Paolo de San Leocadio
Virgin and Child with the infant St. John
Oil on panel
66 by 54 cm.
Provenance: Genoa, private collection.
This panel presents a depiction of the Virgin and Child with the Infant St. John, an extremely popular subject in 16th-century Hispanic painting. In all probability the work was intended for private worship, and was therefore not part of any altarpiece, standing alone.
The work’s colours are intense and contrasting, with the interplay between the blue of Mary’s cloak and red of her robe being a prominent feature. The ochre tones of the front ledge and St. John’s camel skin link up with the greens and browns of the background landscape. The horizon is elevated, leaving little space for the sky, which is pictured with skilfully graduated tones and an intense combination of light, with storm clouds towards the top, lending the scene atmospheric connotations.
This is undoubtedly the work of Paolo de San Leocadio, a painter of Italian origin who settled in Valencia in 1472. This is a subject he depicted on a number of occasions, which helps in terms of making suggestive comparisons with the work we are dealing with here. We should first mention a panel preserved at Valencia’s Museo de Bellas Artes, where the Child and Infant St. John’s positions have been reversed. All the same, Jesus’s body language is similar, stretching his legs and leaning forward. The most notable similarities are to be found in the figure of Mary, who is pictured in exactly the same pose, her head tilted, gazing down, and with the same round-necked red robe. Her hair is tucked behind her ears and falls over her chest in much the same way in both panels. We also observe the same delicate brushstrokes, applied using yellow pigment to bring out the reflections in Mary’s blond hair. The way the buildings and landscape are depicted is also the same, as is the gold nimbus crowning the two Virgins, both ethereal and delicate.