Until recently the present design was only known through a red chalk preparatory drawing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (fig. 1). While the drawing's delicate poses and overall composition are barely altered in the finished painting, the latter stands out for its strikingly warm light and the richness of the primary colors. Gandolfi's confident ability in the handling of paint is also evident in the painting: the smooth flesh tones, both in Joseph's ruddy face and in Christ's body, are contrasted with the thick brushstrokes in Christ's hair as well as the more fluid strokes of the Madonna's red and blue drapery, and the rich folds of the background curtain. The carefully modeled hands are typical of Gandolfi's easel paintings and can be compared with the Madonna Annunciate sold London, Sotheby's, 8 December 2010, lot 35, which also dates from around 1775.
The attribution has been endorsed by Dottoressa Donatella Biagi Maino, a copy of whose expertise accompanies the painting.
1. See D. Biagi Maino, Gaetano Gandolfi, Turin 1995, pp. 370-71, cat. no. 101, reproduced in color plate LXVIII.
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