Ippolito Scarsella, known as Lo Scarsellino (Ferrara, around 1550 - 1620) workshop
Altarpiece depicting the Madonna and Child, St. James the Greater and the donor in armour
Technique: oil on panel
Measurements: 93 x 72 cm./with frame 109 x 86 cm.
Provenance: Prato, Farsetti, auction of 28.10.2016, lot 261 (link)
A majestic Madonna in Glory occupies the upper register of the canvas, seated on a blanket of iridescent clouds surrounded by angels, flanked by a cherub who scatters flowers contained in a cornucopia towards the infant Christ as a sign of abundance, naked and supported with both hands from the mother.
In the lower part of the composition stands the figure of San Giacomo Maggiore, one of the twelve apostles, standing on the right side of the altarpiece, represented dressed in a humble tunic; one arm holds the open Gospel book, while the other holds a cross pilgrimage staff.
A particular aspect of the table is the presence in the central part, to indicate its importance, of the figure of the donor, kneeling on a cushion, with his hands joined in prayer and his face observing the Virgin in an attitude of devotion, while on the opposite lectern is placed a prayer book; depicted with the features of a young leader in armor, with a sword and a rich iridescent red cloak, elements which, combined with his authoritarian composure, enhance his ennoblement.
Unlike the medieval altarpieces, the knight is here included in the space of the painting and has proportionate dimensions to those of the other characters, returning to all intents and purposes in the sacred scene, with a pose that cannot but evoke the detail of the 'Montefeltro altarpiece' made by Piero della Francesca for Federico da Montefeltro, kneeling in front of the sacred group in the guise of a leader.
On the right, the view recedes into depth highlighting the background of an urban landscape set on a hill behind which a mountain range stands out, with the peculiarity of the arched aqueduct that runs along the entire landscape. Presumably among these expanses were the donor's own possessions and his hometown.
It is a quality table, imbued with the late Mannerist style still resistant in the second half of the 16th century, characterized by a 'sweet and affable religiosity, rendered through a manner of studied simplicity and grace', which highlights the unmistakable stylistic and chromatic connotations of the produced by Ippolito Scarsella from Ferrara, known as lo Scarsellino (Ferrara, circa 1550 - 1620), one of the most important artists of Emilian art between the two centuries.
The painting, of refined execution, probably made by the master himself or with the collaboration of one of his pupils, is therefore an excellent example of his aesthetic imprint. In particular, observing the dense and pulsating chromatic mixture, the brilliant tones and the richness of luminous effects, as well as the design and scenic setting, we can only see the clear homage to Venetian art, primarily to Paolo Veronese, as is typical of the painter's early maturity.
In those years the author was looking for a synthesis between the Tuscan tradition, of drawing and plastic setting, and the Venetian one, of rich chromatic orchestration.
Intended for private devotion, the beautiful painting proposes in a small format a composition borrowed from the model of the altarpiece but made more intimate and everyday by the landscape background and the sky full of clouds against which the divine apparition stands out. A genre evidently required by the Ferrara market, as other versions of the same theme indicate, with variations in the number and choice of saints, made by Scarsellino.
The work is offered in good condition, complete with a pleasant gilded wooden frame.
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