Giovanni Battista Salvi, more commonly known as 'Sassoferrato', after the town in which he was born, learned the rudiments of painting from his father Tarquino before embarking on a trip to Rome. There he studied the works of his contemporaries, including Reni, Domenichino, and the Carracci. His greatest influence, however, was Raphael and he is known to have directly copied the latter's compositions (see, for example, Sassoferato's Madonna and Child
in the Galleria Sabauda, Turin [inv. no. 482], which is directly based on Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks
[National Gallery, London, inv. no. NG6596]). Despite being an accomplished portraitist, Sassoferrato specialized in easel paintings of a devotional nature, usually representing the Madonna alone or with the Christ Child, of which the present composition is an outstanding example. The large number of autograph and studio replicas of Sassoferrato's compositions attest to the popularity they enjoyed within the artist's own lifetime.
The present composition, showing the Madonna gazing upwards towards the heavens whilst in prayer, is derived from a larger Assumption of the Virgin (Tarbes, Musée Massey). Sassoferrato adjusted the composition to create an easel sized version (undoubtedly for the wider market), of which there are further versions, including one in the Accademia Albertina, Turin.
We are grateful to François Macé de Lépinay for endorsing the attribution to Sassoferrato, based on photographs.