cosmè tura - The Circumcision, about 1470-1479

cosmè tura (Ferrara, about 1430 - 1495, Ferrara)

The Circumcision, about 1470-1479

Oil on panel, 38.7 x 38.1 cm (15 1/4 x 15 in.) panel

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Object details

Accession number

P15s3

Dimension Notes

Frame: 55.9 x 56.2 cm (22 x 22 1/8 in.)

Provenance

Collection of Antonio Publicola, Prince of Santa Croce (1817-1867), Rome.
By descent to Valeria Mary Publicola, Marchesa Passari Venturi Gallerani (b. 1853), Rome, by 1894.
By descent to Contessa Passari Venturi Gallerani, Rome.
Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from the collection of Contessa Passari through the art historian and archaelogist Richard Norton (1872–1918), Rome, January 1901, for 27,000 lire.

Bibliography

Robert H. Benson and Adolfo Venturi. Exhibition of Pictures, Drawings and Photographs of Works of the School of Ferrara-Bologna, 1450-1540. Exh. cat. (London: Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1894), p. xv (as by Cosimo Tura; as part of the San Giorgio altarpiece, with two paintings in the Pinacoteca, Ferrara and another painting in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge).
Adolfo Venturi. "L'arte emiliana (al Burlington Fine-Arts Club di Londra)." Archivio storico dell'arte 7 (1894), pp. 90-94. (as part of the predella of the Saint Maurelius altarpiece, formerly in the church of San Giorgio fuori la mura, Ferrara)
Gustave Gruyer. L'Art Ferrarais a l'epoque des princes d'Este, Volume 2. (Paris, 1897), pp. 71, 82. (as by Cosimo Tura; as part of the predella of the San Giorgio altarpiece)
Emil Jacobsen. "Die Gemäldegalerie im Ateneo zu Ferrara." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 23 (1900), p. 360, note 4. (as by Cosimo Tura; as part of the predella of the San Giorgio altarpiece)
Catalogue. Fenway Court. (Boston, 1903), p. 8. (as by Cosimo Tura)
Bernhard Berenson. North Italian Painters of the Renaissance. (New York, 1907), p. 297 (as by Cosimo Tura)
Lionel Cust. "La collection de M. R.-H. Benson." Les arts 6 (October 1907), p. 22 (as by Cosimo Tura; as part of a series of paintings formerly in San Giorgio fuori la mura, Ferrara)
Adolfo Venturi. "Le opere de' pittori ferraresi del '400 secondo il catalogo di Bernardo Berenson." L'arte 11 (1908), pp. 420-21 (rejects association of this panel with the San Giorgio altarpiece)
Edmund G. Gardner. The Painters of the School of Ferrara. London, 1911, pp. 28, 208. (as part of the predella of the San Giorgio altarpiece)
Joseph Archer Crowe and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle. A History of Painting in North Italy: Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Ferrara, Milan, Friuli, Brescia, from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century. Tancred Borenius (ed.) 2nd ed., Vol. 2 (London, 1912) pp. 230–31 n. 1 (as Cosimo Tura; as a companion painting to the Adoration of the Magi [Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA] and the Flight into Egypt [Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY])
Adolfo Venturi. "La pittura del Quattrocento." Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 7, part 3, (Milan, 1914), p. 546 (as by Cosme Tura; as part of an altarpiece with paintings of the heads of Saints Peter and John [Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia]).
Paul Schubring. Cassoni. Truhen und Truhenbilder der italienischen Fruehrenaissance (Leipzig, 1915), p. 352, pl. 561. (as Cosimo Tura; as originally set into a piece of church furniture)
Otto Härtzsch. Katalog der echten und fälschlich zugeschriebenen Werke des Cosimo Tura. PhD diss. (Universität Hamburg. Hamburg, 1931), pp. 381-82.
Philip Hendy. Catalogue of the Exhibited Paintings and Drawings (Boston, 1931), pp. 381-82 (as Cosme Tura).
Adolfo Venturi. North Italian Painting of the Quattrocento: Emilia. (Florence, 1931?), pp. 39–40 (as Cosme Tura, as dated to the same period as the Roverella altarpiece [a second altarpiece from San Giorgio fuori la mura, Ferrara]).
