Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child
Fra Angelico (Italian, c. 1400-1455)
after 1430
Tempera and gold leaf on panel 
18-1/8 x 15 in. (46 x 38.1 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
Not on View

In a 1915 letter to Duveen, the pre-eminent scholar of Italian art Bernard Berenson wrote the following about this painting:

It is an autograph work by Fra Angelico, painted in his best years, in the moment of his fullest maturity … the composition is peculiarly interesting as half-lengths by Fra Angelico are extremely rare. The coloring … is unusually gorgeous. I must add that its preservation is singularly excellent.

Just seven months earlier, in a review of the exhibition of “Italian Primitive Paintings” at the Fogg Museum of Art at Harvard, the painting was said to be “sadly restored, but a valuable example of Fra Angelico’s early manner.” When the painting was sold at the auction of paintings from the collection of Mrs. Benjamin Thaw in Paris in 1922, the photograph in the catalogue very closely resembled the painting as it appears today, and it was sold for one of the highest prices at that sale, 42,000 francs. However, when William Suhr, a conservator who was entrusted with many Duveen paintings, was asked to conserve the piece in 1940, he deemed it “a big mess … the cleaning was back breaking … all flesh tones gone,” although the underdrawings remained of the faces of both the Child and Mary [show image]. Other art historians saw only a tenuous connection to Fra Angelico.

Today, most experts attribute the painting to an early quattrocento master painting in the style of Fra Angelico, while a few others are stalwart in their belief that it is now only a ghost of what Fra Angelico himself had originally intended. The provenance of the piece dates it to the Barons of Lazzari in Sicily, and some historians have speculated that it was this family who commissioned the painting from Fra Angelico for the Convent of the Padri Crociferi, the Order of St. Lazarus, in Messina.


Barone Lazzari [?Lazzeroni], Messina, gift to;
Convent of the Padri Crociferi, Order of St. Lazarus, Messina, Sicily, after dissolution of the order returned to;
Lazzari family, by descent to;
Baron Lazzari di Fiumefreddo, by descent to his son;
Gaetano Lazzari, by descent to his sister;
Marianna Lazzari (wed to Giovanni Palermo, Principi di Santa Margherita and Marquis di Calorenda), by descent to younger son;
Marquis Giovanni Palermo.
[Jacob Hirsch (1874-1955), Munich/Galerie Reinhardt, Paris, by 1913].
[Duveen Bros., by 1915].
Mrs. Benjamin Thaw (1861-1931), Boston/Pittsburg/Paris, by 1917 (sale, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 15 May 1922, lot 2, ill., as La Vierge et l’Enfant, to);
Mrs. Henry D. Whiton (aka Frieda Frasch-Whiton-Constantini-Von Seidlitz, d. ca. 1949/50), Long Island, New York, and Baron David A. Constantini, Rome/Villa La Loggia [Florence], (d. by 1952).
Count Umberto Gnoli (1878-1947), Rome, sold 31 January 1940 to;
[Duveen Bros., New York; stock no. 29831, to];
The Norton Simon Foundation.

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