(b. 1563, Pisa, d. 1639, London)
Madonna and Child1630s
Oil on canvas, 46 x 35 cm
The painting most likely dates to the artist's final period in England (1626-39). It depicts the Virgin bending over the Infant Christ, who rests on a mattress before her, theatrically illuminated and placed against a dark background.
While a precise dating for the present canvas is elusive, the pose of the Madonna links it to one of the most famous paintings of Gentileschi's English period. In 1633, the artist sent a Finding of Moses to Philip IV of Spain as a gift (Museo del Prado, Madrid). In the Prado painting, there is a figure of a young, turbaned woman at right, a lady in waiting to Pharaoh's daughter. She stands next the princess and bends over the basket in which the infant Moses is being presented, her arm raised in surprise.
Gentileschi reprised this figure in the present canvas. The attendant of Pharaoh's daughter has been transformed into the figure of the Madonna, although she does wear the same exotic headdress and sumptuous scarf (as is fitting, Orazio has omitted the pendant pearl worn by the Egyptian maid to decorate her turban). The infant also switches his role to that of the Infant Christ. His position is flipped and altered, but as is so emblematic of Gentileschi's style, he rests on a brilliantly white sheet, the shadows rendered in tones of blue and grey. Details as minor as folds in the scarf and sleeve of the Virgin are retained as well, and match those in the Prado picture.