Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, Pl. 143.

A commemorative catalogue of the exhibition of Italian art held in the galleries of the Royal Academy, Burlington House, London, January-March, 1930. Exh. cat., London, 1931, p. 18, no 49.

Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 301.

William M. Milliken. The Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Cleveland, 1936, no. 134, pl. 19.

Evelyn Sandberg Vavalà. "Early Italian Paintings in the Collection of Frank Channing Smith, Jr." Worcester Art Museum Journal , 3 (1937–1938), pp. 34-38.

Fogg Museum, Harvard Art Museums. An Exhibition of Italian Paintings and Drawings, March 24-April 15, 1939. Exh. cat., Cambride, MA, 1939, no. 29.

Georg Pudelko. "The Stylistic Development of Lorenzo Monaco—II." The Burlington Magazine, 74 (1939), p. 77.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Art in New England: Paintings, Drawings, Prints, from Private Collections in New England. Exh. cat., Cambridge, MA, 1939, no. 71.

Charles Sterling, ed. Exposition de la collection Lehman de New York. Exh. cat., Musée de l'Orangerie. Paris, 1957, pp. 22-23, no. 28.

The Lehman Collection. Exh. cat., Cincinnati, 1959, no. 65.

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Luciano Bellosi. Lorenzo Monaco . Milan, 1965.

Miklòs Boskovits. Pittura fiorentina alla vigilia del Rinascimento, 1370–1400. Florence, 1975, p. 350.

George Szabó. The Robert Lehman Collection: A Guide. New York, 1975, p. 27, fig. 31.

Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, p. 228.

Keith Christiansen. "Early Renaissance Narrative Painting in Italy." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 41 (Fall 1983), pp. 3-5, fig. 1.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 1983, p. 318.

John Pope-Hennessy assisted by Laurence B. Kanter in The Robert Lehman Collection. Vol. 1, Italian Paintings. New York, 1987, pp. 170-172, no. 72.

Virginia Jackson. Art Museums of the World: Norway-Zaire. Vol. 2, Westport, CT, 1987, p. 1274.

Marvin Eisenberg. Lorenzo Monaco. Princeton, 1989, pp. 79, 88, 104, 138, 140, 153-154.

Laurence B. Kanter. "Review of Lorenzo Monaco by Marvin Eisenberg." The Burlington Magazine, 135 (1993), pp. 632-633.

Laurence B. Kanter in Painting and Illumination in Early Renaissance Florence: 1300–1450. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1994, pp. 267-270, no. 34a.

Philippe de Montebello. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 1994, p. 349.

Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, pp. 12-13.

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