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance (Oxford, 1932), p. 580. (as Cosimo Tura)
Roberto Longhi. Officina ferrarese (Rome, 1934), pp. 37–39, (as Cosme Tura; as one of seven tondi of which three survive that constitute the middle part of the predella of the Roverella altarpiece).
Bernard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Catalogo dei principali artisti e delle loro opere, con un indice dei luogi. Trans. Emilio Cecchi (Milan, 1936), p. 499. (as Cosimo Tura)
Otto Härtzsch. "Cosimo Tura." Pantheon 26 (1940), pp. 156-61.
Sergio Ortolani. Cosmè Tura, Francesco del Cossa, Ercole de' Roberti (Milan, 1941), pp. 56, 67-68 (as Cosme Tura; as part of the predella of a lost altarpiece; as not from the Roverella altarpiece)
Stuart Preston. "The Circumcision" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), p. 15.
Benedict Nicolson. The Painters of Ferrara (London, 1950), p. 18 (as Cosme Tura; as part of a lost altarpiece dating after the Roverella altarpiece)
Martin Davies. The Earlier Italian Schools. London, 1951, p. 399
Alberto Neppi. Cosmè Tura (Milan, 1952), pp. 65, 74-75, 136 (as Cosme Tura; as one of three extant tondi from the predella of the Roverella altarpiece)
Roberto Longhi. Opere complete di Roberto Longhi. Vol. 5, Officina ferrarese: 1934 (Florence, 1956), p. 25 (as Cosme Tura; as part of the predella of the Roverella altarpiece)
Mario Salmi. Cosmè Tura (Milan, 1957), pp. 34–36 (as Cosme Tura; as one of three extant tondi from the predella of the Roverella altarpiece)
Eberhard Ruhmer. Tura: Paintings and Drawings (New York, 1958), pp. 41, 82, 177-78. (as Cosme Tura; as one of three extant tondi; as not associated with the Roverella altarpiece)
Roberto Salvini and Leone Traverso. The Predella from the XIIIth to the XVIth Centuries (London, 1960), pp. 205–207, ill. (as Cosme Tura; as part of the predella of the Roverella altarpiece) 
Piero Bianconi. Tutta la pittura di Cosmè Tura (Milan, 1963), pp. 36, 47-48. (as Cosme Tura; as one of a group of three extant tondi; as not from the Roverella altarpiece)
Rollin Hadley. “Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 7, no. 10 (3 Nov. 1963), p. 2.
Rollin Hadley. "Giovanni Di Paolo." Fenway Court (Oct. 1967), p. 49.
Eberhard Ruhmer "Tura." Encyclopedia of World Art 14 (New York, 1967), pp. 340, 343 (as Cosme Tura; as one of three extant tondi; as from the Roverella altarpiece)
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections (Cambridge, MA, 1972), p. 205 (as Cosme Tura) 
Elizabeth E. Gardner. "Dipinti rinascimentali del Metropolitan Museum nelle carte di G.B. Cavalcaselle." Saggi e memorie di storia dell'arte 8 (1972), p. 73.
Franco Pesenti. An Illustrated Inventory of Famous Dismembered Works of Art: European Painting (Paris, 1974), pp. 42-45, fig. 6.
Philip Hendy. European and American Paintings in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1974), pp. 263-64. (as Cosme Tura)
Rosemarie Molajoli. L'opera completa di Cosmè Tura e i grandi pittori ferraresi del suo tempo: Francesco Cossa e Ercole de' Roberti (Milan, 1974) pp. 85–86, 88 (as Cosme Tura; as not from the Roverella altarpiece)
Everett Fahy. "Italian Paintings at Fenway Court and Elsewhere." Connoisseur 198 (May 1978), pp. 37-39, pl. 12. (as Cosme Tura; as possibly from the Roverella altarpiece)
Keith Christiansen. "Early Renaissance Narrative Painting in Italy." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 41 (Fall 1983), pp. 36, pl. 32. (as Cosimo Tura)
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, North Italian School (New York, 1986), pp. 65–67 (as one of three tondi; as from the Roverella altarpiece)
Martin Davies. The Earlier Italian Schools. Rev. ed. (London, 1987), pp. 513-14 (as Cosme Tura; as possibly not from the Roverella altarpiece)
Rollin van N. Hadley (ed.). The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner 1887-1924 (Boston, 1987), p. 371.
Joseph Manca. "Cosme Tura, The Roverella Altarpiece." in James Vinson (ed.). International Dictionary of Art and Artists (Chicago, 1990), p. 145. (as Cosme Tura; as not from the Roverella altarpiece)
