82 x 63 cm Provenence:
Cremona, Private collection
D.Benati, in Guido Cagnacci, catalogue of the Rimini exhibition curated by D.Benati, M.Bona Castellotti, Milan 1993 pp. 78−81; M.Pulini, La Madonna col Bambino di Cagnacci. Un dipinto per Santarcangelo dalla Collezione Koelliker, catalogue of the exhibition by M. Pulini, Recanati 2006; G. Papi, in La “Schola” del Caravaggio. Dipinti dalla Collezione Koelliker, catalogue of the exhibition curated by G. Papi, Milan 2006, pp.100-101, n. 23; D. Benati, in Guido Cagnacci. Protagonista del Seicento tra Caravaggio e Reni, catalogue of the exhibition curated , D. Benati, A. Paolucci, Cinisello Balsamo 2008, pp. 174-175, n. 26
The present painting, along with another version formerly in the Strozzi Sacrati collection and today in the Fondazione della Cassa di Risparmio di Ferrara, is a wonderful example of Cagnacci’s religious production for the private market. The young artist must have focused on such production contemporarily to but independently from the public commissions he began to receive at the end of his training and after his trips to Bologna and Ferrara as documented in the artist’s father’s will (1643). For such production, the artist had not precise requests from patrons he had to adhere to, but used to sell the paintings only once he completed them. Already common in Rome, this working method required from the artist a personal financial investment to buy materials. The “four sheets and other linens taken by messer Guido from his father Mattheo’s house in secret and brought to S. Lodeccio” quoted in the aforementioned 1643 will, often addressed as an evidence of the artist’s extravagant temperament, were most certainly to be used as canvasses onto which to paint scenes such as the present one.
At first, the composition appears intimate, as if to bring to the fore the human relationship between Mother and Child. Nevertheless Cagnacci seems to reference here a much more refined pictorial tradition, in which Roman and Caravaggesque influences abound. Roberto Longhi and, later, Mina Gregori and Federico Zeri have pointed out a stylistic affinity between the present canvas and Orazio Borgianni’s works. Such tendency to choose Roman painters as models made of Cagnacci an absolute protagonist in the Northern Italian art scene. The artist did not limit himself to copy the naturalism of other artists from the Marche region, such as Gentileschi and Guerrieri, as most of his contemporaries did in those years; on the contrary, he moved as a fully conscious actor in the wake of Caravaggism.
If Borgianni’s influence is most recognisable in the soft and sensual rendering of chiaroscuro in the Virgin’s draperies; the opulence of such draperies as well as the highly finished features of Mary seem to point instead to an appropriation of Simon Vouet’s style. Cagnacci must have become familiar with Vouet’s oeuvre during a series of visits to Rome, which are not documented, but which must have very likely occurred, as suggested by the huge stylistic development witnessed between the Montegridolfo altarpiece and the Rimini Calling of St. Matthew, and the Processione del Sacramento di Saludecio (to be dated most certainly between 1627 and 1628).
The present work shows several similarities with the altarpiece in San Giovanni da Rimini representing the Madonna and three Carmelitan Saints (dated circa 1630), which is often considered as the highest peak of this phase in Cagnacci’s production. If already the Virgin’s figure in the Sacrati Strozzi version shows some similarities with the angels in Santa Teresa d’Avila; in the present The Madonna and Child, the handling of colour, the much more accomplished composition, and the consistent rendering of light and volumes, are to be related to the aforementioned Carmelitan altarpiece.