Francesco Raibolini called Francesco Francia - inv. 1555
This small panel was probably destined for private prayer, even though it cannot be completely excluded that it might originally have been part of a larger work. The saint is holding a stem of lilies, symbol of purity, and a book, an attribute recalling the wisdom of the Franciscan preacher.
Francesco Francia was much appreciated as an artist among his contemporaries. He trained as a painter in Lorenzo Costa’s school, but was also a goldsmith and chaser. During the years of his maturity, to which this painting is attributed, he was strongly influenced, like many of his contemporaries, by the style of Pietro Perugino. The saint’s graceful pose, with one knee forward and his head inclined to one side, and likewise the expression on his face full of sentiment and pathos, indicate the spread of the taste for Perugino in central and northern Italian art at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Raibolini, however, shows Emilian roots in the intense, soft chiaroscuro modelling the ample habit as well as in the description of the landscape with the dense gold highlights on the trees on the left and the city on the right. The work is not in an excellent state of conservation thanks to numerous abrasions that have impoverished the painting, making it more difficult to read: however, it is still possible to appreciate the refinement of the painting technique.