Gaetano Gandolfi - inv. 4701
Gaetano Gandolfi came from a family of painters, engravers and stucco-workers active in Emilia during the 18th century. His painting, like that of his brother Ubaldo, combines the Baroque tradition in Bologna with the colouring of Tiepolo, assimilated during a journey to Venice.
This painting is a preparatory sketch for the canvas in the picture gallery in Ferrara. It was painted in Bologna between 1768 and 1769 for the reverend Antonio Senegoni.
The sketch is full of a strong dynamism and sense of immediacy that is lost in the more controlled and serene canvas in Ferrara.
The light emanating from the Child into the surrounding space is not one of Gandolfi’s inventions: it is a device taken from the same subject by Correggio – now in Dresden, but in Modena until 1744 – which influenced many artists from the 16th century onwards. In Gandolfi’s work, the light illuminates the Virgin’s clothes and various details in the scene, showing an extremely sophisticated taste for colour.
The composition is skilfully balanced: the figures taking part in the holy event are placed along the diagonals; whereas three angels are positioned symmetrically above the Virgin and child on the central axis. All the lines ideally come together at the height of the outstretched left foot of the shepherd in the foreground.