A masterful example of Italian Mannerist painting, this exceptional panel was composed by the renowned Florentine painter Domenico Puligo. Alongside Jacopo Pontormo and Rosso Fiorentino, Puligo is remembered as one of the foremost figures of the Mannerist movement that rose to prominence during the 16th century in Florence. This panel of the Virgin Mary with the Christ child and Saint John the Baptist is a characteristic example of his celebrated devotional images, which grace museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Museo del Prado (Madrid), Palazzo Borghese (Rome), and Palazzo Pitti (Florence), among many others.
Puligo’s skill with color is fully demonstrated in the beautifully preserved work. Considering its age, the vibrancy and the sheer range of color is remarkable. The Virgin Mary’s crimson dress displays an impressive level of chiaroscuro, ranging from deep burgundy to vibrant pink. It is perfectly juxtaposed against the dark greens and purples of her mantle. Apart from the two holy children, the remainder of the painting offers a view of a vast landscape, executed in various shades of blues and greens.
Puligo has perfected the soft sfumato effect; combined with his exaggerated, yet elegant distortion of his figures, his Virgin and Child with the Infant Saint John embodies the Mannerist idiom. The 16th-century art form emerged during the Late Renaissance. Whereas painters of the High Renaissance sought to achieve harmonious ideals and perfect proportions, the Mannerists created compositions that evoked drama through elongated limbs, strained poses, and vivid colors. Like other Mannerists of his generation, Puligo’s compositions are imbued with emotionalism and sentimentality rather than naturalism and perfect perspective. The style is well suited to the Virgin and Child trope, lending a motherly tenderness to Puligo’s devotional works.
Domenico Puligo was born in Florence into a family of blacksmiths, though little else is known of his early life. He trained under Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, and briefly worked under Andrea del Sarto, who became a profound influence on the young painter. The majority of Puligo’s output was focused on medium-sized religious paintings such as the present work, which he composed as special commissions for his client’s private devotion. A small group of altarpieces and a number of commissioned portraits have also been attributed to the artist. His oeuvre, however, is small, as he died at the young age of just 35 after contracting the plague. Today, the majority of his works are found only in museum collections. It is incredibly rare to come across such a fine example as this on the market.