Trained in the 16th-century tradition of Venetian painting, this Salzburg artist was one of the first baroque painters in what is now Austria.
The picture is an oil sketch for the altar painting of the eastern transept altar in the Collegiate Church in Salzburg – one of the most important of Rottmayr's later works. For the glorification of St Charles Borromeo, intercessor for plague sufferers, Rottmayr used the three-zone structure he had introduced. In attempts to ward off a plague epidemic in the town of Salzburg, processions were held and the Eucharist distributed, following the example of St Charles Borromeo in Milan. Readily recognisable motifs from Salzburg's landscape and architecture identify the location. Above, borne by angels, the saint hovers on a bank of cloud. His red cardinal's robe is rendered in an earthy shade, thus harmonising with the overall colouration of the painting. Borromeo turns trustingly towards Jesus, ruler of the world and leader of his armies.