Lazzaro Bastiani - inv. 1583
The work was painted in about 1475 by Lazzaro Bastiani, a Venetian artist active between 1449 and 1412, the author of another work also conserved in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, a Pietà (inv. 1586). The iconography of the panel here is decidedly complex. Due to the presence of two angels holding the crown above the Virgin's head, the portrayal of the Virgin and Child in fact becomes a glorification of Mary in the presence of the Holy Trinity: God the Father appears at the top with the dove of the Holy Ghost. The angels that surround the central group playing various instruments confirm the theme of the Virgin's celestial exaltation. Marian symbols, on the other hand, are also concealed in the choice of fruit that hangs in festoons above (lemons, for example, for the confusion between the Latin name citrus and the cedar of Lebanon named in the Song of Songs, or the cucumber, which was understood as a reference to the Immaculate Conception).
From a stylistic point of view the work seems typical of Bastiani's early maturity, in a moment in which he was strongly influenced by Paduan painting and especially by Andrea Mantegna. The festoons of fruit, a typical motif of Paduan art, bear witness to this and so, especially, does the rigorous perspective organisation of the scene, emphasised by the square floor pattern. Bastiani's attention to perspective can also be seen in the repeated foreshortened faces of the angels and the Christ Child. The incisive drawing is then accompanied by a sophisticated use of light, inherited from the work of Giovanni Bellini, as can be admired in the better preserved parts of the painting, for example in the features of the angel's face to the right of Jesus, or in the careful rendering of the crown supported by angels. The artist's love for depicting richly decorated material and precious details is also striking, easily legible today thanks to restoration carried out in 2001: these are leftovers of the fashion, largely late Gothic, that had characterised the years of Bastiani's training and that still influenced so much of Venetian painting even in the second half of the fifteenth century.