Kristen Lippincott. "Cosimo Tura." in Jane Turner (ed.) The Dictionary of Art 31, (New York, 1996), p. 431 (as Cosimo Tura; as one of three extant tondi; not from the Roverella altarpiece)
Stephen J. Campbell. Cosme Tura of Ferrara: Style, Politics and the Renaissance City, 1450-1495 (New Haven, 1997), pp. 107, 114, 183 note 50, pl. 87, 89. (as Cosme Tura; as part of the Roverella altarpiece)
Joseph Manca. Cosmè Tura: The Life and Art of a Painter in Estense Ferrara (Oxford, 2000), pp. 72, 96-98, n. 5, pl. 3 (as Cosme Tura; as not impossible that it once formed a part of the Roverella altarpiece)
Stephen J. Campbell. "Cosme Tura and Court Culture" in Stephen Campbell and Alan Chong. Cosmè Tura: Painting and Design in Renaissance Ferrara. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2002), pp. 21-22 (as part of the Roverella altarpiece)
Stephen J. Campbell. "The Roverella Altarpiece." in Stephen Campbell and Alan Chong. Cosmè Tura: Painting and Design in Renaissance Ferrara. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2002), pp. 219-25, 226-28, n. 10, ill. (as part of the predella of the Roverella altarpiece)
Alan Chong. "Victorians and the Art of Ferrara." in Stephen Campbell and Alan Chong. Cosmè Tura: Painting and Design in Renaissance Ferrara. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2002), pp. 173-75, 183, plates 81-83.
Jill Dunkerton. "Cosme Tura's Painting Technique" in Stephen Campbell and Alan Chong. Cosmè Tura: Painting and Design in Renaissance Ferrara. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2002), pp. 141-42 (as not part of the predella of the Roverella altarpiece; as part of a piece of ecclesiastical furniture)
Joseph Manca. "The Annunciation with Saints Francis and Louis of Toulouse." in Miklos Boskovits and David Alan Brown (eds.). Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century (Washington, D.C., 2003), pp. 663 and 665 note 4 (as not from the Roverella altarpiece)
Magali Bourbon. Saint Jacques de Cosme Tura. Exh cat. (Caen: Musee des Beaux-Arts, 2006), pp. 18-19, pl. 13 (as Cosme Tura; as part of the predella of the Roverella altarpiece)
Marcello Toffanello "The Circumcision." in Mauro Natale (ed.). Cosmè Tura e Francesco del Cossa. L'arte a Ferrara nell'età di Borso d'Este. Exh. cat. (Palazzo dei Diamanti and Palazzo Schifanoia: Ferrara, 2007), p. 340, n. 79, ill. (as Cosme Tura)Robert H. Benson and Adolfo Venturi. Exhibition of Pictures, Drawings and Photographs of Works of the School of Ferrara-Bologna, 1450-1540. Exh. cat. (London: Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1894), p. xv (as by Cosimo Tura; as part of the San Giorgio altarpiece, with two paintings in the Pinacoteca, Ferrara and another painting in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge).
Adolfo Venturi. "L'arte emiliana (al Burlington Fine-Arts Club di Londra)." Archivio storico dell'arte 7 (1894), pp. 90-94. (as part of the predella of the Saint Maurelius altarpiece, formerly in the church of San Giorgio fuori la mura, Ferrara)
Gustave Gruyer. L'Art Ferrarais a l'epoque des princes d'Este, Volume 2. (Paris, 1897), pp. 71, 82. (as by Cosimo Tura; as part of the predella of the San Giorgio altarpiece)
Emil Jacobsen. "Die Gemäldegalerie im Ateneo zu Ferrara." Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft 23 (1900), p. 360, note 4. (as by Cosimo Tura; as part of the predella of the San Giorgio altarpiece)
Catalogue. Fenway Court. (Boston, 1903), p. 8. (as by Cosimo Tura)
Bernhard Berenson. North Italian Painters of the Renaissance. (New York, 1907), p. 297 (as by Cosimo Tura)
Lionel Cust. "La collection de M. R.-H. Benson." Les arts 6 (October 1907), p. 22 (as by Cosimo Tura; as part of a series of paintings formerly in San Giorgio fuori la mura, Ferrara)
Adolfo Venturi. "Le opere de' pittori ferraresi del '400 secondo il catalogo di Bernardo Berenson." L'arte 11 (1908), pp. 420-21 (rejects association of this panel with the San Giorgio altarpiece)
