The triumph of Bernardino Luini

On 21 November 2019, by Anne Doridou-Heim

Confirmed as belonging to the Lombard painter's small body of work, this panel set a world record and encouraged visitors to discover other Old Masters.

Bernardo Luini (ca. 1480-1532), Virgin and Child with St George and an angel musician, oil on panel, 103.5 x 79.5 cm.
Result: €2,300,400

The timing was perfect. On 7 November, Cristina Quattrini pledged to inscribe this Madonna and Child with St George and an angel in the catalogue raisonné of the works of Bernardino Luini (ca. 1480–1532), which she is about to publish, lifting the last doubts about its definitive attribution to an artist overlooked in art history until being rehabilitated by the Romantics. Luini's close relationship to Leonardo da Vinci, whose Louvre exhibition has seen record-breaking crowds since 24 October, and the rediscovery of a long-lost masterpiece meant that excitement about this painting had been building for weeks. Everything was coming together to make this oil on panel, which was added by Sir Francis Cook (1817–1901) to his prestigious collection when he purchased it on the wise advice of Sir John Charles Robinson (1824–1913), curator of Queen Victoria's painting galleries, highly sought-after. The sale (€2,300,400) ended the suspense while setting a new world record (source: Artnet), almost doubling that achieved a year ago at Christie's Paris for the Figure of saint, in bust, with a palm and reading the scriptures (€1,207,500, on 27 November 2018). Acquired by a German collector at Christie's London on 6 July 2017 for ten times less (€200,000), the painting joins a new foreign private collection. This sale was further enhanced by two other world records being set, one for a work on paper by Gustave Doré, the other for a charming portrait of a child by Adriaen Hanneman. Other paintings and drawings from various origins and periods also achieved serious prices, bringing the total amount to €3,211,410.

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