Jacopo Zucchi (Florence circa 1540-circa 1590 ROme) The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist in a carved 19th century Florentine frame

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Lot 89
Jacopo Zucchi
(Florence circa 1540-circa 1590 ROme)
The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist in a carved 19th century Florentine frame
Sold for £ 317,000 (US$ 411,402) inc. premium

Lot Details
Jacopo Zucchi (Florence circa 1540-circa 1590 ROme)
The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist
oil on copper
46.8 x 37.5cm (18 7/16 x 14 3/4in).
in a carved 19th century Florentine frame


  • Provenance
    Most probably commissioned by Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici, 1583, by whom
    Presented to the Marchesa Santacroce
    Sale, Christie's, London, 18 May 1951, lot 138 (as attributed to Rottenhammer and Brill, bt. Deane and London)
    Sale, Sotheby's, London, 19 April 1967, lot 41, where purchased by the present owner's parents

    E. Pillsbury, 'The Cabinet Paintings of Jacopo Zucchi: their meaning and function', in Monuments e Mémoirs. Fondation Eugène Piot, vol. LXIII, Paris, 1980, pp. 207-209, and pp. 225-226, ill. p. 206, fig. 10

    A protegé of Giorgio Vasari, the Florentine mannerist Jacopo Zucchi is known for his very varied artistic output. He executed large altarpieces, designed household furnishings and interiors and also produced smaller, easel pictures, often on copper, as with the present work. Another copper, of the same dimensions and of a very similar conception, can be found in the Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist now in the Musée des Augustins, Toulouse (fig.1).

    One of Zucchi's most significant patrons in his later life was Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici for whom he worked in Rome for over 20 years. He carried out numerous artistic projects for the Cardinal, including the decoration of rooms in the Palazzo di Firenze and the Villa Medici, his two principal residences in Rome, as well as providing smaller works and quadretti often used to decorate a large writing desk, or studiolo. Much of the artist's activity in the household of Ferdinando is recorded in the volumes of the Guardaroba Medicea preserved in the state archives, Florence1. This documentation details not only specific commissions but also provides information on the purchase of materials and frames for such commissions.

    On 16 January 1581, Zucchi is recorded as taking delivery of two copper plates measuring palmi 2 e larghe palmi 1 ¾. These two plates may well have been used two years later to produce two works described in the Guardaroba as follows:

    Due Quadrettini in Rame uno di palmo i inc(irc)a dipinto la n'ra Do'na con xpo inb(raccio) in abito di zingana e uno simile vestita alord(inari)o ritratto da una di michelanglo fattoci m.o Iacopo zucchj adj 7 febbo 1583

    The measurements of the above paintings are smaller than those of the copper plates received two years earlier but, given the precise descriptions in the Guardaroba it may be possible to identify them as the present work and the aforementioned Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist in Toulouse. In the latter work, the Virgin holds the Christ Child in her arms and is simply dressed in red and blue with her hair tucked neatly beneath her veil. The composition of the present panel is constructed in a very similar way to the Toulouse picture with the distant mountains and town depicted in cool blue tones beyond a verdant landscape bisected diagonally by a river and with the foreground populated by numerous plants and flowers. The Madonna in the present work, however, is shown in very different costume; she wears a white blouse with full sleeves beneath her red and blue robes, along with a striped veil and her hair is worn loose around her shoulders, more in the manner of a gypsy (zingara). A further reason for considering these two coppers as those executed in 1583/4 is that, stylistically, they come close to other works by Zucchi of this date. The attenuated gestures, the colouring and, particularly, the figure of Saint Joseph, all find echoes in his altarpiece of Pentecost carried out in the early 1580s for Santo Spirito in Sassia, Rome.

    The Guardaroba also reveals that the two copper paintings later received ebony frames and that one was presented to the Marchesa Santacroce:

    Dua quadrettj In Rame inuno dipintoj la n'ra Donna alazinghanescha el laltro che ra n'ra Donna che riè da uno di michelaglo e fattoli fare li ornamentij debano e datj a S. S. Ill.ma che uno va donato a lucrel' rasches e uno alla Marchesa Sta Croce adj 7 febbo 1583.

    It was not the first time that the Marchesa Santa Croce had been the recipient of a gift from Cardinal Ferdinando. According to an entry in 1575 in the Guardaroba, Zucchi executed a copy of Raphael's Transfiguration originally for San Pietro in Montorio, Rome, and now in the Pinacoteca Vaticana. Two years later, the painting received a wooden crate and was sent as a gift to the Marchesa di Santacroce.

    The attribution of both of these coppers has presented some problems in the past. The Toulouse Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist was, at one point, considered to be by a follower of Federico Barrocci and then later in the 1950s it was attributed to Rottenhammer2. Similarly, in the 1951 sale, the present work was described as 'Brill and Rottenhammer' when sold by Christie's. By 1955 Phillip Pouncey had correctly identified the Toulouse copper as by Zucchi3 and the present Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist was sold twelve years later as a work by Jacopo Zucchi.

    1. E. Pillsbury, 'The Cabinet paintings of Jacopo Zucchi: their meaning and function' in Monuments e Mémoirs. Fondation Eugène Piot, vol. LXIII, Paris 1980, pp. 187-226
    2.. ibid p.207
    3. L'Italie des Peintres, exh. cat., Musée des Augustins, Toulouse, March 1955, cat. no. 63)
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  1. Poppy Harvey-Jones
    Specialist - Old Master Paintings
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
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