The J. Paul Getty Museum

Madonna and Child with a Male Saint, Catherine of Alexandria and a Donor

Object Details


Madonna and Child with a Male Saint, Catherine of Alexandria and a Donor


Michelangelo di Pietro Membrini (Italian (Lucchese), 1461/1464 - 1525)




about 1496


Tempera on panel

Object Number:



101.6 × 101.6 cm (40 × 40 in.)

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Object Description

The focus of this meditative scene is the Virgin nursing the infant Christ. An elderly gentleman on the left bows his head in prayer. Though he is without definitively identifying attributes, his red cloak may indicate that he is Saint Jerome, who is often shown wearing the red robes of a cardinal. The coats of arms of two noble families of the city of Lucca hang from the pilasters which flank the Madonna: the Guinigi to the left, the Buonvisi to the right. The painting may have been commissioned to celebrate the union of these prominent Italian families. Directly below Saint Jerome, a donor gazes up at the Virgin and Child, his hat removed and hands clasped in reverence. He may be Michele Guinigi, a member of a wealthy merchant family who was pledged to marry Caterina Buonvisi. Caterina herself perhaps appears on the right, in the guise of her namesake Saint Catherine of Alexandria, who holds a broken wheel, the symbol of her martyrdom.

A tondo, derived from the Italian word rotondo, meaning round, was a type of painting that was circular in format which enjoyed particular popularity for display in domestic settings in central Italy in the second half of the fifteenth century. Its shape is thought to derive, in part, from the so-called desco da parto or “birth tray”—a circular decorative tray on which sweetmeats were presented to new mothers. The round format soon migrated to paintings which were produced to celebrate a marriage union or the birth of a child, to express hope for a pregnancy or the safe delivery of a child.

The painting’s authorship was uncertain at the time it entered the Getty collection, when the artist was known as “Master of the Lathrop Tondo,” in reference to the painting’s former location in the Lathrop collection in New York. By 1985, a body of work of approximately thirty paintings was attributed to the unknown artist, who was later identified as Lucchese painter Michelangelo di Pietro Membrini.


David Costantini (Florence, Italy)
Source: Witt Library photograph.

by 1906 - about 1929

Francis Lathrop (New York, New York), sold to Wildenstein & Co.

about 1929 - 1968

Wildenstein & Co. (New York) (London, England; New York, New York; Paris, France), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1968.

Paintings by Old Masters (November 9 to December 1, 1929)
  • The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Minneapolis), November 9 to December 1, 1929
Institute of Arts, 16th loan exhibition of Old Masters: Italian paintings of the XIV to the XVI century (March 8 to March 30, 1933)
  • The Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit), March 8 to March 30, 1933
European Paintings by Old and Modern Masters (June 13 to August 5, 1934)
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles), June 13 to August 5, 1934
25 Masterpieces of European Painting (1935)
  • Stendahl Art Galleries (Los Angeles)
Masterpieces of Painting (February 5 to March 8, 1942)
  • Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Montréal), February 5 to March 8, 1942
Italian Paintings (1947)
  • Wildenstein & Co. (New York), 1947
Great Masters of the Italian Renaissance (October 4 to December 13, 1953)
  • Vancouver Art Gallery (Vancouver), November 15 to December 13, 1953
The Painter as Historian (November 15 to December 31, 1962)
  • Wildenstein & Co. (New York), November 15 to December 31, 1962
The J. Paul Getty Collection (June 29 to September 3, 1972)
  • The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Minneapolis), June 29 to September 3, 1972

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