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06268b538a59252b375c4fcc2ebc6e61

Sano di Pietro (Siena 1405-1481), The Madonna and Child enthroned, above them Christ Pantocrator. Estimation 400,000600,000 USD. Photo Sotheby’s

tempera on panel, gold ground, with a shaped top; overall: 66 1/2 by 24 7/8  in.; 169 by 63.1 cm.; painted surface: 59 1/8  by 23 in.; 150.3 by 58.4 cm.

PROVENANCE: Private collection, South of France for several decades;
From whom purchased by the present owner.

This well preserved and newly-discovered panel was painted by Sano di Pietro, one of the most successful artists in Siena in the fifteenth century. A tender depiction of the Madonna and Child, it once stood as the central section of a now-dismembered polyptych, flanked by other depictions of saints, in a similar arrangement to Sano’s masterpiece, the signed and dated polyptych of 1444 in the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Siena.1

Sano was employed continuously by the commune of Siena from 1445, when he signed a fresco of the Coronation of the Virgin in the Palazzo Pubblico. He also produced predellas, altarpieces, and bicherna covers for them. Sano was equally well patronised by the extensive network of Franciscan convents and confraternities in the area around Siena. The great Franciscan reformer Saint Bernardino of Siena had died in 1444 and his popularity and extensive cult reached its zenith just as Sano’s career flourished. Sano’s sympathetic and intimate representations of Bernardino and his various miracles thus found great popularity and are perhaps best exemplified by his Saint Bernardino preaching in the Piazza del Campofrom 1448, in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Siena.

In the present work the Madonna and Child are shown seated on a ledge. What would normally be the backrest of the throne behind them is substituted instead by two red seraphim. Above them Christ is shown as the Redeemer, holding the New Testament in one hand and raising the other hand in blessing. Sano employed a similar device of a ledge with seraphim as a throne in his Scrofiano altarpiece, also in the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Siena.2 At the apex of that polyptych, above the Madonna and Child, a similar figure of Christ is shown half length.  As Laurence Kanter indicates, the artist has here introduced a sense of volume: the Madonna’s thumb appears to swell outward, the cushions protrude and the drapery folds fall forward in a way that is convincingly three-dimensional.

We are grateful to Laurence Kanter for endorsing the attribution following firsthand inspection.

1. See P. Torriti, La Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena, i dipinti dal XII al XV secolo, Genova 1980, pp. 254-57, cat. no. 246, reproduced in color.
2. Ibid., p. 266, cat. no. 255, reproduced.

Sotheby’s. Master Paintings: Part I. New York | 29 janv. 2015, 10:00 AM