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Valerio Castello (Genova, 1624-1659)
Oil on canvas, cm. 72 x 98
Palazzo Bianco, inv. PB 2877
Since 1989 in the collections from the Hospital of San Martino in Genoa
Descended from an established family of painters and raised in a fervent intellectual environment, Valerio Castello was a very early artist, able to overcome the teachings of even established local masters, to look at models of international importance: Procaccini, Correggio, Parmigianino, Veronese, Rubens and Van Dyck are the landmarks of the artistic path of this painter who played a pivotal role, although in his short life, in the transition from baroque to rococo aesthetics, acting as one of the most original and innovative personalities of the seventeenth century, not only Genoese.
In this small but delightful painting he shows an absolute mastery in receiving and reworking the stimuli of the great masters and, together, provides a masterful representation of intimate and delicate maternal love.
The tender gesture of the Virgin, intent on covering the Child without disturbing his sleep, is resolved in a graceful composition, in which the soft pastel shades are treated with a fresh and agile pictorial vein. The brushstroke spreads the color now with transparent veils, which make the lightness of the veil and the sheets where the child is beautifully laid, on which the painter pauses to emphasize infant grace and sweetness, now for fuller backgrounds, found in the red drape on the background and in the dress of the Madonna.
The elongated profile of the Virgin, the tapered fingers, the elegance of the movement closely resemble the women of Parmigianino, but the style is less artificial and more direct, mediated by compositional schemes that refer to Van Dyck, of which, also, Valerio provides a personal, very original interpretation.