Jacopo Palma the Elder (attributed to) - inv. 1597
Datable to about the second decade of the 16th century, this small panel shows a holy conversation: drapery hangs behind the Virgin and Child, while the saints around them stand out against a cloud-streaked sky. The composition appears both lively and perfectly balanced: Saint Jerome advances steadily towards the Virgin; the Franciscan saint, possibly Saint Anthony of Padua, thanks to the book, stands immobile in the centre of the scene. Before him the young Saint John the Baptist stretches his hand towards the Christ Child, whose movement adds vivacity to the composition.
The compositional arrangement of the work mirrors the conventions in Venetian painting of the early decades of the 16th century, and the range of warm colour tones and nuances in chiaroscuro reveal a painter brought up on the mature paintings of Giovanni Bellini and strongly influenced by Giorgione. These stylistic traits, together with the vigorous anatomical drawing, for example, in the figure of Saint Jerome, correspond to the manner of one of the most celebrated painters of the Venetian 16th century, Jacopo Negretti, called Palma il Vecchio.
This attribution would also be upheld by the fineness of the details, as in the hands of Saint Jerome or the face of the Franciscan saint intent on reading, and by the quality of the light which could not easily be found in the work of a less skilful artist.