Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli called Morazzone - inv. 329
Both the technique and the condition in which this small painting has reached us are interesting. The work was realised in oil on paper, in black and white. The sheet of paper was then cut into six parts and finally recomposed by backing all six parts on to canvas: this procedure is typical of a preparatory study for a fresco or a large-sized canvas.
Preliminary studies were made in black and white to verify the best chiaroscuro effects before passing to any colour choices. The division into six parts would have helped the artist verify the best effects in terms of placing the figures in the space. This way of proceeding in stages, separately studying various aspects of a complex work, must have been customary practice for a painter like Morazzone, a Lombard artist trained in Rome who, on his return to Lombardy, was mainly commissioned to paint frescoes and decorate architectural spaces.
Different reasons might have led to the pieces being recomposed on canvas: possibly Morazzone himself decided to keep the study in order to be able to reuse it, or have it copied in the workshop by his collaborators.
The painting is divided into two parts: at the top, in the middle, we have the Virgin, with Christ risen from the dead and God the Father in the act of crowning her; the dove of the Holy Ghost hovers above the crown. The feet of all three figures are placed on clouds, surrounded by angels. Below, Saint Carlo Borromeo and Saint Anthony of Padua are kneeling with their eyes turned upwards.
The most curious aspect of this painting is the co-presence of the adult Christ in the heavens and baby Christ in Saint Anthony’s arms. Morazzone’s portrayal of Saint Anthony here is one of the first versions in which the saint is depicted with those affectionate and moving features that were to become so characteristic of him in subsequent decades.