Madonna & Child with St. John the Baptist
Oil on canvas
116 x 81 cm / 46 x 32 in
Private Collection, France
London/Milan, Robilant+Voena, Milano-Genova andata/ritorno, percorsi della pittura tra Manierismo e Barocco, 24th October - 6th December 2012
C. Manzitti & A. Morandotti, Milano-Genova andata/ritorno, percorsi della pittura tra Manierismo e Barocco, exhibition catalogue, Robilant+Voena, Milan, 2012, pg. 30-31
Camillo Manzitti, Bernardo Strozzi Catalogue Raisonné, Umberto Allemandi & C. SPA, Turin, 2013, No. 157
From the beginning of the 17th century, until his departure to Venice in 1630, Bernardo Strozzi was the leading figure for visual arts in Genoa. His style was initially indebted to the models of late Tuscan mannerism and painters like Pietro Sorri (his first teacher) Ventura Salimbeni and Aurelio Lomi, both active in Genoa, who all played a decisive role in his artistic formation. Strozzi’s taste for vivid and bright colours clearly derives from these examples.
In the first two decades of the 17th century, Strozzi’s painting became more and more free and his brushwork broader. Paintings such as the famous Saint Catherine of the Wadsworth Atheneum of Hartford, with the sweetly elegant female figure bathed in clear light, are highly representative of Strozzi’s early maturity and show a very personal style which combined the models of his early years with the influence of Rubens and Procaccini.
During this time Strozzi also worked as a fresco painter, though very few of his works have survived except for the frescoes of Villa Centurione – Carpaneto at Sampierdarena (around 1617) and a few fragments currently at the Museo dell’Accademia Ligustica; the larger part of Strozzi’s oeuvre is represented by religious works, genre scenes and portraits painted for private collectors of the wealthy families of Genoa like the Durazzo, the Doria, the Raggi or the Brignole - Sale.
The present painting is an interesting addition to Bernardo Strozzi’s catalogue. The work, as suggested by Camillo Manzitti (who will include it in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Strozzi paintings), is clearly related to another version of the same composition now in the Museo Poldi Pezzoli in Milan (fig. 1). The two were executed with a gap of between ten and fifteen years; the dating of the Poldi Pezzoli work changes according to different scholars: Luisa Mortari places the painting at a quite early date, around 1610 (cfr. L. Mortari, Strozzi, Roma 1996, pp. 94-95) while Giuliana Algeri (in the catalogue of the 1995 exhibition Bernardo Strozzi. Genova 1581/82 – Venezia 1644, eds. E. Gavazza, G. Nepi Sciré, G. Rotondi Terminiello, pp. 124-125) prefers a date around 1616/1618. Meanwhile, Camillo Manzitti proposes our painting should be dated to circa 1625.
The two paintings show a very different palette, the Milan painting has dark tones, dominated by browns and reds, and very deep shadows which betray the influence of painters like Cerano or Procaccini; the present painting instead presents an explosion of bright colour that reaches its climax with the splendid pale blue mantle and head-dress of the Virgin.
The same tones may also be found in other paintings of the same period such as the Incredulity of Saint Thomas (fig. 2) owned by the Museo de Arte, Ponce or the Allegory of Charity of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts of Richmond, usually dated 1622 to 1625 (cfr. the entries of Rita Dugoni and Anna Orlando in the 1995 catalogue, pp. 146, 156).