Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio - inv. 1609

Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio (1467-1516)

The Virgin and the Child
1495 c.
tempera on panel  
45,5 x 35,6 cm
1879 bequest Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli
Inv. 1609

Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio was one of the first, and perhaps the most interesting follower of Leonardo da Vinci, after the latter moved to Milan in 1482.
His training within Leonardo's workshop is evident in this painting from the end of the 1480s, which perhaps was even made on the basis of drawings by Leonardo himself.
The strong influence of the Tuscan master informs the composition, particularly with respect to the postures of the Child and the Virgin, whose movements are connected and opposing. This sense of restrained energy characterises the work of Leonardo and his pupils.
The Virgin's dress, depicted with great realism, bears a flower motif.
This includes the drawing of a thistle, which symbolises the redemption of mankind through Jesus' passion. The other flowers in the painting also have a symbolical value according to the contemporary religious iconography. The jasmine, close to Mary's hand, is traditionally one of the Virgin's attributes, while the rose on the bottom left also alludes to Christ's Passion. Indeed, the whole image could be read as an allusion to Christ's sacrifice.
The sad expression of the Virgin, alongside the serous and conscious gaze of the Child, also confirm this idea.
This painting, bought by Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli in 1864, is considered one of the Lombard masterpieces of the Fifteenth century.