Edmund G. Gardner. The Painters of the School of Ferrara. London, 1911, pp. 28, 208. (as part of the predella of the San Giorgio altarpiece)
Joseph Archer Crowe and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle. A History of Painting in North Italy: Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Ferrara, Milan, Friuli, Brescia, from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Century. Tancred Borenius (ed.) 2nd ed., Vol. 2 (London, 1912) pp. 230–31 n. 1 (as Cosimo Tura; as a companion painting to the Adoration of the Magi [Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA] and the Flight into Egypt [Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY])
Adolfo Venturi. "La pittura del Quattrocento." Storia dell'arte italiana. Vol. 7, part 3, (Milan, 1914), p. 546 (as by Cosme Tura; as part of an altarpiece with paintings of the heads of Saints Peter and John [Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia]).
Paul Schubring. Cassoni. Truhen und Truhenbilder der italienischen Fruehrenaissance (Leipzig, 1915), p. 352, pl. 561. (as Cosimo Tura; as originally set into a piece of church furniture)
Otto Härtzsch. Katalog der echten und fälschlich zugeschriebenen Werke des Cosimo Tura. PhD diss. (Universität Hamburg. Hamburg, 1931), pp. 381-82.
Philip Hendy. Catalogue of the Exhibited Paintings and Drawings (Boston, 1931), pp. 381-82 (as Cosme Tura).
Adolfo Venturi. North Italian Painting of the Quattrocento: Emilia. (Florence, 1931?), pp. 39–40 (as Cosme Tura, as dated to the same period as the Roverella altarpiece [a second altarpiece from San Giorgio fuori la mura, Ferrara]).
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance (Oxford, 1932), p. 580. (as Cosimo Tura)
Roberto Longhi. Officina ferrarese (Rome, 1934), pp. 37–39, (as Cosme Tura; as one of seven tondi of which three survive that constitute the middle part of the predella of the Roverella altarpiece).
Bernard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Catalogo dei principali artisti e delle loro opere, con un indice dei luogi. Trans. Emilio Cecchi (Milan, 1936), p. 499. (as Cosimo Tura)
Otto Härtzsch. "Cosimo Tura." Pantheon 26 (1940), pp. 156-61.
Sergio Ortolani. Cosmè Tura, Francesco del Cossa, Ercole de' Roberti (Milan, 1941), pp. 56, 67-68 (as Cosme Tura; as part of the predella of a lost altarpiece; as not from the Roverella altarpiece)
Stuart Preston. "The Circumcision" in Alfred M. Frankfurter (ed.). The Gardner Collection (New York, 1946), p. 15.
Benedict Nicolson. The Painters of Ferrara (London, 1950), p. 18 (as Cosme Tura; as part of a lost altarpiece dating after the Roverella altarpiece)
Martin Davies. The Earlier Italian Schools. London, 1951, p. 399
Alberto Neppi. Cosmè Tura (Milan, 1952), pp. 65, 74-75, 136 (as Cosme Tura; as one of three extant tondi from the predella of the Roverella altarpiece)
Roberto Longhi. Opere complete di Roberto Longhi. Vol. 5, Officina ferrarese: 1934 (Florence, 1956), p. 25 (as Cosme Tura; as part of the predella of the Roverella altarpiece)
Mario Salmi. Cosmè Tura (Milan, 1957), pp. 34–36 (as Cosme Tura; as one of three extant tondi from the predella of the Roverella altarpiece)
Eberhard Ruhmer. Tura: Paintings and Drawings (New York, 1958), pp. 41, 82, 177-78. (as Cosme Tura; as one of three extant tondi; as not associated with the Roverella altarpiece)
Roberto Salvini and Leone Traverso. The Predella from the XIIIth to the XVIth Centuries (London, 1960), pp. 205–207, ill. (as Cosme Tura; as part of the predella of the Roverella altarpiece) 
Piero Bianconi. Tutta la pittura di Cosmè Tura (Milan, 1963), pp. 36, 47-48. (as Cosme Tura; as one of a group of three extant tondi; as not from the Roverella altarpiece)
Rollin Hadley. “Notes, Records, Comments.” Gardner Museum Calendar of Events 7, no. 10 (3 Nov. 1963), p. 2.
Rollin Hadley. "Giovanni Di Paolo." Fenway Court (Oct. 1967), p. 49.
Eberhard Ruhmer "Tura." Encyclopedia of World Art 14 (New York, 1967), pp. 340, 343 (as Cosme Tura; as one of three extant tondi; as from the Roverella altarpiece)
