Ludovico Brea - inv. 5239

Ludovico Brea (c. 1443-1520)

Virgin Mary seated in throne with the Child and Angels
oil on wood  
110 x 70 cm
2004 donation Marcello del Torre and Emi Bianchi del Torre Lanfranconi
Inv. 5239

Lombard Rooms
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The Virgin holds Baby Jesus in her arms and offers him a pear, a fruit that alludes to the incarnation of Christ. Three small angels sit on the top of the throne, decorated with grotesques; one plays the harp, another the flute and the third a pipe. Two other angels play a viola and a mandolin.

Originally the panel was arched. Stylistically the painting can be attributed to Ludovico Brea, an artist from Nice who worked in Liguria and Provence at the end of the fifteenth century and during the first twenty years of the next. Brea worked with Vincenzo Foppa on the polyptych for cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, nephew of Sixtus IV, on the main altar of the cathedral of Savona, Santa Maria in Priamar, finished in 1490.
The Poldi Pezzoli panel takes its overall composition from the central panel of that polyptych, as well as the detail of the three music-playing angels seated on the Renaissance throne. In the way the artist has set the scene in the open and, above all, in the shading of the Virgin’s face Brea shows his knowledge of the Leonardesque painters active in Liguria, as well as the influence of Foppa.

The composition was painted from two viewpoint: a central perspective for the face and bust of Mary and foreshortened from below for the lower part so that the throne seems very deep. The way the two holy figures are looking downwards and the blessing gesture of Christ would seem to suggest that the panel was placed centrally in a two-tiered polyptych. This type of polyptych, very common in Liguria, generally had a saint in the lower central panel and the Virgin enthroned with the Child in the upper central panel. This would explain the size of the work, which is too small for a polyptych of only one tier.