(b. 1486, Firenze, d. 1530, Firenze)

Madonna and Child with the Young St John

c. 1518
Oil on wood, 154 x 101 cm
Galleria Borghese, Rome

One is struck by the extraordinary originality of this composition, constructed on an X-shaped scheme which may be discerned beneath the violent emotional expressiveness of the three protagonists. The Madonna's sweet face is shadowed by the soft chiaroscuro that also gives depth and body to the colours. She is seated on the ground, like the traditional madonna of Humility, filling the space diagonally. In a dramatically unstable pose between her knees, a Child Jesus with an elongated body transforms the jocular movements of a putto into a tragic contortion of the limbs and of the smile, in the awareness of his destiny which is matched by a range of colours unusually cold for Andrea, based on subtle relations between grey and violet.

Andrea del Sarto painted this large Madonna for the Florentine businessman Giovanni Gaddi.