ANSALDO, Giovanni Andrea
(b. 1584, Voltri, d. 1638, Genova)

The Flight into Egypt

Oil on canvas 170 x 127 cm
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome

The unusual iconography, with the Madonna dressed in the habit of a gypsy, makes it interesting to trace the different interpretations of the painting. The concept of Ansaldo's work may derive directly from a work by Luca Cambiaso that Ratti saw during the eighteenth century at the Palazzo Barberini. In his notes on Soprani's biographies of the Genovese Painters, Ratti described how "in Rome at the Palazzo Barberini, there is a painting of the Virgin dressed in the manner of the gypsies, who flees to Egypt with the infant Christ in her arms".

To support this hypothesis it is necessary to refer to two known Cambiaso paintings of the head of the Madonna with an identical attire, datable to around 1570, which may be smaller-format versions of the lost Palazzo Barberini picture. Even more closely related is a drawing of the Madonna of the Promenade showing the Virgin taking a stroll, wearing the same attire and large hat, and with the child held in a sling over her shoulder. Also similar iconographically and in other ways is a canvas of Bernardo Strozzi (Genoa; private collection). In the context of this connection, it is helpful to recall that Strozzi was in close contact with Ansaldo during the very years to which the painting has been dated.

The painting is dated to 1620-30, since its appearance can be connected to other works from Ansaldo's period of full maturity. The numerous stylistic sources that lie at the base of Ansaldo's mature style may be discerned in this work. Cross-breeding with each other and the aforementioned Cambiasesque currents, one recognizes the influence of Barocci (as seen through his Sienese followers Banni and Salimbeni), the well assimilated influence of Rubens, as well as that of Gentileschi, who was working in Genoa during the time that Ansaldo painted this picture.