The Child, stretching his arm towards a dish of fruit held by the young Saint John the Baptist, is in the Virgin’s lap. From the fourteenth century the image of the young Saint John the Baptist becomes frequent, appearing exactly in those decades when the Virgin is depicted with increasingly maternal features, while Christ gradually loses his appearance of a miniature adult typical in paintings from earlier centuries. Artists created a situation of family intimacy where the two children, Jesus and John the Baptist, play or simply look at each other under the watchful eye of the Virgin.
Probably realised between 1615 and 1618, this painting is a youthful work by Bernardo Strozzi, called Il Cappuccino for having belonged to the Capuchin order until 1608.
In the lively cultural atmosphere of Genoa, the artist had been able to admire works by Lombard and Flemish painters engaged by the city aristocracy and these influences did not take long to appear in his early works.
Although this painting shows a design arrangement still belonging to the sixteenth century, the pictorial technique betrays careful examination of Lombard painting. In fact the volume of the figures are outlined with dark brushstrokes, just like the areas of light and shade are defined on a dark background; on this preparation Strozzi then proceeded with lively, thick colour, spread with strokes that produced a wide brush effect. If the long, thin face of the Virgin clearly refers to Correggio, Flemish influence appears instead in the delightful still life of the plate of fruit held by the Baptist. The domestic atmosphere is also Flemish, suggested by reddened faces, as though the three were close to a hot fire in a comfortable place sheltered from the dangers of the outside world.