Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Nicholas of Bari (‘The Ansidei Madonna’)
, , The Sixteenth Century Italian Paintings: Volume IV, Raphael (London: The National Gallery, 2022).
Oil on wood, 245 × 157 cm (panel); 216.8 × 147.6 cm (painted area to the top of the arch)
Inscribed on the frieze above the throne: ‘˞ SALVE ˞ MATER ˞ CHRISTI ˞ ’, and dated in the border of the Virgin’s mantle, beneath her left elbow: ‘MDV’
The poplar panel is made up of six vertical members and retains its original thickness, ranging between 4.6 and 6 cm (original saw marks are visible in places on the back, though not at the top where this was planed in the early twentieth century). The panel was formerly braced by three horizontal tapered battens sunk into dovetailed channels. These battens were removed in 1956 (see under ‘Condition’ below). Original dowels used to reinforce the joints are still present, visible in the X‐radiograph.2 There are half dowels at the left edge perhaps indicating the panel had been repurposed from another larger project. In four places small rectangular plugs of wood have been inserted into the front of the panel before it was prepared for painting. This type of repair to the surface of the panel, made before gesso application, has been found on other panels to repair defects in the wood such as knots or prominent seasoning splits. Three of the central boards and half of a fourth one extend up to 16 cm above the top of the arched painted area. This unpainted extension of the panel would have been concealed by the deep rebate of the original frame, preventing the top from tipping forward. Similarly, the wide strip of bare wood at the bottom of the panel (20 cm high) would have slotted behind the predella box (or gradino; see under NG 6480), further helping to keep the heavy panel vertical.
Ground and priming
The panel has a traditional gesso ground (calcium sulphate bound with animal glue) that extends to a greater or lesser degree onto an unpainted border on all sides. The gesso was prepared with a thin priming composed of lead white, colourless powdered glass and a small amount of lead‐tin yellow. Pinhead‐sized white dots visible in the X‐radiograph show where the priming filled air bubbles in the thick gesso ground. The painted field was circumscribed by incised lines.
The picture surface was prepared with a grid nine squares high by six squares wide incised into the gesso with a stylus (fig. 1). The composition is therefore based on a simple geometric construction of a square topped by a semicircle, resulting in a height to width ratio of 3:2. The overall dimensions are roughly equivalent to six by four Perugian feet (or piedi), so each square corresponds to approximately two‐thirds of a foot. Raphael often squared up his drawings for the purpose of enlargement, but the grid is probably too open to have served to transfer the design. Instead, it seems to have been used as a guide for aligning the major elements, such as the sides of the throne, the horizontals of the steps (including the exact centre of the Greek key pattern), the top of the Virgin’s head and the level of her knees, and the heads and ankles of the saints. In short, it would have helped to establish the geometry of the composition, the scale to which the cartoons needed to be made and the positioning of the cartoons on the panel. Although Raphael frequently prepared his smaller panels with vertical and horizontal axes, such a comprehensive grid has not been found on any of his other altarpieces; nor did he adopt such a strict proportional system for other compositions in this arched format (the Mond Crucifixion [NG 3943] and the Degli Oddi Coronation are both relatively taller, and the Marriage of the Virgin is wider).
The straight lines in the picture are incised. Some, particularly in the architecture, continue beyond the intended design, as in the receding entablature of the piers supporting the arch. The rosary beads have incised lines down the middle and there are also incised lines marking out the rock crystal cross and the crozier.
Infrared images reveal drawing not dissimilar to that in the Mond Crucifixion, with the outlines of folds in the drapery in a liquid medium, elaborated with some hatching.3 There are clear signs of pouncing in the Virgin and Child, the dots joined and most of them brushed away leaving the simple outlines, indicating that cartoons were used to transfer key features to the panel (fig. 2). No spolveri could be found anywhere in the figure of Saint John the Baptist, but the underdrawing is so similar in style to that for the Virgin that we may be certain this figure was also based on a cartoon. The underdrawing of the figure of Saint Nicholas, on the other hand, is much finer and appears to have been executed freehand with long sweeping lines in a liquid medium and with one altered outline incised. Geometrical curves denoting the cheekbones and the structure of the nose are similar to the type of underdrawing seen in the Garvagh Madonna (NG 744) of a few years later. It would therefore appear that Raphael used a mixture of cartoon and underdrawing techniques when assembling the design of the Ansidei Madonna on the panel.
Given the care with which it was designed, it is surprising to discover that an important aspect of the picture’s composition – the pale grey architectural setting – represents a later change of plan. Technical investigation has shown that the fictive barrel vault, which imparts such geometrical lucidity to the altarpiece, was not planned from the start but added after painting had begun (it is incised and painted on top of the first layer of the blue sky and parts of the landscape background). Raphael carefully positioned the parapet (one‐third of the way up) and the front of the mouldings (approximately two‐thirds of the way up), helping to explain why the architecture seems so integral to the composition. Another substantial change was made to the figure of Saint Nicholas of Bari, whose episcopal regalia seems to have been improvised at a late stage (fig. 3). His head was drawn and reserved as though he were to be bare headed, while his mitre was painted over the painted architecture (itself a late addition over the sky). The tunic he wears beneath his surplice was originally designed to be much shorter, so that his feet and ankles were visible; his hemline was lengthened after the floor had been painted around them so that the change remains visible in the X‐radiograph. There are many discrepancies between the drawing and the painting in the Christ Child’s head and body (his eyes were previously lower, his head was made larger and the ear was tried out further back), pointing to a departure from the cartoon (fig. 4). The Virgin was originally barefoot, with toes and toenails described in the underdrawing (fig. 5). The shoe she now wears curiously appears more like that for a right foot than a left, with the big toe highlighted on the wrong side.
Materials and technique4
The sky, painted in natural ultramarine and white, over azurite and white, was brushed in freely, leaving rather approximate reserves, notably around Saint John the Baptist’s head. Saint Nicholas of Bari’s head was also initially reserved in this way but later changed (see under ‘Revisions’ above). The background landscape is painted in verdigris and lead‐tin yellow, the more translucent strong greens containing a higher proportion of verdigris.
The majority of the picture surface is taken up with the architectural elements of the background arch, the barrel‐vaulted ceiling and the throne. The light grey colours of the architecture have a lilac tinge achieved by using powdered metallic bismuth as a grey pigment mixed with lead white. The underside of the canopy over the throne is made up of a red lake glaze over an underlayer containing kermes red lake, a translucent yellow pigment identified as a faded brazilwood red lake, a little vermilion, black derived from coal and colourless powdered glass. The fading of the brazilwood has altered the appearance of the canopy, which now looks brown. The slightly lighter upper side of the roof was painted with similar mixtures to the underside but with azurite in addition to the red pigments, suggesting the intended original colour was probably a deep translucent purplish red, perhaps representing a velvet textile. It would have created a richer foil to the green scalloped fringe around the canopy, which consists of verdigris mixed with lead‐tin yellow. The wooden throne is worked in earth pigments and lead‐tin yellow, with almost pure lead‐tin yellow in the gleaming highlights. The blackish strip of paint on which the gold inscription at the top of the throne is painted contains azurite and was originally a brighter blue.
The flesh of the four protagonists, characteristically for Raphael, was fairly thinly and transparently painted, while their draperies were painted in a range of materials and techniques. The Virgin’s dark blue cloak consists of a thin glaze of virtually only ultramarine over a layer of azurite, with a little lead white in the lighter areas of the drapery for the modelling. Both the ultramarine and azurite paint layers are medium rich and have probably darkened markedly as a result. The deepest shadows are finished with hatched strokes of very dark paint containing only ultramarine.
Saint John the Baptist’s intense red drapery is the most elaborate and eye‐catching passage of painting in the altarpiece, its voluminous folds built up in several layers varying in composition and tone. The mid‐tones, for example, are developed with several layers of vermilion combined with red lake pigment, while in the darkest shadows this mixture includes some coal black in addition. In some places there is a first base layer containing the cheaper brazilwood lake (now faded). The red lake in the upper layers and the final glazes is instead based on the dyestuff from the kermes insect. Certain areas of half shadow on the red drapery are reinforced by hatching at the surface in red lake (particularly clear in the folds on the saint’s shoulder).
Saint Nicholas’s green cope is painted with mixtures of verdigris and lead‐tin yellow, with white and black incorporated according to the modelling of the drapery. The final deep green glazes contain only verdigris. The solid opaque, orange‐red lining is made up of vermilion mixed with red lead (lead tetroxide). The translucent brown background colour of the broad gold‐embroidered borders of the cope comprises vermilion, black, white, orange earth and a little verdigris with a final mid‐brown organic glaze identified as a softwood pitch in heat‐bodied walnut oil.
The pigments are bound in heat‐bodied walnut oil, except in the Virgin’s blue cloak where the walnut oil does not seem to have had any heat pre‐treatment. A little pine resin was mixed into the oil medium in the red lake glaze of Saint John the Baptist’s drapery, perhaps to increase the transparency and gloss.
There are several distinct areas of gilding for which different materials and techniques were employed. For the letters of the inscription on the azurite band at the top of the throne, gold leaf was applied to a mordant consisting of colourless manganese‐containing powdered glass in oil, here used as a siccative. The gold balls at Saint Nicholas’s feet, drawn with a compass to define their circumference, were gilded in gold leaf over a light brown oil‐based mordant layer as adhesive, containing vermilion, black, white and some earth.
All four figures have double haloes, which are not incised and from their appearance were applied in shell gold (powdered gold applied with a medium). Christ’s halo is cruciform, having a gold cross adorned with flecks of shell gold inscribed within it, and in addition rays of light emanating from his head. The Virgin’s and Saint Nicholas’s haloes are also decorated with flecks of gold, while that of the Baptist is not (probably an oversight). Both the Virgin and the Christ Child have flecks of shell gold in their hair.
Decoration applied to the draperies of all four figures are also in shell gold (here confirmed from examination of a sample), especially along the borders and necklines, in the Virgin’s belt and in delicate stripes on the Christ Child’s drapery. Complementary ornamentation in the form of palmettes applied in silver leaf (now somewhat blackened) introduces variety along the hemlines of the two saints.
