Traditional Christmas –
Madonna and Sleeping Child
Issue Date: October 20, 2009
City: New York, NY
Upon viewing the “Madonna and Sleeping Child,” one man exclaimed, “I have seen soul in other pictures but I have never had one touch mine as this one has. If love can be seen, this is a Sassoferrato in which you will see it.”
At a time when his contemporaries produced rigid and melancholy religious devotions, Giovanni Battista Salvi (1609-85) painted soft, charming works giving a gentle intimacy to his subjects. In the tradition of other great artists before him, Salvi was generally referred to by the name of the town in which he was born, Sassoferrato. He first studied under his father, Tarquinio Salvi, and later in Rome in the styles of Domenichino, Reni, Carracci, and Raphael. Sassoferrato is renowned for his paintings of the Madonna, with the majority of his works depicting her in prayer or with the baby Jesus.
Of the artist’s representations of the Madonna, one critic said, “Men grew... fond of Sassoferrato whose Madonnas, tender, lovely, carefully painted, all reveal the mother’s heart.” This tenderness can be seen in all of Sassoferrato’s works, in the thoughtful, kind expressions and the gentle way he positions his subject.
Sassoferrato’s “Madonna and Sleeping Child,” likely based on a painting by his teacher Guido Reni, is on display at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California.