Virgin and Child with SS. Catherine and John the Baptist

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Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano
approximately 1459-1517 or 1518
Venice, Italy, ca. 1515.
Oil on panel.
panel: 25 3/8 x 38 5/8 inches (654 x 980 mm); framed: 39 5/8 x 52 1/2 inches (1005 x 1335 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan in 1911.

While the Christ child leans back to play with St. John the Baptist's cross, the Virgin proffers a golden ring to St. Catherine of Alexandria, alluding to the saint's mystic marriage to Christ. Cima asserted his authorship of the painting on the small piece of paper (cartellino) affixed to the parapet in the foreground, an element considered a signature of his work. The panel formerly belonged to Charles Fairfax Murray (1849-1919), the pre-Raphaelite painter and collector from whom Morgan purchased his collection of old master drawings in 1909.
The painting is of a type known as the sacra conversazione, or sacred conversation, in which the Virgin and Child are shown in the company of saints.
The frame is gilded and carved wood. The wooden label on bottom center of frame reads: "Cima da Conegliano - From the Birch - D. Watts Russell and Fairfax Murray Collections."

Signed at lower left, on fictive cartellino, "Joannis Baptist Coneglanensis / opus".
Monsieur J.E. Liotard (his sale, London, Christie's, 16 April, 1774, lot 74 as C. da Conigliare, bought by Dr. Taylor for £16.16.0); Birch; D. Watts Russell (J. Pope Hennessy's grandmother on his mother's side); Charles Fairfax Murray; Alessandro Imbert, Rome; purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan from Imbert in March 1911.

Virgin and Child between St. John the Baptist (at her left) and St. Catherine (at her right). Saint Catherine holds a palm in her proper left hand. Mary holds a ring in her proper right hand.