In addition to the inscription, colourless powdered glass (manganese‐containing soda‐lime type) was used as an additive – probably as a drier but perhaps also at the same time modifying the working properties – in the priming, the red lake glazes, the grey of the architecture, the former purple colour of the canopy and the yellow‐brown of the throne.
Thanks to its remarkably direct passage from S. Fiorenzo, where it had stood undisturbed for 250 years, to Oxfordshire, and thence to the National Gallery, the altarpiece escaped the vicissitudes of the art market and any urgent need to enhance its appearance and impeccable pedigree with campaigns of restoration.5 The main treatment it seems to have undergone while at Blenheim was the application of a dark toning layer covering everything but the flesh paint, similar to the dark layer found over much of its predella panel (NG 6480). This would almost certainly have been applied to even out dark stains on the surface resulting from a careless previous varnishing.6 After its acquisition by the National Gallery, the painting was treated on several occasions for flaking. In 1931 open splits and joins were mended with butterfly keys. It was last cleaned and restored in 1956, when three inset horizontal battens were removed and replaced with balsa wood embedded in wax resin.
The paint film is mostly in very good condition. The kermes red lake glazes in particular have retained much of their original intensity, even if fading of a brazilwood lake used together with kermes lake in the roof of the throne’s canopy has contributed to its darkened brownish appearance. The latter was probably originally a deep rich purple‐red. There are small losses along old joins and splits in the panel, but none runs through important parts of the painting. Some of the restoration along these joins has discoloured. Alteration of the dark green glazes on Saint Nicholas of Bari’s cloak means that the structure of the folds is now indistinct.8 There is similar discolouration of the green glazes in the front pelmet of the canopy, and damage to some areas of vermilion, most notably the rosary beads, which now no longer sit clearly in front of the top of the throne. There are drying defects in the dark shadows of the Virgin’s blue robe and blanching inside her hood. There is some abrasion due to past overcleaning, especially in the architecture, where it is painted over the sky. The mastic varnish applied in 1956 is becoming discoloured.
The Virgin is seated in majesty on a carved wooden throne with the Christ Child on her lap. With poignant seriousness she draws his attention to a passage in an open prayer book, presumably alluding to his predestined sacrifice. The Latin inscription at the top of the throne reads ‘˞ SALVE ˞ MATER ˞ CHRISTI ˞ ’ (‘Hail Mother of Christ’), one of the principal repetitions in the round of prayers known as the rosary. The elegant three‐cornered punctuation marks are similar to those on the inscriptions of the Mond Crucifixion and its frame (see NG 3943). The volutes on either side of the throne, each adorned with a row of carved beads, draw the eye up to a delicate string of coral beads suspended from the canopy above, terminating in jewelled crosses. Reminiscent of rosary beads, their scarlet colour is a reminder of the blood Christ will shed. Together with the inscription, the beads would have acted as a prompt to the recitation of the rosary, a devotion particularly favoured by the mendicant Servites, who were the church’s custodians at this time.
The Baptist, wearing a camel‐hair tunic and swathed in a splendid scarlet cloak, gazes up at his slender rock‐crystal cross, simultaneously pointing to Christ in prescience of his death by crucifixion. In contrast to Saint John’s dynamic rhetorical stance, the older, more contemplative Saint Nicholas withdraws slightly behind the throne, his furrowed brow indicating his absorption in the book he is reading. He wears the full ceremonial robes of a bishop, his mitre decorated with cut gems and pearls and his cope clasped at his breast with a huge brooch (or pectoral morse) adorned with a rectangular ruby and four enormous pearls. He holds a bishop’s crozier decorated with a winged cherub’s head. At his feet are three golden balls representing the purses of gold he provided as dowries for the three daughters of an impoverished nobleman to save them from a life of prostitution.
The figures are situated in an airy, chapel‐like space, with a coffered barrel vault and a pale pink floor. The light grey colour of the architecture is probably intended to be pietra serena. Through the background arch, beyond a low parapet, extends an Umbrian landscape with rolling green and blue hills. Its oblique view of a bridge over a river recalls the main crossing of the Tiber below Perugia, a medieval humpback bridge known as the Ponte S. Giovanni (destroyed by Second World War bombs in 1944), towards which Saint John’s finger also points (fig. 6).9 On the near side of the river there is a long building with a square campanile that could be a monastery, while on the far side there is a small round domed church and a castle on a hill with crenellated walls and turrets. Unlike the bridge, named for the saint, these features seem to have been the artist’s inventions.
Although unsigned, there has never been any doubt regarding the altarpiece’s attribution. Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574) did not know of the work when he wrote the 1550 edition of his Lives of the Artists and therefore the first record of it on the Ansidei altar in S. Fiorenzo is in the Giunti edition of 1568 (see ‘Dating’ below for a discussion of this passage).10 As with the Mond Crucifixion, there is no reason why an assistant might not have helped with the preparation of the panel or some of the underpainting, however no one has ever doubted the attribution to Raphael of the upper paint layers, which appear fully and unquestionably autograph.
In contrast, there has been considerable discussion regarding the date of the Ansidei Madonna. The gilt Roman numerals ‘MDV’, which appear in the border of the Virgin’s mantle beneath her left arm, are followed by two vertical strokes that some authors have interpreted as additional numerals (fig. 7). The altarpiece has consequently been dated variously 1505, 1506 and 1507.11 However, these additional strokes have the appearance of random marks inserted to extend the gilt border around the drapery fold, and certainly the style of the painting, with its eclectic assimilation of Umbrian influences, is incompatible with a date after 1505. Vasari placed the Ansidei commission shortly after Raphael’s return to Perugia from Florence (and a brief visit to Urbino, where he went to sort out his family affairs) and just before the S. Severo fresco, also dated 1505.12 The comparison with the fresco seems particularly pertinent, since the figure of Christ in that work is – but for the arms – a virtual repetition of the Ansidei Virgin’s pose in reverse. Joseph Archer Crowe and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle suggested that both the Ansidei Altarpiece and another Perugian sacra conversazione, the so‐called Colonna Altarpiece, may have been painted in two phases, interrupted by a Florentine sojourn.13 If so, both works must have been quite far advanced before Raphael left, since neither borrow much from the Florentine idiom, as is sometimes claimed. Certainly, the morphology of the Virgin’s facial features and fingers, and the simplified hourglass shape of her own and Saint Nicholas’s upper bodies, are suggestive of a moment earlier than 1505. A drawing in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt (fig. 8; see under ‘Drawings’ below), accepted by many scholars as a preliminary compositional study for the Ansidei Madonna, is datable on stylistic grounds to 1503–4. This would lend further weight to the hypothesis that the Ansidei family commissioned the altarpiece a year or two before Raphael completed and consigned it in 1505.
The compositional sketch in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt (fig. 8), seems to document an important preliminary phase in the altarpiece’s design.14 The drawing shares many features with the altarpiece, including the structure of the Virgin’s throne, and details such as the arrangement of the rosary beads and the Christ Child’s firm grasp on the material that enfolds him. In addition, the lighting from the top right matches that in the final painting and the overall proportions are identical, with a height to width ratio of 3:2. The principal reason the drawing has not always been accepted as a specific preparatory study is that it not only appears to be a little earlier in date than 1505, but also the saint to the left of the throne is clearly identifiable, from the radiance on his breast, as the Augustinian Saint Nicholas of Tolentino and not Nicholas of Bari.15 However, since no known commission of Raphael’s during these years included the former saint, it seems probable that the artist began designing the Ansidei Altarpiece with the ‘wrong’ Saint Nicholas in mind, perhaps thinking back to the subject of his earlier Saint Nicholas of Tolentino altarpiece for S. Agostino in Città di Castello.16
Further confirmation of this hypothesis is provided by a detail that emerged in technical analysis, namely a black chalk revision that transforms Saint Nicholas’s monastic habit into a cope‐like vestment fastened at the breast (figs 9 and 10).17 This alteration, rapidly executed on top of the fully delineated ink sketch for the saint and confined exclusively to this figure, appears to indicate Raphael changing his mind about the costume, and thus by extension the identity of the saint. The cope even has a border, similar to that of Saint Nicholas of Bari in the Ansidei Altarpiece. The way the lower part of the garment is drawn across and pinned beneath the figure’s left elbow, with the opposite border descending in undulating folds, is also comparable to the solution for Saint Nicholas in the altarpiece, and the alteration of the hemline of the tunic in favour of a shorter length also features in the first attempt at Saint Nicholas’s tunic, visible in the underpainting.18 The fact that the Frankfurt drawing does not elaborate the right‐hand side of the composition indicates that it was an early proposal, devised before an overall design was settled.
No other preparatory drawings for the main panel have been identified. A red‐chalk drawing closely related to the head of the Christ Child was sold at auction in 2004 (fig. 11).19 Because the head is lit in the opposite direction and the angle of the body is somewhat different, the drawing is unlikely to be a direct study for the Ansidei Madonna, but it must have been made at exactly the same moment, and would thus constitute Raphael’s earliest surviving work in red chalk. Christ’s head in the altarpiece was modified during the course of painting, with his ear and right eye being adjusted to conform much more closely to the drawing. It may be that the Sotheby’s sheet was a life study made to correct some of the anatomical idiosyncrasies in Raphael’s first design.
Style and influences
When Raphael received the commission to paint the Ansidei Altarpiece, he had been active in Perugia for over two years and had established a significant reputation there, filling a vacuum created by the frequent absences of Pietro Perugino (about 1450–1523), in Florence and elsewhere.20 As well as producing many small paintings of Madonnas and saints, Raphael had also proved himself on a larger, more public scale, by painting the Coronation of the Virgin for the Degli Oddi Chapel in S. Francesco al Prato.21 If one accepts the hypothesis that the Marriage of the Virgin now in the Pinacoteca di Brera (signed and dated 1504) was painted in Perugia and transported on completion to Città di Castello where it was installed in the church of S. Francesco, its remarkable sophistication would also have contributed to Raphael’s standing in Perugia.22 By December 1505, when the Clarissan nuns of Monteluce were looking for a suitable candidate to execute a new altarpiece for the high altar of their convent church, Raphael’s name emerged as ‘the best master who had been recommended by the most citizens and also our reverend fathers, who had seen his works’.23 The Ansidei Altarpiece would certainly have contributed to this assessment, perhaps more so than the Colonna Altarpiece, painted over a similar period for the female tertiaries of S. Antonio in Perugia (see its predella panel, The Procession to Calvary, NG 2919).24 The main panel of the Ansidei Altarpiece is incomparably superior in design to that of the Colonna Altarpiece: the architectural elements in the latter – if designed by Raphael – could only have been so in a small sketch.
