The Virgin and Child with Young Saint John the Baptist (Primary Title)

Francesco d'Ubertino Verdi (Il Bacchiacca), Italian, 1494 - 1557 (Artist)

ca. 1540s
oil on panel
Overall: 68 1/2 × 56 3/8 × 5 1/2 in. (173.99 × 143.19 × 13.97 cm)
Overall (panel): 58 × 45 1/4 in. (147.32 × 114.94 cm)

Francesco d’Ubertini Verdi (Il Bacchiacca) was born in Florence in 1484 and, like Raphael, was trained by Perugino. Bacchiacca later became one of the leading painters of the first generation of Mannerist artists and counted the Medici family among his primary patrons. He was responsible for many altarpieces in Florence, working alongside artists such as Pontormo, Andrea del Sarto, and Agnolo Bronzino.


This 1540s domestic altarpiece is a hybrid, with elements of both Mannerism and the High Renaissance period that preceded it. Such mixing of widely differing styles is typical not only of Mannerist works but also of the artist himself (hence the nickname Il Bacchiacca, which literally means to harvest select ripe fruit from trees with a long stick). Ultimately, both the subject of this painting and its setting derive from a theme most developed in Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna of the Rocks.


The scale of Bacchiacca’s Madonna and her relieflike appearance draw from High Renaissance examples such as Raphael’s late Madonnas. Specific references to Michelangelo are evident in the costume and hairstyle of the Virgin; in her pose, deriving from the Medici Madonna; and in the pose of the Baptist. The overall coloring also shows a debt to Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling, while the whitish light is comparable to the work of Agnolo Bronzino. Other references are also present: the infant Christ is probably a witty recasting of an ancient river god, most likely of the Tiber, while the background figures are taken from a print, The Beggars, by the Northern artist Lucas van Leyden. Finally, the well-defined plants and flowers in the foreground, while possibly symbolic, also testify to the artist’s interest in natural history, fostered by the Medici. This eclectic yet erudite mastery of many styles strongly appeals to elite connoisseurs of art.

Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund and, by exchange, the following gifts and bequests: An Anonymous Donor; The Honorable David K. E. Bruce; Mrs. Hildreth Scott Davis in memory of her husband, George Cole Scott; Mrs. Donald G. Geddes; Arthur Glasgow; Arthur
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