Madonna and Child by Benozzo Gozzoli

In support of the artistic ambitions of her protege Norman Chandler, Mrs. Foxe has invited the Huntercombes to her party.  Lord Huntercombe is regarded as a connoisseur of paintings: “He had caught napping one of the best known Bond Street dealers in the matter of a Virgin and Child by Benozzo Gozzoli (acquired from the gallery as the work of a lesser master, later resoundingly identified) . . . . ” [CCR 140/143]

Benozzo Gozzoli (1421-1497) was a Florentine painter of immense output, whose work in fresco and panel painting was commissioned for churches throughout Tuscany,Umbria, Rome, and the Vatican.  Gozzoli was a student of Fra Angelico, whose manner Gozzoli’s early work resembles, but Gozzoli’s long and industrious career saw him though a variety of approaches to image-making, as the examples below suggest.

Procession of the Magus Benozzo Gozzoli, ~1459-1461 fresco, East wall Palazzo Medici – Riccardi, Florence photo public domain from Wikipedia.org

Scenes from the Life of St. Francis Benozzo Gozzolli, 1452 fresco Church of St. Francis Montefalco, Umbria photo public domain from Wikimedia.org

Scenes from the Life of St. Francis
Benozzo Gozzolli, 1452
fresco
Church of St. Francis
Montefalco, Umbria
photo public domain from Wikimedia.org

Madonna and Child with St. Francis and the donor Fra Jacopo da Montefalco and St. Bernardino of Siena  Benozzo Gozzoli, 1452 oil on panel, 13 x 22 in Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria photo public domain from WikiArt.org

Madonna and Child with St. Francis and the donor Fra Jacopo da Montefalco and St. Bernardino of Siena Benozzo Gozzoli, 1452 oil on panel, 13 x 22 in Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria photo public domain from WikiArt.org

Maddona and Child Benozzo Gozzoli, ~1460 tempera on panel, 33 x 20  in Detroit Institute of Art photo public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Maddona and Child
Benozzo Gozzoli, ~1460
tempera on panel, 33 x 20 in
Detroit Institute of Art
photo public domain from Wikimedia Commons

 

Perhaps it is this variety of styles that accounts for how a knowing amateur like Lord Huntercombe might be able to trump a Bond Street professional in the attribution of a painting by a master so highly regarded.  Two possible models for the Virgin and Child that Lord Huntercombe acquired from the “napping” dealer are small oil on panel (above left), now in the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum, or the entirely different different tempera painting on panel (above right), currently in the Detroit Institute of Arts (but for how long?).

The Madonna and Child with Angels attributed to Benozzo Gozzoli, 1447-1450 Egg tempera on wood, 12 x 9 in National Gallery, London photo from c asa-in-italia.com

The Madonna and Child with Angels
attributed to Benozzo Gozzoli, 1447-1450
Egg tempera on wood, 12 x 9 in
National Gallery, London
photo from c
asa-in-italia.com

But the most likely candidate is the Madonna and Child with Angels in the National Gallery.  Its still slightly uncertain attribution might have been Powell’s inspiration for the Huntercombe anecdote, and its location in London since 1945 makes it the Gozzoli Madonna that Powell’s readers would find most familiar.

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