The present drawing presents a history of unlikely attributions. Although it was thought to be by Bramantino in Fairfax Murray’s time, Schendel , in 1938 catalogued it as Lombard, although not Bramantino. In 1953, Suida attributed the drawing to the Cremonese school, noting that the composition of the Morgan Library drawing was close to that of Boccaccio Boccaccino’s altarpiece in the church of Sant’Agata in Cremona.
While Bernard Berenson’s 1920 attribution of the sheet to Vittore Carpaccio is optimistic, the drawing does fit into the milieu of Vittore Carpaccio’s school. However, it could plausibly be by an artist from a slightly later generation who nonetheless continued to echo the style of the late quattrocento Venetian altarpiece popularized by Carpaccio, Giovanni Bellini, and Cima da Conegliano. The drawing is close in composition and style to the recto of a sheet in the Museum Boymans-van-Beuningen, Rotterdam of a Madonna and Child between Saint John the Baptist and Saint George (inv. 334; Muraro 1977, 75-76, no. 68). The name of Benedetto Carpaccio, Vittore’s son, has been variously suggested for the Rotterdam sheet; it is possible that the Morgan Library sheet is also by Benedetto. The attribution is supported by Maria Cristina White-da Cruz. With the assistance of his two sons, Benedetto and Pietro, Carpaccio led a flourishing bottega.
The group is placed in a fictive architectural frame. It is worth noting, however, that the motif of the curtain behind the Virgin and Child and saints, quite obviously not a Cloth of Honor, which is partially lifted to reveal a townscape in the background, is uncommon in the Venetian altarpiece, but seems to have been used quite often in portraiture. It is possible that the artist, who may have been forced to work in a square space as conveyed by the architectural frame, was experimenting with creating a more theatrical space within the frame. It highlights the Christ Child who reaches out to bless the bent head the kneeling warrior saint and it creates a variation on the open window motif common in such paintings as Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna and Child (Met Museum inv. no. 08.183.1), thus saving the artist from the more difficult task of achieving an architecturally correct vault, which he has attempted quite unsuccessfully in the upper right corner.
Schendel 1938, 134; Suida 1953, 145, 239; Waterville 1956, no. 2.
Collection J. Pierpont Morgan : Drawings by the Old Masters Formed by C. Fairfax Murray. London : Privately printed, 1905-1912, I, 41, repr.
Formerly attributed to Vittore Carpaccio and Bramantino (Bartolommeo Suardi).