The London Times in its account of the sale in the Butler Collection, of which this picture formed a part, said, “The great surprise of the sale was the price paid for the Madonna and Child catalogued as by Andrea del Verrocchio, a work of great beauty of the finest period of Florentine art; so much uncertainty is attached to the work of Verrocchio that a picture like this will always be much discussed, and this work is very close to the famous altarpiece in the Accademia in Florence; the picture is on panel and at Sir Walter R. Farquhar’s sale in 1894 (when it was catalogued as by Pesellino) it realized 430 guineas; yesterday it started at 100 guineas and at 6,000 guineas fell to Mr. Harvey who was acting for Colnaghi and Co.” It is interesting, as an example of the rise in value of certain pictures in these times to know that Sir Walter Farquhar paid the sum of 64 pounds, 12 shillings for this Madonna and Child at the Bromley Davenport sale in 1863. In less than fifty years its value had increased almost a hundredfold.
The famous work in the Accademia that the Times refers to is the Baptism of Christ, in which one of the angels has a certain likeness to the Madonna in the Altman picture. There is a drawing in the Uffizi generally accepted to be the study for the head of this angel. This has downcast eyes like our own Madonna and is in exactly the same position, though the forms in the drawing are more vigorous and sculpturesque. The Accademia picture is an early work of the master’s, begun, it has been surmised, about 1465.