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Group of figures standing before a damask panel and desert landscape

In the center foreground, a light-skinned woman holds a nude baby on her lap. She gazes down and to the left. Her right palm faces outward. Behind her is a narrow dark green panel with a gold-colored damask pattern. Three light-skinned men stand to her immediate left. Standing on the right are three light-skinned figures: a bearded man, a woman in a head covering, and a man in a monk’s outfit holding a lily. Kneeling before the woman and child are a light-skinned man and woman in dark clothes. Behind the figures is a hill with low buildings.

Gallery Text

This sacra conversazione — a Virgin and Child together with saints within the same pictorial field — is a monumental version of a type of religious painting popular in the second half of the fifteenth century. It was made by an artist in the circle of Giovanni Bellini, and shows the influence of that artist’s altarpiece for the Dolfin Chapel, in San Francesco della Vigna, Venice, which is dated 1507. Examination of this painting’s underdrawing, with the aid of infrared reflectography, shows that the artist originally placed Saint Sebastian on the right, where he appears in Bellini’s composition. This altarpiece was intended for a Franciscan church, and the supplication of the male donor by Saint John the Baptist suggests that he was his namesake. It is possible that the male patron, shown in strict profile, was dead, and that the commission was carried out by his wife, who is presented in three-quarter view opposite him. Behind the figures, the rich and verdant landscape has succeeded the gold ground by an earlier style.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Circle of Giovanni Bellini, Italian (c. 1459 - 1516 Venice, Italy)
Previously attributed to Cima da Conegliano, Italian (Conegliano c. 1460 - c. 1517)
Virgin and Child with Saints Sebastian, Francis, John the Baptist, Jerome, an unidentified female saint, Saint Anthony of Padua and two donors
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Sacra Conversazione with donors
Work Type
c. 1515
Creation Place: Europe, Italy, Veneto, Venice
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2540, European Art, 13th–16th century, The Renaissance
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Physical Descriptions

Oil on panel
120 x 175.9 cm (47 1/4 x 69 1/4 in.)
frame: 159 x 215 cm (62 5/8 x 84 5/8 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Giulio Ferrario, Milan, sold [through Aure Caviggioli, The International Art Gallery, Monte Carlo]; to Ian Woodner, New York, January 1962; to Ian Woodner Family Collection, Inc., c. 1990, gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2000.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of the Woodner Family Collection, Inc.
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Raimond Van Marle, The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting, M. Nijhoff Publishers (The Hague, 1923-1938), Vol. XVIII, p. 457n
  • Luigi Coletti, Cima da Conegliano, Neri Pozza Editore (Venice, 1959), p. 86, cat. no. 87, repr. as plate 87
  • Felton Lewis Gibbons, "The Late Giovanni Bellini and his Workshop" (Ph.D Diss.,Harvard University, 1961), Harvard University, P. 250
  • Anchise Tempestini, Il Maestro Veneto dell' Incredulità di San Tommaso, Antichità vita (April 1974), Vol. XIII, pp. 11-17, p. 16
  • Luigi Menegazzi, Cima da Conegliano, Canova (Treviso, 1981), p. 250, no. 190, repr.
  • Peter Humfrey, Cima da Conegliano, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge; New York, 1983), p. 195, cat. no. 242, repr. as fig. 196b
  • Philip Rylands, Palma Vecchio, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England and New York, 1992), p. 63, p. 79 n. 9; repr. p. 69
  • Anchise Tempestini, Bellini e belliniani in Romagna, F. Cantini (Florence, Italy, 1998), pp. 96-97, 116-119, cat. no. 18, repr. pp. 116, 117 (detail), 119 (detail) [as by Luca Antonio Busati]
  • Pamela Betts, "Madonna and Child with Saints and Donors, Bellini School: A Technical Examination and Research Report" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 2001), Unpublished, pp. 1-22 passim

Exhibition History

  • Sacred and Profane Visions from Renaissance Venice, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/17/2001 - 07/23/2001
  • 32Q: 2540 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Related Works

Verification Level

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