FOPPA, Vincenzo
(b. 1427/30, Brescia, d. 1515/16, Brescia)

Madonna of the Book

Wood panel
Castello Sforzesco, Milan

This is a wonderfully delicate early work. The small panel can be read almost as an experimental exercise, produced by an artist at the very start of his career. The geometrical frame is defined with precision and is enlivened by a beaded garland of the type used by Mantegna. Foppa is tentative but full of poetry in the way he portrays the Virgin and Child, who, unusually, is dressed in a Roman-style singlet - another borrowing from Mantegna, as is the Roman lettering on the surround. In the painting emotion is controlled, gesture is lightly drawn, tones are dull, flesh has a silvery gray quality. This is all part of Foppa's constant attention to the quiet reality of everyday life. Foppa's human realism was to become the basis upon which Lombard painting developed.