The result in the Old Master paintings auction at Dorotheum (28/25/15% buyer’s premium inc VAT) on November 9, which was far above the €250,000-350,000 estimate, was paid after a lengthy battle between a room and a phone bidder.
It is the second-highest price at auction for a work by the artist after the £3.1m paid for another Madonna and Child in oil and tempera on panel at Christie’s in July 2010 (according to Artprice).
The 2ft 7in x 1ft 11½in (79.5 x 59.5cm) oil on panel transferred onto canvas is related, with variations, to the artist’s Madonna Contarini which is in the Accademia in Venice.
Diagnostic investigations undertaken on the work have clarified that the preparatory underdrawing was most probably executed with the same cartoon as the one used for the Madonna Contarini.
It is thought that following this initial phase of transfer, possibly undertaken by an assistant, Bellini then intervened to complete and perfect the design employing parallel diagonal hatching which is typical of his drawing technique.
In the 20th century the painting belonged to the Argentinean collector Achillito Chiesa (1881-1951) until 1927; then the collection of the art dealer and collector Alessandro Contini Bonacossi (1878-1955) and subsequently a private European collection.