This tender Madonna and Child is a characteristic work of Giovanni Antonio Sogliani, one of Lorenzo di Credi's closest followers. Though he remained close to his master until Lorenzo's death in 1531, Sogliani had an independent workshop from 1515. He worked primarily in Florence, receiving important commissions for the churches and religious communities of that city, but also executed altarpieces at Santa Maria delle Grazie in Anghiari and in the Pisa Cathedral, where he completed Andrea del Sarto's Virgin and Child with Saints (in situ). According to Vasari, Sogliani was later influenced by Fra Bartolommeo and Mariotto Albertinelli, an assessment that is confirmed by paintings such as his Allegory of the Immaculate Conception in the Accademia, Florence (inv. 1890 n. 3203).
The present painting was long attributed to Lorenzo di Credi, under whose name it was exhibited as early as 1886 at the Royal Academy of Art, London. Claude Phillips, the English correspondent for the Gazette des Beaux-Arts at the time and later the first Keeper of the Wallace Collection, noted the painting's high level of finish and pristine state of conservation, observing that it was among Lorenzo di Credi's best works (C. Phillips, loc. cit.). Bernard Berenson also assigned the present lot to Lorenzo, and it was not until 1995 that Everett Fahy rightly recognized it as a fine work by Sogliani, suggesting it was probably made in the early part of the artist's career when he was working most closely with his teacher, circa 1510-1515.
This dating is supported by the close similarities between the present work and a number of Madonna and Child pictures by Lorenzo di Credi, such as those at the Musée Fesch, Ajaccio (inv. M.F.A. 852.I.703), the Musée de la Ville, Strasbourg (inv. 272), and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (inv. WA1850.4). The present picture diverges slightly from this prototype of these paintings, though, particularly in the sensitive motif of the Christ child clutching the Virgin's proper left hand, and in the way that his swaddling clothes fall over her right hand. These delicate passages recur in a work by Sogliani now in the Galleria Capitolina, Rome (inv. 10), as well as in two works given to the workshop of Lorenzo di Credi, now at the Lowe Museum of Art, Coral Gables (inv. 61.19) and the Galleria dell'Accademia Carrara, Bergamo (inv. 936-1891). These versions may record a lost design by Lorenzo di Credi, or might reflect Sogliani's own design, which was copied by artists in his circle.
When exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1886, the present work belonged to the Earl of Wemyss and March, whose chief seat from the 18th century was at Gosford House in East Lothian, Scotland. By this time the collection at Gosford House was growing into what would become one of the finest private collections of paintings in Scotland, including pictures by Botticelli, Rubens, and Murillo, as well as a splendid series of family portraits by Raeburn, Ramsey, Kneller, Reynolds, and Romney. A number of the masterpieces that constitute the core of the European paintings collection at the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, come from the Wemyss collection, including Botticelli's Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child (inv. NG 2709).
We are grateful to Everett Fahy for confirming his earlier attribution to Sogliani and for reiterating his opinion regarding the dating of the present picture based on firsthand examination.
London, Royal Academy of Art, Exhibitions of Works by the Old Masters, 1886, no. 190, as 'Lorenzo di Credi' (on loan from the Earl of Wemyss).
C. Phillips, 'Correspondance d'Angleterre', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, February 1886, p. 161, as 'Lorenzo di Credi'.
A. Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions, 1813-1912, 1913, I, p. 230, as 'Lorenzo di Credi'.
R. van Marle, The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting, 1931, XIII, p. 317, as 'School of Lorenzo di Credi'.
G. Dalli Regoli, Lorenzo di Credi, 1966, p. 203, as an untraced work listed by Van Marle.
PROPERTY OF A SOUTH FLORIDA COLLECTOR
The Earl of Wemyss and March, Gosford House and Aberlady, Edinburgh, Scotland.
with Wildenstein, New York, 1968, as 'Lorenzo di Credi'.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, New York, 13 January 1995, lot 81, where acquired by the present owner.