Lombard painter 16th century - inv. 1645

Lombard painter of 16th century

Virgin Nursing the Child
1500-1510 c.
tempera on canvas  
71,8 x 59,9 cm
1879 bequest Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli
Inv. 1645

Lombard Rooms

This is a unique case in Leonardesque painting. The Virgin, portrayed beyond a parapet, is nursing the Child who, seated on a cushion, turns to look at the spectator while holding a heart in one hand, the symbol of divine love. His mother watches over him tenderly; her gestures are gentle and protective.
Framed by her veil kept in place by the complicated knotting of the blue sash, her face stands out against a red curtain. A far-reaching landscape opens out in the background, with a peasant woman walking towards a group of houses.
The composition clearly derives from the Madonna Litta, no longer attributed to Leonardo, but to a close follower. However, the original model has been altered by the addition of the parapet, the curtain and the open landscape behind. While several motifs belong to Leonardo's repertoire, others are most unusual in the Lombard tradition: the curtain, with its angular folds, and the style of the veil and the hair. Even the technique has raised doubts, to the point that some scholars have suggested the work might be a skilful forgery. However, it is more probable that these details were retouchings done, perhaps at the beginning of the nineteenth century, in order to make the work more up-to-date. Apart from its paternity, the work is remarkably sophisticated, as evident in the fine drawing, in the study of light and shade, in the detailing of the Child's foot beyond the parapet and in the shadow created by the tassel of the cushion.

F. A.