(b. 1427/30, Brescia, d. 1515/16, Brescia)
Tempera on panel
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan
Formerly in Santa Maria delle Grazie at Bergamo, it was removed to the Brera in 1811. The predella and the crowning panel were acquired from the Albani collection in 1811. It is not certain that the predella and the crowning element originally formed part of the same altarpiece; and the accuracy of the entire reconstruction is in doubt. The panels are the following:
Central panel: Madonna and Child (165 x 80 cm); side panels: Sts Jerome, Alexander, Vincent, Anthony (137 x 39 cm each); upper side panels: Sts Clare, Bonaventura, Louis, Bernardino (126 x 40 cm each); upper centralaa panel: St Francis (128 x 82 cm); predella panels showing scenes from the Life of Christ (87 x 30 cm each) and two Angels in Adoration (27 x 29 cm each).
This altarpiece belongs to Foppa's early stylistic maturity and retains the archaising tendency toward simplification of his youthful period, before he was influenced by Leonardo and Bramante. It also shows the pungent impetuosity of Mantegna's influence in the sharply drawn perspective, and in the tension and almost metallic consistency of the forms. In this resplendent altarpiece, the central panels are particularly fine examples of Foppa's masterly interweaving of colour and light. The Madonna's face, lightly thrown into relief, concludes a series of circling motifs enhanced by the elegant twist of the body of the Child, as he leans over to pluck the string of the lute. In the panel above, St Francis appears as a motionless, somewhat astonished figure immersed in the limpid air of a lyric landscape.