Alessandro Bonvicino called Moretto da Brescia - inv. 3494
During the 16th century, painting in the Brescia area developed enormously, combining a Venetian-style colouring with the Lombard school’s research in light and realistic poetics.
Moretto was one of the leaders of this fortunate moment for the art of his city, and this Holy Family, painted in about 1535, is an important example of his work. It shows Mary, who rests her right hand on the shoulders of the young John the Baptist, while the other supports Jesus; in his turn, he stretches out towards the Baptist who offers him two pears. On the right, Saint Joseph dozes in the shade, a turban on his head. The composition appears perfectly balanced and yet not static: the complex interweaving of arms that link the figures in the left lower half of the canvas corresponds to the inclination of the Virgin’s head. On the right, the face of Joseph creates a triangle of shadow with the line of Mary’s shoulders, which proceeds along his arm and guides the spectator’s attention to the pear low down. For its intense realism, this is the most modern piece of painting in the work.
The winning compositional arrangement met with tremendous success and numerous copies were made of this canvas throughout the 16th century and even at the beginning of the 17th.
From a stylistic point of view, the use of light is most interesting as it investigates forms and reveals their material qualities. Observe, for example, the Child’s silk garment, or the very beautiful, almost virtuoso, detail of the veil covering the Virgin’s shoulders; the sophisticated use of light in illustrating Joseph’s face is remarkable too. Moretto also demonstrates how he has incorporated the lesson of Venetian tonal painting into his own very original style: the colours harmonise in warm notes in the painting of skin as in the gold, orange and brown of the clothes.