Detail of a painting showing the heads of three figures: the Christ Child, Mary, and Mary's mother Saint Elizabeth

Virgin and Child with Saint Elizabeth and Saint John the Baptist (detail), about 1540–45, Agnolo Bronzino. Oil on panel. The J. Paul Getty Museum

A recently rediscovered painting by 16th-century Italian master Agnolo Bronzino went on view to the public today for the first time since it was created nearly 500 years ago. Newly added to the collection of Getty Museum, Virgin and Child with Saint Elizabeth and Saint John the Baptist is an arrestingly beautiful picture and one of Bronzino’s most significant religious works.

The painting joins the Getty collections alongside The Annunciation by Late Gothic sculptor Giovanni di Balduccio. This extremely rare pair of marble sculptures, made around 1333–34, will go on view at the Getty Center later this year.

In the Bronzino painting, the figure of the Virgin Mary, with garments of richly saturated color, dominates the composition. Cheeks almost touching, her eyes meet those of the Christ Child, who holds a reed cross and toys with the garland of flowers on his head. Below, the child Baptist proffers a bunch of wild strawberries, a portent of the bloodshed at Christ’s death on the cross. He is observed watchfully by his own mother, the elderly St. Elizabeth.

The figures, with crisp outlines and smooth, luminous skin, have the appearance of carved marble. With its high level of finish, gleaming surface, and lavish use of expensive pigments, paintings such as this one would have appealed to the refined tastes of patrons at the Medici court in Florence, where Bronzino worked.

A Renaissance painting showing a beautiful woman with two babies and an older woman in a hood

Virgin and Child with Saint Elizabeth and Saint John the Baptist, about 1540–45, Agnolo Bronzino. Oil on panel. The J. Paul Getty Museum

A Renaissance panel painting with a bold, gilded frame with lobed forms

Virgin and Child with Saint Elizabeth and Saint John the Baptist in its superb frame, a typical Florentine 17th-century frame in the so-called auricular style, with curved forms reminiscent of the lobes of the human ear.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

The painting by Bronzino had a long life in private collections but was never exhibited publicly. For a time, it was also misattributed. It first appeared in modern records in a sale in Milan in 1898, where it was attributed to Andrea del Sarto, the teacher of Bronzino’s teacher Pontormo. In 1964 the painting reappeared at a sale in London, where it was, at last, noted that Bronzino had signed it on a stone in the lower-left corner of the composition. Since then the painting has been in private collections; it was first published by the Italian scholar Carlo Falciani only in 2016.

A second version of the present work was bequeathed in 1941 by Sir Lionel Faudel-Phillips to the National Gallery, London. Its provenance cannot be traced before its appearance in 1916.

Bronzino is known to have created multiple versions of the same composition on several other occasions. He maintained that changing luminosity to mimic different times of the day allowed the viewer to appreciate different tones and colors, while requiring few changes or adjustments to the composition itself. The painting in London and the work now at the Getty are set at night and at dawn, respectively. The moonlight of the picture in London enhances the concision of the forms, while the diffused light of the dawn intensifies the bright, contrasting colors in the Getty painting.

Detail of a painting showing a leg and arm and a small rock bearing the word BRONZINO

Detail of Virgin and Child with Saint Elizabeth and Saint John the Baptist showing Bronzino’s name on the rock in the left front corner.

Bronzino as Artist

The painting represents Bronzino at the height of his career. Characteristic of his style are the gleaming sculptural forms, the enamel-like surface, and the lavish use of expensive pigments.

Born Agnolo di Cosimo di Mariano Tori, Bronzino was one of the most accomplished Italian painters working in Florence in the 16th century. His religious subjects and mythological scenes epitomize the grace and sophistication of the High Renaissance style, which was influenced by Michelangelo and the rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. Bronzino was the most successful pupil of Pontormo, whose Portrait of a Halbardier is also a visitor favorite in the Getty collection. He became court artist to Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and his refined style had an enormous impact on Florentine painting of the time.

The painting is in excellent condition and is on view to all in Gallery N204 in the Getty Center’s North Pavilion, alongside paintings by his contemporaries Frà Bartolomeo, Giulio Romano, Correggio, Parmigianino, Sebastiano del Piombo, Pontormo, and Salviati.

Explore the painting with us online—join senior curator of paintings Davide Gasparotto on Facebook Live (@gettymuseum) on Wednesday, October 9, at 9:30am PT.

A man in a large light-filled space hung with frames

Senior conservator of paintings Ulrich Birkmaier examines the painting’s frame as part of a standard condition review at the Getty Center. The painting is in a very good state of preservation.

Two men wearing gloves position a Renaissance painting on an easel to be photographed

Senior conservator of paintings Ulrich Birkmaier and frames conservator Gene Karraker carefully place the painting on an easel to be photographed in high resolution. Images of the painting will be made available for free download via Getty’s Open Content Program.

A visitor carefully studies a new painting.

Virgin and Child with Saint Elizabeth and Saint John the Baptist installed in gallery N204.