About This Artwork

Piero di Cosimo
Italian, 1461/62–1521

Virgin and Child with the Young Saint John the Baptist, Saint Cecilia, and Angels, c. 1505

Oil on poplar panel
Diameter: 75 cm

Lacy Armour Fund, 2007.77

One of the most imaginative and unorthodox artists in Renaissance Florence, Piero di Cosimo, like many painters, came under the spell of Leonardo da Vinci. In their dense grouping and shadowy presentation, the figures in this work reflect the "dark manner" of that famous older master. Gathered around the Virgin and Child are a pair of wingless angels and two saints—John the Baptist, who eagerly offers plums to Christ, and Cecilia, who holds a sheet with musical notations and appears to be singing to him. Both gestures are unusual for a painting of this period.

Round pictures, or tondi, were typically created for the bedroom of a wealthy patron (circular frames were very expensive) and usually celebrated the birth of a child—in this case, perhaps to a woman named Cecilia.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, July 2001–March 2003

Publication History

Mina Bacci, Piero di Cosimo (Milan: Bramante Editrice, 1966), p. 90, no. 32, ill.

Francesco Abbate, “Scelta di libri: Piero di Cosimo di Mina Bacci,” Paragone, no. 215 (January 1968), p. 77.

Mina Bacci, L’Opera completa di Piero di Cosimo (Milan: Rizzoli Editore, 1976), p. 100, no. 70, ill.

Geraldine Norman, “Marché: Les Maîtres Anciens en haut de la vague,” Connaissance des Arts, no. 451 (September 1989), pp. 20-21, ill.

Sharon Fermor, Piero di Cosimo. Fiction, invention, and ‘fantasìa’ (London: Reaktion Books, 1993), pp. 140, 145, 216, nn. 26-27 (ill. in color).

Anna Forlani Tempesti and Elena Capretti, Piero di Cosimo. Catalogo completo (Florence: Octavo, 1996), p. 119, no. 29, ill.

Roberta J.M. Olson, The Florentine Tondo (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 98, 252–53, fig. A48.

Elena Capretti, “Piero di Cosimo: un’opera ritrovata: II. Il dipinto, ” Arte Cristiana, vol. 90, no. 808 (January/February 2002), p. 28, n. 7.

Dennis Geronimus, The Painting Career of Piero di Cosimo, 1462-1522, Doctoral Thesis, Oxford University, 2000, vol. 1, pp. 171–72; vol. 2, p. 29, fig. 60.

Dennis Geronimus, Piero di Cosimo: Visions Beautiful and Strange (New Haven: Yale University Press), 2006, pp. 258–62, 339–40, fig. 202.

Larry J. Feinberg, "Notable Acquisitions at the Art Institute of Chicago," Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 34, no. 1 (2008), p. 56, ill. p. 57.

Maurizia Tazartes, Piero di Cosimo: 'ingegno astratto e difforme' (Florence: Mauro Pagliai, 2010), pp. 99–101, ill.

Ownership History

Private collection, Scotland; acquired by Madame Miriam Gilou-Cendrars and her husband, Albert Gilou, early 1930s; Gilou-Cendrars collection, France; sold Roubaix, France, J. Mercier, J. Velliet, D. Thullier, F. Issaly, June 18, 1989, lot 84; bought by Richard L. Feigen Co., New York; sold to the Art Institute, 2007.

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