Filippino Lippi - The Meeting of Christ and John the Baptist, about 1495

Filippino Lippi (Prato, about 1457 - 1504, Florence)

The Meeting of Christ and John the Baptist, about 1495

Pen and brown ink over black chalk on hand-laid paper, 9.3 x 9 cm (3 11/16 x 3 9/16 in.)

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Object details

Accession number

1.1.o.6

Provenance

Collection of Johnathan Richardson, Jr. (1694–1771), portrait painter and critic, London.
Collection of William Roscoe (1753–1831), historian and collector, London.
Collection of William Esdaile (1758–1837), banker and collector, London.
Collection of W. Russell, London.
Collection of Sir John Charles Robinson (1824–1913), museum curator, collector, and connoisseur, London.
Purchased by the art dealers Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 1901-2 for £150.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner at auction from Christie's, London on 13 May 1902 for £160 (with Conrad Metz's etching of the same subject [1.1.o.7]) through Thomas Agnew & Sons (Robinson sale, no. 191).

Marks

Blind stamp (lower left corner): WR [collector's mark of W. Russell, Lugt 2648]
Inscribed in pen and brown ink (lower right): WE [collector's mark of W. Esdaile, Lugt 2617]
Stamped in black ink (lower right): R [collector's mark of J. Richardson, Jr., Lugt 2170]
Stamped in blue ink (verso): ISG [in an oval, collector's mark of Isabella Stewart Gardner]
Inscribed in pen and brown ink in Esdaile's script (verso, lower edge): 1816WE Roscoe’s coll. P63 - N 207 Vide Lanzi 1-62.

Bibliography

Mr. Winstanley. Catalogue of the Genuine and Entire Collection of Drawings and Pictures, the Property of William Roscoe Esq.,...(Liverpool, 23-28 September 1816), p. 8, lot 29.
Christie and Manson. A Catalogue of the Very Important Collection of the Late William Esdaile, Esq. Part III..., (London, 18-25 June 1840), p. 3, lot. 5.
Christie, Manson and Woods. Catalogue of a Valuable Collection of Drawings by Old Masters formed by a Well-known Amateur during the last Forty Years (London, 12-14 May 1902), p. 22, lot 191.
Philip Hendy. Catalogue of Exhibited Paintings and Drawings (Boston, 1931), p. 200.
Gilbert Wendel Longstreet and Morris Carter. General Catalogue (Boston, 1935), p. 129.
“Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 6, no. 1 (2 Sept. 1962), p. 2.
“Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 7, no. 7 (13 Oct. 1963), p. 2.
Rollin van N. Hadley (ed.). Drawings: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1968), pp. 2-3.
Hilliard Goldfarb. Italian Renaissance Drawings, Medals, and Books. Exploring Treasures in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum I. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 1991), p. 7. (as after 1490)
George R. Goldner and Carmen C. Bambach. The Drawings of Filippino Lippi and His Circle. Exh. cat. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1997), p. 296, no. 92.
Hilliard Goldfarb et al. Italian Paintings and Drawings Before 1800 in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Unpublished manuscript. (Boston, 1996-2000). (as about 1495)
Alan Chong et al. (eds.) Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 2003), p. 75. (as about 1503-1504)


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Commentary

The drawing depicts Christ meeting John the Baptist in the wilderness, an episode not found in scripture, but described in Renaissance biographies of the Baptist and sometimes found in paintings. Filippino Lippi shows a warm and tender embrace between two figures – a theme the artist greatly favored and employed in other narrative situations. Compared with the Baptist’s garb, Christ’s robes are much more fully shaded and detailed, which suggests that the drawing was made in part to explore problems of drapery. In fact, Giorgio Vasari praised Filippino’s unusual and innovative costumes.

Filippino Lippi’s reputation was at a peak around 1900, and both Isabella Stewart Gardner and Bernard Berenson considered acquiring a work by the artist to be among their highest priorities in building a collection. In 1903, she refused to pursue the tondo that belonged to the Warren family as she felt it ought to go to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (it ended up in Cleveland), and as late as 1922 there was again talk of buying a painting by Filippino.

Source: Alan Chong, "The Meeting of Christ and John the Baptist," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 75.