The Ansidei Altarpiece pays homage to prestigious Perugian works by the two artists whose styles Raphael most admired, Luca Signorelli (about 1450–1523) and Perugino. All the figures reflect his careful study of Signorelli’s Vagnucci Altarpiece of 1483–4 for the chapel of S. Onuphrius in Perugia Cathedral (fig. 12). When reversed, the poses of the Ansidei Virgin and Child are almost identical to those in Signorelli’s painting. Raphael’s Baptist, with his impossibly slender rock‐crystal cross, is a creative reinterpretation of the same similarly equipped saint in Signorelli’s work, while his contemplative Saint Nicholas echoes Signorelli’s aged bishop, Saint Herculanus. Furthermore, infrared reflectography reveals additional correspondences between Raphael’s initial underdrawing and motifs from Signorelli’s altarpiece: the Virgin was originally barefoot like Signorelli’s (see fig. 5), while Saint Nicholas was bare‐headed and balding like Saint Herculanus (see fig. 3). For the architectural setting, elevated throne and air of perfectly composed order, Raphael turned instead to Perugino’s Decemviri Altarpiece of 1495–6 in the Palazzo de’ Priori in Perugia (fig. 13), a composition he had studied and characteristically improved upon in his earlier compositional drawing (see fig. 8).25 Raphael’s allusions to works in the nearby cathedral and seat of government at once lent his own creation greater authority and showed that he could compete with Perugia’s finest productions.
In addition to these two fundamental influences, Oskar Fischel judiciously wondered whether Raphael had in mind Piero della Francesca (about 1415/20–1492), and in particular his Montefeltro altarpiece of 1472–4, from the church of S. Bernardino in Raphael’s home town of Urbino, especially in the ‘brightness of the shimmering reflections in the portico of white stone’.26 Raphael may have recalled Piero’s architectural solutions when he added the coffered barrel vault behind the Virgin’s throne and the foreshortened shell in the niche above the Virgin’s head.
The church of S. Fiorenzo and the Ansidei
Saint Fiorenzo or Florentius (according to one legend identifiable as the third‐century Bishop Florentius of Perugia) was a Roman martyr executed during the reign of Emperor Decius (AD 249–51). Local tradition identifies the present church’s location as the site of an eighth‐century oratory outside the Etruscan city walls dedicated to the saint.27 Fiorenzo’s relics were transferred here probably in the twelfth or thirteenth century, but were forgotten about until the height of the Black Death in the mid‐fourteenth century, when the Cistercians, by now in charge of the church, found the headless body of the saint beneath the high altar and carried it in procession through the city. Saint Fiorenzo became an important plague saint in Perugia from this time forth and his relics are still preserved in a wooden casket beneath the altar.28
The church and convent passed through the custodianship of various religious orders down the ages, from the Benedictines until the tenth century, to the Camaldolese from 1012, to the Cistercians from 1112. In 1444, in response to reported dissolute behaviour among the Cistercian brothers, Pope Eugenius IV (1383–1447) transferred the church to a group of Servites formerly housed in S. Maria dei Servi in Perugia.29 From 1471 to 1515 the Servites made changes to the structure of the church replacing the Romanesque timber roof with a vaulted structure. During an outbreak of the plague, they commissioned a gonfalone (or banner), attributed to Benedetto Bonfigli (about 1420–1496) and dated 1476, which was kept in a tabernacle in the church. Whenever there was a new epidemic, it was paraded by the confraternity dedicated to the city’s plague saints, Simone and Fiorenzo (the banner was removed from its altar in the church to the Museo Capitolare in Perugia in 2006).
It was during this period of building renovation that members of the ‘de Catrano’ branch of the Ansidei family established two foundations in the church. In 1483 Filippo di Ansideo di Simone de Catrano built a chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Bari on the south side of the nave at the junction with the right transept. This was the altar for which Raphael’s altarpiece was later painted in 1505. In 1513 the brothers Antonio and Bernardino di Piergiovanni di Francesco de Catrano (who belonged to the cadet Benincasa branch of the Ansidei family and were Filippo’s second cousins) commissioned an altarpiece from Sinibaldo Ibi (about 1475–after 1548) for the high altar of the church (fig. 14).30 Dedicated to the Madonna delle Grazie, the altar was officially founded in 1515, by which time Bernardino had died and his heirs had assumed the foundation with their uncle. The altarpiece depicted a Madonna and Child enthroned, flanked by Saints John the Baptist and Joseph, with, kneeling before the Virgin, the patron saint of the Servites, the Blessed Filippo Benizzi (1233–1285) (the general superior credited with reviving the Order in the thirteenth century), and the church’s patron, Saint Fiorenzo. It had a predella, now lost, depicting scenes from the life of Saint Joseph, with a Marriage of the Virgin in the centre. By the seventeenth century, the altarpiece had been moved with its predella from the high altar to a new side chapel, the middle of three on the north side of the nave, dedicated to the Madonna delle Grazie, with a secondary devotional focus on Beato Filippo.31
The patron of the Saint Nicholas altar and the commission of the altarpiece
Filippo di Ansideo di Simone, called ‘de Catrano’, was a prosperous wool merchant who served several times as chamberlain of the Perugian wool guild. He can be traced from 1458 and yuntil recently was presumed to have died in 1490, shortly after making his will. New unpublished evidence discovered by Alberto Maria Sartore in the Perugian State Archive reveals that he was in fact still alive in 1497 and had died by 1499. In 1466 he married Giovanna di Urbano di Cola da Deruta and they had at least ten children, eight sons and two daughters (many of whom probably died in infancy as only three sons, Niccolò, Bernardino and Persiano, and his daughter Urbana are mentioned in his will).32 He lived in the Porta Sole quarter of Perugia where he acquired a house in 1467 on the site of the present Palazzo Ansidei on what is now Via Alessi. S. Fiorenzo was therefore his local parish church some 50 m down the hill from his house. His wool trading business brought him significant revenues and allowed him to purchase land including extensive olive plantations.33 Filippo’s political connections are unclear, but it appears he was well regarded by the ruling elite since he served as intermediary between Guido Baglioni and Simone degli Oddi on the eve of the latter’s ejection from Perugia in 1488.34
In 1483 Filippo endowed and built a chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas of Bari. A modest wall chapel, it stood against a pier on the south side of the nave at the point where it meets the transept (figs 15 and 20). An inscription carved in stone above the altar, no longer extant, recorded Filippo’s name as founder along with the chapel’s dedication: ‘To Saint Nicholas Bishop of Bari, erected in humility by Filippo Ansidei de Catrano 1483’.35 The base of the altar was adorned with two stone coats of arms of the Ansidei, the one on the right bearing the initials of Filippo and his wife Giovanna (figs 16 and 17).36 Their arms were also painted on the predella, but again this evidence no longer survives (see NG 6480 for a full discussion of the predella).
In his testament of 12 October 1490, Filippo bequeathed a sum of money for his burial in the church, as well an endowment of 100 florins for the maintenance of the Saint Nicholas chapel and the celebration of a daily Mass, with the extra stipulation of a sung Mass on the feast day of Saint Nicholas.37 A reference in Filippo’s record book to Saint Nicholas of Bari as ‘nostro avochato’ (‘our intercessor’),38 as well as his choice of the name Nicholas for his eldest surviving son, underline his devotion to this saint, traditionally venerated by merchants on account of the legend of his body’s transportation by traders from Myra to Bari by sea. After Filippo’ s death by 1499, his chapel must have remained without an altarpiece until Raphael was approached to furnish one, probably at some point in 1503 or 1504.
