Offered by Callea Antichità
Circle of Bernardo Castello (1557-1629)
The Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist
Oil on canvas in gilded frame
Measures in cm: 84 x 63 cm (104 x 84 cm including frame)
Measures in inch: 33.07 x 24.80 in (40,95 x 33,08 in including the frame)
One of the most widespread iconographies in Italian painting from the Renaissance onwards, that of the Holy Family, is set in a sober and at the same time elegant interior, as the presence of the gold-edged green curtain that closes the space like a backdrop states. Whether it takes place in the intimacy of the house in Nazareth, as in the painting presented here, or it is placed outdoors, the scene includes the presence in the role of protagonists of the Madonna and Child Jesus, flanked by the protective figure of Joseph, always held a slightly aloof. In some cases, including ours, the Child is in dialogue with the little John the Baptist, thus alluding to the role played by the latter in the history of salvation, as the gesture of Jesus explicitly indicates in our canvas, who blesses the one who will be destined to baptize him in the waters of the Jordan.
The 'room' dimensions, the calm religious intonation that pervades the representation, underlined by the very evident presence of the haloes, attest that the painting was conceived for the private devotion of its client and probably intended for a bedroom or for the walls of a small home chapel.
The cleaning carried out in recent times allows you to appreciate the bright and lively chromatic range, orchestrated on the refined harmony between the shades of the Virgin's robes - blue and carmine red - and the bright green of the curtain that forms the backdrop to the scene. A particularly delicate pictorial drafting, well appreciated in the soft rendering of the faces and limbs of the two children - observe, for example, the suffused chiaroscuro transitions of the face of Jesus - is combined with a sensitive and tender description of the 'affects', allowing us to place this painting in the context of the painting of the Catholic Counter-Reformation and of the principles of verisimilitude and naturalness advocated by it in reaction to the expressive licenses and formal abstractions of the Mannerist figurative culture derived from Michelangelo's lesson. The return to a sober and juxtaposed pictorial language and simplified compositional schemes, often inspired by the early sixteenth century examples of Raphael and Andrea del Sarto, which we also recognize in our Holy Family, characterizes the work of numerous artists scattered throughout the various centers of the Peninsula , from the Bologna of the Carracci, to the Tuscany of Santi di Tito, to the Marche of Federico Barocci, up to Rome, Naples and Milan, where Camillo Procaccini and Guglielmo Caccia known as Moncalvo establish themselves as the standard bearers of this 'devout' declination of painting.
Genoa also emerges as a privileged center for the elaboration of the new trends in 'counter-reformed' painting, which find fertile ground in the figurative legacy of Luca Cambiaso (Moneglia, 1527 - El Escorial, 1585), the main Genoese painter of the '500 who had been one of the precursors of the rapprochement between religious sensitivity and forms of pictorial experimentation. His legacy is collected by Bernardo Castello (Genoa, 1557 - 1629), who alongside his activity as a painter of austere altarpieces and frescoes for the residences of the Ligurian nobility, with an important trip to Rome which saw him active in San Pietro and in the Giustiniani palace in Bassano di Sutri (1605), he fired numerous variations on the theme of the Holy Family in easel pictures.
It is to the model provided by these paintings that we can also trace the painting in question, which reveals the direct and close knowledge of the Castello prototypes, among which we can mention the Holy Family with San Giovannino of the National Gallery of Palazzo Spinola in Genoa (cf. Painting in Genoa and Liguria. From the early 16th century, 1998, p. 257); the Holy Family and two saints from the Ligustica Academy of Fine Arts in Genoa or the altar picture of a similar subject painted for the church of San Matteo, also in Genoa, in which we find figures from the typologies very similar to those of our canvas, the same predilection for simple compositional schemes and sober settings, composed of a few elements just mentioned, and, not secondarily, the same tender and domestic restitution of the 'affects'. It is clear that the anonymous author of the Holy Family presented here forms his figurative lexicon in close contact with the examples of Castello, suggesting that he may have passed through his workshop as a pupil. The predominant influence of the Ligurian master is then flanked by the attention for the culture of another leading painter in Genoa in the early seventeenth century, Giovanni Battista Paggi (Genoa, 1554-1627), who returned to the Ligurian capital in 1599 after a long stay in Tuscany interests you the interest in Florentine painting of the early Renaissance which echoes in the compositional choices made by the author of our Holy family. In the light of the considerations set out so far, the painting is therefore to be considered executed in the early years of the seventeenth century by a Genoese painter well rooted in the figurative tradition of the Superba.
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