Leonardo’s influence is inescapable in the meticulously observed and carefully executed drapery, with its gentle gradations of color and light. With great sensitivity Marco creates form and volume through the use of shadows, particularly in the body of the Child. The use of highlights in the Madonna’s blue mantle, as well as those in Her headscarf, may be closely compared to the drapery of the Archangel Michael in the altarpiece from circa 1516 depicting the Three Archangels in the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.3
In both the present work and the Brera altarpiece, the layering of the clouds is remarkably consistent, as is the blue tonality of the furthest background. The use of blue to create depth and recession in the landscape was championed by Leonardo and soon spread throughout Europe, in a technique called aerial perspective. The physiognomies, the overall design, and the sfumato effect, are also all echoes of Leonardo’s work and recall the painting of the same subject by Boltraffio, but at times given to Leonardo, in the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg.4
Professor Andrea De Marchi associates the present panel with an Allegory of the Passion of very similar dimensions (75 by 57 cm.) which is listed in a private collection in Como.5 De Marchi proposes the two works may have been conceived as a diptych, though their designs work independently of each other. The present work would have hung to the left, with the Madonna’s body facing Christ in the right panel.
The attribution has been endorsed by Dr Everett Fahy and Professor Andrea De Marchi, on whose report this entry is based.
1. See D. Sedini, Marco d'Oggiono, tradizione e rinnovamento in Lombardia tra Quattrocento e Cinquecento, Milan 1989, pp. 26-28, cat. no. 1, reproduced.
2. Ibid., p. 51, cat. no. 17.
3. Ibid., pp. 102-08, cat. no. 40, reproduced in color.
4. See M.T. Fiorio, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, un pittore milanese nel lume di Leonardo, Milan 2000, pp. 81-83, cat. no. A3, reproduced in color and also L. Syson et al., Leonardo Da Vinci, Painter at the Court of Milan, exhibition catalogue, London 2011, 222-25, cat. no. 57, reproduced in color.
5. Sedini, op. cit., pp. 122-24, cat. no. 46, reproduced in color.
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