Madonna and Child with the Young Saint John the Baptist
92 cm x 80.5 cm (36 1/4 in. x 31 11/16 in.)
(Moneglia, Italy, 1527 - 1585, El Escorial, Spain)
Medium and Support:
Oil on wood panel
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Purchase as a gift of the Cain Foundation in honor of Charmaine Hooper Denius, 2005
This is an early work by Luca Cambiaso, the first great master of sixteenth-century Genoa and the virtual founder of its distinctive school of painting. The monumentality of the Virgin, the thrust of the Child, and the bold plasticity of every form suggest study with the followers of Michelangelo in mid-century Rome. At the same time, this powerful description has been circumscribed by Cambiaso’s exaggerated regularity of shapes, as in the figures’ heads, and embellished with the unnatural grace of their extremities, which recalls the works that Raphael’s follower Perino del Vaga had created for Genoa. Throughout, from the luscious frosting of the Virgin’s white sleeve to the exquisite filaments about the eyes, there is evident delight in the sheer matter of paint and possibilities of the brush. This virtuosity is conspicuous because of the work’s execution on panel and the excellent preservation of most of its surface. The painting demonstrates the young artist’s startling ambition, explains his first synthesis of influences, and predicts his place among the major figures of Mannerism.
The Suida-Manning Collection includes six paintings and at least two dozen autograph drawings by Cambiaso. These represent the most significant holdings of his work outside Genoa. Preceding the earliest Suida-Manning picture by some fifteen years, and the only example on panel, this painting is the cornerstone of the entire group.