Johann David Passavant assumed, correctly, that Raphael’s altarpiece must have been commissioned by Filippo’s heirs but had no evidence to support this.39 At the end of the nineteenth century, a local historian, Lino Manzoni, unearthed crucial new material on the altarpiece in the Ansidei family archive, which he published in an Umbrian periodical.40 Through a combination of piecemeal transcriptions and his own puzzling deductions, Manzoni conflated documents relating to Filippo Ansidei’s chapel with the other Ansidei chapel, which by the seventeenth century was on the opposite side of the nave, and founded by Antonio and the heirs of Bernardino Ansidei in 1515. This led him mistakenly to deduce that Filippo’s younger son, also called Bernardino (1479–1537), had been responsible for commissioning the Ansidei Madonna.41 This presumption prevailed in the literature until research carried out by Donal Cooper and the present author, in preparation for the monographic Raphael exhibition held at the National Gallery in 2004, established that Bernardino di Filippo could not have been involved.42
Although specific documentary proof is lacking, all the evidence points instead to Raphael’s patron having been Filippo’s eldest surviving son and direct heir, Niccolò (1469–after 1527), himself a merchant, who inherited his father’s business interests, and who must also have assumed the patronage rights of the chapel, as stipulated in Filippo’s will. Niccolò continued his father’s record book and installed his own family in Filippo’s palazzo on Via Alessi (figs 18 and 19).43 He married Paola Sancini Benedetti in 1494, by whom he had eleven children, eight sons and three daughters.44 His third son, baptised Giovanni Battista (b. 1496–active 1532/3), was his only surviving male heir at the time Raphael painted the altarpiece, when he would have been about nine years old.45 The saints in the altarpiece thus represent the succession of the Ansidei generations from father to son by the inclusion of their name saints Nicholas and John the Baptist, the latter taking pride of place at the Virgin’s right hand. There is some circumstantial evidence that other members of Filippo’s wider family contributed towards the cost of the chapel, but Niccolò must have determined the major aspects of the altarpiece’s imagery.46
The Saint Nicholas chapel’s constricted setting (between the transept and the entrance arch to the middle chapel on the south side of the nave; figs 20 and 15) and its lack of adornment were commented on in the seventeenth century. Ottavio Lancellotti (d. 1670), in his Scorta Sagra, praised the chapel ‘at least for the panel if not for the ornament’.47 In the early eighteenth century Cardinal Marco Antonio Ansidei, Bishop of Perugia from 1726 until his death in 1730, asked the friars of S. Fiorenzo to compile what information they could find in their archive on his family’s chapel in order to support the Cardinal’s desire to move ‘so noble a picture to a better chapel and to construct there an appropriate frame and ornament’, implying that he was not satisfied with either its location or its display.48 The mid‐seventeenth‐century record consulted by the friars was uncertain whether it should be termed ‘un altare o cappella’, further emphasising the chapel’s modest appearance.49
When Raphael was first commissioned to paint the altarpiece in about 1503, he already had the idea to set the figures within a graceful architectural setting, as can be seen from the Frankfurt drawing (fig. 8; for which see under ‘Drawings’ above). This closely imitated Perugino’s Decemviri Altarpiece (fig. 13), both in the vaulted loggia and in the shape of the tall throne with a large and then a smaller step leading up to it. When he transferred his design to the panel the architectural background was omitted, possibly to conform to more conservative Umbrian taste (see, for example, Ibi’s 1515 altarpiece, fig. 14). He also changed the arrangement of the steps so that the smallest was at the bottom, which though impractical in real life, mirrored the shape of the canopy at the top, creating a pleasing symmetry in the painting. The late addition of the fictive barrel vault and arch painted on top of the sky and landscape and around the reserves for the two saints (see under ‘Revisions’ above) would have rendered the free‐standing Saint Nicholas chapel more imposing in relation to the two other altars on the right side of the nave, which were both housed within separate groin‐vaulted chapels. The illusion of a chapel‐like space where none existed would have been enhanced by the steeply raked lighting of the altarpiece from the upper right, reflecting the principal light source for the nave, the window high on the west façade, originally a rose window but converted by the architect Pietro Carattoli (see next section) into a rectangular opening topped by a segmental arch.50
Raphael’s Madonna remained undisturbed on the Saint Nicholas altar for more than two and a half centuries, until the chapel was demolished along with much of the church interior during a drastic refurbishment of S. Fiorenzo in the Baroque style of 1768–70, on the designs of the Perugian architect Pietro Carattoli (1703–1766). In 1768, perhaps to pay for the renovations, the altarpiece, along with the predella panel of Saint John the Baptist preaching (NG 6480), was sold, almost certainly by the Servite friars, to the Scottish antiquary and dealer Colin Morison (1732–1810), who later sold these on to Lord Robert Spencer (for whom see ‘Previous owners’ below, and under NG 6480).51 The Saint Nicholas altar was moved westwards to its present location (the second altar on the right‐hand side of the nave) and a copy of the altarpiece (minus the predella) was commissioned to replace the original from Nicola Monti, a pupil of Pompeo Batoni (1708–1787) (see under ‘Copies’ below). This remains in situ, with an immured plaque to its left dated 1777 commemorating the altar’s original dedication by Filippo Ansidei (fig. 21).52
Lord Robert Spencer
Lord Robert Spencer (1747–1831) was the third son and youngest child of Charles, 3rd Duke of Marlborough (1706–1758), and his wife Elizabeth (about 1713–1761), daughter of Thomas, Lord Trevor (about 1692–1753) (for further information about Lord Robert see NG 6480, under ‘Previous owners’).53 Having graduated from Christ Church, Oxford, he visited Italy in 1767–8 on his Grand Tour, under the tutelage of his ‘bear‐leader’, the Reverend John Moore (1730–1805; later Archbishop of Canterbury). Taking a longer route back from Rome to Florence in mid‐June 1767 in order to see the waterfalls (the Cascata delle Marmore) at Terni, he may have passed through Perugia, perhaps viewing the Ansidei Madonna along with other sights of the city.54 A year after Lord Robert had been in Umbria, Colin Morison managed to acquire the altarpiece, most likely in secretive circumstances, seizing his opportunity while the church was being refurbished and the altarpiece was in storage and thus out of public sight.55 There is evidence to suggest that the Ansidei heirs were not consulted about this transaction.56 It is not known whether Morison bought the altarpiece speculatively or whether he was commissioned to buy it by the young aristocrat. He was very active as a trader at this time, exporting works of art from Rome on 15 occasions between 1765 and 1774 and five more times before 1802. He was also considered one of the most erudite guides (ciceroni) of his day and owned a choice private collection of paintings and drawings.57
Rather than risking shipping his prize from Livorno, it appears that Morison accompanied the altarpiece overland via Holland to Britain in the autumn of 1768.58 A letter written by his compatriot, friend and fellow artist‐dealer Gavin Hamilton (1723–1798), in December of that year confirms that Morison had by then sold the altarpiece to Lord Robert for the extraordinary price of £1,000.59 Hamilton himself had been interested in acquiring a Raphael altarpiece, attempting, unsuccessfully, to buy the Degli Oddi Coronation from S. Francesco al Prato in Perugia in 1766 and later the Baronci Coronation of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino from S. Agostino in Città di Castello in 1788.60 The disparaging tone of his report reveals his pique at having overlooked the lesser‐known Ansidei Madonna (apart from Vasari, the only published reference to the painting before it came to England was in Raffaello Borghini’s Il Riposo of 1584).61 In the end, he was able to console himself with the spectacular purchase of Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks (NG 1093) from the administrators of S. Caterina alla Ruota in Milan in 1785, which he sold on to William Petty, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne (1737–1805), for £800 (still – disappointingly for Hamilton – less than the Ansidei Madonna had fetched) either in late 1785 or early 1786.62 Hamilton’s ambitious endeavours to export high‐profile Renaissance altarpieces may have led Passavant, writing in 1833, to assume it was he rather than Morison who purchased the Ansidei Madonna, mistaking also the date of its acquisition from S. Fiorenzo as 1764, a false tradition that prevailed in the literature until Brendan Cassidy’s important article of 2008, which rightly credited Morison with the transaction in 1768.63
A guide to Oxford written in the early 1770s, shortly after the altarpiece’s sale, records that it was ‘a present of the Right Hon. Lord Robert Spencer to his brother’, George, 4th Duke of Marlborough (1739–1817), while a revised edition (about 1777–8) states probably more accurately that it was ‘brought over by the Right Hon. Lord Robert Spencer to his Brother the Duke of Marlborough, having been purchased by him in 1768, from the Cappella Ansidei at Perugia’.64 William Mavor (1758–1837), a Scottish compiler of educational works who was employed to teach the 4th Duke’s children and thus was well qualified to know the facts, reiterates the same in his house guides to Blenheim.65 Since Lord Robert was still only 20 years old, and does not appear to have bought anything for himself while in Italy, either on this first trip or a subsequent one in 1771, it seems more than likely that both he and the dealers whom he met on his travels had mainly his brother’s interests in mind when he was shown works of art and antiquities in Rome, Umbria and Tuscany.66
George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough
George Spencer (1739–1817) inherited Blenheim Palace, west of the village of Woodstock about 12 km from Oxford, when he succeeded as 4th Duke of Marlborough in 1758 at the age of 19. The largest non‐royal domestic residence in England, and the only one to be granted a licence to be called a palace, Blenheim had been erected largely at the nation’s and the Crown’s expense and presented, with extensive parks and lands, to the 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722) in gratitude for his role in the great victory over the French army at Blenheim (a village on the Danube) in the War of the Spanish Succession in 1704. The 1st Duke purchased and was presented with paintings by Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) and went on to amass what Gustav Waagen later described as ‘the most considerable collection of pictures by Rubens in the possession of any private person, and with which no Royal Gallery can be compared, except those of Munich, Vienna and Paris’.67 The 4th Duke, his great‐grandson, who held the offices of Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household (1762–3), Privy Counsellor (1762) and Lord Privy Seal (1763–5), became disillusioned with politics early in his career and retired to Blenheim to focus on family life and his dual passions of gem collecting and astronomy. His spectacular gem collection, formed by acquiring the Arundel and Bessborough collections, to which he made judicious additions, comprised 800 intaglios and cameos from antiquity to the late eighteenth century.68 In 1764 he commissioned Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716–1783) to redesign Blenheim Park, where he also built a private observatory, and he employed Sir William Chambers (1723–1796) to add new buildings in the classical manner and refurbish the palace itself. Judged to be ‘A nobleman of great worth, generous, humane and hospitable, no abject courtier, yet a lover of peace and an enemy to faction’,69 he was appointed Knight Order of the Garter in 1768, the same year in which the Ansidei Altarpiece was acquired. In 1807 he presented Oxford University with a large telescope and full‐scale painted copies of seven of the ten tapestry cartoons by Raphael depicting the Acts of the Apostles.70
In 1760–1 the 4th Duke had embarked on a Grand Tour in the company of his tutor James Bryant (1715–1784), during which, in Venice, he bought important pieces from the engraver, connoisseur and art dealer Count Antonio Maria Zanetti (1689–1767) to add to his already impressive collection of gems;71 but his stay in Italy was interrupted when he was summoned home to bear the sceptre and cross at the coronation of King George III (1738–1820). He was therefore unable to proceed to Rome where he had been eagerly awaited by artists and dealers.72 This could explain why, when his younger brother set off to Rome a few years later, the duke could have asked him to look out on his behalf for capital works suited to the grand interiors of Blenheim.73
Following its acquisition, the Ansidei Madonna was installed at Blenheim, first in the Winter Drawing Room, later in the Bow Window Room, and in the nineteenth century in the Small Drawing Room (now known as the Green Drawing Room); in each location it was the centrepiece over the chimney.74 At this date, an early Italian altarpiece was quite exceptional in a British gallery display, and – as was the case with other great houses in the eighteenth century – the public had access to it.75 Mavor’s early house guidebook informs us that Blenheim’s gardens and the magnificent collection of paintings formed by the 1st Duke were open to visitors every afternoon except Sundays and holidays, and even gives information about access by stagecoach.76 Thanks to this open‐door policy, Crowe and Cavalcaselle later observed that the altarpiece became ‘the object of a constant pilgrimage to the Palace of Blenheim’.77
This enlightened period continued while the 4th Duke resided peacefully with his family at Blenheim, his home for nearly 60 years. Following his death, the estate passed in quick succession through several far less reliable custodians of the collection. His eldest son, the 5th Duke (1766–1840), disliked by his mother, was a Regency dandy, ready to dispose of much of his inheritance of art treasures, literature and furniture (including the Arundel ebony cabinet).78 The 6th Duke (1793–1857) unfortunately ordered many of the house papers to be destroyed at his death, leaving very little documentary history for the house.79
The first hint that Raphael’s rare altarpiece might come up for sale occurred during the tenure of the 7th Duke, John Spencer‐Churchill (1822–1883).80 In a letter of August 1878 sent to Frederic Burton (1816–1900), then Director of the National Gallery, the noted art historian George Scharf (1820–1895), who was to become the first Director of the National Portrait Gallery in 1882, counselled Burton: ‘Do not lose sight or thought of the Duke of Marlborough’s Raphael … I valued it to his Grace at £20,000. He has enormous expenses and an extravagant wife who will sacrifice anything to maintain her native dignity. This Confidential. I am afraid of Berlin, public or private.’81 A second letter from Scharf a couple of days later announced that the duke had now raised the price of the Raphael to £50,000, adding: ‘it is wonderfully pure and less touched than any Raphael I ever saw’.82
Scharf was well placed to assess the painting’s quality, since he had written a scholarly catalogue of the entire collection at Blenheim in 1862 in which he acknowledged the altarpiece’s importance for study by artists and practical students.83 He had directed readers to Waagen’s detailed account of the picture in his Treasures of Art in Great Britain of 1854, in which Waagen had observed that: ‘The excellent state of preservation […] allows of more instructive observation than any other picture of that period of Raphael’s career’.84 The issues of quality and condition were important because the only comparable altarpiece by Raphael that the Gallery had hitherto had a chance to display was the compromised Colonna Altarpiece (for which see NG 2919). Another Perugian commission of almost exactly the same date as the Ansidei, the Colonna Altarpiece was then owned by the Bourbon King Francis II of the Two Sicilies (1836–1894), and had been in England since 1871. Burton’s predecessor William Boxall (1800–1879) had been briefly tempted to acquire it in 1868, but his enthusiasm had waned by the time it was reoffered for £40,000 in 1871. It was briefly displayed at Trafalgar Square in 1871–2, before being consigned to a storeroom, and was later shown for a decade from 1886 at the South Kensington Museum. Its display at both sites had however been controversial, and when it came up for sale again in 1896 the Gallery, already by then in possession of the much better preserved Ansidei Altarpiece, declined to buy it on the grounds of its condition.
