Vincenzo Foppa (workshop of) - inv. 3194

Workshop of Vincenzo Foppa

The Holy Family
1475 c.
tempera on panel  
26,4 x 19,6 cm
1932 acquisition 
Inv. 3194

14th Century Room
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Unfortunately the work is not in good condition, seen in the serious surface abrasions, which detracts from full appreciation of it as the <i>Holy Family</i> is in fact remarkable, starting with its well balanced composition where every element is given its right space.

The Virgin dominates the middle of the panel, in the act of worshipping her Child. The veil far back on her head confers maximum emphasis to the gentle expression of her face, with lowered eyes and a slight smile on her lips. Saint Joseph is depicted behind her, his face marked by wrinkles. Jesus lies on a ledge in the foreground, with his head lying on a cushion and his gaze turned to the spectator. Engraving for another halo on the left of the Virgin indicates that the scene was changed during execution. Instead of the person never realised, a country view opens up, with woody hills, houses in perspective, mountains in the distance and the sky whitening towards the horizon. The figure of Saint John the Baptist can also be made out, recognisable by the cross on his shoulders. The details, then, are accurate, as shown by the sophisticated repetition-variation of the joined hands in the figures. Notice also the baldachin embellished with golden motifs, the depth of the landscape view, the attentive study of shadow and the rendering of the veil, whiter where there is more light.

The archaic character of the figures and the presence of numerous quotations from similar paintings by Foppa lead one to believe that the artist was probably a pupil, or assistant, active in the master’s workshop. The panel takes up an image from Giovanni Bellini – with the Virgin in adoration and the Child lying on a ledge – widespread from about 1475, and thus providing a possible date for the Poldi Pezzoli Museum painting.