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Virgin and Child

Early 1460s
Giovanni Bellini, also called Giambellino, Italian (active Venice), first documented 1459, died 1516
Throughout his career, Bellini painted for private patrons intimate images of the Virgin and Child behind a parapet. This is one of his earliest renditions of the subject. The background of this picture, originally painted as a bluish sky with clouds, has altered due to time and former cleanings....

Object Details
Unidentified auction(?), England, before March 1905 [1]. Roger Fry (1866–1934), London, by March 1, 1905 [2]; John G. Johnson (1841–1917), Philadelphia, before August 1906 [3]; bequest to the City of Philadelphia, 1917.1. Roger Fry published the picture in the Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs in August 1906, saying that it came to light in a “provincial auction in England.” Frank Jewett Mather, Jr., and Roger Fry, “Recent Additions to the Collection of Mr. John G. Johnson, Philadelphia,” Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, vol. 9 (August 1906), p. 363. In Fry’s correspondence with John G. Johnson (see note 2, below), he stated that the owner was dead and the owner’s estate executors were selling it.2. Fry sent a photograph of the picture to Johnson on March 1, 1905, saying that the owner wanted £3,000 pounds sterling for it. Fry’s letter of March 29 indicates that he asked for other experts’ opinions; according to Fry, Bernard Berenson, Gustavo Frizzoni, and Claude Phillips had all seen it. Fry cabled Johnson on April 8, 1905, with a lower price of £2,000 pounds sterling, and wrote him on April 25 saying how sorry he was that Johnson did not buy it, but understood his reasons. On November 10, 1905, Fry wrote: “The Bellini is still a begging and has I think come down in price. If you still thought of it I fancy any reasonable offer would be accepted. I am sure £1,000 would.” The above correspondence is in the John G. Johnson Papers, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives, respectively, archives.philamuseum.org/jgj/JGJ_B004_F001_051, archives.philamuseum.org/jgj/ JGJ_B004_F001_050, archives.philamuseum.org/jgj/JGJ_B004_F001_049, archives.philamuseum.org/jgj/JGJ_B004_F001_047, and archives.philamuseum.org/jgj/ JGJ_B004_F001_046.3. In a note in the Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs of August 1906, Fry noted the Bellini as a recent addition to the Johnson collection. Mather and Fry, “Recent Additions,” p. 363.

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