The duke was not seriously considering the sale of the Ansidei Madonna when Scharf first alerted the Gallery to this possibility, but he started to put plans in motion to liquidate other important elements of the collection at Blenheim. Under the will of his great‐grandfather, the 4th Duke of Marlborough, the books in the magnificent Library formed by the 1st Duke had been entailed as heirlooms, to prevent his high‐living son George Spencer‐Churchill (1844–1892) from selling them. The Library remained at Blenheim until the 7th Duke was permitted to break the entail by the passing of the Settled Estates Act of 1880. Immediately afterwards, the entire library was dispersed in a series of major sales conducted by Puttick & Simpson between 1881 and 1883. Over 20,000 volumes sold in 13,858 lots fetched £56,581. The Library sale also included, under the Sunderland Drawings, Samson and Delilah (NG 1145) by Andrea Mantegna (about 1431–1506), which was bought by the National Gallery for £2,362 in 1883.85
The rapid process of dispersal was continued by the 8th Duke, George Spencer‐Churchill (1844–1892), styled the Marquess of Blandford until he inherited his father’s title in 1883. Often referred to as the black sheep of the family, he was expelled from Eton as a youth, and soon acquired a well‐deserved reputation for being rude, irresponsible and thoroughly wayward.86 An officer in the Horse Guards and nominally a Conservative Member of Parliament, his political views were wildly inconsistent. His unhappy marriage to Lady Albertha Hamilton (1847–1932) in 1869, resulting in four children, was disrupted by his taking as his mistress, in 1876, the already married Edith, Lady Aylesford (d. 1897), known as Goosie, from which liaison a son was born in 1881. When the boy was declared illegitimate, the marquess abandoned his mistress and child in Paris, and ultimately left them nothing in his will. His wife divorced him on the grounds of marital infidelity and cruelty soon after his father died in 1883, and after he was implicated in another sensational divorce case involving a former mistress in 1886, he was ostracised from society.
Shortly after succeeding to the Marlborough title and estates in 1883, the duke decided, against the wishes of his family, to sell off further treasures from Blenheim to meet the most pressing demands of his creditors. Reporting this rumour in February 1884, The Times lamented the impending dispersal of ‘one of the most extensive and important private collections in the country’: A rumour […] declares that the Duke of Marlborough is about to sell the magnificent pictures which have been the glory of Blenheim Palace almost from the time it was built. […] Now, it appears, we are to see the Raphael and the Rubenses taken down from the walls on which they have hung, the one for a century, the other for nearly two; and Blenheim will remain a monument of the cruel kindness of a nation which voted a reward to a hero that was to prove a greater burden than his descendants could bear. […] When in the inevitable march of events the time comes for such a collection to leave the home which has sheltered it for so long, the nation has every reason to ask whether some part at least of the treasures cannot and must not come into the national keeping.87
The paper singled out for praise several of the paintings by Rubens, along with the Equestrian Portrait of King Charles I by Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641), and Marlborough family portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792) and Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788), but had no hesitation in declaring the pre‐eminence of the Raphael above any other painting in the collection: ‘Foremost among them is the “Madonna dei Ansidei” which, though it belongs to the master’s early period, must from its size and importance, be considered probably the most precious Raphael that exists in any private collection.’ Terming the picture ‘priceless’, the paper acknowledged the difficulty of valuing a work of this rarity in an increasingly competitive market: ‘What may be considered to be the market value of the “Madonna dei Ansidei” at this moment, when millionaires and public galleries compete against one another with a degree of determination never before known, it is impossible to say.’ The article concluded by stating that it was hoped that these pre‐eminent pictures would be offered to the National Gallery in a private treaty arrangement without going to auction or passing through the hands of profiteering dealers, and that the Treasury would be generous.
The vast and unprecedented sale of the pictures, library and furniture from Hamilton Palace (including the pictures and library of William Beckford [1760–1844] inherited by the Duke of Hamilton’s wife, Beckford’s daughter) that had taken place at Christie’s in the summer of 1882 was still fresh in the public memory – and had depleted the public purse. The National Gallery had succeeded in acquiring 11 paintings at a cost of £21,714, which had stretched its and the government’s resources excessively. The sale had raised almost £397,562 and, when added to the sale of the libraries, realised £786,847, underscoring a voracious appetite in the market for acquiring choice works of art from Britain’s increasingly vulnerable noble collections. It was unfortunate for the Gallery that the Marlborough sale of many more works of the highest quality followed so soon afterwards.
The National Gallery Trustees debated the impending sale at the Board Meeting of 3 March 1884, when the then Director, Frederic Burton (1816–1900; director 1874–94), reported the duke’s intention to give the Museum first choice of all the pictures on sale.88 Ten days later, he and several Trustees went to inspect the pictures at Blenheim and agreed on their selection of the 11 most desirable for acquisition.89 The group included in order of preference the Raphael, the Van Dyck, six paintings by Rubens, a portrait by Sebastiano del Piombo (about 1485–1547), a landscape by Jan Weenix (1642–1719) and a portrait by Daniel Mytens (about 1590–1647).
Even before the details were clear of what was for sale and at what price, supporters of the National Gallery’s acquisition started to lobby government. In April 1884 Sir Frederic Leighton (1830–1896) organised an appeal from Royal Academy members to Prime Minister William Gladstone (1809–1898), focusing on a few works of particular merit, especially the Raphael and the Van Dyck. The signatories hoped that ‘we be spared the humiliation of seeing them pass into those foreign hands, which are, as we too well know, eager to receive them’. Meanwhile, Burton had opened negotiations with the duke’s appointed agents, Charles and Frederick Davis, a respected firm of family art dealers. Negotiations went back and forth between both parties and the Treasury from April to August.
