Attributed to Parmigianino (Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola) (Italian, 1503–1540)
Oil on wood
33 3/8 x 23 1/8 in. (84.8 x 58.7 cm)
Purchase, Gwynne Andrews Fund, James S. Deely Gift, special funds, and other gifts and bequests, by exchange, 1982 (1982.319)
In this intriguing nocturnal scene, the Virgin, in a diaphanous gown, kneels before an unusual bronze lectern, shaped like a boy and seen from the rear, with a canopied bed behind her. The archangel Gabriel flies in from the left with a lily in his outstretched right hand. The interior is fitfully lit by a candle and by sacred light that seems to emanate from the dove above Gabriel's head.
Parmigianino exerted an enormous influence well beyond his native region of Emilia. After his premature death in 1540, his style was propagated in works of lesser quality by his cousin, Girolamo Mazzola Bedoli (ca. 15001569). The present painting is unusual in that it is a sketch-model and shows, beneath the present figures, a number of alternative poses and motifs. It was employed by Bedoli as the basis of an altarpiece painted for Viadana, near Parma, and now in the Museo di Capodimonte at Naples.