Ludovico Carracci (Italian, Bolognese, 1555–1619)
Oil on copper
11 3/4 x 9 7/8 in. (29.8 x 25.1 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Mark Fisch, 2007 (2007.330)
This exquisite picture was painted in 1607 for Cardinal Benedetto Giustiniani during his term as papal legate to Bologna. It is a paradigm of Ludovico's mature "grand manner"—so different from his early experiments in a naturalistic style. The majestic pose of the Madonna consciously evokes Michelangelo's sibyls in the Sistine Chapel, while the emphasis on elegance and hyper-refinement echoes the work of Parmigianino, a painter much admired by Ludovico. The stalks of wheat held by the Christ Child and resting on the ledge behind the Madonna are emblems of the Eucharist. The saints are: Bernard, Peter (wearing a cope and holding a key), Andrew (with a cross), Paul (holding a sword), Catherine of Alexandria (wearing a crown and kneeling behind a broken wheel, her emblem of martyrdom), and a virgin saint (holding a palm branch).