The Ansidei Altarpiece was of immense interest to the Gallery because at this point it owned only three small works by Raphael, all of which had been acquired at very high prices. In 1839 William Beckford’s Saint Catherine of Alexandria (NG 168) was bought with two other pictures by Garofalo (about 1481–1559) and Ludovico Mazzolino (active 1504; d. 1528?) for 7,000 guineas, thanks in part to having the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Thomas Spring‐Rice (1790–1866), on the Board of Trustees.90 In 1847 the Revd Thomas Egerton’s (1809–1847) Dream of a Knight (NG 213) was acquired for 1,000 guineas, followed by Lord Garvagh’s (1778–1840) small Madonna (NG 744) for £9,000 in 1865. Despite these works being of the highest quality, the National Gallery’s collection was still perceived as deficient when compared with Paris, Madrid, Dresden, Florence and St Petersburg owing to the absence of a substantial altarpiece or large‐scale Madonna.91
At first the Duke of Marlborough requested £500,000 for 12 principal pictures (adding in an extra one to keep the price he was seeking high), or £165,000 for five pictures (with some debate about which three would join the Raphael and the Van Dyck). It seems at this stage he was hoping to sell this group en bloc for a fabulous sum and retain the rest of the collection for the decoration of Blenheim. Soon afterwards, a memo from Burton and his Trustees to Gladstone reported that he had reduced his asking price for these 12 from half a million to 400,000 guineas, still an extraordinary price, approximately equivalent to £22 million today.92
Expert opinion was unanimous that the Gallery should acquire at least some of the Blenheim pictures and the Treasury was willing to consider funding, but not at the excessive price demanded by the duke. The duke on the other hand argued that the interests of his estate forced him to seek the highest price possible. Nevertheless, on 9 June he reduced the asking price to 350,000 guineas for 11 pictures. Burton, still trying to persuade the Government of the desirability of acquiring the whole group, put forward individual estimates for the 11 pictures, coming up with the sums of 110,000 guineas for the Raphael and 30,000 guineas for the Van Dyck. These prices were still too high for Gladstone who wrote on 26 June that the Treasury would pay £70,000 for the Raphael – still a massive sum, equivalent to about £4 million today.93 Because the price was so huge, and in some circles controversial, supporters of the purchase continued to lobby the Government to make sure it did not renege on its offer. On 2 July a group of supporters including the painters Leighton, Edward Burne‐Jones (1833–1898) and John Everett Millais (1829–1896), as well as a number of MPs and the radical writer and Trade Unions’ spokesman Frederic Harrison (1831–1923), visited the Chancellor of the Exchequer.94 On 4 July, a large group of MPs sent a note to the Treasury: We consider an exceptional occasion requires exceptional action, and the picture at Blenheim is the only Raphael of great importance not already belonging to one or other of the public Collections of Europe. It is in perfect condition; it represents an important epoch in the work of the great Master, that in which he was moving from his earlier to his later manner; and the colouring of the picture is perhaps the finest that ever came from Raphael’s hand. They concluded that the pictures would be a ‘source of widespread and refined enjoyment to the poor as well as the rich’.95
Between June and August it became clear that the Treasury would only consider the purchase of the two most important works and the rest of the group rapidly fell from the negotiations (eventually all nine of the other preselected pictures would be sold abroad). Anxious to secure at least these two key works, Burton wrote to Frederick Davis putting forward Gladstone’s offer of £70,000 for the Raphael. For several weeks the duke held out against the offer, continuing to claim ‘that there are other purchasers for these pictures who estimate their value at a higher figure than Mr Gladstone’. But Gladstone stood firm and the Gallery, realising that the duke in fact did not have other buyers due to the terms of the Marlborough Settlement, strategically kept silent. Their patience was rewarded when, on 9 August, the Gallery received a letter from Davis stating that the duke had accepted the Government’s offer of £70,000 for the Raphael, and after some resistance, capitulated the same day to accept £17,500 for the Van Dyck. Davis’s invoice for £87,500 was sent over at once. The purchase, officially ratified by Parliament on 25 March 1885, was a triumph for Burton and the Trustees, who had succeeded in securing two such important works against seemingly impossible odds.96
The acquisition was greeted with approval in all quarters. William Graham (1817–1885), who as a Trustee had been involved in the negotiations to buy the altarpiece, wrote to his close friend Burne‐Jones, asking: ‘Have you seen the Ansidei Raphael – it is very beautiful and we did right to have it altho we paid very high into the pockets of a bad lot which one grudges’.97 Lady Elizabeth Eastlake (1809–1893), the widow of Sir Charles Eastlake (1793–1865), writing to The Times on 14 October 1884, commented: ‘The place of the Madonna dei Ansidei would increase the sense of pious tranquillity even in the dwelling of the strictest Quaker.’98 John Ruskin (1819–1900), who had studied and almost certainly drawn the Raphael at Blenheim as an Oxford undergraduate (recalling it as ‘most pure and instructive’), remarked, after one of his last visits to the National Gallery: ‘The new Raphael is certainly lovely – quite the loveliest Raphael in the world. The “San Sisto” [i.e. the Sistine Madonna in Dresden] is dark and brown beside it’.99 A description from a lecture delivered by Walter Pater (1839–1894) in Oxford in 1892, and published posthumously in the selection of essays entitled Miscellaneous Studies, is among the most poetic assessments of the painting in its history: I find there, at first sight, with something of the pleasure one has in a proposition of Euclid, a sense of the power of the understanding, in the economy with which he has reduced his material to the simplest terms, has disentangled and detached its various elements … In this cool, pearl‐grey, quiet place, where colour tells for double – the jewelled cope, the painted book in the hand of Mary, the chaplet of red coral – one is reminded that among all classical writers Raphael’s preference was for the faultless Virgil. How orderly, how divinely clean and sweet the flesh, the vesture, the floor, the earth and sky. There is an unmistakable pledge of strength, of movement and animation in the cast of the Baptist’s countenance, but reserved, repressed. Strange, Raphael has given him a staff of transparent crystal.100
The extensive publicity surrounding the Blenheim pictures attracted a new public to the National Gallery, fulfilling the aspiration behind the acquisition of inspiring and instructing: Since the purchase of the Ansidei Raphael, it has become the fashion to visit the National Gallery: and Londoners are at length beginning to waken up to the fact that they possess a collection of pictures which, for merit, completeness and arrangement, compares favourably with any Continental Gallery; and most truly it may be said that the rooms in Trafalgar‐square never look better than when they are filled with the crowd of busy workers, male and female, who are to be found before their easels on two days of every week.101
- 1. Perugia, S. Fiorenzo. Nicola Antonio Monti (1736–1795), a pupil of Pompeo Batoni, was commissioned to paint a copy (oil on canvas, 218 × 146 cm) to replace the original when it was removed from S. Fiorenzo in about 1768.102 This remains in situ framed in a simple gold moulding, and set within the new florid white marble altar framework devised by Carattoli (fig. 22).
- 2. Todi, Todi Pinacoteca Comunale, oil on canvas, 170 × 111 cm (anonymous follower of Silvestro Valeri, second half of the nineteenth century, presumably after Monti).103
- 3. Private collection, oil on canvas, 133 × 96 cm (anonymous painter of the last quarter of the nineteenth century, partial copy (presumably after Monti) of just the Madonna and Child).104
The altarpiece was engraved twice in the same sense while still at Blenheim, by the Dresden‐born line engraver and lithographer Ludwig Gruner (1801–1882), who lived in England from 1841 to 1856 and became art adviser to Queen Victoria (1819–1901) and Prince Albert (1819–1861) from 1845.105
The first engraving must have been made following Gruner’s visit to Blenheim in 1833, and was finished in Milan by 1837, as part of a series of 14 simple line engravings executed to illustrate Passavant’s monograph on Raphael, the first two volumes of the German edition of which were published in 1839.106 In 1856 Gruner made a much more detailed engraving,107 which Elizabeth Eastlake described as having occupied him for six years: ‘So faithful […] is Professor Gruner’s interpretation of it that those who possess this engraving may be said, in the sense of the great master’s highest qualities, to possess the picture itself.’108
Ansidei Chapel, S. Fiorenzo, Perugia. Bought from the church in 1768 by Colin Morison; from whom bought in London in the same year by Lord Robert Spencer on behalf of his brother George, 4th Duke of Marlborough, to hang at Blenheim Palace. By descent to George Spencer‐Churchill, 8th Duke of Marlborough, from whom bought by the National Gallery with a special Parliamentary Grant in 1885.
The painting is recorded at Blenheim in an old photograph of about 1860 framed as a gallery picture in a relatively simple hollow gilt wood moulding with ornament (probably foliate) at the sight edge and more ornament (perhaps bead and reel) inside the outer moulding.109 It is impossible to tell whether the ornament was carved or cast in composition. The spandrels are decorated with relief ornament consisting of a palmette framed with branches from which stems (cauliculi) extend and coil perhaps around a rosette. The most unusual feature of the frame – and one which strongly suggests that it was modified in design when placed on the chimney – is the extended lower edge. This must have been devised to let the ledge take some of the weight of the heavy panel and because the original frame, being hollow between the outer and back moulding, would have been ill‐suited for this purpose. Three flat buns support the frame on its ledge thus also protecting it from careless dusting. The frame looks likely to have been made for the painting on its arrival in England but the spandrel ornament would suggest a date of about 1810, which may also be the date when the frame was modified for its position above the chimney.
A series of watercolours by Henry Tidmarsh (1854–1939) made in the 1880s shows various views of the National Gallery.110 One of them records the Ansidei Madonna displayed in this frame on a temporary screen in the middle of the Central Hall. The inadequacy of this solution for the Gallery’s display was recalled by the architect and Egyptologist George Somers Clarke (1841–1926) writing to the then Director Sir Charles Holroyd (1861–1917): I well remember the Ansidei Madonna at Blenheim. It stood over a fine mantelpiece. The effect was superb. The surroundings lead [sic] up to it and it stood paramount. Immediately it was hung in the National Gallery I came to see it and could hardly believe I saw the same picture, it looked so small and meanly displayed.111
The altarpiece’s present frame, in a sixteenth‐century Italian tabernacle style, was made soon after its acquisition, around 1890, by Reginald Dolman & Son of New Compton Street (the firm’s stamp is branded on the back of the entablature). The design is based on the stone door frame carved by Pietro Lombardo (about 1435–1515) and his workshop for the Venetian church of S. Giobbe.112 Lombardo’s carving was very closely imitated, including the motif of birds in the scrolling vine of the pilaster ornament and an ox skull with a snake passing through the eye sockets in the capitals.113 The frame’s plinth would originally have been inscribed in gold with the artist’s name, the title, the number and the ‘school’ to which the painting was assigned, but this has been eradicated with dull grey paint.114 Originally this frame was suspended on the wall without any means of support beneath it. Probably on the prompting of Somers Clarke, who remained critical of the altarpiece’s dwarfed appearance even after it had been reframed and offered to pay for an even grander installation in 1908, a plinth was provided, but not the pediment he also suggested.115
When the Ansidei predella depicting Saint John the Baptist preaching (NG 6480) was first loaned to the Gallery from the Mersey collection in 1976, it was displayed let into the frame of the altarpiece at its base.116 This arrangement lasted until the predella was acquired in 1983, when it was furnished with a bespoke gilt frame made by the Framing Department (see further NG 6848, ‘Framing’).
London 2004–5 (45).
