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A favorite Florentine Renaissance sculptural type, this bust of a young boy reveals Desi-derio as one of the finest marble carvers of all time. Even Leonardo da Vinci learned from his subtle transitions and sensitive expressions. Through keen observation, consummate chisel work, and careful abrasion, Desiderio transformed stone into wispy hair, layered cloth, and soft flesh. Appearing still and composed at first glance, the child has subtle indentations around the mouth and a slightly turning face, suggesting a mood about to change. The original subject may have been the infant Christ, or a portrait later changed into a sacred image, suggested by a hole drilled to hold a halo stem.


Purchased 1846 in Italy by Eugène Piot [1812-1890], Paris; sold 26 April 1864 to Paul van Cuyck, Paris.[1] Louis-Charles Timbal [1821-1880], Paris; sold 1872 with his collection to Gustave Dreyfus [1837-1914], Paris;[2] his estate; purchased 1930 with the entire Dreyfus collection by (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris);[3] purchased 15 December 1936 by The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh;[4] gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History

Italian Sculptures from the Dreyfus Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1932.
Exposition de L'Art Italien de Cimabue a Tiepolo, Musèe du Petit Palais, Paris, 1935, no. 1038.
Desiderio da Settignano: Sculptor of Renaissance Florence, Musée du Louvre, Paris; Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2006-2007, no. 11, repro.


Vitry, Paul. "La collection de M. Gustave Dreyfus: I. - La Sculpture." Les Arts 72 (December 1907): repro. 3, 4, 6, 8, 10.
Cortissoz, Royal. An Introduction to the Mellon Collection. Boston, 1937: repro. opposite page 25.
Jewell, Edward Alden. "Mellon's Gift." Magazine of Art 30, no. 2 (February 1937): 79, 83, repro.
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 221, no. A-2, pl. XV.
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 253, repro. 227, as Bust of a Little Boy.
Swarzenski, Georg. "Some Aspects of Italian Quattrocento Sculpture in the National Gallery." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 6th series, 24 (November 1943): 289 fig. 5, 290-291.
Duveen Brothers, Inc. Duveen Sculpture in Public Collections of America: A Catalog Raisonné with illustrations of Italian Renaissance Sculptures by the Great Masters which have passed through the House of Duveen. New York, 1944: figs. 60-62, as Bust of a Boy.
Louchheim, Aline B. "Children Should Be Seen." Art News Annual 46 (1948): 52, repro.
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 152, repro., as Bust of a Little Boy.
Seymour, Charles. Masterpieces of Sculpture from the National Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1949: 175-176, note 20, repro. 77-79, as Bust of a Little Boy.
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 152, as Bust of a Little Boy.
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 135, repro., as Bust of a Little Boy.
Finley, David Edward. A Standard of Excellence: Andrew W. Mellon Founds the National Gallery of Art at Washington. Washington, 1973: 42, 43 repro.
King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 35-36, pl. 14, as Bust of a Little Boy [incorrectly identified as Samuel H. Kress Collection].
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 626, no. 971, repro., as Bust of a Little Boy.
Luchs, Alison. "Duveen, the Dreyfus Collection, and the Treatment of Italian Renaissance Sculpture: Examples from the National Gallery of Art." Studies in the History of Art 24 (1990):34-35, repro.
Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1994: 73, repro.
Tansey, Richard G. and Fred S. Kleiner. Gardner's Art Through the Ages. 10th ed. Fort Worth, 1996: 713, color fig. 21.48.
Gregori, Mina, ed. In the Light of Apollo: Italian Renaissance and Greece. 2 vols. Exh. cat. National Gallery and Alexandros Souzos Museum, Athens, 2003-2004: 1:207.
Bormand, Marc. "De la naissance à la mort. Diversité d'espression dans l'oeuvre de Desiderio da Settignano." In Connors, Joseph, Alessandro Nova, Beatrice Paolozzi Strozzi and Gerhard Wolf, eds. Papers from a colloquium held at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, Max-Planck-Institut, and at Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Florence, May 9-12, 2007 on occasion of the exhibition in Florence dedicated to Desiderio da Settignano. Venice, 2011: 31, repro. p. 32.
Butterfield, Andrew et al. Verrocchio, Sculptor and Painter of Renaissance Florence. Washington, 2019: 124, fig. 1, 126, 143.

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