In this painting, Bassano displays his great skill in capturing an entire narrative within a single image. The Bible describes Christ's visit to a bath in Bethesda which is thought to have healing powers. When Christ asks the lame man why he does not heal himself, he replies that whenever he...
In this painting, Bassano displays his great skill in capturing an entire narrative within a single image. The Bible describes Christ's visit to a bath in Bethesda which is thought to have healing powers. When Christ asks the lame man why he does not heal himself, he replies that whenever he approaches the water, someone who is faster crowds him aside. Christ then tells the man to stand up and walk; he is healed. Bassano has chosen the moment of verbal interchange between the two main characters, making the story clear through a complex network of glances and gestures.
By 1693, Giovanni Battista Borghese (b. 1639 - d. 1717), Palazzo Borghese, Rome [see note 1]; by inheritance within the family to Camillo Borghese (b. 1775 - d. 1832), Rome; April 9, 1801, sold by Camillo Borghese to Durand, Paris [see note 2]. Richard Hart-Davis (b. 1766 - d. 1842), Bristol; about 1810/1819, probably sold by Davis to Philip John Miles (b. 1773 - d. 1845), Leigh Court, near Bristol [see note 3]; by inheritance to his grandson, Philip John William Miles (b. 1825 - d. 1888), Leigh Court; June 28, 1884, Miles sale, Christie's, London, lot 3, bought in; by inheritance from Philip John William Miles to his son, Cecil Miles (b. 1873 - d. 1899), Leigh Court; May 13, 1899, Miles sale, Christie's, London, lot 14, to Arthurton for 10.10 [see note 4]. 1926, Ernest Albert Rayner, Enfield, England. Probably in an Italian collection. June 19, 1988, anonymous sale, Christie's, Monaco, lot 27 [see note 5]. 1989, Piero Corsini Inc., New York; 1989, sold Corsini to the MFA. (Accession Date: November 29, 1989) NOTES:  For a full discussion of the painting, see Robert B. Simon, Important Old Master Paintings: Devotion and Delight (exh. cat. Piero Corsini, New York, fall 1989), pp. 8-15. It was first recorded in Giovanni Battista Borghese's inventory of April 7, 1693, as "un Miracolo di Cristo con diverse figure." Together with its companion, a Circumcision of Christ also by Jacopo Bassano, it appeared in subsequent Palazzo Borghese inventories of 1700 and about 1790.  See Paola della Pergola, "Per la storia della Galleria Borghese," Critica d'Arte 19-24 (1957): pp. 135-136, 139.  According to information provided by a descendant of Miles (correspondence of December 28, 2008), Richard Hart-Davis sold a number of works to Philip John Miles in 1810, 1813, and 1819. It was certainly in his possession by 1822, at which time it was included by John Young in the Catalogue of the Pictures at Leigh Court (London, 1822), p. 23, cat. no. 52.  The companion, Circumcision of Christ (lot 13), was sold to at this time to Boussod.  Attributed in the catalogue to Francesco Bassano II.
Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund