Madonna and Child with Saint Catherine and an Angel
140.9 cm x 102.6 cm (55 1/2 in. x 40 3/8 in.)
(Moneglia, Italy, 1527 - 1585, El Escorial, Spain)
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida-Manning Collection, 2017
Concluding just years before the execution of this painting, the Council of Trent proposed the systematic reform of the Catholic Church, largely in response to the Protestant Reformation. The Council and its subsequent interpreters insisted that religious painting should be scripturally accurate, clearly legible, and stirring of devout feeling in the viewer. After a long collaboration with the brilliant architect Bergamasco and an increasing manufacture during the 1560s, Luca Cambiaso had already developed a more calculated, spare, and efficacious style. For the later religious works, consonant with, if not explicitly serving, the new ideals, he perfected a mode that is diagrammatic in subject and radically pared of obvious material appeal. To relieve the abstractness, to cue a sentimental response, and certainly also to satisfy his own instincts as a painter, Cambiaso equipped this mode with passages of stunning natural observation and tender human interaction. The most original and striking of these paintings are the nocturnes, concentrated in the early 1570s. This picture is the grandest of three examples in the Suida-Manning Collection. While the general conception and function of these nocturnes point toward Cambiaso’s last activity, as official painter to the Spanish king Philip II at the monastery of the Escorial, their coherent light and authentic feeling anticipate the tenebrism of the early Baroque, from Caravaggio to Georges de La Tour and Gerrit van Honthorst.