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections (Cambridge, MA, 1972), p. 205 (as Cosme Tura) 
Elizabeth E. Gardner. "Dipinti rinascimentali del Metropolitan Museum nelle carte di G.B. Cavalcaselle." Saggi e memorie di storia dell'arte 8 (1972), p. 73.
Franco Pesenti. An Illustrated Inventory of Famous Dismembered Works of Art: European Painting (Paris, 1974), pp. 42-45, fig. 6.
Philip Hendy. European and American Paintings in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Boston, 1974), pp. 263-64. (as Cosme Tura)
Rosemarie Molajoli. L'opera completa di Cosmè Tura e i grandi pittori ferraresi del suo tempo: Francesco Cossa e Ercole de' Roberti (Milan, 1974) pp. 85–86, 88 (as Cosme Tura; as not from the Roverella altarpiece)
Everett Fahy. "Italian Paintings at Fenway Court and Elsewhere." Connoisseur 198 (May 1978), pp. 37-39, pl. 12. (as Cosme Tura; as possibly from the Roverella altarpiece)
Keith Christiansen. "Early Renaissance Narrative Painting in Italy." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 41 (Fall 1983), pp. 36, pl. 32. (as Cosimo Tura)
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, North Italian School (New York, 1986), pp. 65–67 (as one of three tondi; as from the Roverella altarpiece)
Martin Davies. The Earlier Italian Schools. Rev. ed. (London, 1987), pp. 513-14 (as Cosme Tura; as possibly not from the Roverella altarpiece)
Rollin van N. Hadley (ed.). The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner 1887-1924 (Boston, 1987), p. 371.
Joseph Manca. "Cosme Tura, The Roverella Altarpiece." in James Vinson (ed.). International Dictionary of Art and Artists (Chicago, 1990), p. 145. (as Cosme Tura; as not from the Roverella altarpiece)
Kristen Lippincott. "Cosimo Tura." in Jane Turner (ed.) The Dictionary of Art 31, (New York, 1996), p. 431 (as Cosimo Tura; as one of three extant tondi; not from the Roverella altarpiece)
Stephen J. Campbell. Cosme Tura of Ferrara: Style, Politics and the Renaissance City, 1450-1495 (New Haven, 1997), pp. 107, 114, 183 note 50, pl. 87, 89. (as Cosme Tura; as part of the Roverella altarpiece)
Joseph Manca. Cosmè Tura: The Life and Art of a Painter in Estense Ferrara (Oxford, 2000), pp. 72, 96-98, n. 5, pl. 3 (as Cosme Tura; as not impossible that it once formed a part of the Roverella altarpiece)
Stephen J. Campbell. "Cosme Tura and Court Culture" in Stephen Campbell and Alan Chong. Cosmè Tura: Painting and Design in Renaissance Ferrara. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2002), pp. 21-22 (as part of the Roverella altarpiece)
Stephen J. Campbell. "The Roverella Altarpiece." in Stephen Campbell and Alan Chong. Cosmè Tura: Painting and Design in Renaissance Ferrara. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2002), pp. 219-25, 226-28, n. 10, ill. (as part of the predella of the Roverella altarpiece)
Alan Chong. "Victorians and the Art of Ferrara." in Stephen Campbell and Alan Chong. Cosmè Tura: Painting and Design in Renaissance Ferrara. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2002), pp. 173-75, 183, plates 81-83.
Jill Dunkerton. "Cosme Tura's Painting Technique" in Stephen Campbell and Alan Chong. Cosmè Tura: Painting and Design in Renaissance Ferrara. Exh. cat. (Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2002), pp. 141-42 (as not part of the predella of the Roverella altarpiece; as part of a piece of ecclesiastical furniture)
Joseph Manca. "The Annunciation with Saints Francis and Louis of Toulouse." in Miklos Boskovits and David Alan Brown (eds.). Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century (Washington, D.C., 2003), pp. 663 and 665 note 4 (as not from the Roverella altarpiece)
Magali Bourbon. Saint Jacques de Cosme Tura. Exh cat. (Caen: Musee des Beaux-Arts, 2006), pp. 18-19, pl. 13 (as Cosme Tura; as part of the predella of the Roverella altarpiece)
Marcello Toffanello "The Circumcision." in Mauro Natale (ed.). Cosmè Tura e Francesco del Cossa. L'arte a Ferrara nell'età di Borso d'Este. Exh. cat. (Palazzo dei Diamanti and Palazzo Schifanoia: Ferrara, 2007), p. 340, n. 79, ill. (as Cosme Tura)