The author is grateful to the following for their assistance in the preparation of this entry: Donal Cooper, Tom Henry, Nicholas Penny, Alberto Maria Sartore, Martin Sonnabend and Cathryn Spence. The sections on the history of the Ansidei family and their chapel are particularly indebted to the author’s collaboration with Donal Cooper which resulted in their Burlington Magazine article (Cooper and Plazzotta 2004) and a second article in the exhibition catalogue, Gli esordi di Raffaello tra Urvbino, Città di Castello e Perugia (Cooper and Plazzotta in Henry and Mancini 2006).
1. The technical sections that follow are based on observations made when the picture was taken off display for examination in February 2001 and on analyses of samples taken at that time. The painting was studied by the author with Jill Dunkerton and Tom Henry; Rachel Billinge carried out infrared reflectography; samples for investigation of pigments and layer structure were taken and studied by Rachel Grout and Ashok Roy (with subsequent further analyses by Marika Spring); samples for analysis of the paint binder were analysed by Raymond White and Catherine Higgitt; analysis of the dyestuffs in red lake pigments was caried out by Jo Kirby. See material in: London, National Gallery Conservation Department, conservation dossier for NG 1171; London, National Gallery Scientific Department, scientific files for NG 1171, as well as the accounts published in National Gallery 2007–10: ‘The Ansidei Madonna, Raphael (1483–1520), NG1171’ and in Roy, Spring and Plazzotta 2004, pp. 4–35 (esp. pp. 20–4). (Back to text.)
2. For interpretation of the X‐radiograph, see National Gallery 2007–10: ‘The Ansidei Madonna, Raphael (1483–1520), NG1171’: X‐Ray Examination, J. Dunkerton, ‘X‐Ray Examination of the Ansidei Madonna (NG 1171)’ where the full resolution X‐ray images are also available. (Back to text.)
4. During conservation in the 1950s, only two paint samples were taken from the picture, so a more comprehensive campaign of sampling was carried out in 2001 in advance of the National Gallery’s monographic exhibition of 2004. Images of the paint samples prepared as cross sections from that campaign have been published in National Gallery 2007–10: ‘The Ansidei Madonna, Raphael (1483–1520), NG1171’, Microscopy, Cross Sections. This and the following sections are compiled from the resources mentioned in note 1 and from texts by Rachel Billinge, Rachel Morrison, David Peggie and Ashok Roy in National Gallery 2007–10: ‘The Ansidei Madonna, Raphael (1483–1520), NG1171’. For colourless powdered glass, see also Spring 2012. (Back to text.)
5. Passavant 1833, pp. 173–4, commented: ‘The picture is in excellent preservation, and only in one foot of Saint John was an attempt to made to clean it; fortunately, this proceeded no further’ (translation from the 1836 German edition, Passavant 1836, II, pp. 3–4). (Back to text.)
6.London, National Gallery Conservation Department, conservation dossier for NG 1171, vol. 2, p. 26: treatment report, 1956. (Back to text.)
8. Gustav Waagen (Waagen 1838, II, pp. 230–1), who like Johann David Passavant, referred to the picture’s ‘uncommon state of preservation’, qualified this only with his accurate observation that some colours (the blue in the Virgin’s robe and the greens in the canopy, the upper garment of Saint Nicholas and the landscape) had turned ‘very dark’. (Back to text.)
9. The suggested identification of the bridge is due to Donal Cooper. (Back to text.)
10. Vasari 1966–87, IV (1976), pp. 161–2: ‘Dopo queste opere et avere accomodate le cose sue, ritornò Raffaello a Perugia, dove fece nella chiesa de’ Frati de’ Servi in una tavola, alla cappella degl’Ansidei una Nostra Donna, San Giovanni Battista e San Nicola’ (‘After these works, and having settled his affairs, Raphael returned to Perugia, where he painted a a Madonna with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Nicholas for the Ansidei chapel in the church of the Servite friars’). (Back to text.)
14. For the Frankfurt drawing, see Plazzotta in Chapman, Henry and Plazzotta 2004, pp. 130–1, cat. 31; Jacoby in Jacoby and Sonnabend 2012, pp. 88–90, cat. 3; Jacoby 2014, pp. 79–81, cat. 21 (who dates it 1502–4). The stepped structure of the Virgin’s throne differs between the Frankfurt drawing and the finished altarpiece. (Back to text.)
16. Raphael’s ambiguous treatment of Saint Nicholas of Bari’s episcopal regalia in the underdrawing on the altarpiece may be pertinent to this argument. (Back to text.)
18. The drawing in the area above Nicholas of Tolentino’s crucifix is harder to read, but one may in addition discern what appears to be a rapid indication for the curved end of a bishop’s crozier. An alternative reading is that this could be Nicholas of Tolentino’s attribute of a lily. (Back to text.)
23. Shearman 2003, I, p. 93: ‘el maestro el migliore li fusse consigliato da più citadini et ancho da li nostri venerandi patri, li quali havevano vedute le opere suoi’. For the conclusion that Raphael was based in Perugia for much of the period 1502–5, see Henry and Plazzotta in Chapman, Henry and Plazzotta 2004, p. 33. (Back to text.)
24. For the Colonna Altarpiece and its lunette, see Zeri and Gardner 1980, pp. 72–5; the predella was reunited for the first time since its dispersal in the National Gallery exhibition (October 2004–January 2005), see Plazzotta in Chapman, Henry and Plazzotta 2004, pp. 150–7, cats 40–4; and subsequently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (June–September 2006), see Wolk‐Simon 2006. Gustav Waagen recorded the date 1505 on the Colonna Altarpiece in 1859, but the inscription no longer survives, see Shearman 2003, I, pp. 97–8. This date is generally accepted on stylistic grounds, although Konrad Oberhuber (Oberhuber 1977) made a case for dating it earlier, to 1501–2. (Back to text.)
25. The architecture in Raphael’s final painting is closer still to another altarpiece by Perugino, The Family of the Virgin for S. Maria degli Angeli in Perugia, now in the Musée des Beaux Arts in Marseilles (see Scarpellini 1984, pp. 105–6, no. 125). The dating of this painting varies between 1502 and 1512, and may represent an instance of Perugino and his workshop being influenced by his gifted pupil. The system of vaulting is certainly more likely to have been devised for the arched composition of the Ansidei Madonna than Perugino’s square Decemviri Altarpiece. For the relationship between the two altarpieces, see Dalli Regoli 1983, pp. 14–15. (Back to text.)
28. Moretti 1991. An excellent web entry on S. Fiorenzo (Evans n.d.) is a digest of this study of the church by Don Mario Moretti, the last parish priest of S. Fiorenzo. Moretti’s book was republished in a new edition edited by Anna Maria Trepaoli in 2011. (Back to text.)
30. Beverley Lyle discovered the contract for this altarpiece, which was commissioned by the Ansidei brothers for the high altar of S. Fiorenzo in 1513 and was to be completed by Ibi the following year (Lyle 2008, p. 36, and Appendix 2, pp. 353–5). For the inscription, ‘Antonius, et Haeredes Bernardini de Catrano Deo Optimo Maximo dedicaverunt 1515’, which commemorated the foundation and was recorded in the new side chapel on the north side of the nave to which the altar was moved by the seventeenth century, see Cooper and Plazzotta 2004, p. 731, Appendices 3 and 4). For a revised reconstruction of the ground plan that we published in 2004 (p. 726, fig. 11), see fig. 15. (Back to text.)
31. Lancellotti 1670, fol. 325r; Cooper and Plazzotta in Henry and Mancini 2006, p. 85. Donal Cooper has speculated that the altarpiece may have been replaced on the high altar by a Eucharistic tabernacle in line with a broader pattern in Perugian churches in the late sixteenth century (see Cooper and Sartore in Pierini and Solberg 2020, pp. 71–87, p. 84). (Back to text.)
32. Ansidei 1884, p. 30 (followed by Manzoni 1899, p. 631), lists eight sons and one daughter, Ippolita; a second daughter, Urbana, omitted from Ansidei genealogies, is mentioned in Filippo’s will, ASP, Archivio Notarile: Franciscus ser Iacopi 1472–94, fol. 366r, will of Filippo Ansidei (see Cooper and Plazzotta 2004, p. 730, note 63). (Back to text.)
33. Padre Marco Miserocchi recorded that in 1444, for 75 florins, the friars of S. Fiorenzo had sold the right to use an olive press below the convent’s chapter house on Via S. Simone to ‘un tal Filippo Ansidei’ who ‘aveva grande quantità d’Olivi’: Rome, Marianum, Archivio Generale dei Serviti, MS Q3.III.6, fol. 44r: Origine della chiesa e convento di S. Fiorenzo nella città di Perugia, dell’Ordine dei Servi di M. Vergine; see Cooper and Plazzotta 2004, p. 726, note 34. (Back to text.)
42. Bernardino di Filippo was still alive in 1515, whereas the inscription reveals that the patron called Bernardino had died and his heirs had assumed responsibility for the altar; his grandson, who Manzoni identified as the Antonio in the inscription, had yet to be born (Ansidei 1884, pp. 31 and 37, cited in Cooper and Plazzotta 2004, p. 727, note 39). (Back to text.)
43. ASP, Famiglie privati: Ansidei, carte miscellanea, no. 65: Contabilità privata a creditore e debitori di Filippo Tommaso Ansidei, fols 17r and 110v; see Cooper and Plazzotta 2004, p. 730, note 66. (Back to text.)
46. In September 1505 Aurelio di Simone Ansidei, Filippo’s nephew, willed 100 florins to the church of S. Fiorenzo. The money had been left to him by his uncle Gaspare, another of Filippo’s brothers, see ASP, Archivio Notarile, no. 529: ser Vittorio di ser Matthei, fol. 78v; see Cooper and Plazzotta 2004, p. 730, note 67. (Back to text.)
