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Record Image
Machiavelli, Zanobi (Italian, b.1418, d.1479)
Madonna and Child
1452-1453
egg tempera on gesso on wood
570 x 400 mm sight size; 1010 x 795 x 120 mm frame size
20-1973
De Beer/Dunedin Public Art Gallery
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Given 1973 by Mary, Dora and Esmond de Beer.
This Madonna and Child is arguably one of Florentine artist Machiavelli’s finest works. According to Vasari, the artist was a pupil of Benozzo Gozzoli, himself an assistant to Fra Angelico, the Dominican friar and artist responsible for the beautiful Annunciation and the individual fresco paintings in the monks’ cells at the convent of San Marco in Florence. Machiavelli was also influenced by Francesco Pesellino and Fra Filippo Lippi. This work has stylistic features, characteristic of Lippi in particular, specifically the child’s rounded face and ears, the Madonna’s pointed fingers and, most significantly, her sweetly serene and gently melancholy face.
The painting was known to the famous art historian of the Renaissance, Bernard Berenson, who in a 1950 article about Machiavelli for the Burlington magazine, commented that ‘The head of the Madonna has a beauty, a graciousness, a look worthy of a real artist…’. A tough critic and connoisseur, Berenson considered this work one of Machiavelli’s best, probably completed while the artist was still associated with Lippi. He compared it to another work, the so-called Hurd Madonna, named after its New York owner, which was made between 1440 and 1450. Beside other mid-15th century Florentine Madonnas, this painting is striking both for its quality and for the individualised appearance of the Madonna. The model, identified by Berenson as the same woman in a sketch that is now in the drawing and print collection of the Uffizi, is thought to be Lucrezia Buti, the daughter of a Florentine silk merchant, who modelled for Lippi and bore him a son (the artist Filippino Lippi). Buti’s face appears in Filippo Lippi’s work from about 1452 until 1465.
Given to the Gallery by Mary, Dora and Esmond de Beer in 1973, to mark the centenary of the founding of the firm Hallenstein Brothers by their grandfather, Bendix Hallenstein, this work remains unparalleled in any other New Zealand public art collection.

on view in the exhibition

WORLD VIEW : Mapping the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Collection
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