THE HOLY FAMILY WITH A DONOR
Gaudenzio Ferrari Italian
SN 41 Oil on a Wood Panel
by Robert Anderson. 2000
Ferrari was an artist of considerable power and individuality, but his
work has remained comparatively little known. Early on his work was strongly influenced by
Leonardo and his Milanese followers while absorbing into his work elements from Pordenone
His frescoes, painted in 1513, are rich in strikingly realistic detail
and convey emotion with passionate intensity. Altarpieces done about the same time convey
emotion with ease and grace, predominantly through rich and emotionally expressive color.
Gaudenzio demonstrated a high level of achievement in portraying religious subjects and
the psychological power of his protagonists is remarkable.
He was both a painter and a sculptor combining painting with life-size
statues of polychrome terracotta therby creating a radically new rendering of scenes from
the Passion. The sculptures are startlingly realistic and are arranged as though on a
stage to blend with illusionistic and drmatically expressive frescoes.
In his later work in Milan Gaudenzio's art took a direction in which he
placed greater emphasis on a theatrical language of gesture and expression - closer to the
then prevailing style of Milanese Mannerism. He was an influential artist and a school of
artists kept his style alive throughout the rest of the 16th century.
This painting depicts the Holy Family being observed and adored by
angels and an unknown cleric who was probably the patron who commissioned the painting.
This painting shows a dignified Mary and Joseph at the right who are
depicted as if having just been made aware of the holiness of their son. Joseph doffs his
hat and kneeles to the child. The angels below bow reverently and adore the child while
those above proclaim his divinity.
The painting owes aspects of its forms, landscape and color as well as
its lyrical expressiveness to Corregio. It is one of a series of five great paintings from
the late 1520's which together constitute Ferrari's major achievement as an easel painter
Gaudenzio Ferrari assimilated Leonardo's style mainly through his pupil
Bernardino Luini, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. He in turn provided the chief
example for the next generation through his disciple, Bernardino Lanino.