Getty Buys a Bronzino Rediscovery

Agnolo Bronzino, Virgin and Child with Saint Elizabeth and Saint John the Baptist, 1540-45. J. Paul Getty Museum
The Getty Museum has acquired a long-lost version of Bronzino's Virgin and Child with Saint Elizabeth and Saint John the Baptist (1540-45). It's a variant of a better-known painting in London's National Gallery. The London picture's landscape and sky represent night; the more colorful Getty painting depicts dawn.

Measuring 40 by 32 inches, the Getty Virgin and Child is clearly signed by the artist on the rock at lower left. It was nonetheless ascribed to Andrea del Sarto at a 1898 Milan sale. It resurfaced as a Bronzino in London, in 1964, only to submerge into a series of private sales among private collections. The Art Newspaper identifies the seller as Chilean economist and billionaire Alvaro Saieh Bendeck and wife Ana Guzmán. The couple's so-called Alana Collection, housed in the college town of Newark, Delaware, is the subject of a show now at the Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris. The Bronzino however is already on display at the Getty Center. It's apparently the first time it's ever been shown in a museum.
Agnolo Bronzino, The Madonna and Child with Saints, about 1540. National Gallery, London
The Getty has first-rate mannerist works by Pontormo and Parmigianino, whose paintings are rare in the U.S. It didn't have a comparably important picture by the prolific Bronzino (Pontormo's pupil, collaborator, and heir).
Agnolo Bronzino, Saint John the Baptist, about 1542-45. J. Paul Getty Museum
In 1973, back in J. Paul Getty's time, the museum acquired a Bronzino painting of Saint John the Baptist. (The same holy figure is shown as an infant in the new painting.) Somewhat shopworn, the Getty Saint John is a wing of a dismembered altarpiece. With its strongly vertical format, it wasn't intended to be seen as an independent painting.

Timothy Potts is calling the Virgin and Child "the single most important addition to our 16th-century paintings collection in three decades." That's a bold claim, seemingly rating it higher than the Parmigianino Virgin and Child (acquired 2017) and Titian's Portrait of Alfonso d'Avalos (bought 2003).

In any case, it's the kind of Renaissance painting that hardly comes to market these days. Auction houses may tout "the last" Botticelli, Cimabue, Leonardo, etc., but those are often highly restored relics with ambitious attributions. It's clear the Getty believes the Bronzino Virgin and Child to be the real thing, a well-preserved, complete work of a boldface Renaissance name.
Giovanni di Balduccio, The Annunciation, 1333-4. J. Paul Getty Museum
One more thing: The Getty has also also acquired an Italian Gothic Annunciation by sculptor Giovanni di Balduccio. (Jessica Gelt's piece in the L.A. Times piece says it's from the same anonymous seller as the Bronzino, so it would evidently be from the Alana collection as well.) The Annunciation's two figures, marble with gilding, are about 30 inches high. Gabriel has attachments for wings, now missing. The two statuettes are the largest survivals of the sculpture program at Rocca di Porta Galliera, the Bologna chapel created for Avignon Pope John XXII. The chapel included frescoes and an altarpiece by Giotto, all sadly lost.
Giovanni di Balduccio, Madonna and Child, 1332-34. Detroit Institute of Arts
Another sculpture from the Rocca di Porta Galliera is in the Detroit Institute of Arts. It's about the same size as the Getty marbles but has apparently been stripped of its gilding. A marble relief of Saint Peter Martyr and Three Donors from a tomb commission, also attributed to Balduccio, was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum for its Cloisters branch in 2001.

The Getty has only a few medieval sculptures, and one of them (a Veit Stoss boxwood crucifix) was announced only four months ago. The Annunciation will debut at the Getty Center December 10 in an exhibition of "Acquisitions 2019: Director's Choice."


Anonymous said…
It’s about time. They seemed to be going through an acquisition drought for great paintings. I guess Timothy Potts is talking about the Pontormo painting being the “single greatest” over three decade. I’d agree with that. But I’d say it’s more important for the Getty to have a rare good Titian, even more so, an even rarer good Parmigianino over the new Bronzino.
Anonymous said…
The two di Balduccio pieces are technically very good, very advanced. But if I saw them in a thrift shop, I'd think they were objects from someone's grandmother's attic.

Yea, beauty and good taste are altogether in the eye of the beholder---which will be put to another test when the Lucas in Expo park opens in a few years.

But just as long as the Getty doesn't return to the era of Barry Munitz, or variations thereof, it should be fine.
The Dreamer said…
The Bronzino painting is a beauty. I love its vibrant colors. The 2 di Balduccio statues seem more important for its historical value rather than aesthetic. Still, can't wait to see all of it!
Anonymous said…
It's a stunning work, especially for its vibrant colors. Beyond it being a lovely painting, it's probably the best mature religious painting by Bronzino in an American collection. The other one, in Detroit, seems like a weaker work in comparison. There's two early Madonna and child paintings in Chicago and the NGA. There's quite a few portraits by him in American collections.
Anonymous said…
NB - the Rocca di Porta Galliera is in Bologna.