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Commentary

Tura was the great painter of fifteenth-century Ferrara; in his lifetime, his stature was equal to that of Mantegna in Mantua and Botticelli in Florence. His reputation has suffered considerably because almost all of his significant works were damaged or destroyed after his death in 1495. Much of what survives is fragmentary, such as this tondo that Gardner acquired in 1901. The work exhibits Tura’s wiry outlines and hard, metallic drapery.

The Gardner Museum’s panel is generally thought to have come from a large polyptych commissioned by the Roverella family, made in the 1470s for the church of San Giorgio in Ferrara, and dismembered following the bombardment of the church in 1709. Other surviving portions include two round panels of similar format in the Fogg Art Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, along with a fragment showing the head of Saint George (Museum of Fine Arts, San Diego). The largest portions include the central panel showing the Virgin and Child enthroned with angels (National Gallery, London), a side panel with Cardinal Bartolomeo Roverella being presented by his patron saints (Colonna Collection, Rome), and a crowning lunette depicting the lamentation over the dead Christ (Louvre, Paris).

This reconstruction can be supported not only from the fact that the three tondi are of the correct dimensions to serve as the central parts of a predella for the altarpiece, but also because of thematic and iconographic links with the panels known to have come from the altarpiece. The Circumcision was normally interpreted (especially by the preachers of the Papal Curia, to which the Roverella were strongly attached) as a termination and fulfillment of the Law of Moses. Like the sleep of Christ which is depicted in the London panel, the Circumcision was also regarded as a prefiguration of the Passion; the analogy is made explicit in the altarpiece in the harrowing depiction of the dead Christ in the lunette which crowned the altarpiece. We can envision that on a central axis in the altarpiece were aligned the dead Christ of the Pietà, the sleeping Christ in the lap of the Virgin, and Christ’s first shedding of blood.

In the Gardner tondo, Christ does not willingly submit to circumcision but recoils from it, turning away also from the image of Moses. So too in the London panel, the face of the sleeping child covers up and renders illegible the Second Commandment of Moses, which in its Hebrew form makes an explicit prohibition against the worshiping of God through images. The 1470s, when the altarpiece was created, was a time of considerable strife between Jewish and Christian communities across Northern Italy, including Ferrara, culminating in the notorious blood-libel of Trent in 1475 when Jews were massacred following the alleged ritual murder of a Christian child. Any suggestion of Christian triumph over Judaism in these years would have fanned the flames of a cultural tension, not only between Jews and Christians in general but between Italian princes and their Christian subjects who were encouraged by mendicant preaching to resent the protection of the Jews.

Source: Stephen J. Campbell, "The Circumcision," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003):54-55.