A lost fifteenth-century drawing rediscovered:
Donors Kneeling in Adoration before the Virgin
and Child with Saint Anne
A pen-and-ink drawing on parchment and treated with
a wash, of which I found an old photograph in the
Louvre Documentation archives in 2010, reappeared
on the art market in March 2017 when the Bacri
collection was sold by Sotheby’s Paris (fig. 1).1 Given
the work’s quality, it merited a thorough study and is
the focus of this article.
The physical history of the drawing is eventful.
Originally from the Warneck collection, it was first
mentioned in Paris, in the sale catalogue of the Hôtel
Drouot, 22 October 1924, under the title: Seigneurs
en adoration devant sainte Anne, la Vierge et l’Enfant Jésus
(Feudal Lords in adoration before Saint Anne, the
Virgin and the Christ Child) and was put up for sale
by Drouot on 13 February 1939.2 At that point it was
probably bought by the collector Bacri. More recently
it was acquired in 2017 by the Parisian gallery Louis de
Bayser. It then passed on to Hill-Stone in the United
States and was exhibited by the Arnoldie-Livi Gallery
in March 2018 at TEFAF in Maastricht. In January
2019, it was acquired by a New York collector.
Fig. 1 / Master of the Legend
of Saint Barbara (attr.), Donors
Kneeling in Adoration before
the Virgin and Child with Saint
Anne, fifteenth century (last
third), drawing, 32 x 16 cm,
Private Collection (former Bacri
The photograph examined at the Louvre in 2010
revealed a clear stylistic relationship with two fifteenthcentury Flemish drawn portraits, preserved at the
Adornes Museum in Bruges, which I was studying at
the time: these represent the important merchant and
diplomat, Anselme Adornes and his wife, Marguerite
van der Banck (fig. 2).3 For example, there are strong
similarities between the physiognomy of the kneeling
figure in the foreground in the newly discovered drawing
and that of Anselme in the drawing in Bruges (figs. 3a & b).
Indeed, they share the same devout expression, long,
thick-ended nose, fleshy lower lip, and protruding chin.
The shape of the faces of Saint Anne and the Virgin
are reminiscent of that of Marguerite van der Banck,
with small eyes and dark pupils which give the model
an alert look. On the other hand, in the Bacri drawing,
there is less attention paid to the modelling of the faces,
which lack the fine hatching indicating darker areas,
and likewise the details of the lineaments. These are
only lightly sketched, but the few well-marked traits are
enough to define the characters.4 The precise design of
the folds in the drapery, clearly delineated, highlighted
here and there, as well as the fall of the drapery and the
geometric shapes of the fabric panels, are also similar.
The attitude of the feudal lord, with his cap held down
by a scarf that he wears on his right shoulder and the
position of his foot emerging from his cloak are identical.
Anselme Adornes, born of a Genoese family who
moved to Bruges at the end of the thirteenth century,
played a vital role in the political and economic life of
the city. Attached to the court of Burgundy, he was a
close advisor to Charles the Bold and, as such, served as
an intermediary between the duke and James III, King
of Scotland, in attempting to restore the broken trade
links between Bruges and Scotland.5
The two portraits preserved in Bruges, drawn with pen on
laid, watermarked paper, are independent. They present
the Adornes couple kneeling, each in a niche, under a
Gothic carved stone canopy supported by slender columns
surmounted by pinnacles.6 The ceiling piece, perforated
and topped with a large floret, rests on consoles adorned
with acanthus leaves. Anselme Adornes joins hands in
prayer while his wife holds open a Book of Hours.


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