49. Ibid., p. 728, and Appendix 5. The Ansidei heirs who had inherited the rights of the Saint Nicholas chapel at the time this document was drawn up (between 1625 and 1671) included Isabella Ansidei (née Brancaleoni), the widow of Niccolò’s great‐nephew Bernardino Ansidei, who had brought Federico Barocci’s (about 1533–1612) Madonna del Gatto (NG 29) and a pendant painting depicting the Rest on the Return from Egypt (now lost) inherited from her mother from Piobbico to Perugia; see Plazzotta in Mann 2018, pp. 19–32, p. 25. (Back to text.)
50. The location of this light source confirms observations on the lighting in the painting made by Allan Braham and Martin Wyld (Braham and Wyld 1984, p. 15). For a reconstruction of the façade before Carattoli’s interventions, see Moretti 1991, second illustration after p. 52 (unpaginated). Traces of the earlier oculus are still visible in the masonry of the façade. (Back to text.)
52. The commemorative plaque was installed by Filippo’s descendant Tiberio Ansidei and reads: ‘D.O.M. in eius altaris locum quod Nicolai Episcopi Murensis Sancto numini a Philippo Ansidaeo de Katarano saeculo XV labente fuerat sic exornatum parentis aemulus pietate in familiae patronum Tiberius Ansidaeus templi restaurationis ad occasionem hocce reposuit A.D.MDCCLXXVII’ (‘To the greatest and best God: in place of the altar dedicated to Nicholas Bishop of Myra [Nicholas of Bari] that Filippo Ansidei de Catrano thus adorned towards the end of the 15th century, in emulation of my ancestor and out of piety for the the family patron saint, Tiberio Ansidei places this on the occasion of the restoration of the temple in 1777’). (Back to text.)
55. A coup, since only two years earlier Gavin Hamilton (for whom see further under ‘Previous owners’) had commented how reluctant the Perugians were to sell from their collections. See Cassidy 2008, p. 673: ‘The truth is that neither money or any thing elce [sic] can tempt the Perugia nobility to part with their pictures’ (London, British Library, Add. MS 75686: Gavin Hamilton, letter to Margaret Georgiana, Countess Spencer, 21 May 1766). (Back to text.)
56. Manzoni 1899, pp. 638–9; Cassidy 2008, p. 674, and note 23, citing the full document in Anon. 1776–7, p. 123, a letter written to the Bolognese antiquary Carlo Bianconi in 1776 by an unidentified Perugian who mentions he does not know the picture ‘… because several years ago it was sold and probably went to England. The blame for this loss, however, is not to be laid at the door of the modern signori conti Ansidei. They had no part in it, on the contrary, like every other citizen, they regretted it, because they know and love paintings, of which they have a superb collection in their palace.’ (Back to text.)
58. Cassidy 2008, p. 674, citing a letter from Gavin Hamilton to Margaret Georgiana, Countess Spencer: ‘Mr. Morison sold a picture of Raphael lately to Lord Robert Spencer for a thousand pounds wh. tho a true picture of the master yet I may savely acertain that it is not worth one figure onely of this picture of Leonardo’ (the so‐called Leonardo was a Coronation of the Virgin belonging to some Franciscans near Milan in which Hamilton was trying to interest his client). (Back to text.)
60. For Hamilton’s attempts to buy the Degli Oddi Altarpiece, see Cassidy 2011, I, letter 20, p. 163, and for the Baronci Altarpiece, see Magherini‐Graziani 1897, pp. 266–8, 371–3. Ironically, the latter purchase would have saved the Baronci Altarpiece from the near total destruction it suffered in a severe earthquake in September 1789. (Back to text.)
61. Borghini 1584, p. 386; Shearman 2003, II, pp. 1322, 1324, 1328–9. Otherwise, it was mentioned sporadically in manuscript descriptions of the churches and monuments of Perugia: see Padre Timoteo Bottonio’s Annali (begun 1577; he died in 1591; Shearman 2003, II, p. 1373); Raffaello Sozi’s manuscript list of the best paintings in Perugia of about 1591 (Shearman 2003, II, pp. 1384–5); Cesare Crispolti’s Descrizione (Shearman 2003, II, pp. 1418–19) of about 1597; and Perugia, Biblioteca Augusta, MS 60–61: Ottavio Lancellotti, Scorta Sagra, by 1670, fol. 476r. (Back to text.)
64. Anon. 1770 (undated but probably 1770 due to adverts of this date on p. 83), p. 95; Anon. 1777–8 (still called 6th edition; undated but probably 1777–8); see Cassidy 2008, p. 672, note 5. (Back to text.)
66. Cassidy 2008, p. 673, cites a letter from Hamilton to John FitzPatrick, 2nd Earl of Upper Ossory (1745–1818), of 1767/8 recalling having given Lord Robert when in Rome a sketch of a ‘capital’ that Luca Giordano (1634–1705) had in his possession, ‘which he intended to propose to the Duke of Marlborough’, evidence that Lord Robert was indeed viewed as having access to the duke’s purse strings. (Back to text.)
70. Van Camp 2019, p. 345, note 1; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, inv. nos WA1845.52 to WA1845.58, since 1992 on long‐term loan and on display in the Cartoon Gallery at Hampton Court Palace, London (see Casley, Harrison and Whiteley 2004, pp. 180–1). Previously attributed to Henry Cooke (1642–1700) as the copyist but now given to Isaac Vogelsang (1688–1753) and Thomas Carwitham (active 1713–1733). (Back to text.)
79. Information provided in conversation with Blenheim archivist John Forster, 6 June 2006. (Back to text.)
80. The subject of the Blenheim sale and the appeal to save the Ansidei Madonna for the nation was treated by Isobel Siddons and Barbara Pezzini in a lunchtime lecture entitled ‘Cultures – Then and Now: Saving Raphael, Leonardo and Titian for the Nation’ at the National Gallery on 2 May 2003; for the Marlborough sale in general, see Pezzini 2017, pp. 148–63. This section owes much to their research. (Back to text.)
85. Sunderland sale, 15 June 1883, lot 82. (Back to text.)
92. NGA, NG1/5: Minutes of the Board of Trustees, 15 March 1871–1 February 1886, pp. 278–87, 29 April 1884. For the whole negotiation, see NGA, NG68/8/22: Papers relating to the Proposed Purchase for the National Gallery of certain of the Blenheim Pictures, 1885. (Back to text.)
93. NGA, NG68/8/22: Papers relating to the Proposed Purchase for the National Gallery of certain of the Blenheim Pictures, 1885: item 11, pp. 11–12, letter from Gladstone to Mr G. Howard MP. (Back to text.)
94. See NGA, NG68/8/22: Papers relating to the Proposed Purchase for the National Gallery of certain of the Blenheim Pictures, 1885: item 12, pp. 12–13, ‘Memorandum of the Proceedings at a Deputation received by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the 2nd July 1884’. (Back to text.)
96. Having failed to realise the colossal sum he was seeking from the National Gallery, the duke sold off the majority of the rest of his pictures and the Marlborough porcelain collection in an extensive sale at Christie’s lasting six days between 26 June and 10 July 1886. See London, National Portrait Gallery Archive, NPG7/1/2/1/1/4: Correspondence and notes relating to the sale of works from the Blenheim collection, 1881–1886. (Back to text.)
109. I am grateful to Carmen Alvarez, Deputy Collections Manager at Blenheim, for sending me this photograph, and to Nicholas Penny for sharing his observations on the Blenheim frame. (Back to text.)
110. Guildhall Library, W2/TRA. (Back to text.)
112. Penny 2011, pp. 75–6. Dolman also made the frames for Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks (NG 1093) and for the altarpiece by Lorenzo Costa (about 1459/60–1535) and collaborators (NG 1119), which have identical or closely related ornament. (Back to text.)
115. NGA, NG7/350/5: letter from Somers Clarke to Sir Charles Holroyd, 20 September 1908; NGA, NG1/7: Minutes of the Board of Trustees, 1 June 1897–14 December 1909, p. 366, 18 November 1908. (Back to text.)
- Perugia, Archivio di Stato
- Dizionario biografico degli Italiani
- London, National Gallery Archive
List of archive references cited
- London, British Library, Add. MS 75686: Gavin Hamilton, letter to Margaret Georgiana, Countess Spencer, 21 May 1766
- NGA, NG1/5: Minutes of the Board of Trustees, 15 March 1871–1 February 1886
- NGA, NG1/7: Minutes of the Board of Trustees, 1 June 1897–14 December 1909
- NGA, NG23/1976: Phyllis Rowlands, ‘Surviving panel from the base of Raphael’s “Ansidei Madonna” joins the work on loan’, press release, 27 August 1976
- NGA, NG68/1/15: letter from Scharf to Burton, 22 August 1878
- NGA, NG68/1/16: letter from Scharf to Burton, 24 August 1878
- NGA, NG68/8/22: Papers relating to the Proposed Purchase for the National Gallery of certain of the Blenheim Pictures, 1885
- NGA, NG7/350/5: letter from Somers Clarke to Sir Charles Holroyd, 20 September 1908
- London, National Gallery Conservation Department, conservation dossier for NG 1171
- London, National Gallery Scientific Department, scientific files for NG 1171
- London, National Portrait Gallery Archive, NPG7/1/2/1/1/4: Correspondence and notes relating to the sale of works from the Blenheim collection, 1881–1886
- ASP, Archivio Notarile: Franciscus ser Iacopi 1472–94, fol. 366r, will of Filippo Ansidei
- ASP, Archivio Notarile, no. 529: ser Vittorio di ser Matthei
- ASP, Famiglie privati: Ansidei, carte miscellanea, no. 65: Contabilità privata a creditore e debitori di Filippo Tommaso Ansidei
- Perugia, Biblioteca Augusta, MS 60–61: Ottavio Lancellotti, Scorta Sagra, by 1670
- Rome, Marianum, Archivio Generale dei Serviti, MS Q3.III.6, fol. 44r: Origine della chiesa e convento di S. Fiorenzo nella città di Perugia, dell’Ordine dei Servi di M. Vergine
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List of exhibitions cited
- London 2004–5
Raphael: From Urbino to Rome, 20 October 2004 – 16 January 2005, National Gallery, London
- New York 2006
Raphael at the Metropolitan: The Colonna Altarpiece, 20 June – 4 September 2006
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